This is not a a frequent occurrence for me. My anxiety fuels my work. It is so normal and so common place in my life that I crave it. I am convinced that if it weren't for my chronic anxiety that my life would fall apart. It is the only thing holding it all together. I realize this is irrational because if anyone else were to say that to me about themselves I would be equipped with a whole bunch of reasons for why this is not the case. As my boyfriend likes to say "The rules of the universe don't apply to Christine." I am the exception to every rule, anxiety is detrimental to other people, not to me.
There is this thing that can happen with anxiety, a sort of paralysis. As I said in the previous post these things all occur and present differently in different people. My anxiety pushes me to work round the clock. Work, practice, lists.... they soothe my rough edges. Sometimes though, sometimes I cannot keep up with the demands of my anxiety, sometimes it is all too much. Sometimes I guess I just get tired, or I can't quite figure out where to start. That is when paralysis sets in.
Paralysis is the title of the second work in the performance. The first section of the performance is about anxiety (the first piece which I discussed yesterday is "Everyone's Watching") This second piece focuses on this anxiety induced paralysis- a static-ness that you get trapped in.
For some people this is a far more regular occurrence. For me, it happens almost cyclically and for a very brief period of time. All of a sudden the list of things to do, things to accomplish looks less like a tidy list and more like a giant tangled knot of boat rope. I'm not talking about a messy bunch of lines on a dock, I'm talking about a human sized knot with hundreds of lines trailing off and tangled inside. It is at that point when I look at this mess and have no idea where to start. This is when I freeze.
I am fairy good at picking myself up by the bootstraps, sorting out what is going on in my head and plowing forward head down, focused on the task at hand and oblivious to those around me. It is in these moments of paralysis where I literally cannot lift myself up by the bootstraps anymore. The straps are broken. Snapped, under the imaginary weight of "the things to do".
A variety of things can trigger something like this to happen. Sometimes I really just have a lot of stuff on my plate. I have difficulty setting boundaries, saying no, and not over stretching myself. It feels good for me to be busy and I don't know how to relax so I work hard to fill up any and all down time. The obligations can pile on until it feels insurmountable and all I can do it sit and breathe. My searing need for approval and to measure up to the (incredibly unattainable) imaginary standards I assume people set for me heaves on an additional layer of pressure.
A big reason though, which I have come to realize which can lead to this sort of paralysis is my schedule. Many people keep a schedule of what appointments or meetings they have and then everything else is just handled as it comes. I schedule my day in 30 minute increments (which is far less rigid then when I scheduled it in 15 minute increments). I know when I am getting up, when I will get in the shower, the precise time I will eat, the exact time that I will practice and EXACTLY what I will practice, what my goals are and how long I will allot myself to achieve them. I know everything, from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep. This schedule is non-negotiable. It is concrete and there is very very little room for error.
I often think that if i were left alone that my "schedule" would proceed on flawlessly and I would be able to do all the things I need to. But this is not life, and plans come up, people arrive early, or late, or cancel or things change and when that happens I find it hard to cope. Sometimes in small ways it is fine, but sometimes these last minute changes create a huge upheaval in my day and I am unable to plan for or adjust to accommodate them and the demands of my ultra functional dysfunction. This is when I fold. If I can't do it all I can't do any of it. It doesn't happen often, about once or twice a month, but it does happen and it speaks volumes about my relationship with my eating disorder.
I developed anorexia first and then after several years it morphed into bulimia. This was not casual bulimia, it was full on raging, total utter lunatic bulimia. Bulimia hung around with me the longest. This is important to note.. the similarities between this paralysis and bulimia. It is an all or nothing mind set.
You strive fr order, you strive to restrict your food, restrain yourself, do what needs to be done. SHOW SOME SMALL AMOUNT OF STRENGTH AND DISCIPLINE. LEARN TO TELL YOURSELF NO. Boom. Something happens. An invite out, sudden change in dinner plans, Your ridiculous exercise routine interrupted or maybe, the schedule, the trajectory you envisioned for your day gets thrown off. F*ck it. One blip and everything is ruined. May as well binge and purge. And once you start... well... may as well keep going.
Binging (like true binging, not I went out to all you can eat sushi and ate one too many California rolls), true binging is a completely numbing experience. SIDE NOTE: I feel the need to clarify these things, like the use of anxiety in the previous post and the use of the word binge now. It is en vogue now to start throwing around words from the DSM, its like a badge of honor. Overeating a little or having an extra cookie is not binging. I want to avoid sensationalism with what I am writing and with the production of these films and music but I think this needs some clarification.
Binging is not a synonym for overeating or eating past the point of fullness. It is uncontrollable. For someone who suffers from BED (binge eating disorder) or bulimia binging might be eating more than 5,000 -10,000 calories in a single sitting. It is entire boxes of pasta, plus entire bags of chips, plus entire containers of ice cream (not a pint of ice cream I'm talking a half-gallon.) It is spending over $200 in fast food to scarf it down in your car in the back of the parking lot. Binging is not something you chat about with your friends over brunch and laugh about. Its not self-indulgent. It is, for those who have not done it, truly unfathomable.
You feel nothing. Your brain is off, you are not there anymore, and you eat. It is one of the few times when my mind is just quiet. After the binge, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to hours. Nothing matters anymore except the food. This is important. Nothing matters anymore. All the pressure, all the anxiety, all the impossible standards to which you think you are being held to (but it is really only you holding you to those standards). they all melt away. It is quiet for once.
But all good things come to an end. The binge starts in desperation and panic, which transforms into tranquil bliss, and then you realize you can't eat anymore. Not like oh I am full... Like can't take a full breath anymore because your stomach is so distended, So then you purge. Sometimes you do it in the parking lot and that simultaneously sucks and feels great. It sucks because, let's face it, its disgusting but its great because now you no longer feel like you are going to die from gastric rupture. You tidy up, gargle, and all is right with the world. You can continue on with your day... or maybe you continue binging and purging. Make it an all day olympic event.
I realize now that when I would do this I was making my anxiety something physical that I could deal with. Yes there is something soothing about eating, we have comfort food, and we like to make little memes about people eating their emotions. It's not really funny though. I did eat my emotions. My emotions were large, taking on a life of their own, my emotions were a tidal wave of panic. So I would eat and eat and eat until I couldn't anymore. I physically felt all of the imaginary pressure that was weighing down on me. Then, after I purged the pressure was gone. Emotionally and mentally I felt relief too- like I could now move on with my day.
Bulimia and I did that tango for far too long. And while I don't engage in that behavior anymore and I have better ways of coping I didn't make it out totally unscathed. I don't want to make it seem like I found this quirky little coping habit that made me feel better. There are consequences to engaging in this kind of behavior and I am extremely fortunate that mine are not worse.
Alrighty, well that's enough for me. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post and I hope you'll consider joining me at Resonance Cafe March 25th at 9pm for the whole kit and kaboodle featuring entirely original compositions, and films for clarinet and electronics.