When You Want to Start Over

How many times have you wished there was a magical redo button for real life situations? Instead of something unexpected happening, or something you don’t want to have happened and declaring it a plot twist how do we not only accept the circumstance for what it is, but move on to create the life you know you deserve? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and not to be motivational poster type here but it all begins when you choose to let go of the rope and free fall into the ocean. So I want to share some tips for how to reboot your life without having it be dramatic because I’ve learned dramatic moves don’t improve your life, they only temporarily mask the emotions that go along with change.

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Let Things Go. For any of us, change is hard and slightly terrifying. The things we want to let go of seem to turn into treasures we no longer wish to let go of. If you were to take the time to really examine the things or people you feel should be let go, allow those strong emotions settle before making a move. In the heat of the moment we can act opposite of what we know is beneficial to our health. If it’s a person you wish to cut ties with, wait until that hurt or whatever it is you’re feeling towards them settles and is no longer like a knife to the stomach. The process of letting go doesn’t have to be some big and dramatic spectacle or outburst. The stronger the emotions towards the other person, the stronger of a reaction you’ll receive from them and down the road you may not be able to resolve that relationship.

2. You Don’t Have To Move. So many times when people think about starting over in life it involves a move to a new city where nobody knows them. Trust me, I’ve wanted to do this so many times throughout my life. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: your shit goes with you wherever you are. It’s not like a bag you can “accidentally” leave in baggage claim once you’ve arrived at your new home. I wish it were true, but even if the new area seems to have lifted your negative feelings don’t you fret, they’ll show up soon like an old friend. Sure moving may actually help some people but let’s face it, not all of us have the financial means to pick up and go somewhere else and so that leaves us having to face our shit where we are. You can still reboot your life in the same town and place you are now.

3. It Takes Time. If you really want to live a new and authentic life it won’t happen the next morning. This shit takes time, effort and a lot of discomfort. It’s all about baby steps, because as the saying goes: Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to adjust and make the changes you deem needed. You don’t go to a car dealership without test driving a car and make up your mind to buy it right? When changing your life to better yourself, it will take many a try to find what fits you. What works for others won’t necessarily work for your life and what you need to be happy and mentally healthy. There’s not one formula that is universal, like a lot of things it’s subjective and individualized to each person.

and lastly….

4. Not Everyone Will Understand. I think for most this is the hardest part. We have people in our lives who like us and who we fit in with because our schemas are similar. So when you try and start to change it, they won’t exactly be on board, or if they are they won’t really understand who you are becoming. It’s part of establishing boundaries and to some, making new boundaries with them can be viewed as deviant. After all, you’re deviating away from who you were in your social group to better yourself and really focus on who you are, what you really want out of life and what will give you that feeling of living an authentic and successful life. Maybe who you spend time with now have all of those things and you’ve been feeling like you’ve been living vicariously through your social circles. Don’t worry, it’s ok to spread your wings and fly in the direction you want to go. If your social group doesn’t understand it, they’ll let you know it I’m sure, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If they truly support you and care about you, the end of the conversation doesn’t have to be the end of the relationship. It can be hard and even scary to people when the people in their lives start questioning why they’re doing something different, but let it be affirmation that you’re headed in the right direction.

Ok so now that I’ve been all motivational speaker-ish, I hope this has helped even just a little bit. I may not know everything about this, but these are the little nuggets of wisdom I have and wanted to share.

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Is Change Real?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how/if people change over the course of their lives. To be honest it’s something I’ve always questioned, and over the past couple of years I’ve began to doubt. They say a leopard can’t change its spots, and when it comes to the character of someone I wonder if the same concept can be applied.

But then I reflect on my own life, and I do see change. I am not the exception to the rule; I have worked my ass off over the course of a year to change who I am, how I live my life and how I treat others. Is it a complete 180? I don’t think so, for there is still so much of the “old” Jess still inside and I see it come out when I’m being pushed into a corner or when shit is seemingly hitting the fan.

What really made me begin questioning change again was the result of some events that happened over the weekend. My ex-boyfriend and I started talking again, and like all of the other times before, I was the one who started the conversations. For the first time since we’ve known each other we had a real conversation and were open with each other about how we felt; not only about what happened that ended our relationship, but how we still felt about each other.

It got really messy towards the end, and I saw the inevitable break up coming. But even so, my heart was still falling in love with him.

I thought I saw some positive signs that backed up his claim to me that he was changing. We had a plan to meet up today after he got out of work, but the old person he was when we were together came back. I haven’t heard from him in 2 days, and I’m wondering if I’m still just a game to him. I refuse to be someone who he reaches out to when it’s convenient to him. I’m not a door mat, and it took me years to get to the level of security in myself and be assertive. If I’m being honest, the only time we talk now is when I make the move and text him; I’m starting to get the hint/message that he really doesn’t want to be in my life, even when he claimed he regrets ever letting me go.

So now I’m stuck wondering and trying to process all of this. Does he really think we could work things out? Is he really a changed man? Is he just saying all of these things because he knows I want to hear them? Is the claim he’s changed just a lie?

So that’s where I’m at right now, still struggling to find the hope in people that they really can change.

The Beast Called Anger

I feel like I could write a novel on anger and living in it. God knows I’m better at anger than any other emotion you could name; it feels so much better than feeling abandoned, depressed, alone, anxious, stressed or whatever negative emotion you can name. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years or so being pissed off at the world. Somewhere along the line I figured out that if you walk around angry and pissed off, nobody will bother you and you won’t have to feel all the negative emotions that are occurring in your head. Hell, if I wasn’t so bad at feeling emotions I wouldn’t have spent so much time in therapy and group sessions.

But I’m human, severely flawed, but human.

