a day in the life

the scent of my new fabric softener reminds me of high school.

of getting up early in the morning, going to the toilet, weighing myself, necessarily in that order. writing that number down in my food log, counting how many calories it was going to take before i dropped another pound. after my daily weigh-in — a prolonged body check in the mirror, get dressed, make breakfast.

i never starved myself; in fact i always took pride in not skipping meals. can you believe that at the height of my eating disorder (ED for short. cute) i was consuming up to 2300 calories a day? no binges, either; not a single time out of control for two plus years.

control was my thing. i didn’t have to deprive myself of food when just restricting my intake did the job: i was losing weight like crazy.

so, yeah, breakfast. at precisely 5:30 or whatever it was. first down a full mug of black coffee so that youre full to begin with. then, oatmeal. 45 grams of steel-cut oats, not 44, not 46. when in doubt round three tablespoons up to 50, such as when you’re at a friend’s house. kitchen scales = essential piece of equipment and your best friend. makes you feel so safe and secure. water, no milk. 15 grams of nuts of your choice. except … walnuts pack a staggering 654 calories per 100 grams, cashews a mere 553 … do with that info what you will. sometimes i would go crazy and add a piece of 99% dark chocolate in the mix and melt the whole thing in the microwave. pretty Decadent, huh? i felt super guilty for being so indulgent afterward tho, so I didn’t do it very often. instead, over time i started making some odd dietary choices, such as swapping nuts for eggs because they loaded more protein for like half the calories. what i generously called “cake” tasted more like soggy cardboard, but i still devoured the whole thing, the noise of my spoon scratching against the bowl waking up my parents in the next room.

or My Spoon and My Bowl, I should say… when you are obsessed with food, you’re pretty particular about that sort of thing. i would get pretty angry whenever some of my utensils were missing when I NEEDED THEM!!! or, god forbid, when somebody else had eaten that sorry cup of low-fat yogurt i was looking forward to that entire day and specifically left that extra 124 kcal of room for. i would get pretty angry pretty easily. well, it was more like i was perpetually irritated or annoyed, ready to pounce on you the instant you inadvertently triggered me with some seemingly innocuous remark.

brush teeth, leave house, go school. arrive early so sift through your food log filled with motivational quotes for “fun”.

DRINK WATER!!!!11111 sOOOO much water. take not one but two 1.5 liter bottles to school and have even that not be enough, so at some point start considering switching to those huge ass 5L bottles instead. go pee every 15 minutes.

DID YOU KNOW…

that on 3 (three) separate occasions on my way back home I peed myself (yes, you read that correctly) because I just couldn’t hold it in any longer between the train station and my house? youd think that one time should be enough, but nah…

you need to hydrate, always remember that ❤️

class … is a blur…

friends … are a blur…

LUNCH BREAK! stuff yourself with whatever you meticulously measured out the day before. i was a big fan of cauliflower. it was low on calories and carbs, yet so damn filling. and by “filling” i mean that it FILLED the entire classroom / bus / wherever else I was with that god awful smell of sulfur that makes you wanna puke. but i didn’t care; i had as much right to eat as anybody.

on my way home i let myself have something sugary, like an oatmeal cookie or a PB+J with banana…on…wholegrain bread… as a pre-workout snack. imagine what that did to my stomach during exercise xD

the original idea was that i would exercise three to four times a week. seeing as i had plenty of time on my hands though, because of my lack of social life, that quickly turned to four to five to six to seven.

oh, i forgot to mention, i usually slept on the bus because I was JUST so full of energy! which was good, because it left me all energized for my workout.

i hated HIIT. hated every minute of it. but home workout videos were easier than going to the gym; at least nobody was judging me. at Pure, the personal trainer who first introduced me to weight training later told me to lay off the treadmills or he was going to tell my parents he was concerned. i smiled, nodded politely, thanked him, said i was fine, kept hitting the elliptical instead for at least a couple more months. they were more effective, anyway.

have dinner, update food log, do homework (necessarily in that order). in theory i could have “everything in moderation”. in practice tho, if you’re cutting calories you’ll likely choose 120g of lean chicken turkey over a slice of salami 99 per cent of the time. stalk celery, which i used to hate, suddenly became my new favorite vegetable.

