Thinking Out Loud 11/6: Subtle Adjustments

Happy Thursday to you all! I’m linking up with Amanda again this week to share some of my thoughts on adjusting to changes in our lives and changes within us.

Life happens slowly. No matter how often we hear people remarking on the fact that it is already November, or mentioning that they can’t believe it’s nearly winter, the truth is that the changes that take place in our lives tend to happen quite gradually. For example, I’m looking outside my window right now, at 8:00pm, and it is pitch black outside. This change has been gradual, a minute or two shaved off here and there until it is no longer light outside when I return from work. I’m excluding, of course, the abrupt hour-long change of Daylight Savings Time, the most ridiculously unnecessary shock to my system there is. Don’t even get me started on that nonsense. I like light in the morning as much as the next guy, but my body continues to wonder what the fuck is going on.

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If changes like this happened suddenly, they would shock our systems. If we could watch the sunset at 10:00pm one day and need headlights when we drove at 5:00pm the next, we would be completely thrown off. We adjust to change gradually for a reason. It allows time for us to adapt.

Living in Senegal, I did some things that were fairly out of the ordinary for me.

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I washed my clothes by hand and had to go outside to access running water.IMG_2359

I slept with a big-ass mosquito net around me.DSC04674

I ate meals without utensils.DSC03405

I haggled with taxi drivers over fares daily.

I adapted to these behaviors over time, and after a few months they were entirely second nature to me. Each time that I did them, these once-bizarre things became a little more normal to me. Gradual adjustment can be both positive and negative, however.

Unfortunately, life’s gradient nature allowed my disorder to fester under the surface for quite some time without being noticed by myself or anybody around me. At first, I was only vaguely counting calories, and I was applauded for having such discipline and setting out on the all-important journey of losing weight. I was still able to go out with friends and enjoy a round of drinks without being glued to my phone, calculating how many calories I had consumed or was allowed to consume. I was exercising daily, but I was not calculating the calories burned sweeping the floor or chewing gum.

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Over time, however, each and every calorie became paramount. If I went out with friends, I was most likely obsessively calculating calories, either in my head or on my phone. As starvation and my eating disorder gradually consumed more of my life, I began cooking all of my own meals. I weighed every single ingredient to make sure I knew exactly how many calories I was consuming. I counted gum-chewing as exercise, and if I went for a walk I was sure to write down each time that I had to stop at an intersection so that I could deduct those minutes from my exercise total. In retrospect, it was ridiculous. But over time and without me even noticing it, this life had become my new normal.

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Recovery has been gradual, as well. It has not happened overnight. I did not wake up one day and not feel the urge to exercise obsessively for hours, or suddenly stop obsessing over calorie counts. I made small changes along the way, allowing myself to adjust to the new normal each time. In these past few weeks, when there have been harder times and more temptations to count calories again or exercise excessively, I am thankful that my body and mind have adapted to this new (and improved!) way of living. Those behaviors, although once normal to me, are now foreign. When they show up, I feel like I might feel if I woke up tomorrow morning and had to go outside to get running water, or needed to haggle over a taxi fare to get to work in the morning. These days, I am able to realize that something is amiss when my disorder stealthily disrupts the far superior life that I have crafted for myself.

My new normal is thousands of times better than the normal of my disorder. Scratch that. It is millions of times better. But I hope that this is not the end for me. I hope that, with continued hard work, my normal will only get better from this point on. When I have more challenging weeks, I am reminded of how tragically used to the pain and desperation of my day-to-day life I was a year ago. I was not happy, but I was so accustomed to being unhappy that I didn’t believe another reality was in my future. The hope that my normal will continue to improve is the greatest motivation for recovery that I can think of, and it sustains me as I adjust to the gradual changes that inch that life a little closer each day.

That wraps up my thoughts for the week! I hope your Thursday is all you had hoped for and more. See you tomorrow for a Five Things Friday post!

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2 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud 11/6: Subtle Adjustments

  1. Beautiful and inspirational post. I can relate to your story because I had orthorexia problems (counting calories, constantly worried about everything I ate, every single minute I worked out, etc.) for years. I have been gradually recovering for about 3 years now and LOVING life far more than I did back then.

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