Shawn Smucker wrote something recently that’s had me asking myself an old question in a new way. Not “Why do I do what I do?” or “What do I believe?”. But what is it that I believe that results in me doing what I do? That’s becomes particularly important when what I do is hurting me.
I have struggled – embarrassed and annoyed – for years with the ups and downs of an eating disorder. I’ve wrestled in dark bathroom stalls and the bright lights of restaurant tables with an itchy-gripped hand tugging at the base of my skull. I’ve dropped dramatic amounts of weight in relatively short amounts of time, starving myself or purging as I went. I have gained larger amounts of weight, recklessly and intentionally eating whatever sounded like the best way to calm that nagging itch in my head. I’ve dealt with frustrating physical side effects from both and stubbornly ignored them.
Like all addictions, it’s about control and how-I-feel. Which really means it’s just about one thing, doesn’t it? Because at the end of the day, all I want to control is how I feel.
To be honest, this “control” issue has confused me, though, because I would not otherwise characterize myself as a control freak. My Type A friends and I joke about it, because I tend to take a decidedly “Eh … whatever you think.” Or “Let’s just see how it plays out.” type of roll in most everything else. If you ask what movie we should see, I’ll likely ask what you want to see. When I want something in any type of relationship– no matter how deeply felt – I will say it quietly every so often, but then I will leave it in a corked bottle on a shelf for later or forever. I’m not likely to try to compel someone to engage. If I’m sabotaged in a work interaction, I may quietly make sure it’s noted somewhere, but I’m just going to keep going as quietly as possible. I don’t want more drama. I don’t want the reins. And may green in all its verdant shades preserve you if you ask me to make a list of what needs to be done. I don’t want to plan ahead or make an itinerary. I want to get in the Jeep and see where the road takes me. Hell, I don’t even need to drive – I’ll ride shotgun or scrunch into the backseat and sing off key made up lyrics along with whatever tunes you decide to play.
Some of that is good. I’ve found myself in some fascinating places in life and love and art and work because I just went with it and watched the view unfold. I marvel over some of those things, huddled under a blanket on the front porch in the middle of the night with a hot mug of coffee between mittened hands. There are deep, cool waters I’d have not tasted by marking their location on a map and going after them.
But some of that is downright insidious. There’s “I don’t like drama” and then there’s “I have a hard time believing you really want to hear what I think, so I’m just not saying anything.” I think tamping down some keen feelings of exuberance, hurts, hopes, fears, angers and “what I really think”s has lead me to feel compelled to control how I feel in this other area. By owning the endorphins of starve/purge or glut, I can control the most basic of physical feelings I’m responsible to myself for. I can produce feeling good this way. But pouring endorphins on an itchy skull can’t satiate a desire to be known for who I am.
Did I say when I started this that it’s embarrassing? It is. I’ve believed that no one should have to be bored, annoyed, depressed, distracted or subjected to hearing what I really think or feel for a long time and as a result I’ve “fixed” the problem by abusing my body. Writing for D’s blog, though, has been an act of belief since the beginning that I’m allowed – and welcome – to say how I really feel about all the mess and mystery and incandescence and mud.
There is no skull-ectomy to dig out that nagging whisper, but Shawn was right to point me towards asking what I believe. I see the triggers. I’m ready to believe new things.