Anxiety is like a border collie looking to herd sheep. It gets anxious and runs in circles if it doesn’t have a job. Our brains work the same way. Anxiety can be hard to overcome because your brain is designed to think and our thoughts can make us anxious (especially when we’re stressed, tired, hungry). But anxiety doesn’t have to rule your life. Our brains have what’s called “plasticity,” meaning they can be retrained like that border collie. By repeatedly practicing skills to cope, you’re actually changing your brain wiring. It takes patience, but it’s possible.
Bathing suits and I have a sordid history. I was wearing a swimsuit the first time I noticed other girls had different body shapes. I was 10. Here’s what I wish I could say to her.
I have always loved swimming and never used to mind bathing suits. I remember being very proud of my first bikini. It made me feel older, imagining myself like the young women I’d see on the beach in their bikinis. I loved the freedom of my bare belly in the ocean and TBH how easy it was to pee without a one-piece.
Swimming came easily to me. I loved (and still do) the freedom of the water gliding against my skin. The feeling of weightlessness (not because of weight, just because it felt like I was in space…but under water). The white noise echo of the city pool that made me feel like I was in my own world.
Bathing suits became more challenging, however. When I was 10 years old, at a swim meet, I remember looking at the other girls and noticed my belly stuck out beyond my chest. I remember thinking there was something wrong with that, but not knowing why.
Finding a new counselor can be overwhelming and confusing. So many choices! Too many therapist-y words! Here are my tips for shopping around.
Maybe you’re just getting started looking for a therapist or you’ve already been working with someone but it’s not the right fit. It’s time for you to find someone you’ll enjoy working with, who can help you with your mental health, and hopefully help you on your way to dealing better with the challenges in your life.*A note about “right” fit: Your relationship with your therapist (i.e. not romantically speaking, but the way you two work together on the issues you bring up, the synergy in the room, feeling comfortable in the therapist’s office) is probably one of the most important parts of seeing a counselor. If you don’t feel comfortable working with that person, you’re probably not going to trust sharing a bunch of personal stuff, so the counseling work–your inner self work–isn’t going to go as far. You’re paying a therapist for their expertise and *hopefully* are willing to figure your shit out, so make sure that person is someone you want to work with!
We’re adding a new segment: Ask Me A Question! Things get much more interesting when I hear from others and give practical suggestions for dealing with anxiety and eating disorders. No guarantees about tidy answers, short-form writing, and no f-bombs. Let’s dive in! (Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. I’m not a doctor, consult your own therapist, read and take suggestions at your own risk).
Growing up, pancakes held a special place at my house. They signified Dad or my grandfather (Papa) cooking breakfast and time spent together in the kitchen before everyone else was downstairs. Always an early riser, I’d come down to a glass of Donald Duck orange juice and either of them sharing the “secrets” to a perfect pancake. Admittedly, I never knew anyone who made pancakes as good as my dad and Papa. No burns. Always an even light brown on both sides. The perfect amount of fluffiness without being too cake-like.
“Strong is the new skinny” is just another number. A level of achievement. A nebulous idea of what “strong” can be with the accompanying visual garbage like #fitspiration. It’s like our thin obsessed culture says, “Look, shiny object to achieve!” But striving for strong (and what we see in those images: healthy/skinny/fit/able-bodied/light skinned/able to afford the gym, “clean food,” etc.) is a distraction from the real issue: our culture says fat folks (and all other marginalized/unseen groups) don’t matter.
In the not too distant past, holiday mint M&M’s and I were Netflix and chilling (like, in an actual chilling on the sofa way). Things were going well until the bag was gone. Love affair over. Mindless munching turned into a guilt mudslide of thoughts. My self-worth felt as depleted as a that family sized bag of candy.
My first thought: “What the absolute FUCK is wrong with me?!”
Maybe your binge looks different. Maybe it’s bigger. Maybe it’s smaller. But whatever remains of the food fiasco you’re dealing with, you leave the experience defeated about your chances of recovery, health, and happiness. “My whole future is RUINED because of ME!”
My second thought (and the blessing of some good training and experience):
Guess what? This is a normal part of recovery!
When I discovered yoga, I was deep in the throes of an eating disorder. I didn’t know it because I believed that what I was doing was healthy. It’s yoga. How can it be bad for you? Besides, I wasn’t binging as much. I wasn’t not eating. I was feeling less anxious, which for me, was an incredible blessing.
The style of yoga I chose was intense: hot, sweaty, fast, difficult…in front of a mirror. The style reflected a lot of how I lived my life: fast, always taking on challenge, always “busy,” consumed by body checking (the mirror, the scale, the pant size).
A lot of what I know now about yoga is this: don’t always pick the style that matches your personality. Intensity breeds intensity.
For a perfectionist there will always be one more step. Something that holds them back: another training to take, more education, a better looking body, another diet plan, better grades…whatever the gold star is. Perfectionists often wait until conditions are just right to get going or do nothing at all…and then beat themselves up in the process. Perfectionism is a constant struggle.
”I need to lose five pounds before I feel ready to wear a bathing suit in front of anyone.”
“She’s got 50 more ‘likes’ than me on Instagram. I can’t do anything right.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that job. I’m not qualified enough. I need to sign up for this certification that takes a year and a half and costs a few thousand more dollars.”
“If I can’t do it in a way that satisfies me (or what I perceive satisfies others), I’m not going to do it at all.”
Stay with that noise long enough and it’s no wonder many perfectionists find themselves anxious, depressed, and disappointed. When perfectionists finally reach their goal, it’s often not satisfying. The striving was what gave energy. In order to displace the anxiety and depression, they come up with another goal.
But you want to know what’s really happening?
Today seemed like the perfect time to pull you out of the closet to complete my look. I’m a fan of your patterned sleeves, cinchable waist, and how you keep me warm in my overly air conditioned office. It’s September! Bring on the boots and trendy outerwear!
But I won’t be wearing you. You don’t fit my arms.