I’m writing to you today from a much better space than I’ve been in a while. I’ve made a lot of changes in the past month that my anxious self feels like are very risky, but are much more in line with what I actually value and want to do. My anxious self is full of beliefs about what I should do and for I long time that part of me has been obsessed with impressing other people and being successful in order to ensure that people like and value me. The farther I go into my therapy process the more I realize that I am extremely socially anxious. I think this stems a lot from my love for connection and understanding other people. But along with this, the thought of people not liking me and me being alone terrifies me. Growing up as a tall African-American girl I was constantly made to believe that I was destined to be a sports star and anything else than that was a waste of natural talent (see my last post about how this relates to the idea of internalized racism). It did not help that the better I did the easier it was to make friends and the more impressed people were with my accomplishments. I slowly began to develop a deep core belief that my value as a person was equivalent to my accomplishments. This included school as well as I was also a talented learner from a young age and obsessions and compulsions around school were reinforced by my parents at home. This led me to not know who I was outside of straight A’s and stellar athletic performance. These things were who I was and without them I was nothing…up until this past year. After my developing anorexia, I could no longer realistically participate in sports. The weight that I had lost to become a better rower had initially helped, but at the end of my career I could not even jump without blacking out. I remember doing workouts and high intensity pieces just praying I would make it through, just trying to put the blade in time with everyone else. I was losing seat races to people I was much faster then. The obsession had gone too far. The reward system in my brain that obsessed over achievement had found a new way to measure my self and I could not stop myself from wanting to see a lower and lower weight. After stopping rowing due to medical advice and concern for my physical health, I entered treatment. Before going to treatment, I had always wanted to be a therapist. I wanted to hear peoples story and let them feel understood. But after treatment hospitalized for over half a year I walked out bitter towards psychology. I felt like many of the therapists I had could not relate to me. Much like in many other aspects of my life, all I could see were a bunch of white faces who didn’t look like me or understood what it was like for people to stare at you and stereotype you because I looked so different. I was I supposed to just “change my disordered thoughts” and “choose to not let these thoughts affect my behavior” when the thoughts were things that had come out of other people’s mouths. I literally had my first outpatient therapist tell me that I just needed to make a black friend to feel not so alone. Yeah, cause that’s going to solve the problem…It all felt like a hoax, a scam to make $150 an hour, until I started seeing the new therapist I had now. She is the only black therapist I have ever known and treats me like a person, normalizing all of my critical thoughts about myself instead of setting me apart as someone who was destined to be sick her entire life. It’s amazing how fast things turned after that. She told me it was ok to quit my job if I didn’t like the people around me and said it is ok sometimes to throw a temper tantrum if it makes you feel better. She taught me it’s ok to take time for myself. She taught me that I was a likeable person and made me feel better about myself. She taught me that my dream to work as a personal trainer was not useless or selfish, that I could help people doing that. She taught me that I was ok. That it was safe to be me. Just me. Not my accomplishments. It was scary giving up my dream of being a doctor for now, but I am happier than I have been in a while. I feel motivated when I wake up in the morning again, something that also hadn’t been happening for a while. So now I can start making some goals.
I read this book several weeks ago called “Get your shit together”. Obviously the book appealed to me because after getting out of treatment I felt like my shit was very much so not together. The book talks about the concept of a “fuck bucket”. Essentially, everyone has one, but everyone’s bucket is limited in size. You can only put so many things in your fuck bucket before things start to fill out. So here is my new list of things that I am going to put in my fuck bucket right now:
- Getting back to a body that I feel comfortable in and good about
- Getting back to a more stable emotional state
- Cultivating a more meaningful life
- Social development
The book goes on to talk about your “wallet, keys, and phone”. These are the things you use to work towards the things in your fuck bucket. Your keys are your ability to strategize, your phone is your ability to focus, and your wallet represents your commitment. I am planning on writing a post soon on my keys, wallet, and phone for these fucks that I give.