in my free time i would fill this giant pink folder with article clippings from my two favorite magazines, Shape and Women’s Health. i loved drooling at the pictures next to recipes i was never going to make because they were dripping with fat (like one spoonful of olive oil specifically).

another one of my favorite pastimes was endlessly scrolling through my tumblr feed full of thinspo posted by blogs that mistakenly called themselves “fitblrs”. living and breathing “body goals” screws you up.

when i was out — probably doing my grocery shopping, for i didn’t do much else outside my bedroom — i didn’t see people, i saw sizes. and it’s the weirdest thing… i wasn’t one of those girls who think everyone else is skinnier than they are, i knew i was underweight. but logic didn’t apply to me; i just wanted that rush of finding out you lost another pound, and another, and another. I considered myself pro-health and didn’t see the hypocrisy.

my bedtime was pretty early: the sooner you fall asleep, the less time you have to notice you’re still hungry.

the winter of 2012, it must have been, saw me layering leg warmers on top of jeans on top of leggings on top of tights, and sporting skiing shoes that were larger than i was, two or three pairs of socks underneath, and still shivering with cold.

i remember that Christmas, AFTER i did my usual round of cardio, i exercised for three more hours on my indoor stationary bike just so i could feel okay with having like a dumpling or whatever later that evening.

my formerly beautiful hair became brittle and started falling out in clumps, and hair appeared on other parts of my body that wasn’t there before — i later learned that this is called lanugo and it’s your body’s way of trying to keep itself warm.

my skin was dry, my eyes hollow, and my nose seemed to take up half of my face.

and among all the “are you okays” there were still some “how do you do its”. i dismissed the former, cherished the latter, even when it was coming from my friend’s depressed, insecure, yet herself scary thin mom whom i was actually pretty worried about.

i was an authority on nutrition, people were coming to me for advice, they paid attention. i couldn’t let that go, couldnt let myself slip up; failure wasn’t an option. but i hated the thought that my appearance or my behavior might inspire somebody else to try to achieve that same level of malnutrition. i didn’t want other people to be “fat” or “skinny”; i wanted them to be healthy and happy … just not myself though.

and I could wear ANYTHING! i mean i didn’t; i still thought everything looked awful with my body type so i mostly stuck with baggy sweaters. but i had a CHOICE!

i didn’t admire my friends’ intelligence or their sense of humor; i envied their ability to eat junk food and still have a perfect, flat stomach. i didn’t pursue relationships or good grades, every minute of every day was about making CERTAIN i wasn’t going over my somewhat arbitrary calorie limit.

and all this for what?

i’m not exactly sure.

uoıʇɐılıɯnɥ ʎɥʇlɐǝɥ

The borderline narrative is a compelling one. But what it compels me to do is not altogether productive.

First learning about the disorder was a revelation, and the more I read about it, the more convinced I became that it described me to a T. Okay… so?

Even if that were true, or possible, it’s still only part of the story. It was so validating, and satisfying, to be understood so completely. Except I wasn’t. Nobody can be.

I know it’s basically the essence of BPD to look for things to fill that void where your identity should be, so I’m in something of a catch-22: as soon as I started identifying with it, it became all there was to me. But as I’ve come to realize, I don’t want it to be this way.

Borderline traits might accurately describe parts of my personality, which may be helpful in dealing with them. But no single word can account for the giant spectrum of thoughts and behaviors that any one person will exhibit irl.

The reason I’m saying all of this is because my boss gave me a lecture the other day about my rapidly deteriorating work ethic. He didn’t tell me anything I wouldn’t already know, but I needed to hear him say it out loud. I needed to hear somebody.

It was awful. In its own gentle way, it was probably the most humiliating thing I have ever experienced.

But it was also sobering.

I got exactly what I had always tried to force out of people: I got patronized. Because that’s what you get by acting even more clueless and confused than you really are. It’s cute. In puppies, and small children. Not so cute in a 25-year-old.

I was always looking either for validation or for pity, and when I finally found them, it was equal parts satisfying and pathetic. It was such a relief, though, to find out I had some dignity left to lose.

