Anyone who knows me will also know that I hate math. I hate all the graphs and diagrams and shapes. I hate having to memorize fixed equations and I hate that solving problems in this subject allow no space for imagination.
But what I do appreciate is its sense of structure and its straightforwardness. Unlike the language subjects where you could POSSIBLY coax some poor child into believing that Shakespeare wrote the Harry Potter series, there is no ambiguity as of what the right answer is. There is simply no way you can argue that a circle is not round, or that 2+2 = 5. I like to bend things around, so I always saw math as an extremely confining subject.
However, it did make itself of use to me at a time that I least expected it - during my recovery. What the mind lacks during an eating disorder is solidarity. There is no hard ground to stand on and all rational thought processes are suddenly chucked out the window, causing the mind to be swayed by the most nonsensical concepts (often made up by the person to maximally torture themselves - for example, a person might make up a ridiculous rule like not eating for 8 hours and trying to run afterwards for as long as possible would increase the endurance the most effectively) and for the person to feel utterly alone.
The problem with the mind is that it is so flexible - YOU decide how it works, which means that ultimately, no one can help yourself but yourself. On the bright side though, it can also work to your advantage when you realize that when you learn how to manipulate your own mind, it becomes stronger and slowly but surely, naturally unravels the knots in your mind.
An idea that had a huge impact on my final recovery epiphany (what really flicked the switch in my brain and made me realize that I could no longer live in misery) was that of having "long term goals." This meant asking myself what I was doing this all for, and how my actions would truly benefit me in the long term? My thought process looked kind of like this:
Obviously, each person's diagram will differ according to what the trigger of their illness is, but this is a general outline of what the thought process would look like. When I acquired the "skill" of utilising the tree diagram to organize my thoughts, I became aware that my motives to continue on with my mighty quest of self-control was ultimately for nothing. In my determination to get somewhere, I had become blind to the fact that I had forgotten where I wanted to go in the first place, and ended up heading to nowhere at all. Starving myself, over-exercising, obsessing over every detail of my life seemed to serve an important reason at one point in time, but when I started asking myself more follow up questions and dug deeper to see how this choice would contribute to my future goals, I realized that I would come to a dead end.
Everyone has their own way of breaking out of their illness, a life-changing realization that changes the path they’ve been following. For me, this was realizing that no matter how wonderful a goal seemed, harming myself and putting myself in a constant state of pain in the process of achieving it was certainly not the answer.
It came to me that I had to differentiate between short-term goals and long-term goals: those that were shallow and only served the purpose of momentary satisfaction and those that would mold the course of my lifelong passion. I found that I was giving up precious time to achieve a meaningless cause, time that could instead be using to work on a cause that would be more significant for the rest of my life.
The road to my future is a long one, so instead of fussing over a scrape acquired by tripping over a pebble, I should be thinking about how I can grow trees so that the path is a more pleasant one for me as well as for others whose journeys happen to meet with mine.
Hello world! I'm Steph, and I am an aspiring clinical psychologist, avid advocate for eating disorder awareness, and bubbly human being :)