Vulnerable Time is Best Time to Check In

Candy ChangIt's two days after Christmas. How do you feel?

This is a great time to check in on yourself and expand your frame of mind. Compare what you are thinking about now to what you genuinely care about and see if your eating disorder feelings are leading you astray. This could be the time to find your true course.

Ah, Christmas.... a time of expectation, hope, fear and despair. A festival of lights couldn't be possible without the dark. We need both for Christmas. We can get emotionally caught in too much bright light and eat, drink, spend, give and take too much, do too much. We can ge caught in the darkness and self criticize, feel ashamed, let ourselves be attacked, smothered, ignored, isolate and despair.

If you have lost your balance, are eating too much or not enough, struggling to keep family and friends from overwhelming you with their expectations and demands (benign or not), feeling deficient or ashamed or guilty in any way, or feeling high and entitled  to more attention and more "stuff" finding your equilibrium again can be a challenge.

You might believe that your feelings while in this disequilibrium state are permanent. You might believe you are condemned to feel your painful feelings forever. Or you might believe you must live a life of struggle as you strive to live up to vast and all encompassing new tasks you've designed for yourself.

Finding or creating healthy balance in your life or restoring healthy balance after you've lost it requires that you use both your intellect and your feelings as your guide. Many ways exist to help you do this. Maybe we can talk about them in future articles and comment sections. Today I want to talk about one.

The guide comes in the form of a question. Ask yourself, "What do I want to do before I die?"

How you answer this question can clarify your goals, set your priorities, rearrange your thinking,
clarify your feelings and organize your behavior. Your answer to this question can lift you up and over eating disorder thoughts and feelings. It can move you beyond irrelevant wishes about weight, eating, other people's behavior, self criticism and over indulgence.

What do you want to do before you die, really? What follows after you answer that question is your beginnning awareness of the steps you need to take now to make your goal happen. How you direct your energy, how you spend money, how you care for yourself and others and so much more is affected when you bring your answer into your consciousness.


Before I die I want to:

  • Dance at my granddaughter's wedding
  • Stand on top of a mountain
  • Write a book
  • Take a cruise through the Mediterranean
  • Ride the orient express
  • Pilot a helicopter
  • Get a college degree
  • Spend a month on a Greek island
  • See my photography in Vogue or the Atlantic Monthly or New York Times
  • Be in a movie with Brad Pitt
  • Run my own business
  • Be free of hate and anger toward......
  • Share as much laughter and joy with my children as possible
  • Ride a horse well
  • Be invited to the White House
  • Climb the pyramids
  • Help save my neighborhood
  • Teach in schools
  • Hold a political office
  • Sail to Hawaii

Please add yours to the list. How do you change your life if you honor your heart's desire? It's not negative to think about your death. It's clarifying. You don't have endless time. Make the time you have count.

  1. How do you use the time you have to get the most value?
  2. How can your goal become your guide to action?
  3. What and who do you need to place in your life now to honor your goal?
  4. What and who do you need to eliminate to honor your goal?
  5. What steps can you take right now to get started?

See this inspiring Ted Talk with Candy Change


0 # living in the presentmylifex2 2012-12-27 18:04
I rarely think about what I want to accomplish before I die, as I rarely think of my life past the next few years.  Living in the present is difficult too. I think I live too much in the past.  I have spent a lot of time feeling sad the past few days, today has been really, really hard. I cried as I read this post, Joanna, because I read it after I had posted on the forum site. It spoke to so much of how I feel. I do feel despair and shame. I feel like I will never get this right. My friends don't understand what I see in the mirror. All I can say is that I see something horrid and grotesque. My friends don't have to live in this body or this mind that is constantly rolling a negative tape.

I guess right now I would say that before I die I just want to get better and enjoy atleast a few years of ED free thinking and living. I feel like I am in prison. I honestly do not see any way out of this. I am tired of my mind not shutting off.  I feel like everyone is staring at me in disgust. 

The reallly tiring part is acting like I am ok to those around me. Trying to hide all of this madness.  I know I am not successful all the time with my co-workers, but as long as my patients don't see it, I guess that is good.

What steps can I take to get started? I don't know. I feel like I have tried everything.
0 # walk down the road with my head held highshh 2012-12-27 19:22

I dream of the day when I can walk down the road and around town with my head held high and without feeling inferior to the other people I pass by.

I want to see my girls happy, healthy and grown

I want to feel I have found my way in, and made a valuable contribution to, the World I live in.

I want to travel more

I want to immerse myself more in nature

I would like to be rid of a feeling I get sometimes, like a longing for the sense of security of the womb, a feeling I believe is derived from my unmet needs to be held and feel secure in my mother's arms as a baby (not really sure how to deal with this one)

I want to see my work in a quality, peer-reviewed journal, at least once!

I want to have the serene and peaceful aura that I see in others sometimes

I want to give and receive true, intimate, respectful, giving love - not forever, not even for a long time, but just experience it fully, just once


0 # living in the presentpinkjoanna 2012-12-27 19:38
Dear Tracy,

Please know that your feelings, while real, are not reality.  They are coming up from your eating disordered way of life.

I remember, for many years before my recovery I could not see living beyond six months from the present moment.  I wasn't frightened or sad or worried about anyone else.  Beyond six m

onths was a void.  I couldn't see myself or anyone or anything else beyond that point.

When I got a glimpse into the possibility of living longer I began to look at what I might do to create a better future.  The future I imagined unfolding if I kept living the same way was horrible to me - grim and meaningless.

This was the beginning of my recovery, although I didn't know it.  I planned to get a career which meant I needed to go back to school and finish my degree. And, I planned to bring my bulimia with me since I couldn't imagine being alive without it.

