Recovery, goals, and processes

Because work has been slow, and because I’m shit at focusing on any one thing for more than two or three minutes, I’ve been feeling pretty low lately.

Last night, I started doing something again that I started initially when I first took a genuine stab at recovery. I started watching TED talks. At that time, in early 2014, I was trying to learn more about eating disorders and other mental health issues in order to get some fresh perspective on my own struggles. I also was beginning my transition and starting to live “full time” as gender neutral or androgynous, so I was looking for more information about gender and related issues as well.

But at this stage of my life, after yet another relapse and a lot of hopelessness and despair in general, I’m realizing that full and permanent recovery — if such a thing is possible in the first place — is going to take a more holistic approach.

That is to say, I didn’t fall into my eating disorder for one reason in particular, and I’m not going to get out of it by way of one technique in particular or by studying one or two subjects in isolation.

It’s tough to describe what this is like, but more and more I feel that it isn’t necessary to put it into words.

I feel that I need to make these things mean something, at least to myself, and to that end, I’m looking for inspiration.

One very powerful talk by Andrew Solomon, “How the worst moments in life make us who we are,” brought that into sharper focus for me. Talks about Buddhism and spirituality and Emilie Wapnick’s fascinating argument for people she calls “multipotentialites” being encouraged to stay true to themselves have also helped.

And the main thing that has happened is that I’ve been inspired to work toward changing my tendency to focus on an end and going back to a sense of curiosity and some sort of enjoyment of the journey toward the end.

Having goals is important. My therapist and I agree on this. But the process is important as well. A key problem is that I’ve been living my life focused on this or that goal while often hating much or all of the process of working toward the goal in question. The main goal has been the indefinite drive to lose weight that is entangled in my eating disorder, and the hated process, of course, has been starvation and purging and obsessive exercise, among others.

My life had been turned into this neverending barrage of suffering geared toward this goal, and now that I’m attempting to break out of the pattern, it’s tough to know what to do with myself. Not suffering (the way I had been) feels unnatural. Not having a particular goal for which to suffer comes along with the same problem.

My instinct is to grab hold of another goal to replace it right this very second and cling to it like a life raft to keep from drowning in uncertainty and confusion.

The appropriate action, on the other hand, is to take it slow and do methodical work to figure out what matters to me and how to make the experiences I’ve had — some of which were truly horrifying — mean something, count for something, rather than diving into a new project with a new endgame over which I can obsess, thereby replacing thinness as a goal and as a meaning-maker for myself, but not challenging the problematic mechanisms underlying the schema of basing my self worth on accomplishing goal X, whatever that is.

This is all so unwieldy. But I am working toward something, even if I’m not sure what that is just yet.


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