I Am Proactively Healing My Body

“I am proactively healing my body. I am creating a healthy body. My weight is normalizing. I now release all blocks that prevent me from having and maintaining a healthy body, and I am restored to balance.”
-Bella Florence

January 30, 2019:

It’s 10 o’clock on a Wednesday morning, day 3 of my sophomore spring. 72 hours in, and already it’s a rough semester. At least it was, until this morning. Today I’m starting fresh.

I’m a workaholic and an addict. I work too hard, and I put too much pressure on myself. I don’t let myself rest, and my body can’t handle it. I’m slowly killing myself, and I have to recover.

I’m continuing to learn, again and again, that recovery is lifelong and takes diligence. If it’s not one obsession, it’s another, unless I’m very careful. I am free from my eating disorder now, thank the Universe, but sadly, once again, I’ve found myself in a fragile body. My bone density has decreased and I am (__) pounds underweight (I’m consciously refraining from using numbers, because they just yield comparison and obsession. However, I as mentioned two posts back, I recently saw and had to come to terms with my weight, so I do know roughly what the deficit it).

I’m upset.
Because physical healing takes time.
How many times must I restore my weight?
Since 2015, I’ve had to do so at least once per year.
When, oh when, will the recovery last?

I’m hopeless. I’m feeling hopeless. I was feeling hope-ful before I left home, but on Saturday I landed in Manhattan and immediately fell into old behaviors. New York is not the place for a workaholic to recover. It is not conducive to my healing. Not if I want it to be seamless, anyway. When looked at hopefully, it provides the ultimately challenge. If I can recover here, I can recover anywhere, and I can maintain it for the rest of my life.

Help! I’m so embarrassed. Weight-gain makes me so embarrassed. Because everywhere I look, I see those who aim to loseBut if I’m going to change the stigma, if I’m going to blaze the trail, I have to consciously surrender this skinny body and send the message that weight is okay.

Weight is okay. Body mass is okay. Not just okay, but essential.

I used to envy other people’s thin bodies, and I often fear that my body makes others feel bad about their own. DON’T!
I don’t want this body.
YOU don’t want this body.
It may not be obviously emaciated, but it is not well.
We human beings need meat on our bones.
My body is not healthy. My body is fragile.

I’m glad to get this out. Because I’m struggling, and that’s fine. And I want to send the message that struggling is fine, particularly to those my age in younger. I’ve always been the “achiever” and I don’t want any child I encounter to aspire to that.

I look up to people who know how to relax. I look up to them in awe. I only wish I could be so stable. I wish I could stop achieving and be okay without achieving. I can’t count the number of times I’ve set the intention to slow down but been unable to because I don’t know what that means. Alas, patterns that are twenty years in the making can’t transform overnight, but they can transform little by little, one day at a time, as long as I’m being proactive.

Each time I’ve decided to recover “on my own,” I’ve reached a bottom that led me to ask for help, resulting in a long road back up. I did this once again on Monday, planting a seed for a new rough road. But by the grace of the “great mystery” (and more-so to my work in recovery) I caught myself quickly and am nipping it in the bud.

I enrolled in 18 credits this semester, which I knew would impress…huh. Who did I know it would impress? The “achievement gods,” I suppose. Anyway: I enrolled in a 4 credit dramatic writing class where I hoped to continue work on O Negative and develop my solo show and write a brand new play; a 4-credit seminar on the city of Detroit, culminating in a visit to the city and the crafting a play inspired by the trip; a 4-credit theatre workshop exploring the relationship between theatre-making and meditation (my major—if not my life purpose—in a nutshell); and Intensive Intermediate Italian, which meets 5 days a week for a whopping 6 credits.

On top of that, I planned to take on extra-curricular theatre projects, develop my blog, and, obviously, nurture my recovery. On top of that, I planned to walk dogs for money, serve as VP of a yoga club, and develop my spiritual practice. On top of THAT, I wanted a social life. Living in Manhattan, it requires miles of walking to sustain this lifestyle. That’s miles of stomping on concrete to get from point A to point B and back again—miles of impact that are not nourishing to osteoporosis. So yesterday—day 2 of the semester—I had my first breakdown.

While walking a dachshund named Chorizo through Tompkins Square Park, I broke down crying in the street. I’d only had one class so far (Dramatic Writing, the day before. Although Italian was scheduled to meet every day, my professor had thus far been a no-show), but I could already feel the stress on my body and bones. These emotions festered throughout the day, and that night I let it out at a floor meeting, resulting in help from my R.A. Without telling me what to do, she talked me through my options, guiding me to make the best decision for me.  “Dropping a class, taking a 12-credit semester,” she said, “does not make you a failure.” So I dropped Italian. I dropped it this morning. And now I’m sitting here, writing this, when I’d otherwise be in class. 

I don’t want to take Italian right now; doing so is harmful to my health. Maybe not obviously: what’s an extra 75 minutes in the classroom going to do, right? But those 75 minutes per day add up. Those are 75 minutes I can spend reading for my other classes. Those are 75 minutes I can spend writing. Those are 75 minutes I can spend in silence. Dropping the class means more sleep, fewer miles walked, fewer calories burned, and increased happiness.

All I’m doing is prioritizing. Foreign language isn’t my priority right now. Why is that so wrong? Who says the only time to learn a foreign language is age 20? That’s a lie: a lie that’s been fed to me by society and the achievement gods. I can imagine worse things than dying mediocre at Italian; and yet, dropping this class does not mean I’m going to. I love language. I love Italian. And I’ll learn it when the time is right. But right now, the time’s not right. Right now, it’s time to get a healthy. 