I overshare because I need people to understand why I am the way I am. I need them to tell me it’s okay and that it explains everything and there’s no more need for me to make any effort with anything ever. But being the way I am doesn’t absolve me of trying my best…

In a lot of ways I am still a child. I am immature, I can’t control my emotions, I refuse to take responsibility for my actions or for my life.

But as much as I crave to be accepted unconditionally, just the way I am right now, I have come to realize that that acceptance can be a double-edged sword. And for all the times I have abused my Mom’s selflessness & lack of consistency in enforcing any kind of discipline, I still resent her for trapping me in my own complacency.

Nothing was ever expected of me, nor did I hold myself to a particularly high standard. I grew up having my life lived for me, so I never had to develop / discover my own internal motivation.

I don’t want “poor mental health” to become a personality trait, or my defining characteristic. To my own surprise, I don’t even want it to be an excuse. When somebody else suggests that my struggles are valid, I’m relieved, yes, but somehow also almost offended. It’s like they’re agreeing that this right here is the best i can do. And i’m like, no!!!??

There were a number of times I have violated the rules of the employer/employee dynamic. I have treated him like a parent, like a friend, like a therapist (the last of which he is btw, though not to me…). And he has put up with all of it, and I’m so so grateful for that.

Most of the relationships in my life are these weird reenactments of my past experiences. But it’s different now. I’m more aware of it.

He — in true therapist fashion — was objective and to the point. And somehow, coming from him, I survived constructive criticism.

It was the other things the said that hit a bit too close to home. Things that should be obvious to somebody my age… but it was only when he said them that they started to make sense.

Things like, everybody’s got their own issues, and I can’t let my feelings interfere with my work. Things like, if I don’t attend to my responsibilities, somebody else will have to. He wasn’t blaming me …. he was giving me credit. Recognizing that I’m not doing something that I’m very much capable of.

And so I left his office feeling not guilty but … hopeful. It wasn’t any less embarrassing having had him explain to me the complexities of adulthood, but I’ve decided that embarrassment is a valid emotion, too, and one you can learn from as much as any other.

I want to grow up.

walk down memory lane

A high school friend reached out to me (hi, P). It’s nice, though admittedly somewhat strange, to get back in touch with people who knew you way back when.

I feel so much different, but I am pretty much the same person I was all these years ago: just as dumb and aimless as i was, only now it’s more obvious. I’m more aware of it, so i dont even try to hide it anymore.

Because that’s all I talk about, it may seem as if I were capable of change. I don’t think I am though, and I worry that people like her will give me a chance and I’ll just disappoint them all over again.

(by the way, it’s really quite strange being able to tell you’re idealizing someone as it’s happening. She’s my savior. She understands. She inspired me to quit my job. P, if you’re reading this, please don’t be overwhelmed. it’s normal for me, it happens all the time. and let me tell you what comes next: i see a sign of rejection or mild disapproval, and i withdraw into my shell. Or that’s what usually happens… I’ll do my best not to let it.)

talking to her made me realize that my self-perception is even further from how other people see me. which one is more accurate, then? if, going by what she said, in high school I appeared driven and conscientious, does that mean I was? even though it was the last thing i wanted to be?

I have had people comment that i seem really calm, and i always had to stop myself from laughing in their faces. but, i mean, they only have my behavior to go on, so i guess their impression kind of makes sense??

all this makes me wonder how much of what I think about other people is drastically different from what they believe about themselves or feel internally.

But yeah, apparently people admired my good grades or my English or whatever. but who the fuck genuinely wants to be the teacher’s pet in fucking high school? of course i would rather have had a social life of some sort and had people actually like me,,,, but i was unlikeable and insecure, so i resorted to controlling the only things i knew how to control.

But maybe the image we project unintentionally is more genuine and has more merit than your own self-judgment? if i seemed like a nerd, then, well, i must have been a nerd. so what i didn’t feel like one. so what “driven” or “ambitious” were far from what i would have considered accurate descriptions.

