Empathy.

Empathy.

I tend to be a very warm person. I like to think the best of people. Perhaps it’s how I grew up, in a small town in Idaho with a wonderful family, safe from danger and protected from most cruelty (except, of course, middle school girl cruelty and the cruelty of my own brain). And perhaps part of it is because I have struggled so much, I feel great compassion for those who are struggling too. That’s part of the reason I read blogs of those who have EDs, depression, other struggles that I have experienced. I feel enormous empathy.

It’s not sympathy. I don’t feel pity for others. I don’t look down from a place on high and think, “oh, you poor dears, you are struggling so, so much. I pity you.” Frankly, most of the time I don’t have much to say but “Yep. That shit SUCKS. I have been there too. Sorry you feel like that now.”

I honestly think the most deep part of the recovery process of my own struggle with an ED was to give myself empathy, compassion. When I fuck up, my usual response is self-loathing, anger, sadness. This has been my pattern since I was ten years old, and after acting out towards my parents, would be sent to my room and would pound my head against my pastel-painted wall to punish myself. I once dressed in shorts and a tank top and climbed out my window, barefoot, onto the roof of the garage, and stood ankle-deep in the show until my parents noticed and secured a ladder to get me down.

That doesn’t work for recovery, at least for me. I remind myself every single day that recovery is NOT “fixing it,” but rather “failing less.” That sounds tragic, but if I think of it like that, then look at my success!! Over the last three years, my greatest struggle has not been to change the eating behavior, but rather to change how I treat myself about it when it flares up. It’s not that I don’t hold myself accountable, but I allow myself room to mess up sometimes. I give myself the same empathy I give to everyone I meet.

This is not a finished struggle. It’s not something I’m even that good at. But it has changed the way I see myself totally. I am still a hard, hard worker. Still dedicated and strong. Still a good friend and an excellent actor. But I now have many colors, not just “perfect” and “not perfect.” I have the power to change my outlook, to discover what I really want and pursue it. I trust myself. I don’t feel like the world is out to get me (most of the time :)).

I slept in today because I get tired when I’m on my period. And instead of saying to myself, “What the fuck! Why are you sleeping in?! You should have been awake an hour ago!” I breathe, get up, stop worrying, and start my day. “It’s okay. It’s your body saying you need more. And you’re not breaking any plans. It’s fine. You’re awake now. Take your day. Have a great one.”

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3 thoughts on “Empathy.

  1. It always seems so much easier to extend empathy to others than to ourselves. For a long time, I really felt like less than a person, so I believed I didn’t deserve empathy or compassion, least of all from myself.

    It’s great that you’re learning to give yourself that empathy and kindness, too. You deserve it.

  2. So often in the ED/MH community, I feel like if we could treat ourselves the way we treat everyone else, we’d all be well on our way to recovery/symptom management/functionality/happiness/etc. It’s so easy to see the potential in others, to see mistakes in the context of larger successes, and to see strength and talent and worth–but seeing it in ourselves? Not so much.

    Excited that you’re making steps forward. And very appreciative that you adopt an empathetic rather than sympathetic attitude…one more pitying “poor dear” comment and I’m likely to smack someone. 😛

  3. Yes, spot on!!! For me, part of my being able to turn a corner has been directly because I stopped being so harsh on myself and began to have empathy for myself. It’s so important. Thank you for this – and congratulations on how far you have come – keep on fighting! xx

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