I cringe when I think about the holidays. For the past couple of weeks, I have had to give myself a pep talk every morning to prepare myself for them. Holidays bring back memories I rather not relive. A year ago I joined group therapy in conjunction to independent therapy because I was struggling so much during the holiday season that I spun into a state of depression. I vividly remember last Thanksgiving sitting on my hands so I wouldn’t eat. That morning I had made a list in my mind of what I would allow myself to have and what I was not allowed to eat. In the past when I was heavily restricting, I would write a contract to myself about what I could or could not eat and how much I would exercise to burn off what I consumed. Then I would sign the contract to hold myself accountable for it. I may not have actually written a contract this year but I did wake up making the “good and bad” lists in my head before heading off to Thanksgiving dinner.
The night of Thanksgiving after I was home and in bed, I went on to analyze everything I ate. Numbers started generating based on portions and what was consumed and then I rated myself by either doing a good job or a bad job. I have never had issues sleeping but that night I was up all night with thoughts, emotions, feelings, and numbers just racing through my head. I even considered getting up and going for a run at three in the morning to ease the discomfort.
Running…It has been my way to burn calories, morph my body, and run from my feelings. It has always been the way to leave the discomfort I am feeling. As I have been going through recovery, exercise is something I am trying to challenge. In the past, I have convinced myself that it is my coping mechanism and a healthy one. But a healthy outlet is not one that you at times dread, cry when you can’t fit it into your hectic schedule and feel anxious if you don’t get to it. Running has really just been a way to ignore the feelings I have and don’t want to feel.
In group therapy, we talked about how to express feelings in a healthy way and one of the group members talked about art. I laughed in my head. I am the least artistic person and I knew that would not be something I was interested in. As we discussed art, I realized I never liked it because the perfectionist in me never thought it was good enough. It was to messy, or the colors didn’t work well together, the lines weren’t straight enough or curved enough and nothing about it was right. My therapist challenged us that the next time we felt anxious or wanted to perform a behavior that was unhealthy, that we could try turning to art. For me this meant when I want to go overexercise or restrict that I will turn to art to express the emotions I am feeling instead of covering them up.
So on that Thanksgiving night, when I couldn’t sleep and all I wanted to do was go out for a run to literally run away from my feelings, I turned to art. It wasn’t anything elaborate and it definitely was no Picasso. It just was a picture of a girl with tears streaming down her face, zig-zag lines coming up out of her mind to represent thoughts, and food coming out of her mouth as throw-up. Behind the girl though was what looked like a ghost except that ghost was ED. ED had his hand wrapped around her arm as if he was trying to pull her back. Except the girl was trying to run forward which arrows on the paper represented. The drawing was by no means perfect, it was messy and full of different emotions…
Just like recovery.