Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present.
This is a topic that has taken precedence in my life recently. Mindfulness is the key to unlocking all my gifts, abilities and strengths. The more mindful I become the better equipped I am with taking on challenges.
Staying present hasn’t always been my strongest ability. As a survivor of sexual abuse I mastered the art of dissociation, in order to cope with bad situations. As a child staying present was too dangerous, so I learned how to go far away. As I grew up I never learned how to float back down to earth safely.
I coped with bad feelings and situations by going up in the clouds. It never dawned on me that there was an alternative. It was almost like I had created an alternate personality for myself. I guess I became an ostrich who hides their head in the sand. That was how I stayed safe because to face the present meant facing the past… and that was just too frightening.
Now that I am in therapy, I am able to stay present to face the past… That is the only way I will be able to heal and move on, and that is exactly what I am doing.
I didn’t just float away from the abuse, I floated away from life. Anything difficult I would float away to cloud nine. The more years that passed the more concrete and imprinted it became into my conscious and subconscious mind.
I must remind myself that I am no longer that 10 year old boy trapped in a dark and scary room. I no longer need to escape to be safe.
As I become more mindful of both my surroundings and myself, the more alive everything else becomes. It is like I am looking through a brand new pair of eyes.
Staying present affects me in many different ways. One way I have noticed how mindfulness has affected me is in my eating habits. As I start to become more healthy I have noticed that when I eat I take big bites and don’t chew my food. I really have to think about my food when I eat because if I don’t I will just go into automatic shovel mode. I am really having to rewire my brain.
One of my favorite foods is pizza. One day during therapy I was craving pizza. I really wanted it. I felt guilt over wanting it. My therapist told me that if I really wanted it, to have a slice but when I was eating it to really savor every bite… Allow myself to fully be present while eating the pizza. So I ordered me a baby pan from Little Caesars. When I ate the pizza, I thought about every bite and doing so allowed me to really appreciate what I was eating. It was like I was eating pizza for the very first time, it was so delicious.
The more disconnected and dissociated I feel, the worse I feel mentally. I notice the longer I go without leaving the house, the worse I feel. I get depressed and all I can see is darkness.
I am learning I thrive on connection, without it I suffer immensely. I guess most people do. Keeping myself in that bedroom where the abuse happened only causes me more pain. Hiding only hinders me.
Eating healthier has opened the door to other areas where I can learn to be more mindful. Over the weekend I started to feel very depressed. It was the first time I have felt that much darkness since my Mama passed away in September. I started to not care about anything again. I didn’t want to leave my house, nor did I want to go to therapy.
Monday morning came around and I had to force myself to leave for therapy. As I was driving everything I looked at was dark. I am not quite sure what I did but I started to notice I was out of my body and I started to feel the steering wheel with my hands. I could feel myself come back into my body and I started to feel better. I was able to lift that heavy weight off my back and within a matter of minutes I felt fairly decent.
One thing that has helped me get more grounded, especially when I feel like I am not in my body, is to name the various items around me. Yesterday while we were driving to my nephew’s basketball game I noticed feeling out of sorts. I started to say in my head the different things I saw as we drove by. Doing this helped to ground me more.
Now that I am working on trying to stay more in my body I notice that I am feeling things more intensely and that causes me to go into danger will robinson mode. Again this is where mindfulness comes into play. I must remind myself that my feelings will not be the end of me. I must try to calm the storm and just wait it out, eventually the storm will pass.
When you try to learn a new pattern, especially one that has been hard wired into your brain for years, it take’s time and practice to overcome the old patterns. Falling back into the old patterns is bound to happen. The key is to be mindful when that happens and not let it overcome you. Like for example yesterday, I went over my calories by 200. It was a choice that I consciously made.
Previously that day I had ate a 800 calorie double cheese burger from Wendy’s, so obviously that put my calories at a higher level. In a hurry I didn’t check the calorie content of the burger and I just ordered it not realizing how high the calories were. Once I had sit down with my food I looked up the calorie content, instantly my mouth dropped to the ground. I could have taken off a patty but I decided to eat it, as I didn’t want to waste the food and the money. This is a particular issue that I will have to work on at a later date. I go into a panic at the thought of wasting food. I am not quite sure where I got this?
So later on that evening I started to feel some panic and pain over the death of my Mama. I needed comfort, so I over looked the calories and ordered a baby pan from Little Caesars. Now I would have been alright if I had only ate one. Even eating both of them put me at my limit of calories for the day but after eating both I wanted something sweet so I ate a granola bar worth 190 calories.
Stuffing my feelings out with food is a huge issue for me, so I have to understand it is going to take a lot of practice and back stepping to overcome this challenge. The key is not beating myself up over it. The more guilt and shame I feel the more I will try to cover it up with food.
I noticed when I was eating breadsticks (I ate three) thinking that I didn’t care about my calorie limit. All I cared was they tasted good and they made me feel better. I need to be mindful of habits like this because this is exactly what gets into trouble, the need for comfort out ways the consequences. I kind of had this fuck it attitude last night. Honestly that worries me because that is the attitude I have had for a very long time.
I finally able to see the consequences of my choices and they have a big enough weight to help me make better choices. I am worried because I do not want to go back to my old ways. I like the person I am becoming. I also like the way I feel from making better choices and shedding the pounds.
So I just have to acknowledge what occurred yesterday and keep moving forward. The fact that I was aware of what happened yesterday shows my progress. Previously I would have not thought twice about medicating my feelings with food. Honestly I would have went well over 200 calories over my limit. It would also have carried over to the next day but I am not going to let that happen.
Being mindful has helped me learn about my choices, feelings and who I am. I just have to keep doing what I am doing, keep my eye on the prize. As more time passes I will have worked hard to overcome these challenges and will have reinforced my healthy choices so that they become more natural. Eventually the tide will turn.