It was yesterday.
I was on the phone with a dear friend that I hadn’t heard in a while because he’s moved away and has had to deal with some of his very own personal demons. It was great to hear him! He genuinely wanted to know how I was doing and so I told him. He’s known me for a very long time and was aware of my ongoing struggle with overeating and overexercising and he is actually one of the few people I can eat with without being ashamed. He once told me: “You’re more than this problem, so I don’t focus on it, and I believe in you whether or not you have this eating issue under control or not.” Wow. He just never seemed to judge me, even if I always go on eating long after he’s finished. He knows that I’ve been trying to improve, and he has never put me down for not succeeding yet. He is one of the few people who do not focus on the problem but on spending time with me. He was also aware that my back went out 8 months ago and that I had experienced intense pain. He just wasn’t up to date with anything anymore. So we talked. And talked. Aaaaah.
After my phonecall with him, after telling him about my current struggles, after having heard myself speak the words, I just for a second stopped to change perspective. As if peeking in from the outside, I got a look at my current situation and saw a measure of adversity that seemed mindboggling. And what I perceived from the outside was mindblowingly different from what I was perceiving when I was in my usual state of not even questioning what my inner critic kept shouting at me for all my life. Currently, that critic was of the opinion that all I was was a whimp, a whining failure, someone who just NEVER has her shit together. Someone who’s generally nothing much but a loud dissapointment. That phonecall was like stepping on imaginary breaks, and with this unexpected change of perspective, I felt a surge of compassion. Newsflash: For myself.
In that very instant it seemed absurd how I had thought that it was not necessary, possibly not OK to reach out, to ask for help even, and it seemed even absurder how I had denied myself to see how dire my current situation had become.
Telling my friend what I was going through was helping in two different aspects. For one, I could hear another human being full of understanding and utter warmth for me. And second, it gave me a chance to interrupt the ceaseless stream of self-critisism and putting myself down for what I did or did not do. For a minute there, I was able to stop the sarcastic voice of not-ever-doing-it-right and took a look at my out-of-control eating and the way my way of exercising had this undeniably punishing quality about itself, especially considering the fact that I was in pain and still put myself through daily hours of walking or against-my-will-cardio training. And instead of putting myself down for not implementing any Eating Disorder recovery advice and continuing all the shitty habits, it struck me that not one single person in the world wouldn’t be able to recover in these particular circumstances. Or all by herself, for that matter. So let’s take a look at that stinky potpourri with a compassionate eye.
There was, after all, severe nerve pain in my leg due to the herniated disc in my back. And THAT alone had been going on for 8 months now. This was not just annoying, it had worsened unstoppably – somehow naively I had held up my hope of it getting better, even though the second MRI had revealed an entirely different truth, and even though I could not stand upright or sit (or basically doing anything else than laying on my yoga mat until way past noon). How come I had so insistently closed my eyes to the fact of how this thing with my back had digressed. How could I keep on holding on to the idea of some sort of miracle healing? How could I deny how it was getting worse every week, that there was nothing more to do for me than spending my afternoons walking and walking and walking, until my feet hurt?
Why? How? Because deep down, I never considered myself deserving better.
Seeing how I have lost touch to my inner being who wants to claimed her right to enjoy her days, who tackles the issue of long overdue surgery, who wants this mess to be dealt with, who asks for support. I had grown accustomed to living in the dark. I can be scarily adaptive in this way. Childhood waves a graveyard hand. Wow.
That phonecall had enlightened me enough to see how much a soul, my very own, in fact, must be hurting to be convinced that she must get a grip, not whine, and just buckle the fuck up already. How much hurt must be buried deep to simply endure everything pain- or suffering-related??
I had never questioned that I had to deal with this myself somehow. Endless pain, increasing (very painful) isolation, empty days, no sense of direction, disordered eating, shame and fear? I even felt GUILTY for not doing better! Really. It does seem absurd now.
I was asking myself: “So. You are beating yourself up for the fact that the eating/exercising is a bit more out of control? You tell yourself you’re a total failure? Look, honey. Had a friend of yours been in a situation like that, you’d have run to their side and offered nothing but compassionate support. You’d have had nothing but full-on understanding for her/his desperate attempts to cope with the overwhelm of the whole mess. You should be deserving of that, too. Let’s stop the beating-up for a minute, ok?”
And I saw that there was SO much going on that I am overwhelmed with. We’re not just talking about the nerve pain and the eating disorder here. There’s incredible fear, existential fear of how I was going to be provided for, knowing that in 5 months from now, my insurance payments would be ceased. If they didn’t approve my application for a temporary “allowance” (how are these social payments called?), I was, well… fucked. That’s a scary thought, me being 42 and no family or spouse in sight. Not complaining, just saying, it’s a very scary place to be. A whole lot of uncertainty. Allowance? Surgery? Post-surgery rehabilitation? Where? When? How? What with my eating-/exercise fears? Would I gain a ton of weight? How would I ever get out of this mess? Would I ever find anyone to share life with? All those thoughts and more. In an isolated state.
And I’m surprised I can’t get my emotional shoelaces tied? Really.
I’m learning. And right now, I’m learning the language of self-compassion.
And I’m incredibly grateful for that lovely phonecall that snapped me into that realization.