When someone ties their physical form to their integrity or character value, that is when they have an increased likelihood of intentionally harming their body, and devastatingly, society encourages this connection all the time. You can want to lose weight to improve your health – or gain weight to improve your health, build muscle to improve your health, etc. But when you do it in pursuit of becoming a person of “value” or increasing your worth as a human being, that is when you are really hurt inside, and you need to begin healing yourself.
Note: Because of the tragic self-violence of disordered eating, I refuse to more “gracefully” word that.
While many people who have lost a great deal of weight are happy to have lost it, feel good about having lost it, and have lost it under medical supervision and/or through a healthy way, please always consider the possible ramifications of telling someone “Wow, you look so good after all that weight loss!” or tbh, commenting on people’s weights at all.
For me, today someone close to me commented in a way that was actually very considerate and was not at all hurtful to me (but validating instead). She had noticed the rapid weight loss and was concerned for me, knowing why it has been happening, and she treated it compassionately.
But I can’t tell you how many people have seen me in the past month and told me, “Wow, you look great now! Look at how much weight you’ve lost!” to which I must stifle a frustrated “I’ve lost weight because my body literally won’t allow me to eat and drink due to medical problems and I am so hungry and thirsty and miserable.”
The fact that I haven’t been able to leave the house much and so I haven’t seen many people is a true testament to how painfully common this response is.
On accountability and the benefits of remorse, its surprising relationship (or lack thereof) to shame, and thoughts regarding working towards making a better future for ourselves by learning from our past.
Note: I use past tense for some people who are still currently in my life as I am going to eventually separate myself from them by legal means. This is a process so it takes time but want to clarify that emotionally, I am finally done letting my remaining toxic interpersonal relationships affect me. That being said, you can love someone still and know it is an unhealthy relationship and thus separate yourself from them. This will be another post at a later time but some notes on toxic interpersonal relationships here.
I have made many egregiously bad choices in my life. Among them are selfish and destructive choices I feel rightfully guilty over, such as the long-term and vile harassment of another person online, spurred by insecurity, both self-loathing and conceit, and self-righteousness. Another is blatantly dismissing the testimonial of an abuser’s little sister who had entrusted me with the secret that her older sister had broken her arm. This should not have remained a secret, and she and I both suffered for my denial of a very real problem. Out of more self-righteous thinking and behavior, I have meddled in situations that are not mine, further worsening some people’s circumstances in the process. While I would like to think they were purely well intentioned, I know my self-righteousness and own feelings of victimization have played a huge role in these particular actions, which is a major reason why my approaches to helping have sometimes caused further damage instead. Little works in crises when one is letting their inner (and still-hurting) child lead the way.
These wrongs that I committed hurt and even worse, potentially traumatized or helped traumatize others. My guilt here is justified and teaches me to not commit these sins again. Guilt is a positive emotion when it is about true heartfelt remorse. It is inspired by awareness, both of self and others, accountability, and is more central to ethical behavior than religion or law. The reason for this is that guilt is an internal measurement, and regardless of whether someone is more extroverted feeling, like me, and pays close attention to external rules and cues, or is more of an introverted feeler and pays close attention to internally formed rules and cues, guilt is what betters all of us socially when, like all discomfort and pain, we choose to grow from it.
For someone whose auxiliary function is extroverted feeling, (Fe), I learn too slowly. I effect change too slowly. And when I am unusually sick or stressed, I sometimes fall back on unhealthy and harmful behaviors, often again spurred by self-righteousness and unresolved feelings of victimization. I do recognize the urgent need to stop it, as those behaviors help no one and cause more hurt than resolution. I raise my voice, and when I say “raise my voice,” I mean I yell when I get angry. And I become someone I myself can’t stand because I know I am causing hurt, and for reasons that at the end of the day, conflict with the behavior. I want people to listen and understand because when I yell, I feel hurt and ignored or misunderstood. But I know – when I am thinking rationally – all anyone does when they yell like that is hurt others and themselves. That’s why I have asked people to tell me when I am starting to raise my voice, so I can check myself and quiet myself down. It’s no one’s responsibility but mine, but I lose awareness, the sight of the goal (positive inter & intrapersonal development), and rationale in the heat of the moment and still need external reminders to calm the f*ck down. I have only gotten loud like this in the past three years. I’ve come to realize why but reasons for an unhealthy behavior do not and should not ever be confused with excuses. Still, unlearning this has been hard, and I have made only minimal progress since it was brought to my attention almost a year ago. Guilt, or perhaps the more specific term and meaning — remorse — is powerful and can greatly help to rectify bad behavior, but it is not the lone motivating force. I am making progress however and through identification and an implementation of coping skills, I hope to make this a past behavior more quickly.
