The voice inside my head

You’re so mean when you talk about yourself, you are wrong. Change the voices in your head. Make them like you instead.

I know quoting song lyrics is really cheesy, but hey sometimes a little cheese isn’t a bad thing. The above is actually a quote from a Pink song. I was working away this morning, and my iTunes was playing in the background. I wasn’t paying any particular attention to the music that was playing, as I only put it on to kill the 6am silence. Suddenly these lyrics seemed to jump out at me from the background. They seemed louder than anything else I had heard all morning, or after for that matter.

I am not a mean person (or at least I don’t think I am) and yet, when it comes to how I talk to myself I am a very nasty person. I am constantly berating myself. I am not a perfectionist, but when it comes to me nothing but perfection is good enough. And if it’s not perfect then that must mean I am pathetic, a loser, worthless, never going to succeed at anything…you get the drift.

You see, it turns out that I don’t like myself very much. I’m not sure why, but nothing I ever do is good enough for me. And I often find myself projecting that opinion I have of myself onto others. I don’t mean that I expect perfection from them, but that I seem to think that others also expect perfection from me. If I don’t think that I am being the best daughter, sister, friend or girlfriend, then I assume that they also think that. And so I withdraw from them, and turn to the only thing that I perceive loves me unconditionally – food.

What I am starting to realize, is that is my ego talking. Not my ego as in I am full of myself, but my ego as in that part of psyche that is controlled by my addiction(s). Unfortunately, my ego has a warped sense of reality and it wants me all to itself. It wants me alone, isolated, using and ultimately dead. If not physically, then at least emotionally and spiritually.

I suffer from something called the law of ones. I can walk into a room with 99 people who think I am amazing and 1 who hates me. When I leave that room, I will only ever remember the 1 who hated me. In life what this means, is I can be perfect every day. I can get up, go to work, eat well, take all my supplements, exercise, do homework…in essence do everything “right”. But if I have 1 day where I do everything right, except maybe not work out that day. All I will remember, think about, obsess about is that one thing I did “wrong”. I will use it as an excuse to bully myself. It will become a reason to call myself a loser, to hate myself.

Here is a prime example.

I am currently taking some online classes, which I love. Continuing my education is something I have wanted to do for a long time. However, due to how busy I have been at work lately, I haven’t been able to keep up with the workload. I have already missed 2 quizzes, and am 2 weeks behind in lectures and reading. My ego is screaming at me to quit. The possibility of getting an A in the class is already gone, so what’s the point? (this is my ego talking) You might as well give up, you were stupid to think you could do this. I, however, am refusing to quit. I will finish the class, even if I only just barely pass. Why? Because if I don’t, it will just be another reason to call myself all sorts of names.

Another example is my current living situation. I am 36 (almost 37) and I still live at home with my father. My reasons are all good reasons; I am paying off my debt, it is expensive to live on your own in my neighbourhood, I don’t like living alone and my dad is an ideal roommate. I also pay rent, contribute to household expenses when I can, buy groceries that we both eat (not that there are many) and try to be a good roommate as well. That sounds good right? Not in my opinion. All I can think of is what how sad and pathetic I am that I still live at home. When I run into people I haven’t seen in a while, and they ask me where I live now, I am embarrassed to admit that I still live with my dad. And without them even asking, I proceed to justify it. Not because they care, because really I know they don’t, but because I am ashamed of it. But there is nothing to be ashamed of!

I know I need to change my inner dialogue. But how do you do that? How do you change what has been built up over years of self-abuse? That is where I am struggling. I have to start with paying attention to my inner dialogue, notice what messages I am telling myself and when. I have decided that for this week I am going to carry a small journal and try to be aware of and write down those negative things I tell myself. I’m not sure what I will do with them after, but for now that doesn’t matter. This will be a start. And I need to remember, if I don’t do it one day don’t use that as an excuse to give up or beat myself up. Just pick myself up the next day and start again.


The $24,000 question

I am an addict, and have been since I was a child.

Now, before you start having images of a 9-year old me sitting in a corner with a rubber band wrapped around her arm and needle sticking out of her, l should say I am not now, nor I have ever been, an intravenous drug user. In fact, other then a little dabbling with some green herb-like substances, I have never been a drug user at all. They always scared me.

So what then do I mean when I say I am an addict? Webster’s dictionary defines an addict as: “A person who has a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal.” I think this is the definition most people think of when the hear the word “Addict”.

However, the definition I use is “the compulsive need to use anything (food, alcohol, sex, whatever) to fill a void or that allows me to remove myself from whatever it is in my life that I deem unacceptable” or “something I do to excess as a means to avoid looking at what in my life is making me feel unloveable, unfulfilled or just plain unhappy”. By this definition I have a lot of addictions.

This past weekend I spent the weekend downtown at a conference with others who are exploring a spiritual way of life. Now don’t go getting all freaked out, by spiritual I don’t mean religious. Trust me, I am one of the LEAST religious people you will ever meet, ask any of my friends. My definition of spiritual is living a life where I am emotionally connected to the world around me, and by extension the people in it. I attend this conference every year, and it always an experience that gives my emotional and spiritual gas tank a top-up.

On Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to hear three amazing speakers who shared their personal stories of struggle, tragedy and triumph as well as their personal experiences with addiction. I heard a lot of great sound bites, and nearly wet myself from laughing, but there was one thing that really resonated with me, and that I have been thinking about since.

I was reminded of the definition that I use to describe being “sober”, at least as it pertains to me.

“the abstinence from any substance which would affect me from the neck up”.

Please know that I do not take any credit for this definition, it was something I borrowed several years ago. However, one gentlemen spoke about how we conveniently always seem to leave sugar, nicotine and caffeine out of this definition – three substances that I use to varying degrees on a daily basis.

It got me thinking. How extreme does an addiction have to be before I am willing to surrender it? Drinking was a no brainer, because I was so emotionally unwell by the time I gave it up. Yet, when it comes to food, I am still struggling to remain abstinent from wheat and sugar, despite all my health issues.

What is it going to take before I give it up completely? Diabetes? Cancer? Complete muscle deterioration? Honestly, how bad does it have to get before I surrender?

Or better yet, what benefit am I getting from it that outweighs my physical and emotional health? I guess that would be the $24,000 question I need to answer.