Happy Monday lovelies! How was your week? This week has flown by – and here I find myself beginning to write this blog a mere 3 hours before it’s due to go live… oops. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, or haven’t known what I’ve wanted to write about. There’s been a process to this week’s blog (which will become evident a few paragraphs down) that has been very long, emotional and has required many moments of pause and big breaths.
Leading on from last week’s post about therapy; sometimes you make small revelations and sometimes you take steps backwards as you explore what’s happened to you in a previous version of yourself, but last week… Janice* helped me make a massive and striking discovery about myself. Something that left me somewhat stunned and silenced. I’ve lived with the inability trust other people for so long, understandably, as a result of many life experiences all mashed together in my head as a montage of damaged relationships, broken hearts and consistently unreliable, unpredictable individuals. But somewhere along the way, I stopped trusting myself. And I didn’t even realise it.
When I had my crisis, I did a lot of things and engaged in a lot of behaviours that shocked everyone, but most of all – they shocked me. I never knew anybody, let alone myself, that was capable of such disregard and self destruction. And I’ve been dancing with those ghosts ever since the beginning of my recovery. They were all behaviours that took months and sometimes years to overcome and unlearn. I don’t even know where I learnt them in the first place. Perhaps they have always been inside me. I’m still teaching myself healthier ways to cope, even three years later. But also, knowing the darkness of the place that I could get myself too, I have lived in fear every single day for the past three years of having another crisis that looks similar, or god forbid, worse than the first. And even worse, not surviving it. Every time I’ve felt the anxiety creep back in; the urge to put myself back on the path to self-destruction, engaging even the tiniest bit in the behaviours that consumed me before; sleeping and eating less, drinking and exercising more, among other things – panic has set in. Because I know what falling off of the edge of that cliff means, and how hard it is to get back up again. Most of all, I hated the person I became during my crisis – self-loathing, self-destructive, unreliable, unpredictable – I liken myself to a ticking time bomb without a timer.
Now, the past three years has in no way been easy. There’s no distinct line between “new me” and “old me”. Somewhere along the way, the lines have blurred. I’d love to think that we’re two completely different people, but the truth is it’s been me all along. It’s just that now, there’s not just one path for me to choose when I feel sad, anxious or self destructive. It’s like my brain has been re-wired. And I honestly give the credit of the building of that new path to me and all of the work I continue to put into it. There’s the good path, where I ask for help early, where I choose to fight my negative ways of thinking or there’s the bad path; where I cut myself off from the world, engage in all of those behaviours, and where I end up exactly where I was in 2018. And what I want people to know… is that the choice is never easy. As silly as it may sound, sometimes I miss the bad path; for me it’s the easier path to take because it’s something I came to know so well. I sometimes shamefully miss the self-destructive behaviours I used to engage in, and I forever won’t know why.
Now; can you imagine the absolute jaw drop I had when my therapist told me that I need to learn to trust myself again. And that I won’t be able to trust other people enough until I do. That was the moment that the pages started turning again after about a year of my recovery taking what felt like a very long pause. I have to let go of the idea that I’m always going to be a person with a mental illness. I need to get rid of the mentality that it will happen again, and start trusting myself that it won’t. I sat for an hour just staring out of the window after my session last week because I couldn’t believe what I had just realised. But also because, I had no idea how I could trust myself again. I had lived with the thought that I would suffer a crisis again and that I was just sitting around and waiting for it to happen for so long, that trusting my brain wasn’t an option. But it is.
The past week has seen me staring at the walls , reliving what happened three years ago. There’s been many nights of tears and going over moments again and again. Flashbacks and red lights and suppressed memories floating to the surface. It’s been a hard, overwhelming week. BUT, it’s also made me realise how far I’ve truly come. I nourish my body with whatever food I want, I exercise without punishing my body, I have healthier coping mechanisms, I ask for help when I need it, I allow myself to rest when I need too, amongst many other things. I am NOT in that place anymore. I’ve spent a lot of the week searching for ways I can instill that trust back in myself. I’ve searched my brain and my soul to the ends of the earth and back and have really struggled.
Today, I got rid of all of my of my SH paraphernalia. I never kept count of the days i’ve been clean, but i know it’s coming up to around the 2 year mark somewhere in the next couple of months. I always kept stuff around, in a drawer, beneath everything else *just in case*. I’d come across it every once in a while and kinda… think back to that time in my life and then swiftly put it back at the bottom of the drawer again. i’ve been living with the thought that one day i’ll need it all again… but I don’t. I’ve struggled to convey what other things I can do to trust myself again, because this seemed so big, despite the fact that fireworks didn’t go off when it happened. But I think the trust is now going to come slow and steady.
When we meet other people, they have a metaphorical empty jar and overtime, they show you the minute ways in which they can be trusted; consideration, respect, small acts of kindness ect. Overtime, the jar is full of love and trust. Sometimes overfilled. Sometimes, people do things that mean the trust is depleted from the jar. An empty jar means that you can no longer trust that person. I can think of a few empty jars in my life. Now, that theory also applies to ourselves. You can start to learn trusting yourself again through small acts; taking care of yourself, nourishing your body, taking the hard path instead of the easy one, being kind to yourself, asking for help when you need it.
I know that the things listed above can be hard in themselves; I remember the days my brain struggled with the fact I was fighting it’s ugly words and thoughts. It was scary and confusing. It was very much heart vs head. But slowly, I turned “I can’t do this” into “I can”. It was a lot of back and forth, but learning new ways and rewiring my brain not to punish myself was a matter of trust. The truth is, I’ve been instilling trust in myself everyday since my crisis without realising it. Through those small, but significant acts, I’ve built enough trust in myself to get myself up in the morning and get myself through my day. And I just need to keep finding new ways to trust myself and continue doing that. Of course, there will be days where I lose a little bit of trust in myself and the jar is a little lighter, but we all have slip ups.
How full is the jar for the people around you, and specifically, the one for yourself? And how can you build trust in yourself?