I was so lost. So lost. I had absolutely no clue what i was doing. I clung onto school because that was what gave my life a semblance of meaning or a sense of direction, but the truth was, all I needed was a friend, a true friend who would have called me out on my bs and made me confront all my pain and grief and get real about what i wanted.

but none of that had any chance of happening since i was so proficient in the art of denial and keeping people at arm’s length.

still nothing’s changed.

a life of non-statements

I’d like to preface this by saying that I experience the world, including my own emotions, in very physical ways. which is to say that when i’m talking about food, for instance, i’m not really talking about food, you know what i mean? With that in mind, i present to you a conversation about moisturizing.

the back of my hands gotten all irritated again. I showed it to my parents and kind of laughed about it, but they didn’t seem amused one bit. Stern looks on their faces, they kept asking why i don’t do something about it, and i kind of just stood there limply, not really knowing how to respond.

They were both growing increasingly frustrated, so i thought about it for a moment and replied (let me remind you they are very right-wing), You might be relieved to learn that it’s not a feminist statement where i make myself purposely ugly or anything like that. I just… don’t care.

they looked at each other, their expressions going from blank to baffled to offended, and then my dad asked, Well is there anything you care about?

Another pause from me, then a tentative shake of the head “no”. they stared at me in disbelief. The conversation ended there, and i went to my room.

And I’m sitting here, confused as to what it was that so exasperated my parents. and also — was my answer accurate? was it genuine? im inclined to say yes to both, because it was spontaneous, and, in a way, uncalled for. What i should have said instead was something along the lines of a dismissive “ughh you know my lazy ass & how i am about wearing gloves!”.

i don’t know why i decided to be honest when put on the spot today. probably because i had never tried to get to the bottom of my own poor decisions before. I didn’t have time to process the conclusion that i arrived at at that very moment.

But it’s really quite simple: I just… don’t care.

part of it is because i don’t feel like i deserve to feel good about myself. another part is that i’m really too lazy and lack initiative. yet another is that im too indecisive & easily overwhelmed. maybe i want someone to take care of me. maybe i need attention. but it all comes down to the same thing.

let’s extrapolate to something more serious than my 80 year old’s hands. let’s take education. work. dating. friendships. that catch-all called “personal growth”. let’s take something as basic as physical health.

I used to care. but it was all… too much. too much effort & too little payoff. too many disappointed hopes. too much stress & pain. too many… options.

I’m still in two minds about the relationship between my lack of internal motivation and lack of self-esteem: i cant decide which one caused the other. but maybe at this point it doesn’t even matter. it’s a vicious circle, anyway.

I’m empty. I sympathize with nothing. I strive for nothing. I stand for nothing.

i learned a valuable lesson today. it’s that there’s only one way to find out what i want. i need to at least perform acts of caring, if only to realize at the end that i didn’t “truly want” anything; if only to be able to say that i didn’t give up.

but it’s so hard, so scary, to allow yourself to want.

two I’s in friendship. one I in… I?

The day L left, I went into survival mode. I’ve been hanging on by a thread for going on a decade now, which is more time than we were close friends while she was still here. Of course L is her own person, and I shouldn’t be building my healing around her any more than I should have built my life. She has her own identity that goes way beyond being a signpost for my life or my recovery. Above all else, she’s a dear friend, and the last thing I want is to objectify her like that.

Regardless, in my mind, she stands for everything wrong with me. She wasn’t a person in my eyes; she was way too perfect for that. And by idealizing her, I failed to acknowledge that she, too, might have her own feelings & needs; I was too immature & superficial to meet them, though.

She went on to develop more mutually satisfying relationships, and I was hurt… now I know why: ours was a very asymmetrical one; I got emotional support, she got blind loyalty. Now she gets to be vulnerable and understood, too.

All this being said, even though I understand those dynamics in retrospect, I can’t change the past. Her departure was the catalyst for a process that had been a long time in the making: the disintegration of my own identity.

She is her own person. But, to me, she is also a stark representation of the idea of relying on someone else for your own sense of self, like I did for mine. She deserves more than being reduced to an archetype… but, again, to me she is both.

Since she left, I’ve been… getting by. Coming up with countless ways to not think for myself; to not think at all. I always had poor impulse control. I feel like it might have something to do with not using your internal monologue to its full potential. And when I shut it up altogether to avoid confronting painful feelings & ugly truths about myself, I also deprived myself of a tool that could have been incredibly helpful in regulating my behavior.

