I am one of those ‘all or nothing’ types. As in, I either throw myself into something completely and give it my all, or I go all out to sabotage myself.
Hey, if nothing else, I’m enthusiastic – right??
The problem is, having a mindset like mine can be difficult on one’s mental health. In my opinion anyway. Life is easier when there is more of a balance.
With alcohol, I was usually either:
a) completely sober (and often happy to be)
b) drunkety drunk drunk.
Once I’d finished that second drink, all bets would be off. I’d drink until I blacked out, unless I had an important commitment the next day. But usually I didn’t drink if I had a really important commitment the next day. Thank god, I mainly stayed as a once-a-week binge drinker. It was enough though.
You see, I wasn’t really a ‘lets go for a few quiet drinks’ person. I wanted so badly to be. I would go for ‘a few quiet ones’, getting myself prepared for a big night out, knowing that once the wine had hit my stomach I’d not want to stop. I remember being amazed by those who came out for ‘a few quiet ones’ and actually did stick to a few, and went home. I went from feeling sorry for them – they were missing all the fun!!! – to envying them. Nothing good happens after a few drinks anyway. They always left at the peak of the fun.
My all or nothing attitude was a big problem when it came to alcohol. Well, the all part was. I was always wanting more. More of the high, more numbness, more. The nothing part is the good part. I’m embracing it now. No alcohol for me, thank you. I’m marching through this with usually steely determination. I’m committed to being sober, rather than getting drunk.
Alcohol wasn’t the only part of my life that commanded an all or nothing attitude. I apply it to most of my life. I think my brain latches on to ideas to strongly. When I decide to do something, I go all out. I really want to do it, and do whatever it takes. But it’s an exhausting way to be. Determination is a great thing to have, and fortunately I have it in spades. But it comes to be a problem when I see myself to having failed to overcome an obstacle, or weakness. Then I beat myself up and self-destruct.
When I was younger, I had some eating issues. When I was about 16 I broke up with a boyfriend. I thought he was ‘the one’. I’m a very emotional person, and it hit me hard. I think my eating issues stemmed from the feeling of rejection that came along with that break up. But obviously there are other issues there that made me more susceptible to developing problems. I’m just not sure what they are. I’m lucky to have had a pretty amazing life so far. My family and friends are brilliant. The problems that I’ve encountered have always been about me.
So, from the age of about 16 until I was around 19 I suffered in a cycle of severely restricting my diet and then binging. For months and years this went on. I’d eat until my stomach hurt, and then eat little to nothing for days, vowing to lose weight and get down to a certain size. I’d get to a certain point where I’d be so hungry and weak that I’d have to eat. And then I would binge, as my body cried out for nourishment after not being fed for so long. And my all or nothing mind would say ‘well, you’ve already ruined it now, you fat pig’ and I’d eat and eat and eat. I’d vow to myself that this would be ‘the last thing that I would eat’ and that ‘tomorrow I will eat healthier’. Sound familiar? I promised myself that I wouldn’t eat anymore and I promised myself that I wouldn’t starve myself. But it never worked. I couldn’t do anything by halves. I couldn’t find a balance. I was trapped in that miserable cycle for years.
The sad thing was, before I started restricting my food intake, I was by no means fat, or even large. I was lovely. I was only a kid. Who think a size eight (US size 4) was fat? Me obviously. I wanted to be a size minus 1000. Why? Why did that even matter? Why was I so obsessed? Well, I think I figured that out when I was about 19 or 20. I was just sad. The eating issues were a mask, something else to focus on other than my negative feelings about myself. And after three years of binging and starving I’d gained about 2 and a half stone.
I don’t know exactly what caused the shift in my mindset, but eventually I came to peace with myself. I began to feel happy. Nothing really happened. I left secondary school, and around my first year in college I began to lose weight, unintentionally. I stopped worrying about food, and it kind of came off by myself. I remember just being really happy all of a sudden. There didn’t seem to be a catalyst. I stayed away from the opposite sex, because I wasn’t interested. I’d been involved in too many toxic (toxic because I was so insecure and emotionally demanding) ‘relationships’ in the previous years. I was enjoying being happy by myself. I was going out and having fun. I wasn’t getting into trouble. I was having a great time. It was only about a year after that that I met my wonderful boyfriend. I didn’t want a boyfriend at the time. I was reluctant to get into a relationship because I was so happy and confident in myself. But he made me even happier than I was then, which I didn’t think was possible. He’s a great person, and so good for me. He makes me feel like the most awesome person ever. I don’t think I would have ended up with him if I hadn’t allowed myself to be happy. Thank God I did. Happy people attract happy people.
Sometimes I wonder how my drinking got out of control. I have been happy. Nothing has happened to me. I’ve not been sad, and I was very very rarely an unhappy drunk. I was pleasant and extra loving from what I’ve been told. The making friends with strangers type. The ‘I love life’ type. It never really affected my day to day life or my relationships, and it never got me into trouble. I probably could have continued to drink and it wouldn’t have caused me any problems in my life (yet). Just problems in my head. But it made me unhappy. I didn’t like not remembering anything and feeling anxious. It made me feel bad enough in myself to want me to stop and look after myself. To be honest, I think the problem had less to do with me and more to do with the alcohol itself. The problems were cause by the alcohol. It was only when I reached the point of drunkenness that the problem began. Which unfortunately for me was very quickly, as I was always a lightweight, being a rather slight girl. To be honest, I blame my alcohol issues on the alcohol itself. No alcohol? No problems.
Anyhow, the weight issue kind of went away, but every now and then it comes back, a little bit. I’m still quite conscious of it but I am thankfully more balanced now. I exercise a lot now, and eat as healthily as I can. I eat healthily for health reasons (but for reasons of vanity too – who am I kidding??). Before just ate as few calories as possible, to lose as much weight as possible, as quick as possible. Now I think about how I eat will affect my body, my energy levels, and my mood. I try to eat my recommended GDA of the different nutrients. I try to eat within the recommended sugar limits. I try to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. I don’t want to be ‘skinny’ anymore. I want to be fit, and healthy and strong. I want to be able to win races and lift heavy things. I want to be able to protect myself if I’m put into a position of danger. I run because I like how it makes me feel, as well as the fact that it allows me to eat a little bit more of what I fancy. I run because I’m training for races. I ran a 7:20 mile last week. That’s pretty good for me, I would never have managed that a few months ago when I was still drinking. I eat healthily and exercise because it makes me feel good. I tried
All is not always rosy though. I have my bad days, and sometimes I worry that I worry too much about food. Sometimes, I eat rubbish and it ruins my day. I don’t binge like I used to, thank goodness. But I sometimes say to myself ‘fuck it, might as well have a pizza now. And icecream’. But usually the next day I get back to my normal diet, because being overly full is uncomfortable for me. I never starve myself now. If I’m feeling bad about over indulging I just step it up at the gym (if I’m able to), and run a little further, or go on the rowing machine for an extra five or ten minutes for the next few days. I remind myself that my self worth has nothing to do with that pizza. And usually I’m okay.
I remind myself that, even though I’ve inhaled a whole pizza by myself, I’ve saved thousands and thousands of calories through not drinking. I used to pretend to myself that there were no calories in wine (ha!!!). I didn’t want to believe it, plus I always woke up with a flat stomach after a big session (that’ll be the severe dehydration, hinting at the sadness of my insides). There are worse things I can do than eat more than I’d planned and spend the next few days doing a little more exercise than planned to burn it off.
Maybe I’m finally on my way to finding a balance. I don’t want to be an ‘all or nothing-er’ anymore.