It’s tempting, sometimes, to ask when it’s time to give up; stop fighting; allow mental illness to win the battle it’s been waging since it reared its ugly, and completely uninvited head. On bad days (or, actually, for parts of every day), the answer seems to be that it’s probably about the time to give up right now because I’ll probably never be completely free and so what’s the point?.
My brain says to me:
“Giving up is easier”
“I’m not worth getting better”
“It’s inevitable that I’ll give up one day, so why not now?”
So what’s stopped me from giving up? I’m not special – I can’t claim to have the answer and I certainly haven’t found any sort of magic trick for the complete ‘cure’.
What I have found is mindfulness.
When I was in hospital, one of the Occupational Therapists used to rave about mindfulness. We used to lie on the floor (in a diminishing group; it was hardcore) and listen to aforementioned Occupational Therapist ringing a bell, or telling us to think about our legs. I was keen to find the answer to life and anorexia, and so I always had a go. After three months of waiting for the magic moment where it all clicked and the bell made me think wonderful thoughts, I decided that it wasn’t going to work, and that mindfulness wasn’t for me.
Months later, discharged and trying to rebuild my life, I remembered mindfulness and realised that, whilst I hadn’t closed my eyes and listened to the ringing of a bell for the best part of a year, mindfulness had actually played a bloody massive part in the progress I had made. As far as I can work out, it’s like a lot of things: boiled down, the concept isn’t interpreted in a way that’s compatible with life, but is probably very compatible with people trying to extort large amounts of money from professionals. We can’t lie down and hear a bell ringing whenever we feel stressed, and we can’t slip into an emotional state every time we lie down and hear a bell ringing.
The OED defines mindfulness:
Esp. with reference to Yoga philosophy and Buddhism: the meditative state of being both fully aware of the moment and of being self-conscious of and attentive to this awareness; a state of intense concentration on one’s own thought processes; self-awareness. Also in weakened use.
And it’s the weakened use that I think is especially important. It’s not that I meditate my life away, but that I have most success when I try and make decisions without everything else affecting everything else. I’m not very good at this, really. For example, when faced with a chocolate bar, my brain says something along the lines of ‘no, because you had one last Thursday and you might have to have another one tomorrow and then you’re being weighed on Monday and you’re looking porky as it is and bad things might happen to other people if you do something that you want to do’. As you can imagine, this is not useful.
Thinking about it logically, the question I should be asking myself is ‘How will eating this chocolate bar affect me right now?’. I’m not denying that it’s difficult, and I make the wrong decision and give in to letting all the thoughts pile in far too often, but if I really try hard, I know that the answer is more like, ‘I will be able to carry on with the day better because I won’t feel hungry and I will be able to achieve the things I need to achieve. We’re not talking about the future, so imagining bad things happening isn’t part of this decision and it’s rational to think that one chocolate bar won’t make me fat’. (note to readers: I do not talk to myself like this in my head, obvz) It lets me off the hook for putting the chocolate bar in the perspective of next weigh-in; next week; impending pork, or the end of the universe as we know it.
Obviously, this is a very simplified version of stuff, because my brain’s well complicated, but it honestly has helped me, possibly because I have basics to return to when everything gets to much, and it isn’t too complicated that I can’t remember it in a panic. It’s also, and I think that this is very important, given me ownership of my recovery. Sometimes I see us as Kitty and a small furry being holding hands and doing stuff together. I own my recovery, and she’s only small because she’s one decision – one question – at a time. She isn’t the rest of my life all crumpled and mashed together in one big ball because that’s really scary, and I don’t want recovery to be scary. Recovery isn’t one large concept, and it isn’t a set goal that I have to achieve: she’s the current moment, and the things that I want to do today, and compassion when I can manage it and, like any small furry being holding my hand, I’m highly protective of her. I made her, and she’s the way I want her to be.
This has turned into (yet another) rambling and probably rubbish blog post. Sorry. To return to my original question, the answer is that you should never give up on recovery because your recovery belongs to you, so you can choose exactly what your recovery looks like.
If it feels like the right time to give up on recovery, change what recovery looks like. Ask a different question; give yourself time and space to give a different answer.
Love your small furry being because she wants to love you back.