Have you ever noticed how every single time you recommit to healthy living, you get sick?
(By you, of course, I mean me. And maybe it’s not every single time, but it feels like that right this minute.)
I’ve been back on my meal plan for a week (gluten-free, sugar-free vegetarian). I’m doing all of this energy work, getting lots of rest, drinking oodles of water, using essential oils to support my return to health, and BAM… I have a nasty cold.
I jokingly asked my beastie (not a typo) if she thought cake had some sort of immune system boosting qualities, since the absence of it left me here. For a moment, we enjoyed the idea that one might need to eat cake regularly to be healthy, but we both know better. This is either just a cold I picked up from a customer at the market (day job) or a cleansing of my system that’s no longer being assaulted by my old comfort foods.
Speaking of comfort foods, it’s soul-stirring enough go without my old (faux) friends when I’m healthy, but now I can barely breathe, which makes it hard to sleep, talk, work, and honestly, even think straight. Now, I really have something uncomfortable with which I must now find a way to cope. My desire to check out of my body, to numb the discomfort, to stuff my emotions is growing stronger with each sniffle and sneeze.
Generally, the longer I’m on my meal plan, the easier it gets to follow. But instead of flying high from my week of freedom from the junk that leaves me crabby, swollen, and detached, I’m sitting here feeling like this. This being crummy and whiny and more than a little bratty. This being triggered and uncomfortable and in search of a way to not feel all of this.
I want cake.
Yes, I said it. I want cake. It seems like it always comes back to me and sweets. It’s an old, but mighty pattern that very possibly dates back to the first hours of my life, when I was likely “comforted” with sugar water following my surgical delivery.
So, this is old, and frankly, I’ve grown rather weary of the whole cycle of self-destruction, but here I am. I don’t feel good and things didn’t go the way I worked so hard for them to go (Healthy eating is supposed to make me feel great, not unwell.) and I want cake. (See? Bratty, bratty, bratty.)
Now, what am I going to do about it?
That’s the issue, isn’t it? I want cake! Wah, wah, waaaa! Now, what am I going to do about it?
Sadly/luckily, I realize that I am still in choice, even with this level of physical discomfort and the growing emotional discomfort. I feel unwell and still, I get to choose whether I’m going to let that derail my commitment to myself. I could, you know. I could say, “Screw that. I’m sick. I want cake.” The place I sometimes procure sweets is tucked perfectly into the corner of my market, which is within walking distance of my house.
I could go just as I am–Rudolph-like nose, yesterday’s hair, pjs and all. (It’s not normally how I roll but, trust me, people do it all the time… with and without the shiny red nose to justify it.)
I wouldn’t even have to go there just “for cake”. I could go for tissues, the kind with lotion to increase survival odds for the aforementioned nose. I could pick up medicine; living foods for juicing, smoothies, and cooking to help my body heal; and even something easy for the offspring for dinner so I can continue to rest later today. I’ve got good reasons to go to the market. And while I’m there, I could fetch a little something sweet from the bakery to add to my cart. No one would think anything about it.
If I was worried they would think ill of my slightly plus-sized self buying sweets, I could tell them it’s for the kids. Their birthday’s aren’t on a registry or anything. Nobody would ever know.
Do you see the madness? I’ve been down this road before. I already know that nobody would ever know. That’s how I got good at using food in this way. It’s just between me and the woman in the mirror.
(At least it seems that way, but you and I–in precious moments of mutual sanity–both know that addictive behavior affects everything and everyone around us.)
Nobody would ever know… except me. I would know. My higher self would be the one walking a few steps behind me, watching my body go through the motions of something my spirit knows is not helping. We’ve done this experiment repeatedly and we know how it comes out. I’d be the invisible one whispering to my physical self that to come back, reminding me that it doesn’t have to be this way. The wise one within, my wild true self, knows better. She knows I can handle this, that if I stay the course, I’ll move forward on this journey that is my life. She knows that eating cake today won’t kill me (not yet at least), but that it’s just another detour, a distraction from the path that’s true for me, and it’s not necessary.
It’s not necessary to use something to medicate… unless it is.
Sometimes, I have found that it was necessary. The night after my car accident last fall, I ordered pizza for dinner for the children and me. I knew that act was the beginning of a detour. I knew that I was leaving the healthy journey I’d been on for a tender couple of months. Before the wreck, I was feeling strong and healthy. I felt excited about the way my clothes hung casually on my body. Making life-affirming choices about food and movement had gotten quite easy for me. But that night, I basically gave myself permission to fall apart.
