‘I’m giving up dissociation for Lent!’ …Ah if only leaving my unconscious ‘go to’ coping strategy behind were as easy as giving up chocolate for the next forty days… actually, giving up chocolate would be a huge stretch, too, so I don’t know why I am even saying that!
I’m not religious (at all) and so the title of this post was sarcastic rather than a real thing – and please don’t be offended by the tone of the post if you are religious- it’s not meant as a dig I am just thinking out loud and scratching my head about where I am at right now.
I always kind of wonder about why other heathen non-believers like myself seem to jump on this particular time period and say they’re foregoing something until Easter. Like what’s so special about Lent? I wonder if the idea of withholding from ourselves is so engrained that we think, ‘ah, yes, I can punish myself for a protracted period of time’. Let’s face it, most of us don’t need an event in the Christian calendar to revel in self-denial and penance. We are perpetually listing our failings and, for the anorexic eating disordered among us, fasting is second nature.
Maybe Lent is too easy then?
Maybe it’s the convenient timing too?
These days we are so fixated on body image – I’m sure it’s about now that the glossy magazines start bleating on about how to achieve ‘the ultimate bikini body’ (FYI you basically have to put a bikini on your existing body but that’s not what they pedal is it?!) – that maybe we see Lent as a time to shed those winter pounds we gained. It’s become diet season so why not have a running jump at losing the muffin top? I dunno.
Look, I totally get that seeing the next six weeks as a sort of weightloss challenge is a bastardisation of the original purpose – but this is what I am wondering about – like why when you don’t do organised religion does Lent seem to be a ‘thing’? For those people that are religious I understand it – makes sense – and I’m betting most people of faith aren’t simply shunning bars of Galaxy until Easter.
Anyway, moving on…a bit…I have been thinking about self-care, strangely, in relation to Lent. I give self-care a wave every now and then but, frankly, am pretty poor at looking after myself. I seem to come somewhere right down the bottom of the pile for care: kids, wife, other people, my animals, the dying orange at the back of the fridge, and then somewhere a little further along the line is me.
I get that self-care is a REALLY GOOD THING and NECESSARY if you don’t want to be a complete knackered wreck/basketcase and yet I really struggle to prioritise my needs and myself. There’s a part of me that sees looking after myself as selfish… rationally I know that is totally fucked up but it is how I feel.
There is certainly a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve to be happy, to be looked after, to rest, or be a normal weight….and we all know who that is: the Inner Critic. I know that part of me has been doing her best over the last 25+ years to protect me and keep me functioning but these days, her ideas of how to keep me safe and working don’t really work. Trying to be perfect, stretching myself beyond my limits, and starving myself don’t really lead to things being ok or safe. I know that.
I have been really aware of my body again these last couple of weeks. You know how it is, that niggling thing where you look in the mirror and notice all the flaws – that extra couple of pounds you put on over Christmas seems to have welded itself to your hips and won’t budge…(even though you’ve done nothing to help budge it other than will it away!). And I think this is why Lent is winding me up a bit as I see people choosing now to start dieting again because actually my brain is scheming and saying, ‘Go on, jump on board with it too, here’s your opportunity, you can legitimately hide behind Lent to cover your eating disorder for the next couple of months – give up sugar…or EVERYTHING and you can lose that weight that’s been driving you mad for the last three months’.
See, this is not good which is why I am just blathering on here. I am aware of how careful I need to be when my mind starts considering any kind of restriction because it never leads anywhere good. I know I need to have a conversation with my therapist about these feelings but I feel kind of moronic talking about not eating when I am actually eating and am as close to a normal BMI as I have ever been.
It’s sad that there’s some critical voice that is saying, ‘you can’t talk about not eating when you are this weight and eating food! Like seriously, look at you, you’re fat!’ Of course I do know that this is exactly the time I need to be mentioning these feelings in therapy – BEFORE things start to spiral downwards and the ED mindset kicks in and the secrecy and denial becomes the fronting part. I don’t want to end up in the place I ended up last year and when Em issued an Ultimatum.
I also need to work out why I am feeling like I need to take control in this particular way again. It isn’t because of Lent! 😉 I know it has something to do with the level of dissociation I have been experiencing lately. I had a crazy bad dissociative session last Friday and I know it’s because I have been edging closer to the Mother Wound again. When the young parts are a bit more present or want to come to therapy it generally doesn’t go well – not because Em says or does anything wrong, but because other parts step up to protect me from being vulnerable (or stupid!). That huge need for connection and care so easily triggers feelings of shame as well as fear of being abandoned for being too much that it just sends me into orbit. I get sucked out the room. It’s horrid.
Fortunately, Em and I were able to do some good work on Monday where I was able to stay in the window of tolerance and start to unpick some of what has been going on. Em herself said something about the fact that there is a massive painful wound that sometimes gets exposed and is so incredibly raw that it is too much to bear so I cover it over with a plaster – only it doesn’t heal when it’s covered. So the deal is we are going to try and very very gently let a little bit of air get to the wound and let it start to heal in tiny increments…and try and understand the shame too. (This is not new news by the way, it’s just we are repeating it again!)
I don’t really know what I am trying to say with this post, but basically, I think if I am going to try and give up anything for Lent then it has to be being horrible to myself and defeating myself. Rather than giving up something I enjoy (although to be fair I think the Critic is a bit of a sadist and enjoys being mean!) I am going to try and use the next few months to be kinder to myself. I am going to try really hard to trust in my therapeutic relationship with Em and accept and believe that after seven years she is still there, steady, and constant and caring…I do not need to be frightened of her. She is safe.
What am I giving up for Lent? A lifetime of bad habits that hurt me. Perhaps some of you can do the same.
EEEK! I’m beginning to wish I’d stuck with chocolate! x
Love, light and glitter
I’m giving up on giving up on things for Lent. Seems like my safest option. You are always working hard on not being horrible to yourself; no need to put pressuring time constraints on it. Just keep doing what you’re doing, because that’s all that matters! Hang in there, sending love xx
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I love how raw and honest this post is (while also being humorous and engaging to read). The part about knowing you should talk to Em about your feelings about food and control, and yet also kind of avoiding it–this really resonates with me. I’ve been like that with E so many times. Not about food, per se. I mean, I should lose some weight for sure, but I focusing too much on eating and control is not my particular flavor of self harm, as you know. But anyway, I have had things that keep my mind busy and deserve some therapeutic attention but which I have tucked away from E for whatever reason. I recently took a huge step to counteract that, something I should write about. It turned out to be very rewarding; E was so kind and responsive, and I have felt relieved and calmer ever since that session. I hope you will consider doing the same and drag your Lent-bikini-body-eating thoughts to Em for some gentle and loving consideration. xxoo
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Thanks Q! I’m really ready for my session tomorrow. Friday was another big leap forward so far as connecting and being in the room rather than dissociating out of it goes. Weird how things stagnate for ages in therapy and then lurch forward again. Lol! Feel like the rollercoaster is accelerating now. Eek! 😉 So looking forward to your new blog once it’s up and running. X