What is Your Shadow Self Trying To Tell You?
Let's just be honest here, my ability to binge on highs has not only been on food. There are so many other ways of binging that can be used to derail the same uncomfortable feelings that started the binging and purging of my eating disorder.
Examples could include shopping, relationships, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sex, weighing one's self...you get the point. There are also many forms of restriction highs that can feed similar feelings. I'm not telling you this so you can go find new ways to run away from whatever imbalance, uncomfortable feeling, or unconscious emotion that may be causing you're actual pain avoidance behavior in the first place, but so the pattern can become conscious and recognizable. When I first began my therapy journey, I was definitely not as connected with myself, nor did I understand why I was struggling from bulimia or what my emotions were trying to tell me. Looking back now, the level of consciousness that wielded me into an eating disorder treatment center my sophomore year of college seems far estranged.
Let's just say, I hit rock bottom, I couldn't focus in school, I was isolating myself, and leaving Belmont's campus all the time to go cry at my parents house in my room alone. I always wanted to be alone. Whether this stems from growing up in an introverted household, or going back to that alone place of my boyfriend passing away, I was recycling my own traumas of being alone and abandoned without even knowing it. As I'm writing this now, I realize how much of my isolation came from not wanting to be seen, for I was carrying around heavy emotions and also what felt like heavy weight on my body. It is so symbolic looking at this now, because I wasn't conscious of how the traumas inside had affected me emotionally, and I was stuffing everything down on top of the very thing that just wanted to be known. The hurt and sadness inside of me just needed to be let out, but for some reason, I unconsciously told myself this was not allowed. The point is, so many of us push our traumas and things that made us feel not good enough away from ourselves, because well, we simply have to move on and keep living as our lives require us to, but also because society teaches us that it's not okay to be too emotional or not have it all together.
The core of most addictions especially eating disorders stem from all kinds of past traumas and learned behaviors on how to cope. This can stem from significant things such as losing someone, sexual assault, bullying, a fear-based accident and etc., but the easiest way to define trauma, as my therapist always says, “is anything less than nurturing." Aside from major traumas, can you remember a time when someone said something that in the grand scheme of things wasn't a big deal, but it made you feel not good enough. Or a time when maybe you needed something in your childhood that you did not receive. I like how the cast of 13 Reasons Why explains the emotional state of a teenager and how it can be so intense that one might not know how to express their experiences or what they need. This reminds me of myself in my heavy emotions after losing someone I cared about. The energy in my household became more fragile, for my parents always tell me that I was different after this event and that a light within me diminished. It's hard for me to remember everything adequately or even compare my mental state to a before and after illustration. A part of me wishes I could see myself from my parents point of view, because sometimes I feel they may have a more real understanding of what happened to my personality and emotional state. Aside from this, my mom was the one who tended to most of my emotions, and my dad being a little less emotional didn't always know what to say or have many words. As I've gotten older I have began to realize that a deeper connection with my dad is what I have been craving, for I truly admire and love my dad, and it has been his wisdom that has had a significant ability to shift me in the right direction. Trying to express to my dad that I needed more of his emotional input and connection in my life wasn't easy, and let's just say I didn't express it in a very sobering right way. Much of this wasn't quite fully understood in my conscious self, but the emotions that came out of me in an altered state said otherwise. I think in that moment, not only did I realize that I was craving my dad's connection in my life, but my dad realized it as well. I began having dinner with my dad monthly (and continue to do so) and it has had a significant positive effect on my confidence and my ability to truly believe in myself, my passions, and things I want to do in this life. I never realized that connecting with my dad was another void inside that I was filling up with eating disorder behaviors. Instead of using my eating disorder to control my weight, worth, and self esteem, hearing my dad tell me I was good enough was everything that I never knew I needed. As a family and as a daughter, mother, father, brother, sister and etc., we do not always do things perfectly. We do the best we can and we try to support and love each other, but sometimes we don't always know the right thing to do or say, especially if someone has experienced a significant emotional event like I did at a young age. I remember learning all of this in therapy and instantly being fearful about the process of being a good mother, but true love is simply about doing the best you can and explaining, apologizing, and forgiving along the way, because none of us are or will ever be perfect. Love, relationships, and the experience of life are messy. Life never paints us a perfect map with easy simple options or an instruction manual on how to do things, for we are learning and growing from all of our experiences collectively. I think as children we tend to think our parents have perfection figured out, when really they are still continuing to learn, grow, and evolve from parenting just as we do through our younger years. My therapist asked me once, “how does it feel to experience a relationship as messy and to know that working through it with them can be even more rewarding?” This gray area, or the area of unknown can sometimes be scary for the eating disordered mind, because it’s almost as though we want things to be perfect. Or, on the other end of the spectrum lies avoidance and to not deal with any mess at all, so that pain can be avoided.
There is beauty in recognizing that love can be the “perfect" bandaid. I also like what Doreen Virtue says, “Remember, It’s the relationship that you desire to be perfect, not the person.” This might seem minuscule, but this has been a beautiful lesson in my life, for I used to think if love wasn't this perfect match or able to give me everything I needed upfront then it wasn't meant to be. I know now, that's not the case at all. A big part of love is knowing how to express, define, and clearly ask for your needs to be met, aside from fears of making things messy.
Also, not every single person in your life is going to know how to meet every single one of your needs, nor do they really need to. We all have all kinds of different friends. Just because I don't talk about eating disorders or deep internal emotions with everyone doesn't mean they can't be entertaining playful parts of my life. This comes with balance I suppose. A lot of my writing stems from things I have continuously tried to untangle in my own head, or from trying to intuitively understand the mystery of my own experience. Much of my eating disorder and diseased thoughts have tricked me into feeling shame, self-doubt, and confused about situations in my life, only to recycle ‘stuck’ energy and keep me from becoming truly conscious or expanding. It seems that the way out of this confused and disordered place has come from truly meeting myself and self-worth again, as well as a gift from the universe that once again, reminded me of the power of love. It is funny how life circles back around, for the part of me that never wanted to be seen...is now open and welcoming of light. For anyone on their own journey back to their innate predisposed self-worth, you are enough, and you were always enough before anyone or any experience in this world told you were not. It is time to rewire any internal voices that are telling you that you don't deserve this natural human birth right. Shine light on the shadows, for the darkness is what keeps them alive. with love,
[I dedicate so much of this to my therapist, for her essence comes through so effortlessly in times of my own internalization.]