Growing Through Relationships

Just because a relationship is easier, doesn’t mean that it’s better. This realization came to me as I was snuggled into my boyfriend’s side over the holiday weekend. For a long time before I met Nate, I struggled with the persevering obsession with my ex. Even when I hadn’t spoken to him in months or even years, that sense that we were supposed to be together never left me. Part of me was convinced that the obsessive thoughts alone were proof of that fact. There must be a good reason that I can’t let him go. I told myself that reason was destiny or some such nonsense that I never really believed in.

It seems obvious now, but only after listening to one of my favorite podcasts discuss this phenomenon of not being able to let a partner go, did I realize that other people felt the way I did. It wasn’t because they were “destined” to be together. Often it was just because the person was someone they loved as an adolescent. That teenage love has a tendency to be overwhelming and all consuming. It’s no wonder people can find it hard to let that go. Especially when no adult relationships seem to be able to measure up to that level of intensity. That isn’t because our high school sweetheart was the one. It’s because back then we were flooded with hormones and our prefrontal cortex wasn’t fully developed yet.

In addition to that, I also realized this weekend that one of the reasons I would often find myself comparing and preferring my past partner was because things felt easier with him. This ease was another sign to me that we were meant to be. However, all of a sudden I realized that wasn’t true. Things weren’t easy because we were soulmates. Things were easier because he enabled me. He allowed me to remain stagnant, to avoid any personal growth. I don’t think this was malicious or on purpose. It was just the dynamic we had together. His traits compensated for the underdeveloped parts of me. And that felt good. It felt safe.

On the contrary, I noticed that a lot of the little things about Nate that rub me the wrong way are actually qualities we both share. For instance, he is always agreeable and appeasing. Usually I am the one that plays that role. I’m terrible at making decisions and being assertive. It’s much easier when I have a partner that is. Then I can just go along with whatever they want to do. Seeing my own indecision and passivity in Nate is the reason I find it irritating sometimes. For the first time in a relationship, I feel forced to make decisions.

I don’t enjoy making decisions. However, for that very reason, it is important that I practice doing so. In the past, I let my partner make all the first moves and decisions for everything. I thought because I preferred this, it meant we were a good match. I’ve started to see things differently though. Now I realize that those relationships kept me from improving as a person. Being with Nate has already helped me to push past my comfort zone and work on some of the skills I’m deficient in. While this isn’t fun for me, it’s beneficial. It’s hard to work on ourselves. It’s hard to face the parts of ourselves that we may not like. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, though.

In addition to helping me grow, being with someone so similar to me helps me to get a broader perspective on how others may perceive my behavior. I had always thought just going along with what whoever I was with wanted was a positive thing. I thought it would make me more likeable. Now I realize that it may actually be doing the opposite. I see how it might make the other person feel I am creating distance between us, not allowing them to see the full picture of who I am, what I like, etc.

I no longer feel uncertain about whether or not Nate is “right” for me. He’s perfect. Even his imperfections are exactly what I need. Not only does he help me love and understand myself better, he is also helping me to become a better person. I’ve finally been able to let go of my ex for good. I am now able to see just how unhealthy that relationship actually was. It is such a joy to be free of that mental burden and find rest in a love that is good for me.

Tired of My Own Shit

Over three months into 2021 and I haven’t made nearly as much progress towards my goals as I had hoped. I had such grand plans to stop smoking and get my eating habits back on track. Yet hardly anything has changed at all. I suppose I am slightly proud that I have managed to stop smoking in the morning and all day at work. I’ve gotten back to only drinking sugar and creamer in my coffee on my days off. I’ve also managed to at least reimplement some healthy meals back into my diet, despite it overall still being extremely repetitive, shamefully odd, and unhealthy.

When I’ve stopped smoking cigarettes in the past, it has been because I would suddenly realize that this activity that I once relished and looked forward to, had become something to dread or at least feel indifferent towards. This same weariness has crept into all of my once cherished, bad habits. It is quite a strange realization. When once I could justify these behaviors to myself because they brought me some semblance of joy and calm, now I have no excuse. Now instead of feeling like I’m indulging myself and being cheeky, I feel as though I’m a slave to these compulsions.

To me, these feelings are similar to what some people call “rock bottom.” In that sense, I do understand why a lot of people say you must reach rock bottom before you are willing to change. Once you’ve gotten that low, it seems equally difficult no matter which path you choose to take. There is no longer a path of least resistance. It is just as hard, if not harder, to continue the negative behaviors than it is to change. Changing can almost become an exciting idea again, a real possibility, a real path back to some sort of happiness. After all, nothing could feel worse than continuing down the road you are on.

I feel like right now I am just on the precipice of that place. I can feel myself hesitating at the fork in the road before me. On the right I can see ahead of me more of the same drudgery, the same guilt, shame, and pain I’ve become so accustomed to. On the left, however, the path is completely obscured by a dense fog. At what point does the fear of the unknown become less terrifying than continuing on the way you have been? It feels like I am about to find out first hand. I hope that I am about to find out.