Guilt vs shame
There is another feeling many people may relate closely to guilt – I used to too – but I caution strongly against making them so close. I can’t really remember where I first learned of the vital difference of meaning of these two words, but I know that actually proactively learning the difference took a long time even after. I do remember staring at the worksheet/handout in my early teens, trying to sift through events and circumstances in my head while utilizing the words’ very different meanings but having great difficulty in doing so. (Note: TRIGGER WARNING for disordered thoughts, including thoughts related to disordered eating and sexual trauma.) Continue reading “The commitment to move forward & guilt vs shame”
There is an importance to healing I cannot stress enough. Because I was so affected by traumatic abuse so early in childhood, my life, identity, and behavior have all largely been shaped by pain. Truthfully, I challenge the notion that even human beings from seemingly tamer backgrounds are not shaped largely in part by pain. When going over these sentences, I thought a more accurate description might be to add pronouns to these sentences — add perhaps “my” and “their” before “pain,” but that would only distance myself from the ultimate point. There are many layers to this post as there are many layers to every person. Layers vary and appear different. They can manifest differently, speak in different tongues, dress in different threads, dance with different motions, and while sentient beings all hurt in different ways to different severities and we express those agonies in different behaviors, perhaps the greatest irony of all is that the most universal element sentient beings share is what often isolates us most — pain.
Physical pain or severe physical discomfort, at their most banal, tell us something is “wrong.” A bone is broken, and it needs to heal, or a part of our body is exposed that should not be exposed — in the case of extreme cold or extreme heat or a wound — or that not enough blood is getting to our heart or that not enough oxygen is getting to our brain. Prolonged inactivity can also cause physical pain or severe physical discomfort because that in itself tells the body something is wrong and can make things go wrong further within the body. People struggling with their mental health often get caught in this cycle, because already we’re usually struggling with debilitating stressors (and chemistry).
It is important to note that there are medical conditions in which people have a total insensitivity to pain, however rare, but even in cases of extreme dissociation or Antisocial Personality Disorder (sociopathy and psychopathy) where emotional range can become limited, there is a current that makes us universally one, even if separating us in terms of our behavior or reactions to it: pain felt by the soul even if not always the body.
Just a quick update to let everyone know how “The Plan” is going. I said I’d start, and I’m proud to say I actually did. I tend to procrastinate and come up with excuses, especially when it comes to postponing recovery, because I’ve said before, the illnesses are hungry, and they ache to be fed. They’re persuasive. They’re angry. But I punched them in the face today.
Many mental illnesses, like many other chronic illnesses, are often cyclical. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this means that at times the illness softens or even goes into a state of “remission,” in which the illness is not as prominent, invasive, difficult, and/or et cetera. This is especially true with mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. I think a full “remission” is rare, but I’ve known people who have reportedly (or rather, self-reportedly) gone for years without symptoms who end up hospitalized after an episode returns. Still, many illnesses are cyclical, like fibromyalgia for example.
The uni-cycle from hell
Yesterday was hard for me. I had a lot of bad crashes and cried a lot. Today I was faring better until some intrusive negative thoughts began and started me on a downward spiral again–but then I stopped that spiral, crumpled it up, and threw it away.
It takes a lot of practice to manage your thinking, especially since most of our thoughts are automatic. And considering a single thought can change your entire mood and demeanor, that’s pretty scary and overwhelming. It can ruin your motivation and hope, and even when temporary, it’s still dangerous.
So let’s start fighting together today. I challenge you to try to be self-aware and for the love of all that is good in the world, routinely practice telling yourself:
“I am worthy of good things,”
“I get stronger every day,”
“I survive to make tomorrow better,” and possibly most importantly,
“I am more powerful and more significant than this negativity.”
If suffering from a mental illness–and truthfully, even if not–you are awesome for getting this far. Surviving is hard. I imagine it will always be hard for me, and it may be for you too. But we have a lot more control over our lives than we think.
So take it.
And make living better.
Love and strength to you always.