Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Habits are hard to break, but harder to forget

You can think about your problem any way you like, pretend it isn't there, or you can face the truth and acknowledge its existence. Either way, the reality of your problem will still be there. You just have more power to make your situation better if you face it.

Usually, facing the truth of a difficult situation is a short term pain than most people anticipate. It can hurt like a sucker punch, but then comes the best part. You get the chance to move forward with your life, leaving behind a dirty piece of baggage that you've been dragging around behind you. As long you keep trying to dress up that piece of baggage and keep it with you, it's going to keep weighing you down.

Food is easy to become my adversary. Anorexia can easily become my baggage. Anorexic behaviors are obviously way more than just bad habits, they are habit forming. They are rituals.

I was familiar with the notion that an eating disorder is like a tumor in that it has the potential to sneak up some time in the future after recovery has become well set in. Reality says that it will more than likely do so to some degree from time to time in the future. I have found that reality.

So far this recent relapse hasn't become a full-blown addiction. No starvation. No exercising. No counting. I eat, but not enough. I am calorie conscious. What I do eat, makes me anxious. So often fight back and forth, "to eat or not to eat," that is the question.

This week I don't have any kids. I have the house to myself. My kids are with their mom and my step-kids are at their dads until Sunday. My wife's and my own schedules conflict. So during the daytime when I'm usually home taking care of the kids I'm alone. But in the evenings I'll take off and tend to my usual responsibilities. It couldn't have come at a better time.

The very things I fought for in the past I question. The roles I cherish. Fatherhood. I know the makeup of my situation carries it difficulties. I'm in an unorthodox position. A role that seems many times counterproductive and outnumbered.

My own career goals are uncertain and almost a waste. Was all that work and monetary value that I invested for nothing? Then again, what are my career goals?

After over a year in recovery the thoughts that flooded my mind during its strongest hold on me, my eating disorder finds its way in on a daily basis. I've questioned a lot lately. A lot has seemed and felt unstable. Chaotic. Lacking direction. Out of control. Those are my triggers. I have no need to be in control myself.

My biggest trigger, without a doubt, is there being absolute no control. The more helpless I feel, the more subconsciously I feel compelled to return to my routines and rigid ways of living. Call it an unhealthy way of protection mode kicking in.

It has nothing to do with body image. But everything to do with numbers and goals. Numbers are absolutes. They are constant and never change. Goals are quests with rewards. It's having that one thing that isn't out of control. Or so it's supposed to seem.

I'm prone to obsessive compulsive traits. I'm sure that plays a large role to the contribution of my ED. If there is one thing that is constant in my life that is change. Bipolar is not a life of adjustment. It is impossible to do so. It's just a matter of coping. I've learned that Parkinson's is a life of grieving. A life of periodic losses from time to time.

Right now, there is a fine line between security in routines that I psychologically crave, and not getting wrapped up in them that it ends up thwarting my recovery. These routines do help dramatically decrease my anxiety. On the other hand, if the slightest deviation in my routine causes me to freak out, this isn't good, either.

Right now, there is a familiarity of hunger and calculation of what to eat and what not to eat. A return of hunger pangs that brings on psychological consequences.

Much of writing about anorexia is couched in the terms of mind vs. body. Perhaps it is something of the nature of eating disorders; perhaps it is our conception of what an eating disorder is. As hunger pulls at your gut, you tell yourself, "mind over matter," as you roll whatever debate in your mind time after time. Starving, you tell yourself, is an all-out war with your body, and your mind is determined to win.

My brain is a rather noisy brain. There's a cacophony of chatter always going on between that crack term of me, myself, and I. The thing is: this chatter never shuts up. Some people exercise their bodies. I exercise my brain. It's not so much in an attempt to silence the eating disorder.

My mind has always been this way. Chaotic. Able to process multiple tasks simultaneously. I have an IQ of 129. I can read multiples lines a page both from left to right and from right to left at the same time. I can read two book at the same time. I have a photographic memory. Television is too slow. I rarely slow down. I rarely sleep. My mind never shuts down.

It took a period of time to adjust to the lithium when I started it for bipolar. It quieted my mind somewhat. That was seven years ago. If I'm not fretting about something, then I'm trying to anticipate what I might need to do later, the order in which I need to get something done, or just daydreaming about something or other. There is never any silence.

Try being unable to enjoy a movie because you pick them on their length of time.

Starving myself doesn't necessarily stop the chatter, although it can turn the volume down, especially the self-loathing thoughts. As long as I am restricting and exercising, at least I can do something right.

I think tackling my longstanding anxiety and depression will be one of the major hurdles for me in recovery. I'd love it to be short and easy and simple, for I have a strange feeling that's not going to happen. No, as a matter fact I know it's not going to happen considering it's part of the package of bipolar. But until I do, those triggers will always be waiting for me.

I have to be honest. There is a tiny bit of comfort in relapse symptoms. Recovery was and is tiring. It was exhausting. Though I am nowhere near back at that point and I need to keep that way.

You don't know which to hate more. Your problems or the eating disorder. It's frustrating. I want to "over it," like a cold or the flu. I want to put it behind me. I want to be able to eat anything without first thinking how much weight it could gain me. I hate the word "recovery." Especially when it comes to anorexia. It's constant.

I have been working hard to stay on the right path at everything...fatherhood, marriage, career, the parental alienation advocacy, my Parkinson's and bipolar, drinking and much more that I have overcome with God's help. I am not one to give up. I've been beat down a few times, but I've always stood back up.

Have I always been successful? Well, no. Not always. Despite having many moments when I'm very well sick of anything related to recovery, I have to take a deep breath and ask myself: "what are your other options?"

So I think like this: Mostly, I don't like the other options and I know it. In the late of the night, which I spend a lot of time alone, I think, tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow I will start again and fight the good fight all over again.

And then I do.

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A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

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Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

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