I promised myself that if I was still struggling after starting the new year that I would begin therapy. Even though I desperately don’t want to, nor do I really have the money to, I think it may finally be time to make an appointment. I’ve got to get a professional, outside perspective in order to help myself. I am too lost within the delusions of my own mental illness. When I first began these disordered eating habits, I told myself that it would be worth it because I would finally be able to be super skinny. And I was for at least a month or two last summer. So much so that my friends and family began to worry about me. Yet it didn’t bring me any happiness at all. I was more anxious and miserable than ever before. I still hated myself. I still hated my body and the way I looked, maybe even more than before. Somehow even though I felt bony and stick-like, I never stopped feeling bulbous, bulky, and too big.

Now I’ve basically reverted back to my normal weight (I’m too afraid of the scale to know for sure) but I’ve been unable to shake my disordered eating. It feels like all of that suffering was ultimately for nothing. I’ve maintained all the negatives, but none of the “positives.” And even though I keep reminding myself that my weight did not correlate with my happiness at all, I am too afraid of gaining more to take proper care of myself again. It’s been so long that I’m not sure I ever remember how to. Food used to be my crutch, my comfort, but now it has also become my greatest fear and my greatest shame. The damage I have done to my relationship with food and with myself seems impossible for me to fix alone. I need to push through my anxiety in order to ask for help, to get an outside voice to help overpower the unhealthy one in my head.

I just want to trust myself again. I want to reconnect with my body’s wisdom, with my intuition. I want to feel healthy again, mentally and physically. I want to love myself. I want to take good care of myself. It is insane to me that the fear of being fat is able to overpower all of my more positive impulses and instincts. I know that I have to overcome that fear in order to get back to a healthier place. I need to accept that I’ll probably have to gain weight in order to set my body right again. Why on earth does that feel like a death sentence?

I want to stop focusing on weight all together. It doesn’t matter. It is meaningless. I want to focus on the things that really matter in this life, like being kind to myself and others, being a good person, a good daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend. I want to live a life that doesn’t have to be a shameful secret. I want to live a life that I can be proud of. I want to get excited about my life again.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Thinspo

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Since I was probably 16 or 17 years old, I have been obsessively smothering myself with images of perfect, thin women. In the beginning I was really having fun. I had no idea this was something anyone else did or that it could be harmful to me. I would scroll through the skinny tag on Tumblr or Instagram to get me motivated before running on the treadmill every morning. I thought it was harmless. I thought it would help me even.

Fast forward to today and I still have Tumblr filled with skinny women to scroll through nearly 10 years later. I try not to actively seek out these photos anymore. I’ve cut out Instagram entirely. But still… I don’t make any real effort to avoid these images. I still get a sick satisfaction out of looking at obscenely skinny young women. I still compare my reflection to them each time I glance in a mirror.

The only difference is that I can see now that I will absolutely NEVER be able to look like the women in those pictures. Even if I starved myself until I was on death’s door, I would not look like them. It is still hard for me to accept. My body is just structurally different in too many ways. My ribcage is too big. My boobs are too small. My hips are too narrow. My chest is too broad. Things that frankly I’ve realized stand out in even starker contrast when I am at a very low weight. My body looks better when I am actually healthy. When I allow it to hold onto the fat it needs to function and support me.

I tell myself that I accept this. But deep down I still can’t. My eyes still fall enviously on all those online images. I need to start actively filling my feed with other things. I’d rather be looking at cute kawaii drawings, inspirational messages, beautiful homes, and snapshots of nature. At the very least I could follow some beautiful, average sized influencers. One of my favorite healthy inspirations is Autumn Brianne. She started a YouTube channel originally focused on eating disorder recovery. Now she focuses on more esoteric, spiritual topics, which I also love.

She is an incredibly beautiful woman. Perhaps even more so now that she has allowed her body to be happy and healthy rather than starving and stick-thin. Just watching her videos is a great comfort to me. She seems truly happy, truly loving towards her body. I aspire to be more like her one day. To love myself for what I am, rather than criticize and punish myself for what I am not.

However, there is a small voice inside me that keeps holding me back. It is the voice of my fear, of my ego. It tells me I’m disgusting, that I’ll only be more repulsive if I allow myself to put on any weight. But I know I have to keep moving forward despite that insidious voice. I genuinely don’t have a clear concept of what my appearance is anyway. I probably have body dysmorphia to some degree. My main goal is to stop focusing on appearance all together. What I look like doesn’t even matter! What matters is how I feel. What it’s like to live my life from day to day. How I treat myself and my loved ones.

I have been walking this addictive road for 10 years now. It is going to be extremely hard to start down a new path and break out of the deep grooves I’ve made. But it will be worth it. I hope that this serves as a warning to anyone just starting down that same path. Merely looking at pictures. It seems so harmless. It seems even positive at first. Thinsporation! A way to light that fire within. Giving yourself a goal to look forward to, to motivate you. But you’ll soon find yourself warped, tormented by an impossible ideal. No progress will ever be enough. And the happiness you started out to find will become muddled and lost along the way.

I would like to say that we are all beautiful just as we are. But even that, I feel, is missing the point. I’ll say instead that beauty isn’t everything. There is so much more to life than appearances. Make sure you don’t allow yourself to become so obsessed with the surface that you forget to look deeper. Make a list of what really matters in this life. I assure you, how you look won’t be on it. Let that list be an anchor when you start to feel adrift.

I start focusing on the wrong things. And then the wrong things become everything.

The Front Bottoms – Help