This isn’t the kind of post I usually write. I think a lot of folks assume that when you write a blog(s), your life is pretty much an open book. In some cases, this is true for me. In others, it is not. I don’t share very much of what’s going on deep down with you guys. That’s my secret world, and exposing it would make me way too vulnerable and uncomfortable (even if, in all likelihood, I’m never going to actually meet any of you). So instead I exaggerate the good, and I gloss over the bad, and I try to make you want to come back. But today I’m going to share. Today I feel like I must share, because I have a sneaking suspicion I am not alone.
Most of my posts on this site go something like this: I know how to be healthy, I was healthy before, now I’m not healthy and I hate myself, I am going to gather myself and be healthy again, whoops I fucked up and now I’m back to square one, except because I failed I’m more jaded than ever.
This pattern of acting in ways I know to be counterproductive to my goal doesn’t stay neatly confined to my eating habits. In fact, it bleeds into every aspect of my life: my relationship with my boyfriend (or what’s left of it), my relationship with my family, the way I view my job, and most importantly, how I speak to myself (not as in, I’m crazy and I talk to myself out loud, but as in, I talk shit to myself in my head ALL THE TIME).
I’ve known about this pattern for months. I finally started going to therapy for it a few weeks ago. On the new patient questionnaire, I had to give my primary reason for seeking therapy. I wrote, “I keep doing things to sabotage my own happiness.” That pretty much sums it up.
Long story short, my therapist is pretty good. (Unlike the one I had in middle school, who told my mom everything I said, or the one I had in college, who guffawed when I told her I thought about killing myself daily, or the one I had 2 years ago, whose answer to all of my problems was “Why don’t you get a part-time job?”) She’s smart, intuitive, and incredibly well-read. And unlike the other bozos I’ve seen before, she’s genuinely interested at discovering the disease; not just in treating the symptoms.
She recommended a book to me (which I in turn now recommend to all of you) called Women Who Run with the Wolves. It’s a collection of myths about the wild, strong, self-sure female archetype, followed by a lengthy (yet interesting) Jungian interpretation. I love it.
Not even a quarter of the way through the book, I’ve made two profound discoveries. Allow me to share.
Discovery Number One: There is a really fucking evil predator in my head: There is one other specific instance in which women are highly likely to experience “dark man” (a.k.a., predatory) dreams, and that is when one’s internal creative fire is smoking and banking all by itself, when there is little fuel left in the corner, or when the white ashes grow deeper every day, yet the cookpot remains empty. These syndromes can occur even when we are veterans at our art (say, when one actually does have experience restraining oneself from eating everything in sight), as well as when we first seriously begin to apply our gifts outwardly. They occur when there is a predatory intrusion into the psyche, and as a result, we find every reason to do anything and everything except sit there, or stand there, or travel there, in order to execute whatever it is that we hold dear. (page 71)
Discovery Number Two: This is how the predator got there. Women who are raised in families that are not accepting of their gifts (ahem, DING DING!!) often set off on tremendously big quests—over and over, and they do not know why. They feel they must have three Ph.D.s or that they have to hang upside down from Mount Everest, or that they must execute all manner of dangerous, time-consuming, and money-eating endeavors to try to prove to their families that they have worth. (page 90)
It’s complicated, and it’s hard to sort out by typing the words. But basically my issue(s) goes something like this: my parents never found value in the things I was good at, and instead subtly (most of the time, anyway) implied that because I wasn’t good at the things they valued, then I really didn’t have any value. They weren’t mean about it, they were just… apathetic. And so I’ve spent my entire life trying to prove to them—and me—that I actually do have worth. Except, the ghost of the fat, insecure 12-year-old me who was forced to play basketball and be humiliated by her ineptitude in front of the whole school, is still in the back of my head telling me that my efforts to prevail will inevitably fail. No matter how proud it will make everyone (including me) to be skinny, happy, or able to dribble a basketball, I will trip over my own feet and land on my face. So I might as well quit trying.
That’s the predator. The voice that says that my life is good enough the way it is, I shouldn’t expect more, so there’s no use sticking to a diet, trying to get into graduate school (again), or being kind to my partner. He tells me that there’s no use in trying to better myself or my life, because I will fail, and then I’ll not only have a worse situation, but I’ll be humiliated for my failed efforts.
I know who/what the predator is now. I know how he got there. He’s been there for a very, very long time. Getting rid of him will be a long, slow, arduous journey. (And wait for it… she’s about to say something about how she knows she’s up for the challenge…) Honestly, I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge of fighting him alone. (Ha! Got ya.) But I do know that if I let him stay in there, he will kill me . I don’t even know how to get rid of him. Yet. I will keep getting help, researching, reading, looking inward. I will make a conscious effort to speak kindly to myself and to behave kindly to others. My therapist has recommended some great cognitive exercises to help me retrain my brain to not think so negatively. I will keep doing them.
It’s scary, setting out to remake yourself into something different. Something you’ve never been. I’ve always been fat, irritable, insecure, and judgmental. I have no idea what my life will entail without those things. I truly cannot wait to find out.