TW Eating Disorder
“You’re always trying to talk to me while we’re walking down the street, but I can’t really talk because I’m observing what’s going on around us,” my fiancé, Dan, explained to me one morning.
“Oh yeah, I don’t notice much going on around me,” I admitted.
“No kidding!” he laughed.
I’ve always known that I’m an over-thinker, but more and more I’m realizing that I just live in my internal world constantly. While some people (like my ever-vigilant fiancé Dan) are typically focused on the external world and what is going on around them, I often get caught up in my own thoughts and lose sight of what’s going on around me. Pretty regularly, Dan will ask me if I saw or heard what someone around us was doing or saying. To be honest, these things are often lost on me. Like many other over-thinkers can attest, if I am distracted by my thoughts for even a moment, my mind just start careening out of control as I jump from one train of thought to another.
How do you expect me to notice the person across the street if I’m thinking about that embarrassing thing that happened to me back in the 3rd grade?
While my over-thinking and anxious brain does tend to get me into trouble, I’ve actually always loved the way my mind works. I remember looking forward to long car rides as an adolescent because I saw them as opportunities to dig deeper into my psyche and understand my patterns. While my parents could sit in the front seats of the car and yap away about whatever interested them, I could let my mind wander and discover where it led. As a creative, it can be really helpful to understand where my mind likes to journey and how it gets there. But this also means that my world is…well, more internal than external.
This tendency dawned on me most recently while filling out my “Five-Minute Journal.” While I am not one to buy any kind of daily journal and attempt to commit to writing in it (because I suck at sticking to routines and will then hate myself when I inevitably don’t), I figured if it were only 5 minutes, I could make it work. For anyone who’s curious, I kept it up pretty easily, but I became bored of having the same questions every day. This journal did, however, prove to me just how internal my thinking really is.
This journal has 5 daily sections split up into Morning (“I am grateful for…” “What would make today great?” and “Daily affirmation. I am…”) and Evening (“3 amazing things that happened today…” and “How could I have made today even better?”). While I appreciate some daily gratitude, I definitely have some issue with that last question because it feels like you’re literally looking for something negative to say about an otherwise perfect day. But I digress…
Every day when filling out the “What would make today great?” section, I avoided writing down activities that I could do that day, and instead opted for adjusting the ways that I think and feel. Instead of saying that I want to eat a certain way or exercise a certain amount, I say that I want to honor my body and do right by it without having negative feelings.
After all, my internal world ultimately dictates how I’m feeling. What’s important is not what’s going on around me, it’s how I respond to it. And if I want to stop judging myself, then I need to stop telling myself that I need to be more productive and start appreciating myself no matter what I’m doing.
I’ve done plenty of work on my external world in my young life, from getting excellent grades to completing my degrees to even losing a bunch of weight in some of the least healthy ways imaginable (something that clearly was not an improvement, but in diet culture, smaller means better!) None of these “achievements” made me happy while my internal world was in turmoil. Between these life experiences and the several years that I regularly went to therapy, I learned that nothing changes unless I change my internal dialogue and work on my internal growth.
It can be especially challenging working on the internal in the face of the overwork culture that exists. Every day, on one of the entrepreneurial pages that I follow, someone is talking about another course everyone should be taking or another way to push themselves. Unfortunately, internal work doesn’t mean much to overwork culture, as there’s nothing to show for it at the end of the day. With each new milestone, I have no certificate or degree. I just have (ideally) a bit more internal peace. I read a post recently that read “What have you done lately to push yourself?” As I’ve been trying to distance myself from overwork culture, this question made me bristle. Eventually, I realized that this reaction was due to the fact that I am constantly pushing myself, just not in a way that is really measurable or quantifiable. In our overwork culture, if you’re not working yourself to death in a way that “gets you out of your comfort zone” or “improves you” (whatever the hell that means), you’re clearly not spending your time correctly. And this way of thinking has taken me some time to overcome.
Considering the fact that I want to actually be comfortable and happy and not constantly in a state of discomfort or even agony, I’ve started to face the internal. Hell, my internal world is even how I relate to my friends, as well. Someone asked me recently what I look for in a friend, and I honestly told them that I gravitate towards others with mental illness because I feel as though we can understand each other better. I want to know what’s going on below the proverbial hood. It’s great if we have television shows in common, but how do those shows make us feel? I want to talk about how you watch The Office over and over to cope with the impending sense of dread that you always feel, because, you know…same.
Unfortunately, living in my internal world can mean that I’m missing out on a lot of what is going on in my life. To my brain, “living in the moment” has come to mean checking in with myself and asking myself constantly, “how am I feeling now?” But that actually takes me out of the moment more than anything else. I think being familiar with my internal voice is important, but noticing the beauty around me is important, too. While working on learning how to eat intuitively, for example, I tend to get stuck in my head trying to decide how the food makes me feel instead of actually enjoying it. What’s the point of that?
That’s not even to mention how difficult meditation is for me. Could you imagine not only being distracted by the mental chatter but embracing it? It truly makes meditation damn near impossible. While I stated in last week’s post that I wanted to adopt a policy of no judgment that is prevalent in meditation, I think it’s also time to adopt a more sense driven approach to life. Like in meditation, it’s time to start focusing on what my body is experiencing. What is my body experiencing? What can I see, hear, taste, smell, touch? It’s time to find a balance between the internal and the external. Now let’s see if I can do that without severely overcorrecting…