On Easter Saturday, I was having a scroll sesh on Instagram and found myself watching the wonderful @positively.kate‘s Instagram stories where she was talking about when self care activities creep into disordered territory and it HIT ME SO HARD. I started thinking about all the things I did in the name of self care and began to question my motives. How often was I kidding myself that I was doing something to better myself when in reality I was hosting an idea or action that was deeply rooted in a disordered pattern? How often was I ignoring the blaring need to stop and ask myself “R u ok hun?”.
Lately, I’ve been walking a lot. I absolutely lurve walking and loathe paying £4 for the crap Bristol bus service when it’s a distance I could “easily walk”. I like walking because it gives me time to stretch my legs, saves me pennies, lets me take in the fresh air, listen to a podcast, walk in silence to gather my thoughts or call a long distance pal to catch up. But are my regular walks always for this reason? If it was, then why have I began doting a little on my steps app? Checking in to see how close I am to that 10K goal and then persuading myself that a little walk to the shop would be GREAT for my mental health, when in reality it’s to hit that target so I don’t feel guilty about eating the twirl I want to go and buy. And it’s so frustrating that these things happen, it’s hard to let go of that idolized idea that in recovery, the grass is greener and you don’t second guess yourself and you can honor your intuition 100% of the time. For the sake of my recovery and my mental health, I have to challenge myself, I have to be open about what I’m experiencing and I have to question my motives every step of the way. Last week I walked so much that my hip was sore and the bottoms of my feet ached, yet come Easter morning I found myself thinking “A little walk would be nice”, “Maybe a little lap around the town after lunch” yet in reality, I did not want to walk, no hosay. I wanted to lay on the sofa and rest my body and continue resting for days and days until I genuinely felt that moving my body would feel good. So I didn’t walk, I lay on the sofa and ate an Easter egg and every single time an ED related thought rocked up, I banished them because I was doing what was right for me. I was asking myself “R u ok hun?” and responding with “Yes, yes I am because I’m honoring myself, tyvm for asking”. I’ve also got rid of the steps tracker (check out my Instagram post if you want to find out how) because the temptation to sneak a look was too much. I had to go cold turkey and disconnect it and it’s going to be interesting to see how not having this totaliser effects my desire to walk and my thoughts around food. I can check in with my motives regularly and make sure that they are rooted in good.
An extension of my desire to walk is my joy of running. I had got myself into a really good relationship with movement, I was running to have time by myself, to escape the every day and work through things that were bothering me. I wasn’t tracking where I went or how long it took me. I joined the Goodgym to positively reinforce that running doesn’t need to be about calories burned or be a compensatory activity. Yet, why had I found myself going out for runs in un-clean exercise gear in the muggy rain and loathing every step yet gritting my teeth and doing it any way because “running is so good for my mental health”. When I go out with friends or as part of the Goodgym group, I’m not thinking within my body. I’m focusing on the conversation, the people around me or the project we’re helping with. It isn’t humoring a disordered behavior. I genuinely do love running on my own and I’m already getting itchy feet having not run in a few days but where is this itch coming from? Is it from the need to clear my head and get out in the air or the need to “make up” for the Easter eats? Is my ED persuading me that I should go and run or is it something I genuinely want to do? It’s so hard to work out when your thoughts are jumbled and your ED voice IS your internal voice but to help.. I’m quitting running on my own for a while, I’m resting harder and I’m honouring my intuition. I’m asking myself “R u ok hun?” and responding with “Yeah I am because I don’t want to go out and run around my hilly hometown in the rain and tomorrow evening I have a Goodgym run planned and we’re helping a really cool local project that I want to have energy for” and then tomorrow night before the planned run, I’m going to ask myself again and if the answer isn’t an excited one.. I’m not going.
I always feel calmer in a clean and organised space. I spend hours on my days off singing along to the Hamilton soundtrack and taking on my flat from top to bottom until everything is ordered and I can finally relax. This is something Kate was speaking about in the aforementioned Insta story, she had stopped herself within a cleaning session as she’d realized that it was entering into an obsessive pattern, she was sitting in the chaos and searching for okayness. Had my cleaning and tidying habits been necessary or had I made them into a gateway of allowing myself to rest? Was I able to chill in a space where papers were strewn across the table and a stack of used bowls remain unwashed by the kitchen sink? Or was this all part of an endless cycle of control? Was cleaning and tidying on that day doing my soul any good or should I have really been on the sofa, under a duvet, watching Netflix and soaking up the precious time I have in the week to do..well..nothing? This is going to be hard for me to take on. To ask myself “R u ok hun?” and not reply with “Yeah I’m all good, I just need to whizz the hoover round, dust the skirting boards, clean the sinks and do all the laundry because I must get to the bottom of our dirty washing and when that’s done, I’ll probably catch up on some TV whilst answering work emails, eating dinner and putting the washing out” and instead allow myself to respond with “Yes I am, I’m sitting in this imperfect space and accepting that life is messy and uncontrolled and that’s completely okay, I’m relaxing into that and I’m resting”.
Another thing I’ve been exploring is taking photos of my body for the purpose of Instagram posts. Am I doing this because I find it a helpful self care activity that truly helps me to feel close to my body and accepting of her in all her fluctuations and changes? Or am I doing this to get validation from others or to check in that my body still looks “ok” and I really can continue to eat what I want to? Which is so clearly due to internalized fat phobia and goes against everything that I know to be true. This is SUCH A HARD ONE and probably the one I’m finding hardest to answer. So, I’m stopping for a while. I’m protecting myself from not getting involved in triggering conversations on my DMs and I’m taking the focus away from my disorder and my body and focusing on life. Because that’s what this is all for, right?
Reading back what I’ve written, I’m not all too sure that it makes sense to anyone else but me. I’m exploring my thoughts, I’m challenging them and assessing where the underlying beliefs or urges come from. I’m dedicating my time to stripping back the fluff and getting down and dirty with what is really going on. I’m going to do things that make me feel uncomfortable and keep doing them, because the more I show my ED that I am the boss, the quieter that voice will become. Last Thursday I ended up indulging in a triage of disordered behaviors. Things I’m not proud of but things I have learnt from. It’s hard to be totally vulnerable here, I’m often asked to help others become “recovered” when the reality is, we are all going to always be “recovering” and it’s as we go further and further into recovery that we have to not be blinded by it and the message we are putting out to others and check back in with ourselves. So here I am, checking in, I’m asking myself “R u ok hun?” and this is my answer.