Yesterday, while I was having a break from working on the persistent pain in the arse - dissertation that is, I decided to listen to the first episode of The Mental Illness Happy Hour so I could close my eyes for a second. This podcast is simply about people affected by mental illnesses discussing them, and therefore giving kind of peer support for listeners. I've only listened the first one, but I really liked it, and although I didn't expect it, I realized something really important about myself. And that's what I'm going to share now.
So, right at the end of the episode they were talking about addiction and like obsessive behaviour - as in binge eating kind of thing. A lot of people, including myself, tend to crave for sweets in stressful situations, and easily result to bingeing on chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cakes, etc. every now and then. And we do it even though we are fully aware of the absolutely horrible feeling that follows the momentary high induced by all of that sugar. Obviously, there's the physiological thing with sugar giving comfort, like how you can make a baby smile by giving them a tiny bit of something sweet. It's a biological fact that we like sugar because it gives us energy and essentially keeps us alive.
And then there's also the neurochemical stuff with dopamine and addictions (yeah, you can tell that I'm an expert in this).
But what I've never come to think about before is that maybe the psychological motive for binge eating is not to do with that short sensation of pleasure that the sugar gives, but in fact, with the misery that comes after. When you've spent years and years in a relatively bad place, it becomes equivalent with safety in a very distorted way. It becomes normalcy to the extent that anything outside that particular misery makes you feel uncomfortable. One way to explain this in my case could be that I'm feeling bad about something someone else has done, and it would be perfectly reasonable for me to confront them or be angry at them but because both of those are outside my comfort zone I go to a grocery store to buy a pack chocolate biscuits and a Ben&Jerry's, go home, eat it all - and feel physically sick and disgusted about myself. This way I make my misery be about me instead of coping with the actual thing that made me upset because it's easier to hate myself than take it on someone else. When I make myself miserable at least I know what I'm going to get. And this is my ultimate form of self-directed emotional abuse.
And then this morning I managed fit a bunch of other puzzle pieces together as well. See, we're not only talking about the binge eating but any kind of addictive/obsessive behaviour, and it could be anything that appears to give a temporal distraction or sensation of pleasure, but in the longer run only makes you feel worse.
So I made a connection to the relationship with my ex. We broke up two and a half years ago but because of all kinds of not ideal circumstances, we still live in the same house. And now that I'm finally starting to see just how toxic this situation has been for me, I've started wondering how on earth did I ever think that staying so close to her, both physically and emotionally, would be wise. Like it literally makes absolutely no sense. Yeah, sometimes I wonder how someone as smart as me can be so fucking stupid. Anyway, now I'm thinking that the main reason why it has been virtually impossible and unthinkable for me to let go of her is because I've been bingeing on her company in the way that I sometimes binge on candy. It used to feel so good to be close to her that I'd do it as much as possible even though I always knew that in an hour or so, my mood would sink down faster than freaking Titanic.
You can't imagine how much realizing this changes things for me. I don't even know how exactly it works, but I just feel like this is a really big thing to finally be able to resolve. Because now I also understand why it is absolutely essential for me to keep my distance at this point.
The sad thing is that I know that this binge behaviour already started when we were dating. I can't tell why or when, but at some point I became like an addict and I needed my fix as often as possible - and yes, more often than not even then I would feel somewhat awful afterwards. I would feel awful because more than half the time I had this core feeling that I was being a burden and that my company was - if not downright unwanted, at least not needed, and that no matter how much I tried to be a good and considerate girlfriend I always managed to make my partner feel uncomfortable.
And none of that changed when we split up. I'd still spend too much time with her regardless of the fact that the same feeling of being an unwanted piece of shit, just dragging along would keep on gnawing on my mood, and mental health.
Thinking about all this produced a bit of an existential crisis in me; was our relationship ever healthy? Despite what I've always been so sure of, do I actually love her, or am I just a junkie for depressive mood?
But then I calmed down and found my reason. First of all, yes I remember a time when I wasn't feeling compulsively dependent on my now-ex. It was just over three years ago, but it was there. So no, on my part it wasn't always unhealthy. Secondly, I do believe that I have always loved her, and I still do even if I'm acting like a passive-aggressive ice queen of the land of bitter and jealous ex bitches. And in retrospect, I've been living with depression and anxiety for so many more years than they've been treated for that seeking some sense of familiarity and stability from self-loathe has now started to seem kind of understandable. I mean, after having this revelation, I'm able to look at my life in a slightly different way - and I think I've grasped something very important.
I just still don't know if this is in any way a fixable situation. Or if anyone has the will to find out.