But, as I made constructive moves in my life I had to drop destructive patterns or at least some of them.  When I think back now I'm amazed at just how many destructie behaviors and patterns I had to drop, did drop and stil binged and purged several or many times a day all through my years at UCLA.

But I was growing, developing, learning.  I met people who opened my mind and encouraged me. I found my way to clinical work, trainings and eventually my own treatment.

It wasn't easy.  I cried a lot. I felt despair.  I felt anger at people who tried to sabatoge my goals. I felt lonely that people didn't understand or criticized me or laughed at me, certain I would fail and "be normal" again.

Eventually I learned that I wasn't supposed to drop my plans, course work and studies to please the people.  I was supposed to drop the people to continue on my path. I did.  I found new people who did understand and who inspired me to move beyond the threshold of my own imagination.

Just think of anything you want, Tracy.  I mean anything. Would you like to see the sun rise over Stonehenge? Would you like to dance with your children in a magical Irish forest with delightful laughing people playing the pipes and drums?  Would you like to make a scientific discovery that changes our perception of the stars? or the sea? or the moon? or the earth itself?

Let your imagination soar.  Then look at what is a necessary first step.  Maybe you have to get more sleep so your mind is more clear. Maybe you have to be certain that no matter what you eat or don't eat you need one meal that nourishes your body well.

Maybe you need to read a book or take a class or audit a class.  Maybe you need to hone in on the exercises in Healing Your Hungry Heart and pick up Julia Cameron's Artists Way and do those exercises too.

When you've done everything you think you can, everything that you know about and you can't think of anything else to do you are not lost.  You are at the beginning of new territory.  You've run out of map and now are really exploring the unknown.  The unknown is where you are going.  

What it's like to live a life in recovery is unknown to you.  You don't get a map. But you do get guides that help you find your way.

You may feel that you are in the worst place.  That's because you are on the edge of the beginning of the new.  And that's the best place.
0 # head highpinkjoanna 2012-12-27 19:41
Dear Shh,

Terrific. I loved reading that.  Now, pick one and think of a first step, a little step that you can do consistently, that feeds that goal.  

Maybe do one thing for each throughout the week. Tiny steps turn into habits and routines that bring you to your new life where those goals are ordinary parts of your life.   :-)
0 # storm chasemylifex2 2012-12-27 20:27
ok, well, I guess one thing i have always wanted to do is go on a storm chasing tour.
thank you for your reply,joanna. It helps to know you understnad what I am going through.  I have said this before, I honestly feel that I need to get some time away from all my distractions to get started on this journey. I feel so lost right now. I cant slow my mind down long enough to sit and read or work on journal exercises.  I cant focus and I dont have the energy to deal with everything in my life and deal with my eating disorder. The holiday wore me out bigtime.  I dont think I have been in a lower ED place in a very long time. thanks for being here for me. I see my therapist next week.  I slept through my 730 am appt this week :sad: so I didn't get to talk with her. and yes, you are right. I do need more sleep.
Laura R
0 # Little ThingsLaura R 2012-12-27 21:40
This is a hard question for me. I don't dream big for myself in terms of doing. I dream little, and I try not to get my hopes up. I'm more concerned with getting through things w/o doing myself in and being kind to others.

This may sound odd, but instead of "before I die", I tend to think about it more in a "if I'm going to be doing this living thing in this body for a little while longer". 
So If I'm going to be doing this living thing... I'd like to:

- Be less anxious and terrified of change
- Have more confidence in who I am and what I do
- Feel more at peace with what is
- Learn how to play more and have fun in ways that make sense for me and my limitations
- Help my family and friends feel loved and cared for
- Find more joy in everyday things
0 # Laurapinkjoanna 2013-01-01 19:00
Dear Laura,

Love can feel like a little thing, but it turns out to be an incredibly powerful force.

I invite you to explore what and who you love or what you might love if you gave yourself the chance.  One you start following where your heart leads you your dreams grow in a natural way that will inspire you.  You will be creating courage and your future as you go.
0 # exploring and rebuildingKymL 2013-01-02 01:35

I love what you wrote to Tracy.  As the New year arrives I've been  thinking about what I want in life.  I've decided my theme for this year is exploring and rebuilding.  The hard part is I'm not 100% what it is that I want to build for myself.  The perfectionist in me wants to have a plan but recovery tells me that I don't need to have everything figured out before moving forward. 

I am getting my white belt in NIA in March and I think part of what excites me about it is that this is one of the first things I decided on, planned for, saved money for and have been building my endurance for, since recovery.   I know I don't want to make a career out of teaching NIA (like many folks who go for the belts), but it's my first attempt at reaching out beyond the "map" and testing the water. 

In my leadership acdemy class we have been working on figuring out our life purpose.  I know I get recharged when I am able to help others figure out their potential.  I guess where the exploring this year comes in is that I have no idea where and how I want to do that.  Do I just want to get better at the limited number of opprotunities I have to do that at my current position or do I want to find another position where that is the main purpose.  I'm not even sure if that position exists with the State of Oregon (pretty sure I want to remain a State employee as all my retirement benefits are waund up in that). 

So my exploring theme is around what I want to do and the rebuilding part is rebuilding my concept of who I am after having given that over to ED and now taking it back.  I want to be more couragous.  I want to feel comfortable looking in a mirror when I feel vulenerable.  I want to be able to receive love without rationalizing if I deserve it or not.   I want to know that as I explore and see new possibilities that I am a capable person and if others can do it, so can I. 

I'm really starting to feel like 2013 is going to be a year of growing outwards.  2012 was a wonderful year for me in that I have moved beyond ED's control and I'm beginning to take on my own identity again, but this year is about using my strengths and making a difference in the world.   

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