My therapist tells me I’m blunt… I know…. She’s right… Well, here’s some blunt talk.
There’s no such thing as “can’t.”
It’s dinner time and I’m trying to get back on my meal plan 100%. This is hard, but it’s certainly not impossible. I am well aware, as much as I’d like to give up now, if I want to beat this eating disorder, I have to fix this now and keep going, so I will.
I got home from group and decided I would get dinner and continue my ESL homework (because there is so much of it!). As I was about to start I decided to make a challenge food – I avoid cooking at all costs and I need to get back to it. So, I made super easy banana bread before my bananas went bad. It was fast and easy and I can use it as a snack later. As I had to think about dinner I decided to take a look in the refrigerator to try the “what looks good” method. I’m not really there yet, but I thought I’d give it a whirl.
<insert suspenseful music now>
As I opened the door, there it was, an unwanted visitor of whom I hate and never want to see…… Mr. Jumpy Spider!!!! Now, a spider is bad on its own, but one that moves quickly and jumps is just terrible! That is an anomaly that was sent from the alien worlds to remind us that we are mortal!
He was crawling on my floor and I wasn’t sure if he was jumpy, but he gave a hop and I freaked out! I didn’t know what to do, I jumped back, onto the stool and tried to think this through. Now, yes, this is a small spider, about the size of a pin head, but for the purpose of this story, he felt to be about the size of a small dog!! After I stood there screaming for a few seconds I had to do something. I saw my only defense…. an empty granola bar box in the recycling bag; I grabbed it. I figured the large, flat end could be enough room to smack down on him incase he jumped! I creeped closer and he was too smart, he knew – he jumped at me – sweet baby, Jesus, it was over! I didn’t know what to do. After screaming for several seconds realizing Mike isn’t home and my dogs were staring at me like I was an idiot I knew that sitting on that stool saying I can’t do anything wouldn’t help me. So, I had to kick this little thing’s ass. Mr. Jumpy Spider had to go down, or I couldn’t go on with my night alone in this house! So, I swooped in like a ninja and smacked the box down on him and I did come out victorious!
After I did this, I felt like I was on top of the world. Truthfully, the picture below speaks volumes of how I felt:
As I was closing the door to the refrigerator I thought I’m not opening that again and it occurred to me – this is an eating disorder thought. Because of this bad experience I’m about to walk away from the refrigerator. I wanted nothing more than to shut that door and not go back in the kitchen and that would make me happy, but it wasn’t just because of the fear of the spider, it was also the stress of it all. I was then reminded of a session with my therapist a long time ago.
I was trying to get her to understand my fear of food and she assured me that she did, but I was sure to tell her that she had NO CLUE. I had to give her a metaphor (because that’s what English teachers do). I made her walk with me through this story and I described how trapped I felt in this eating disorder. I explained it like this:
The fear of eating and food feels as frightening as sitting in a room with the scariest of all spiders. Imagine you are in a room that is all metal – you’ve just been placed there. Everything is a metallic color so it’s not too bright, and not too dark. There are some shadows by the metallic look, but nothing specific. There is one chair in the middle of this room and it’s for you to sit on. It’s a regular office chair that is metal with a padded seat and it doesn’t fold. You’re placed in this room and told to sit there and you can’t leave this room – at all. You have no clue how long you’ll be here, or even if you can get out. You have to just assume you can’t get out – ever.
Once you’ve been sitting for a few moments the doors open and a man places two large spiders on the floor. Tarantulas.
Because of their dark color on the metallic floor it’s hard to tell until they are close to you, but once you see them you are in immense fear. You have the option to stand on this chair with immense anxiety that won’t go away. You have no options but to watch these two things you fear the most because you have to know where they are all the time. You can’t sit comfortably because it could come over and touch you and bite you, or kill you. So you’re stuck standing on this chair, with your heart racing, taking deep breaths, clenching and hoping the chair never falls, watching what you’re most afraid of and hoping that it never comes near you because you’ll burst into tears and you won’t know what to do. You have not options, you don’t know what to do but stand there and try to calm down and cry. You are controlled by the fear and you can’t help it. You can’t do anything in that moment. What would you do?
My therapist said (in a nutshell), “You can do something about it, you can kill them. I would get off the chair and step on them. You don’t have to stand there paralyzed by fear, you can do something about it, you can change the situation and take control.”
I responded with, “You can’t do that. That’s not an option. It’s not something that can be done.”
And then I realized, she’s right… you can kill them. When I was stuck IN the eating disorder, I was hooked on the fact that I can’t eat. And it didn’t matter how hard I tried, but I just couldn’t do it; the eating disorder wouldn’t let me. I would eat and it would make me run immediately after and I would break down. It didn’t matter how hard I tried I couldn’t follow Beth’s meal plan and I couldn’t stop losing weight. I was controlled by the disorder and I felt as if I had no choices, but I did.
Can’t is not an option. I was lucky enough to go into treatment because as much as I hate to admit it, I wouldn’t have made it without going. I felt so weak and like I couldn’t do it, but what it was is that I wouldn’t do it. I had to strength to put the food to my mouth; it was the eating disorder convincing me not to. So, in essence, I wouldn’t do it. When we hide behind the word I can’t we are giving up all the control we have. We are giving up our strength and our ability to say “I am me, and I am strong.” Can’t is an easy thing to hide behind because it makes us the victim and powerless, but we can only be powerless if we willingly give up the power. If we never relinquish all the power, we are still in control (to some degree). It might not be easy getting full control back, but it sure is not impossible.
I have learned to stop saying, “I can’t do this” although I fall back on it sometimes and that is when I know things are really tough. I think it’s fair to say, “this is so hard” because that is the truth. I’m making a strong effort to get back on my meal plan 100% and it is very hard. I was allowing myself to fall to the words “I can’t,” but it’s not true… I did it…. For 6 weeks straight – so I CAN.
So really when we say we can’t, what we really mean is that we won’t.
The next time things get tough…. Try to remember that “can’t” is not an option.
Do you ever fall into the “I can’t” as a cop-out? If so, is it something you’d like to change? Does it create problems for you? Does it keep you stuck where you are when you want to go forward?