Sunday, 22 October 2017

The lure of coping mechanisms old and new

In my previous post, I illustrated the way I feel like a car on ice - I've lost traction and it feels like going into a spin is just a matter of time.

Now, this isn't a sudden, new thing; it's built up over months, until finally the penny dropped in my head. I'd been going, running, slipping and sliding and instead of stopping to think what's going on, I turned to coping mechanisms. I see this so clearly now! But in the months leading up to this realisation that I need to actually put some commitments down, I found myself desperately trying to fix myself somehow.

Because it had to be me that's wrong, right? Too lazy / disorganised. My first instinct is to find the problem within myself, and fix it. My second instinct is to do the ostrich: focus on something completely unrelated and hope that the actual issue will go away.

So at first, to fix myself, I started making plans. A well planned day wouldn't get away from me! I knew what I was going to do when, what I would clean on which day, what I'd cook each day of the coming week. None of that was a bad idea as such, except that I failed to account for the fact that I'm not a robot and sometimes I'd really need a moment to have a cup of tea on the sofa instead of mopping the floor. No time for slacking like that in my plan - so I'd fail at keeping up with it and try harder next time. Except I'm still not a robot.

Grace. Plans are good, organising is good, but when I'm overcommitted and unable to allow for a break now and then, I need to consider that maybe all the things I'm planning and organising aren't realistic to achieve... ouch.

And so after trying for way too long to organise my way out of overcommittment, I found myself going down a well worn old path to escape thinking about things - to do the ostrich. I had thought that perhaps this path would have grown a few brambles by now, as I had avoided it for many years.... but it's still here and wide open as ever, I found.


Like any old addict I almost sleepwalked straight back into the familiar misery of disordered eating. I walked right across several lines in the sand that should have sent claxons blaring in alarm - cutting out food groups; telling Mr. I was going to do XYZ (I have made a promise to myself to keep the morass of my body/ food issues away from him as I wouldn't want him to see what I see when looking at me); weighing often; compensatory eating ("been good all week, I deserve a treat") and loss of control.

Those things aren't easy to admit but if I've learned one thing in my recovery it's that they fester and grow in the dark. Secrets kill.

So what's pulled me up to consciousness?

I'm not sure, is the honest (and frightening) answer. Perhaps the years of freedom and recovery, becoming used to healthy behaviours, eventually kicked into my subconscious with a resounding HELL NO. Or maybe having the kids, needing to be fully present for them, stops me getting absorbed the way I used to be. Or maybe, just maybe, I have God to thank. He's the one that got me out of the food mess all those years ago, after all.... and though he did warn me that if I really wanted to go back then I could, I know he wouldn't just wash his hands of me.

I have to trust that he can and will take me back to the fork in the road where I turned towards self-destruction to distract myself from life. Life is for living, it's for being fully present!

Thursday, 19 October 2017

I'm doing too much

Confession time: I'm not up to it all.

Lately - that is, over the last six months or so - I've been increasingly feeling like a car that's gone on an icy patch: I'm still going in the direction I want, momentum is carrying me, but I've lost my grip on the road. Plates I'm spinning are beginning to drop.

I need to do less, and that is a very tough realisation to come to.

For someone who's always worked full time, volunteered, was active in the church.... I often feel like I'm hardly doing anything now! But somehow this "hardly anything" takes much more of my mental and physical energy than anything I've ever done before. But it's hard to remember this when I'm asked, oh can you JUST do this.... help there... because all those requests are small things in themselves and they're oh so easy to add to my plate. Sure I can do that little thing! And this too. And the other. And - then I'm starting to slip and slide on the ice.

So I'm having a long, hard look at my priorities. None of the many plates I'm spinning are bad, they're all worthy and important, but I need to remember what I'm here for and that I just can't spread myself too thin!

  1. Family. I'm spending almost all my time with my kids, and that's intentional. I want to be a mum who is giving them the best, rather than the rest, of her energy and attention. To support my family and my ability to be with them, I've started to train as a hairdresser - that's a one-year course I've committed to and after that I'll be able to make an extra income that works around the kids. 
  2. Local community. When we moved to this area, we decided to become part of a local church on the estate and to give it our all. The church is an incredibly exciting, dynamic group with a real heart for reaching and supporting local people - I help regularly at the kids club, which draws lots of local children whose parents have absolutely no connection to church. Helping there is very much part of my purpose. 
  3. Service. This is the tough place, where cuts have to happen somewhere. I serve in various ways - typing for deaf people, leading a Bible study group - all of which I care about greatly, but which aren't part of my core calling. 
It's not that I can't say no - if you've ever met me in person you'll know that I usually say what I mean, and I won't say yes when I mean no. (Some years ago when I was happily single and child free, I moved to a new city and began attending a new church. After a few weeks there, a lady approached me asking if I'd like to help with kids ministry - my face must have said it all - and my no was so clear they never asked me again about anything to do with kids!)

My problem is that I underestimate ALL THE TIME what it takes these days to complete even the simplest of tasks! 

So I'll have to make my default answer,  "I'll think/ pray about it" rather than yes, even if I feel I could do it. And then to consider whether it's part of my core purpose or not. Now for the hard task of letting go of some commitments to regain some traction on that ice patch....