I mentioned the uncomfortable silence that stopping the compulsions and rituals that many of us with anorexia establish in a previous blog on lower-level movement here. This post is an elaboration on that.
A “spiritually enlightened” person once said this to me: “You have to first create space for new and better things if you want new and better things to fill the space.”
Now, usually I’m too cynical to listen much to anything that someone who describes themselves as “spiritually enlightened” tells me. Unfortunately, this little wisdom nugget held absolutely true for me.
Here is the catch I was in: I spent a lot of my day exercising and complying to movement-related rules and rituals. This left little time for “other things.” Gradually, friends stopped bothering to ask me to do “other things.” This left me with even more space to fill with movement-related rules and rituals and no friends to do other things with even if I had wanted to. When I understood that I had to stop all the movement, one of the many reasons that this felt difficult to justify doing was because I didn’t have anything else to do. I didn’t have anything else to do … because this is all I had been doing for years.
There didn’t seem any point in stopping the movement unless I had something better to do. Especially seeing as stopping the movement opened up all this time and space and made it even more painfully obvious that I had no friends and no interests and NO LIFE outside of anorexia.
After a while, one of the reasons I was filling my days with stupid anorexia rules and rituals was to distract me from the truth that I was lonely and had nothing better to do.
The catch is, that unless you create space for new things and new people to fill, they can’t come.
I wanted it the other way around. I wanted someone to come into my life and give me a reason not to go to the gym. A reason not walk to the shops to not buy anything. A reason not to vacuum my flat again. But while all these things were taking up space, there was no room for reasons not to do them to come in and take over.
It took me far too long to work out that I had to create space and sit there and wait for it to get filled with non-anorexia stuff.
Doing so was not comfortable. Stopping the gym and the walking and the cleaning left a gaping hole where my life should have been. It pointed out my loneliness, lack of meaningful purpose in life, and lack of interest in anything that wasn’t related to food and movement. I wanted to run away from that gaping hole. I wanted to fill my time with movement and rituals so I didn’t have to face it. But, that wouldn’t have been recovery, would it?
I had to sit there and wait and be uncomfortable in that silence and deal with all the emotions of doubt that the silence brought up before that silence eventually did begin to be interrupted with other interests and people.
It is rather like opening a lemonade stand on your front drive and then sitting there and waiting for customers to come wondering if they will come. Patience has never been one of my strong points, but pig-headedness is something I excel at. My experience taught me that when it came to withstanding that uncomfortable silence that not adhering to movement urges left me with, pig-headedness and determination came in very useful.
I forced myself to sit and rest. My brain pitched a fit about that initially, but then it learned that sitting and resting didn’t actually result in anything awful after all. It got used to it. It started to enjoy it. I began to discover other ways to fill my time.
It worked, by the way
My life did become filled with things. Glorious things. Friends yes. But also activities that my eating disorder would never have allowed. Like sitting and writing. Like sitting and reading. Like playing Donkey Kong on the SNES that my husband got me for no productive reason at all. (It is also the only video game I can play other than Mario World.)
I will never take my friends for granted because I am blessed with knowing what loneliness really feels like. I am busy, but not busy in the same way I used to be when I filled my time with bullshit pointless movement games. My days are filled with people (and plenty of animals) because when you can sit and hold a meaningful conversation and not have half your mind consumed with food and fear of stillness, other people like you more. I do wonderfully normal things like meet people for tea and lunch — more activities that I wouldn’t have been able to do without a good deal of stress before.
I was always worried I would be bored if I wasn’t moving. At least, that was a thought I had. Now I can see that I was so very bored with moving. My life is full in a way I never imagined it could be. It is hard to describe how being so very “normal” can be so very wonderful.
I had to sit though that uncomfortable silence to get here. If you have a complusive movement element you will have to do that too.
It is worth it.