Connecting the dots

When I don't want to deal with something--ED or otherwise--I tend to avoid it.  I must confess that it is, occasionally, effective.  Sometimes people need to let their tempers cool off, and sometimes rebooting the computer really does fix everything.

Most of the time, it doesn't end up like this.

Usually, the scenario goes something like this:

Make a small mistake.  Feel embarrassed.  Avoid dealing with small mistake.  Small mistake festers into a big mistake.  Avoid dealing with that, too.  And so it goes until I spiral into a masterly cycle of self-hatred and despair.  In the midst of this self-hatred and despair, I never really deal with the actual problem: my avoidance.  Instead, I tell myself that the real problem is that I'm lazy, stupid, and a bad person.

Aside from the verbal self-flagellation, the litany of reasons I suck gives me an out.  Bad people do bad things.  Ergo, I have no real reason to push myself to stop.

It happens with the ED stuff (embarrassment at a small slip -> don't tell treatment team -> I'm a failure -> small slip becomes a big slip), and it happens in real life.  I never really listened to criticism and helpful feedback because in my mind, anything less than perfect was just an example of how crap a person I am.  I didn't listen because there really wasn't much point.

So I avoided even more.  Pulled away, hid from view--even when admitting my difficulties would have made the situation so much simpler.

An example: I was late on a deadline this past weekend.  Part of it was the chaos of moving, yes, but once I realized I was overdue, I resisted buckling down and attacking my job.  Plainly, I was mortified at my mistake.  I can be a space cadet at times, but generally I can keep things put together.  By going back to my work, I would have to admit to myself that I wasn't perfect, that I had royally screwed up.  So I put it off.  It was the weekend, and it wouldn't have mattered much anyway.

There was an element of truth to that.  But if I was being honest with myself--
If I cut the bullshit and really admitted to myself what was going on--
I was avoiding dealing with the problem.

A simple email to my editor saying "Oops, totally forgot in the moving chaos, I'll get something to you by Monday morning," would have essentially fixed everything.  Sending that email would mean I had to admit something was wrong.

I didn't want that.

I wanted to pretend it was all okay.

That wasn't okay.

The ED was a way for me to avoid so much of the crap that was going on in my life.  I didn't actually have to deal with it because I was focused instead on exercise, food, and weight.  When I was into the anorexia, I mentally checked out of life.  I didn't intend for that to happen, not really, but it fit my profile of dealing with things.

Smile through the tears.

Neither my reluctance to send an email nor the anorexia-driven avoidance really ever solved any problems.  I could pretend for a while.  Pretend that everything was fine, that it was no big deal, that I could manage everything.

This weekend reminded me that I couldn't.  My editor asked me to kindly send her an email when I was going to be late.  To be honest, I earned that. 

But this screw up allowed me to see another of anorexia's accidental functions.  I could connect the dots and see the patterns.  Avoidance.  I started to see the consequences, for once.

So I stepped out of that self-hate spiral and told myself: the only way to solve this problem is to get to work.  Not punish yourself with more exercise or less food or some other misadventure. I didn't need punishing, I needed to sit down and finish what I had started.

And so I did.


Dawn said...

I understand that! I too find myself in a cycle of avoidance all too often. Good job picking yourself back up and getting to it!

hm said...

Good job, Carrie. It is a very adult, non-disordered thing to do to recognize an error and go at it head on rather than hiding behind a disorder or behind shame or avoidance. You deserve to not have to see yourself so black and white- you deserve grace and room to be human. :)

Anonymous said...

Holy moly, I understand this so very well!!!

Nicely done on the attack and getting out of the spiral, too!

I have been realizing that I play the "I'm not a perfectionist, I just have to have it accidentally be perfect" which is avoiding the issue of perfectionism, I'm discovering. Ha.

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love that in the end, you truly did realze you don't (and certainly shouldn't) punish yourself. That is a huge, significant step! So, yes, sometimes good comes out of bad - you see how far you've come. I think it is in Johanna Kandel's book . . . theres's an analogy of a talll dresser with many drawers. Top drawer is perfect, bottom the worst. It's okay to be in the middle drawers, they are still fine too. Hope you're enjoying your new place!

Anonymous said...

OMG, you totally NAILED ME... I am like you about avoidance and not wanting to deal(except my tendency is more toward overeating, with a history of bulimia, not anorexia--but you nailed my personality and avoidant dysfunctional style!!!)

Anonymous said...

I do this all the time, with everything. But I've never been able to articulate it so kindly or so beautifully. Thank you.

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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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