It’s not a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of situation. I know I must have always gravitated towards certain types of people because of a natural inclination to follow rather than lead. It’s just that I wouldve saved myself a lot of pain if I had figured it out sooner, and perhaps taken steps to counteract it.

As things stand, I still seek that perfect relationship to lose myself in. I have this need to merge with the other person so completely that there is no more “you” or “I”, there’s just “us”. And I still believe that finding that person will solve all my problems: that they will live my life for me; that they will regulate my behavior; that they will fulfil all my needs.

I don’t (intentionally) deny the other person their right to privacy and their own complex and separate identity… As far as I’m concerned, they can even lead a life all of their own; Ill be sad and jealous, but I’ll understand that I’m not enough for them. But I need them to know & take care of me. To take the lead. Anticipate my needs. Tell me what to think. Is that mommy issues or what? 😬

In the absence of a favorite person to cling on to, and with no hope of ever finding one (because now I know it’s simply not possible in the sense in which i mean it), I am completely lost. I know I’ve discussed this before. But here I’m not talking about emptiness or idealization themselves; im talking about how they relate to impulsivity.

I always used to assume that the latter was an attempt to remedy the former, substituting compulsions and obsessions for a personality. I’m afraid the truth is much simpler than that: because I don’t think for myself, all I’m left with are my urges & no way to talk myself out of giving in to them.

It’s hard to exercise any degree of self-control when you have no sense of self. I may or may not be capable of “self-discipline”, but I’ll never find out until I know what my goals are & what’s good for me. Without some sense of your own personhood, there’s no self-discipline; there are just random rules and restrictions. And why follow those, if going against them doesn’t seem to interfere with any of your goals?

Of course I do have goals. Hopes. Ambitions. Which is why numbing out is so frustrating: every time I engage in harmful behaviors, it takes me that one step further from what I’m too afraid to admit I want.

I

am so…

c o n f u s e d.

Limbo

i’ve lost touch with the person i used to be. my past seems distant, abstract, and fragmented. all my behaviors seem vaguely justifiable yet completely unrelated, like there’s no continuity between individual events. I can only superficially connect back to the various ways I have felt in the past.

the closest i could come to figuring out why… was that all my life, hardly anything i ever did was genuine. that might be why it’s so easy to disconnect from my past: i was never actively living it the moment it was happening. that’s facile, of course, saying that it hasn’t been me all this time. obviously it has. only a very … smothered … version of myself.

I can intentionally do things for intellectual reasons. but I do most things for emotional reasons, and these are always unintentional. the reason being, if I get rejected or criticized, at least it’s not an authentic expression of my true self that’s getting criticized. in the same vein, it’s sort of comforting to know that i could be trying harder, putting in more effort… i simply choose not to, but there’s options. room for improvement.

because what if i did my best and still failed miserably?

i don’t think it’s as simple as a basic fear of failure though. there must be an element of confused identity. i always did whatever was expected of me, no more, no less; i followed instructions, i stubbornly stuck to the scenario that i had imagined for myself long ago based on what people told me. but a part of me must have remained non-committal about the whole thing, almost like i was only this compliant out of debilitating fear and self-doubt.

maybe it had to come to this: maybe i had to feel like the biggest disappointment on the face of the earth only to realize that I … don’t … actually … care. maybe that’s what it took for me to come into my own and develop some independence at last.

and maybe my memory is so resistant because it won’t accept anything less than ME. i remember happy times. i remember my friends, the trips i took, parts of high school and uni. I remember Canterbury. what i don’t remember is all the rest; life “happening to me”.

i’m not saying my life needs to be driven by some overarching goal or theme; quite the opposite, i want to be more spontaneous. but that’s the thing, whatever i do i want it to be my decision, dictated more by my needs than by external factors.

you don’t necessarily need a road map in order to develop a coherent narrative of your life. you just need to stop trying to go in all directions at once, and go instead where you really want to go.

i just need to figure out where that is…

Living in the Labyrinth

I always used to think that life was made up of distinct chunks. I believed in life events: in getting over negative experiences and turning your life around, in resounding successes and monumental failures.

