Saturday, November 3, 2012

Soul Poverty (and week one of eating disorder recovery)

So, after my last post, I had a moderate amount of support from my friends, but I suspect a lot of people simply missed it because the last week has been pretty hectic for a lot of people I know - what with the holiday and everything. If you want to read my post on having an eating disorder, it'll get you caught up on some of what I'm going to talk about in this post.

This week, I started reading some books, and my doctor gave me a couple of numbers for therapists who specialize in eating disorders. One book has me keeping a daily journal of what I eat, when, why, and my emotions and compulsions surrounding food. I've noticed a pattern already: I skip at least one meal a day (usually breakfast); I feel the need to rationalize and justify everything I eat; I eat much less when I'm out and about all day; I have to focus really hard to enjoy my meal and avoid bingeing; and I almost always have tapes playing in my head yelling at me for one thing or another, and it's a real challenge to avoid judging myself for eating a meal or skipping it. 

At times, I feel more-or-less okay. At other times, I feel completely broken and hopeless. It's not completely dark in the place where I am, but it's grey enough to be overwhelming and everything looks and feels the same. (Of course, if we stick with our common wisdom, it's not what it looks or feels like that's important, but what it is like. However, at this point I'm so lost, I don't know what is from what feels. More on that in another post.) This brings me to the idea of soul poverty. 

Soul poverty is similar to a concept a lot of people know as "scarcity mindset" (google), but instead of being focused on there not being enough of anything ever, you've resigned to that fact and are stuck in this cycle of looking for ways to make your not-enough stretch. You pursue relationships, professions, hobbies, and so on that aren't right for you but they give you a feeling that you can push beyond your not-enough, and one day be enough. The problem with that, though, is that you can never turn your not-enough into enough through outside things. I will never become enough by pursuing a relationship that simultaneously makes me feel amazing and broken (I don't think the person whom I've pursued realizes that that's going on, but I'm grateful to him for his wisdom in that regard - bygones); I will never become enough by pursuing a Mary Kay career (and the thing about that, is that you already have to be enough and know it before you can get anywhere in any kind of business, let alone one that is all about leadership, consistency, and being able to "expend a significant amount of physical and emotional energy"). 

You can't become enough by looking outside yourself. Food doesn't fix it. Exercise doesn't fix it. Sex doesn't fix it. Shopping doesn't fix it. Church doesn't fix it. Books don't fix it. Soul poverty, that feeling of never being enough doesn't go away because you work hard, play hard, love hard, or give up entirely. The problem with this concept is that it's ingrained in you so deeply that no matter how hard you work or play or love or not, it gets worse. Because it's inside you. I would like to say that I know how to overcome it, but if I did I think I would have already. 

I haven't gotten that far yet, though. The comfort of the emotional ghetto (apologies) is hard to overcome. And not because I'm actually thriving in this inner-world that feels like a movie about growing up poor, it's comfortable because it's all I've ever known. I become overwhelmed when the Emperor does something that is good because he knows it's good and will help me; expecting no reprisals. I'm overwhelmed by the help offered by people I barely know. And I would like nothing more than to abandon this entire thing and pretend that I'm totally healthy again, but if I did I would be stuck here, in this place where I will never be enough, no matter what outside thing I try to be to make myself enough. 

I realize though, that this never-enough is what has been holding me back. It controls everything that I do and made me susceptible to having an eating disorder in the first place. I don't know if it would help to examine where that came from, but I do know that those are outside things and aren't going to make it enough. I don't think that my not-enough is the same as being broken, but it certainly makes me feel that way sometimes; however, I also don't imagine that if I changed it and was enough I would never feel broken again. Still, I have to change it, because I don't want to be impoverished in my soul. I want joy and fulfillment out of my life, not struggle and heartache. 

More importantly though, I want to be able to teach others how to be enough. This week I've realized that the struggle that I'm having is something that a lot of other people go through, and I want to help them out of it, but in order to do so I have to get to the other side. You can't give something you don't got, as the saying goes; also, the mess is the message.

You gotta get in to get out?

1 comment:

Shelly said...

Thank you for sharing Rachel. I also have an eating disorder. Been binging for nearly 40 years. The only thing I have found that keeps me on track is OA ( Keep us updated on how you are doing.