Tip Day: Your one-way ticket out of self-pity city

One of my favorite non-ED blogs is The Happiness Project, and the author has designated every Wednesday as "Tip Day."  So taking a nod from her, I'm going to do recovery-related tips every Wednesday.  Keep in mind that I'm basing a lot of these tips off of what has worked for me.  They're not universals.  So take what works and leave the rest.  If I find research to back up what I'm saying, I'll cite it.  Otherwise, consider it the devious work of Yours Truly.

Remember the old song that goes something like:

Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I'll go eat worms.

(You don't want me to sing it. Trust me.)

That's self-pity.  The world sucks, you have no friends, you are a terrible person.  These feelings are both normal and common.  We're all entitled to a bit of self-pity; the idea is not to treat it like an all-you-can-eat salad bar.  Self-pity is a process that feeds itself.  The more you think about it, the deeper in you sink.  And when you're in deep, it's hard to see the possibility of climbing back out.  But the possibility is there.

1. Get real.  Folks with eating disorders often tend to compare themselves to unrealistic ideals.  Yes, models get thrown around a lot as a culprit, but the truth is I compare myself all the time.  Of course, I don't compare myself to, say, my "average" classmates.  I compare myself to my classmate who is the current Assistant VP of the New York Stock Exchange.  Cue the self-pity.  Many of my classmates have done outwardly amazing things.  Many of my classmates have also lived average lives of more quite amazing-ness.  My VP classmate may be miserable.  So get real.  Are you doing (mostly) the best you can with what you've got?  Okay, then.

2. Accept it. Life isn't fair.  In fact, life downright sucks sometimes.  Once I can stop dwelling on the Unfairness Of It All, I can stop feeling sorry for myself and start trying to find the solution.  Don't get down on yourself for thinking that life sucks here and there.  It does.  That's okay.  Life is gonna suck and you're allowed to hate it.

3. Do something.  Read a book.  Crochet a scarf.  Clean your apartment.  Rake your neighbor's lawn.  Whatever.  But do something positive to get you out of your head and into your life.  Especially when you have a bad case of I-suck-itis, doing something nice for others can really help provide tangible evidence that you are not a crappy person.  Because crappy people don't do nice things for others. 

4. Distract yourself.  Some people watch crappy made-for-TV movies because the silly plots make them feel better about their own life (I am, occasionally, Some People).  Indulging in schadenfreude isn't always the most endearing of human traits, but it's useful in a pinch.

5. Write a statement to yourself.  I'm taking a line from the wonderful folks over at F*ck Feelings, in which they advise the people who write in to compose a statement.  It lays out their goals for the situation, and the values that they're sticking to.  I use this when I get comparing myself to others and feeling that I'm not nearly as successful as they are.  So I tell myself, "I am doing my best to fight a dangerous disease, and I need to give myself credit for the hard work I've done, even though others may not recognize it."

6. When all else fails, wallow in it.  I know- it sounds contradictory to everything I've said above, but if you really can't shake feeling sorry for yourself, then you may as well indulge it.  When I was living in Scotland in college, I had a huge crush on a boy who I later learned had a long-term girlfriend.  I was devastated.  So I locked myself in my dorm room with two little sample bottles of fancy liqueurs I had swiped from the airplane.  (Take it easy- each bottle was maybe one shot. I don't advocate alcohol as a coping mechanism).  I drank the booze, wrote bad love poetry, and cried for a few hours.  And then?  I was so done with it.

I hope you liked this week's tips.  Share your other suggestions in the comments section.

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7 comments:

Shells said...

I haven't finished reading because I'm now singing that song about eating worms. (Long ones. Slimy ones. Short, fat juicy, ones. Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms). I am laughing out loud right now because that song is definitely going to be stuck in my head all night! Okay, back to reading for realsies.

hm said...

Is the self-pity talk related to the berating anorexic "voices" in our heads? Or is it different? (My dietitian and therapist say these voices are a "symptom" of the disorder, and that they will go away or at least lessen with full nutrition. Can you verify? I have a hard time believing this when I've lived w/them for over 2 decades and just kind of assumed I had an alter personality stuck in there. I think I might almost feel lonely, or too eerily quiet in there, or something... Can you comment?) ANYWAY, I've been trying to think of ways to NOT act on what is said inside my head, and a good way I thought of is to pick up the phone and call someone who loves me, and just tell them to talk to me. To fill my head up w/their stories, their words, THEIR voice. I guess this kind of goes along w/your "distract yourself" tip- but is specific to filling up your head w/healthy noise from other people.

happinessiswithinblog.com said...

The worst one for me is comparing myself to others. Specifically others that are 'way ahead of me' financially or schooling wise. It doesn't matter to me that I am getting some of the best grades in my classes now, I still think I should be BETTER! It's stupid really and it causes a whole lot of anxiety and self pity. I think there are other things to be proud of though. For instance, you are obviously helping a lot of people with your blog and your talking at the NEDA conference. You should be proud of that! You should be proud of your recovery!!! ED's are NOT easy to beat, as we all know and you are doing really well. To me, these are much more admirable qualities then your friend who is an unhappy VP!

Dana xo

t said...

The Finger


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The uses are only limited by your imagination - just stick and slip.

thefinger

Christina said...

I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post, becaues singing "I'm gonna eat some worms" is one of my strategies. Many years ago when I'd had "one of those days" during college, I was riding my bike home stewing over all the crap and unfairness that I felt was piled on top of me, culminating with anger at someone who had just embarassed me with rude and unjustified criticism of graphic design work I had spent a lot of time doing as a volunteer for her organization. I think the pedalling started to give my thoughts rhythm:
"can't-do-any-thing-right; why-am-I-so-stu-pid; home-work-is-late-now; why-do-I-bother; why-does-my-life-suck ....." and suddenly the song came into my head: nobody-likes-me; everybody-hates-me; I'm-gonna-eat-some-worms.....
And I started laughing.
Long before I ever heard cognitive therapy lingo about overcoming all-or-nothing thinking, that song did it for me. I'll have to remember to thank my big brothers for teaching it to me.

Kate said...

thanks for this, carrie. and just so you know, YOU'RE probably the classmate to whom I'd be comparing myself. you're a rockstar!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote



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