I took it for granted that life proceeded in a linear fashion, in one direction only, and that once you got past a certain “checkpoint”, there was no turning back. I took life to be a zero-sum game, and it was kind of bewildering when i just recently realized that the world is more like a sandbox than it is like a race track.

it’s weird being an ISTJ while having borderline traits. (And yes, I know about the five factor model and about MBTI not being legit, but it works, alright? Even some psychologists admit this much.) On the one hand you like order and routine, on the other hand you’re completely clueless and you dont know what youre doing half the time. Maybe i need structure in my life because i can’t get it in my head.

Seeing life as reducible to separate events is representative of the black and white thinking that permeates all areas of my life. I need everything to be definitive. But how do you make sense of happenings that sit somewhere in between, or those that are too trivial to be classified as “experiences”?

By being so categorical, I’m ignoring the subtleties of everyday life, and not allowing myself to take away from them everything I potentially could. I can’t even accept something that’s not uniformly good or bad, let alone learn from it.

life is neither linear nor unidirectional. it’s okay to admit that there’s no such thing as “fully processing” something that happened years ago, and that your past still influences and shapes you, and will continue to do so, in ways you’re not even aware of (You don’t need to be.).

even though im so absent-minded, the present is all that exists for me. except “the present” stretches all the way back from my childhood up until about a month into the future. That’s just about the span of time that simply always feels important.

this is because my life has always been about surviving moment to moment, one turning point to the next, gesture after dramatic gesture to manage whatever crisis im dealing with at the time.

My memories are fragmented, my past an incoherent mess, and i can’t integrate my experiences into a holistic perspective where i could either celebrate my victories or learn from my mistakes. Everything is a blur, events are superimposed on other events, things seem critically important but you have no idea why, kind of like a map you don’t have the key to, or a maze you can’t navigate.

Looking at life as a series of chapters to complete has had the opposite effect to what i was going for: instead of moving on, i dwell on the past. everything feels like the present because in my mind, it is still happening, i am still living through it, i am still trying to “get over it” and forget about it.

but i dont need to forget about it. i can treasure my memories without clinging onto them, and looking back at them at various points in my life i can take away from them whatever seems helpful or relevant.

Everything induces the same amount of dread and anxiety; everything seems equally urgent and deserving of my attention, potential challenges ahead and past defeats alike. Even distant future used to make me at least as stressed out as whatever my current dilemma happened to be… until i stopped planning for it because of how unpredictable my own emotional reactions made it. How am i supposed to know what goals and ambitions are attainable in the long run, when i don’t know if tomorrow i’ll be down in the dumps or on top of the world?

I lack foresight. im so preoccupied with alleviating the pain that im feeling right now that i neglect to consider how my impulsive decisions are going to affect me in the future.

what’s changed is that now i have no concept of “the future”. it’s more than just being stuck in a rut; i have entirely given up on planning ahead, and i can’t see myself ever doing anything other than what ive been doing for the past two years, which itself is starting to feel like a small infinity.

maybe i’ve always been like this. maybe the only difference is that back then, i always had something concrete to look forward to: the next exam, the next school. (yes, i was sold on the idea that i was “smart” because i had a good memory. so it hurt twice as bad when i started to realize how dumb i really am. the Polish educational system is seriously flawed.) Now, though, there’s no “logical next step”. No more deadlines, no more exams, no more being told what to do. If i want a future, i need to create it.

Maybe all my assumptions were wrong. Maybe while it’s not healthy to obsess over the past, it is okay to incorporate it as part of your story and accept that it has made you the person you are today. but not in the sense of somehow fundamentally altering the essence of your being, but rather as a necessary stage you needed to go through in order to become what you were always meant to be… kind of like a caterpillar becoming, well, maybe not a butterfly, but a really self-confident moth.

Oh, and life isn’t a zero-sum game or a race to the end. Other people’s success doesn’t take away from my own potential & capacity for authenticity and fulfilment. Comparing myself to others doesn’t give me any useful information about how to make myself happy. And nothing’s as clear-cut as i thought, so id better enjoy the sandbox instead of pretending it’s a race track.

I know im being vague and unrelatable while somehow managing to be obvious at the same time… and i have a penchant for mixed metaphors… but im being honest. small wonder im so shallow, considering the amount of time i have spent unable to get past thinking about anything but myself.

Maybe it’s time I reached some conclusions.