How do you communicate with yourself?

About a week ago, I got stuck in my head. Recently, I’ve been having that happen a lot. It comes with the territory-depressed, anxious, etc. The way you perceive the world and how things are is different than the reality of it. Sometimes what I think is the issue isn’t actually what’s bothering me, but it’s what seems like it’s bothering me. I wanted to insert a metaphor here, but couldn’t think of a good one, so too bad for you. I know so many of you that get stuck in your heads in one way or another and it feels like a trap, like a cycle that you can’t get out of. Breaking this cycle is difficult and it played perfectly into my eating disorder: I get stuck in my head, worried about something and food soothes. It was a terrible cycle. And when I first went into therapy, my therapist introduced the concept of healthy coping mechanisms. There are many of them, so many more than I could list in this one blog post. But the ones that I learned and leaned on both in the beginning and now: pausing for a minute (delaying the unhealthy coping mechanism), meditations, going for a walk, and journaling. Another that she told me about and I ignored: creating signs to visually deter me from eating and process my emotions.

In the beginning, these tactics were all about addressing the negative behaviors I had developed (ED) in response to the mental health I was experiencing (Depression & anxiety). As time passed and I managed to reign in the behaviors (eating a jar of peanut butter), we transitioned more into addressing the mental health. Here is where journalling for me has become transformative. I have always been more of a writer than a speaker as a communicator. Writing helps me straighten out my own thoughts, allows me to dig past the surface thoughts to the kernel of discontent that is causing the waves of anxiety and paralysis in whatever I’m facing.

When I find that kernel, even if I can’t make it go away, identifying it is powerful. When I’m conscious of an issue, I can address it. When I’m avoiding it, I feel anxious for indiscernible reasons, I feel physically weird. It’s harder to resist the unhealthy coping mechanisms of eating (stuffing my feelings down) and avoiding.

Journalling is the clearest way for me to get to the truth of what is the cause of what I”m dealing with. Sometimes, I can journal out solutions as well, but even if I can’t, the identification is the most important part. It’s a way for me to communicate with myself, to take myself out of being stuck in my head and examine the world I’m living in. Kind of like in a video game where you scroll back and are looking at yourself from farther away or above you. That neutral landscape of you allows you to have a healthier analysis of what’s going on, makes it easier to assess and address.

Journalling isn’t for everyone, but it is well worth a try when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. If that doesn’t work, think about how you best communicate and try using that. Talking to a friend. Drawing. Movement. Whatever way shapes your words so that you can actually listen to yourself. Try it when you feel as if your mind is caged, banging and bruising against the bars. Good luck!

Coming into being

Once, when I was a teenager, my mother strong armed me into taking our dog for a walk. She gave me the leash, the old newspaper bag for poop-scooping duty and ushered me out the door with the dog. She wanted me to be more active, to set me on the journey towards daily physical activity. I didn’t want to walk, I wanted to sprawl over the couch and read a romance novel.

I walked to just out of sight of the house and explored a tree that had a funny growth pattern for about fifteen minutes before returning. I was pondering all of the ill will for being forced to take the dog for a walk. Minute by minute, I waited until I was sure I could come home without suffering the consequence of feeling judged (even if only by myself).

I rewarded myself for all that effort with a giant bowl of goldfish. I practically lived on that snack, much to my mother’s dismay. I stuffed down the feelings of guilt for not actually taking that walk, the feelings of loneliness for not having much of a social life, the feelings of anger and betrayal around the way I looked and why it didn’t match up to the other girls in my class.

I judged myself harshly, probably harsher than the rest of the world and I used food to feel better. I didn’t have the skills to be better at self care, the confidence to reach for something nor the self-awareness to even realize that these behaviors were reminiscent of an eating disorder. I was fat, so therefore I couldn’t have an eating disorder. I wasn’t worthy of attention. I wasn’t, I couldn’t, I didn’t. I had set some strong limitations on myself and who I was in high school and it took years to even discover this.

As I have grown since then, it consistently amazes me how my relationship with food is intertwined with my relationship with myself, with how I perceive things are going with my significant other, with my measure of self worth. It is my hope to share these stories of growth, learning, and self-care with you.