Greetings, Reader.
What you just read was written eleven days ago.
It was written by hand, so I’ve had to transcribe it, and doing so has prompted a reaction.

My first instinct was to filter, to reduce the “dramatic language.”

What’s so special about my experience? Everybody has breakdowns. Everybody is overwhelmed. You’re being ungrateful and overdramatic.

But the fact that my experience isn’t special gets to the deeper problem. I’ve come to realize that I’m not here to conform. I’m here to facilitate progress. That begins with owning my experience.

From where I sit, Workaholism and Achievement-ism are epidemics, not assets. Anything that hinders our health and wellness are not boons to our existence. That said, I should share my feelings about my schedule in raw, unfiltered form. My words also reflect privilege, another reason I feel compelled to filter them. Who am I to complain? But I can’t deny my privilege. I couldn’t hide it if I tried. In fact, it’s disrespectful of me to try and hide it.

I’m coming to realize that the best way to take responsibility for my privilege is to use it. I don’t have to overwork myself to make a point. I have the luxury of taking it easy from time to time, and not taking advantage of that is a) a waste and b) disrespectful to the people who worked so I can have this privilege as well as those who don’t have that privilege. These are my thoughts right now, anyway. The “privilege” issue is a tricky one—but all the more reason to talk about it.  

But let’s keep going.

In the eleven days since writing those words, I’ve come to feel better about my body. The physical progress is slow-going but going, and I’ve come to accept that I’m powerless over the time it takes. I’m focusing each day on removing obstacles from my life that stand in the way of my healing. That includes dog walking (and extra walking in general), which in turns means extra money spent on food. I used Uber Eats last night, which I rarely do, but I knew I couldn’t handle the exercise that walking to a dining hall requires.

Ultimately, I’m having to accept is that healing is an investment. It requires sacrifices, like money and opportunities for money-making (i.e. dogs, or jobs that require foot travel), but the alternative—financial and academic success at the expense of my body—is not worth it. Nothing is worth the cost of my body.

I normally hesitate to talk about weight gain, whether it be in recovery meetings or in one-on-one conversations. It’s times like these when I retreat, close up, but as the saying goes, the truth will set you free, and honesty is key to my healing. I shared about the weight gain in my recovery meeting this morning. I shared about my shame and the struggle to accept that my needs differ when I am underweight versus when I am stable. Electing to take care of myself and meet my body where it is right now requires extra support: nutritional compensation, less exercise, more rest.

In New York, I travel on foot to get everywhere and it adds up. Taking care of myself means staying in one place for extended periods of time. It’s why I didn’t leave my dorm last night to get food but paid to have it delivered. It means that if I’m studying at a coffee shop in the morning, to consider staying in that coffee shop all afternoon. It means buying a sandwich there for lunch, rather than traveling to a “nearby” dining hall for a meal that’s already paid for.

It also means carefully choosing my environment. I could certainly “stay put” in one of these dining halls, but I don’t like their ambiance. I prefer the soft hubbub of coffee shops, and the fact that they’re not all students. Then again, I can certainly walk from a coffee shop to a dining hall if I have the energy and want to do so; it depends on how I feel in the moment. When all is said and done, recovery means flexibility.

I can feel that I’m not 100% yet. When I stop and tune in, I can feel the weariness in my body. I can feel it in my bones. And that’s okay! That’s beautiful! As long as I don’t ignore it. I heard the following mantra at a meeting yesterday: “Don’t just do something; sit there!” Now is an opportunity to practice that.

Another key ingredient in my healing is affirmation work. In my post “What Do You Want To See?” I mentioned the mantra “I am creating a healthy body.” On Thursday, my counselor told me that writing a mantra 25 times a day for 28 days enhances its manifestation. She said writing it more than 25 times is okay, but that missing a day requires you to start all over. So I’ve embraced the challenge. And in my workaholic fashion, I’ve gone above and beyond, expanding the affirmation to the following, which I quoted above:

I am proactively healing my body. I am creating a healthy body. My weight is normalizing. I now release all blocks that prevent me from having and maintaining a healthy body, and I am restored to balance.

I wrote it 60 times yesterday: 25 times after lunch, 25 times after dinner, and 10 extra times throughout the day. It works, too. The repetition serves as a kind of meditation. It requires about 30 minutes of focus, during which thoughts ebb and flow, and by the time I’ve reached rep 25, I can actually feel a shift.

But here’s the fascinating part: by the time I reach round 25, I’m actually ready to eat. At first I thought repeating the affirmation alone would put the weight back on me, as if the act of writing were enough. Now I see that the block being removed is my resistance to increasing my caloric intake.

I thought I was praying for an outcome; turns out, I was praying for the strength to pursue this outcome. As the saying goes, it works if you work it. This affirmation is working, and it’s working because I’m working it. I’m working it actively—maybe excessively—but here’s another truth: our character traits don’t just disappear, and they’ll use us if we don’t use them.

And this is where I am today. I’m in the midst of my proactive healing. I’m coming off of a 12-hour sleep, drinking a whole milk latte for the extra calcium and fat, and owning my present circumstances. In the spirit of fun, I’ve decided to identify with the “Big Mouth” theme song: “I’m going through chaaaanges.” It’s like a second puberty. Kind of fun, right? Can’t wait to bust into those tampons.

In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not resonate with everyone; take what you like and leave the rest. If you liked what you read here, I invite you to share it, as these messages are for all.

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