I knew I couldn’t cope with what had happened. I was totally out of my body, completely in shock from the experience of the wreck. My body was beginning to feel like I’d been through what I’d been through. I made the decision to order pizza that night, knowing exactly what it meant for me. The detour was one way I could have coped. In hindsight, I can see that there were others, but right then–tapping into the resources that I had access to–I took a path I knew well. I used food to anchor myself, to comfort me, to help me cope.
To be honest, that detour was longer than I thought it was going to be when I took it. I was off course for almost six months. I gained 15 pounds. My pants don’t fit well. I bought one pair of pants in a larger size to wear to my day job and anytime I leave the house, I’m wearing either those or another pair that were too big when this all went down.
At home, I mostly wear pjs or yoga pants. I suppose when you’re wearing yoga pants and not doing yoga, they are just pjs, but whatever. For several months now, I could feel the way that my coping mechanism was affecting my body, my spirit, and my mind. I just wasn’t strong enough–or perhaps sane enough–to do anything about it.
(Side note: I love boundaries. As a policy, I don’t keep clothes in my closet that are too big for me. I teach this in my clutter-clearing classes. And I do this personally because I know that when I “use” something to disconnect from myself, it’s usually going to be food. That’s my pattern. When I use, I gain weight. When I gain weight with the next three sizes of clothes in my closet, I gain sixty pounds before the squeeze encourages me to wake the heck up and get back on my journey. I do this because I learned the hard way that fifteen pounds is much, much easier to release than sixty when the time comes to get back to being me.
Like I said, when my uniform pants got too tight, I did purchase one pair of the next size up because I also have learned that feeling comfortable and confident is key to my ability to get back on track, but a new, larger wardrobe is just an invitation to detour myself right into a health crisis.)
When the emotional intensity of the accident began to recede, I looked up and realized I was far enough off course that I needed support finding my way back. That included meditation, writing, reading, working with energy healers, time in nature, lots of rest, gentleness with myself and more. Those are things that used to be impossible for me to cultivate for myself, but I’ve been practicing and it’s easier for me to be loving with myself now. I focused my thoughts on the fact that I was headed back to my commitment to myself, instead of the fact that I hadn’t kept it.
I chose to feel certain that the detour would end. I just had to wait until the time was right, until I had what I needed to release my coping mechanism. Last week, during the full moon, I got several different signs I was ready. The most powerful one was an angel message that a friend shared with me about detoxing. The word detox jumped off the screen at me and suddenly, I knew. It was time. I had the desire, the support system, and the energy surge; all things that always appear when the transition back to my path finally possible.
It worked beautifully, for the first week. I felt strong and supported, and making healthy choices simply felt true for me again. That was until yesterday when this mischief appeared. And perhaps I recognized it so easily because I’ve been seeing it in my clients’ lives lately. Somebody joins a gym, or starts taking yoga classes, and their process is threatened by injury. Somebody else invests lots of energy (and courage) into making a budget to clean up their financial matters, and then the dog gets sick or the car breaks down, and they don’t have the money to do what they just committed to doing. We make these powerful commitments to themselves and then, the tests and temptations march right into our lives.
It’s like the universe wants to know how serious we are about the commitment we just made to ourselves. Are we willing to be with the discomfort when it rises from within? And you know it always rises when we stop using our coping mechanisms. Always. Am I willing to do The Work and continue on my true path, or will this be another good reason to turn away from myself? It’s another crossroads, another invitation to detour.
So, here I am. I’m feeling downright crummy and I want cake. What am I going to do about it? I’m staying away from the bakery, even if I do make my way down to the market for the other things. I’m just not going there. Not today. The part of me that feels the need to numb, is going to have to find another way to face whatever comes up. That might be crying, breathing, coloring, or writing a blog post about what will sound to some people like evidence that I’m absolutely insane, but to others will realize they’ve found a fellow Wild One who totally understands.
Yes, I understand.
So today, I choose me. I choose to stay in my body–even if it feels this way–and trust that this too can make me stronger… if I let it. Instead of eating cake, I will keep feeling what needs to be felt, and tend my cold (or detox) with all of the things I have at my disposal. I’ll just keep reminding myself that dissociation is for times of crisis and today, I have a cold, not a crisis.