Recovery is all about honesty. That being said, in order for me to be honest about the emotion that dominated my week, this post might not be as upbeat as usual.
Guilt. This is a tough one for me.
This week my best friend, Muzzy, hurt her back leg and was lamely prancing around the house on three legs. She is already such a neurotic dog, that my parents seemed to think her minor injury was somewhat comical. Not to me- watching Muzzy painfully move around broke my heart. More than once, I caught myself drifting off in class, worrying about how she was doing.
With a sense of concern for a loved one on my mind, it made me think back to a year ago, as I was quickly headed to the final days of my downward, rock bottom spiral. Thinking about how much it hurt to watch Muzzy struggle, made me realize my feelings were miniscule compared to the agony my parents must have felt as they helplessly watched my life crumble.
How could I have done that to them? Where did they find the strength to love me unconditionally? The amount of guilt I am beginning to feel as I type this, is making my stomach churn.
Awhile back, my therapist gave me a workbook called "Food and Feelings." Each chapter is dedicated to an unpleasant emotion, such as guilt, and helps provide a better understanding of where that particular feeling comes from, physical reactions, and most importantly, outlines how to better deal in the future.
"When you feel guilty, it's as if something is hanging over you, hovering around, or gnawing at you from the inside. Guilt is the nag that won't let you forget what you did, the pebble that keeps pressing itself onto your psyche and won't let you move on, the thorn in your side that keeps needling you about what you did wrong. It can be sharp and quick, a knife of emotion. Guilt can also worm its way into your soul, kick off its shoes and settle in, robbing you of your self-worth and causing to feel as if your life is one long apology."
BINGO! That description is, unfortunately, spot on. For years I have carried around this impossible sense of guilt; thanks to all of the secrets I was keeping.
Further along in the chapter there is an exercise called, "Trip Up Your Guilt." The directions say, "Think of a situation that has caused you a good deal of guilt. By calling up the gory details, allow yourself to re-experience your remorse or regret to the max. Sit with the feeling until you're immersed in it."
Um, no thank you! I torture myself with this enough. It continues, "Now come up with just one reason to feel less guilty about the situation."
Well, I did go through treatment and get my addictions under control.
"Now, reason 2. Reason 3. Reason 4...."
I guess I am doing the best I can right now, in this moment, to take care of myself.
I no longer feel the need to keep my past a secret.
I have learned different ways to show compassion for myself.
I feel a little better already.
Guilt is a difficult emotion for us perfectionists to deal with. When I don't meet my own ridiculous standards, it leads me into a high paced downward spiral of negative emotions. Before I know it, I start feeling guilty for feeling guilty; but that's another post entirely. There is such a thing as healthy guilt, which motivates us to get things done, but this is rarely the type of guilt I experience.
Guilt and eating disorders go hand in hand. The cycle is actually quite simple: by eating something unhealthy or off limits, we feel as if we have done something wrong causing the guilt trip to start.
The final thought I am left with in this chapter is, "You need to work on two fronts simultaneously: identifying what is enough and letting go of inappropriate guilt." This is a new concept for me. Guilt is guilt and I always end up wallowing in it far longer than necessary. If I can stop, allow myself to feel the guilt, like the exercise says, and think rationally about reasons why I should ease up on the guilty feelings, it makes it seem much more manageable.
I still have some work to do in the feeling guilty department, but this is a great start. Starting to develop reasons why I can allow myself to carry around less of this awful emotion will be a good defense mechanism for the next time I feel my guilt catching up with me.