Anger eats you alive, but it makes you feel so damn good as it does. It gives you this sense of power, because people stop asking you questions about what’s going on (because who likes getting chewed out every time you express concern?).

Over the course of my life I have sprayed so many bullets around me and hit almost everyone I ever loved and cared about. I’m not sure if any of you have ever watched The Matrix, but I feel like a lot of my anger fueled actions are a lot like those scenes where the agent is firing bullets at Neo, yet he is somehow able to make time slow down. You see the bullets coming at him the whole time but really there’s nothing you can do to stop it. Life with nothing but anger is a lot like that. I could see all of the bullets flying towards the ones I loved, but all I could do was stand there and watch them spiral closer and closer to everyone in my life until they finally broke into their bodies. The part that always gets me as I think about this, is the fact that I was the one who pulled the trigger.

It also distorts your world, turning you into the victim of the fall out, rather than the perp. I’ve always had trust issues when it came to people leaving. Sure, I did some fucked up shit in my life that resulted in people leaving but I can’t say I really blame them anymore. My whole fear of abandonment turned into sabotaging relationships out of fear; I would say things I didn’t mean, almost giving them the excuse to bail, but of course I was the victim (at least in my eyes). But I didn’t see it that way, I saw it as “you bailed on me when I needed you most”. So of course feeling depressed over a lost relationship was distorted into anger. Feeling angry at someone who’s hurt you deeply feels so much better than letting yourself feel sad and alone.

As a lot of you know if you read this blog, I have spent more time pissed off at God and the church longer than I had believed in Christianity and the Bible. I’m not saying my life is the worst of them all, but I’ve experienced some painful shit in my 25 years of life and every time shit hit the fan so to speak, I’d blame God and the people who believe in Him. But then of course that would lash out onto everyone in my life. Friends, my parents, school, classmates, my jobs. It really doesn’t matter what the underlying issue is, all I know is that being pissed was better than being anything else.

It’s still something I struggle with. Probably the greatest piece of wisdom I’ve gotten on anger was from one of the psychologists where I did IOP. They told me that when I began feeling that anger start to boil up, step back and try and think about what is going on to cause it. It helps in certain contexts of life, but there’s still a lot of grey areas.

How Treatment Changed My Life

As a lot of you know, I’ve spent almost the past 2 years in and out of treatment. My 1st stint in treatment was the summer of 2013 when I was out at Remuda Ranch which for those of you who don’t know is a residential treatment center for eating disorders. Thanks to my lovely insurance company (I’m pretty sure any case manager who works with eating disorders hates them) my treatment only lasted a month until I was cut off and forced back home and to the real world. A few months later I found an intensive outpatient program (IOP) only 20 or so minutes from my home and that is the place where the work really began in my recovery.

For months I thought I was wasting my time attending groups for 4 hours a day, ,3 days a week. I wasn’t motivated to change and I picked and chose the things I would use in my own life. I spent a year and a half in that program until I was finally discharged.

Looking back on those 2 years of many ups and more than enough downs, I realized that treatment changed and ultimately saved my life. I didn’t appreciate it at the time because it was the biggest and most promising threat to ending my eating disorder, but looking back I can see so many things that have changed for the better in my personal life that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for a team who wasn’t afraid to kick my ass with honesty.

Since I was a little kid I always struggled with how I was feeling. I remember being 12 or so and feeling depressed and like the only way out was to end my life. Yet what kept the mask of happiness over my face for years was knowing there was no external stimulus causing this depression. It’s a total mind fuck when you can’t even place a finger on a cause for your depression and want for your life to end. But when I got into treatment I realized I wasn’t the only one who ever felt this way. The hardest lesson I had to learn was that I had every right to feel what I was feeling and that nobody could take how I was feeling away from me. Now this is totally different from acting on your emotions (you have every right to feel emotion, but acting on them is something completely different). The more and more time I spent talking about how I felt and having people nod their heads in agreement and giving me the feedback that I wasn’t the only one made me realize that I was important and my feelings mattered. It’s not everyday you can be in a place where you’re not only told that you have every right to feel how you feel, but to have those emotions validated? It’s life changing, and once you bring that outside of those 4 walls of a treatment center it can change your life so much in terms of how you handle relationships.

The second biggest thing that changed my life was acting as if. For so long in my life I had acted “as if”. As if I wasn’t depressed, suicidal, full of self-hate towards my body, so when we were told in CBT group to try and act as if I was hesitant. But the therapist wasn’t telling us to act as if we had something dirty to hide, he was telling us to act as if we didn’t have eating disorders when it came to exposure challenges. CBT is big on cognitive and behavioral stuff, seeing as how it’s even called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. So I gave this skill a try a few times when it came to facing huge fears of mine out in the real world and you know what? It actually fucking works! I was astonished!! Soon the things I feared with enough practice became the size of mole hills instead of mountains.

The last thing I want to talk about is assertiveness. This skill I had always sucked at throughout my life. I had this crazy idea that I had no right to ask for what it was I wanted and it hindered a lot of my life and I ultimately became an emotional doormat. Learning to say no without explaining myself was so empowering. Sure there are still things that owe an explanation to, but saying no and sticking to your guns is huge for me. Even calmly explaining how something made me feel or what I need from someone, all came from the 4 walls of the group room where I attended IOP.

I never knew it at the time I was there, but I picked up a lot of skills that has thus far bettered my life and made me happier with what I have in life. Sure I struggle with behaviors here and there, but what person fresh into recovery doesn’t? Yet I’ve found that the more and more capable I am at handling interpersonal relationships (too clinical sounding? Sorry), the less anxious and stressed I become about how I’m feeling and focus less on “how I should feel”.