To be present and to live your experiences ‘in the now’ without trying to predict the impact on the future nor dwell on the past – living in the moment is what life is all about. We gain so much happiness from simply appreciating each moment for what it is and gain so much insight about life and even ourselves. We remember those experiences where we were carefree and living for the pure enjoyment, making life seem less stressful as if you are transported away from all your troubles.
Spontaneity, quick decisions and ‘going with the flow’ are definitely not my forte. I like to be organised with a clear plan and itinerary for what I’m doing in almost every aspect of my life. I like to call it being well prepared however, it sounds pretty similar to the term ‘control freak.’ My anxiety makes impulsive decisions incredibly difficult to put into practice as my mind fills with contrasting thoughts, the ‘but, what if…’ questions and also potential scenarios that could turn everything upside down. When things don’t go to plan I often panic and can’t concentrate on living in that very moment as I manifest into a ball of crippling worry. Anxiety related to my eating disorder doesn’t only make flexibility around food situations appear impossible, it affects everything! – packing a bag last minute, random drinks with friends and surprise visits. I am able to do these things and don’t necessarily shy away from them on every occasion however, living and fulfilling in that specific moment is not something I am able to do easily. In certain cases of severe feelings of anxiety I will usually pass on things such as social events that I know will have a possibility to send me over the edge, even if they are planned. A great part of life is being able to live in the moment where memories are made and often the best nights out. The fulfilling feel of excitement is something I currently need to experience when being spontaneous as instead I am trying to predict the future whilst simultaneously dwelling on the past. My anxiety has had a huge impact on my social life and relationships for these exact reasons.
Spontaneity gone too far
Sometimes I go through phases where I am completely manic and make spontaneous decisions without thinking things through properly which can feel very out of control and distressing and not to mention having significant financial implications. I once went to a ‘we sell everything’ store planning to get a birthday card. Instead, I came out with a shoe rack, shot glasses, self adhesive hooks and no birthday card. At the time I obviously thought it was a brilliant idea to buy these ‘essential’ items (which I have never used) and it felt as if my manic thoughts possessed my entire body. We all do this and it isn’t completely abnormal; I’m sure we can all relate to the IKEA trip where we have left with bags of stuff which we don’t really need. As spontaneity is something far out my comfort zone, it can feel uncontrollable and goes to extreme lengths when it does happen. Buying clothes was my biggest issue, particularly when I was at my lowest weight during my anorexia. I would buy lots of clothes which don’t even fit me now that I am weight restored. It was my release to channel my anxiety into something other than food and exercise and during an episode of manic behaviour I’d dangerously find myself on Oxford Street. Trying on clothes in such small sizes fulfilled me with empowerment and made me feel superior as my efforts to listening to my eating disorder were working. Loose clothes was simply proof that I was losing more and more weight – almost a form of body checking, a ritual that most sufferers use to reassure themselves of their weight loss. The feeling of empowerment was addictive and so was my shopping.
Since I have made great progress in recovery, my ability to live in the moment and enjoy myself in social situations has massively improved. I have gained independence by believing in myself and doing things I enjoy as well as exploring who I am as a person. I’ve begun to take action on the things I am passionate about including writing and I recently joined a ladies football team to invest in a new interest and get to know new people. That in itself is a huge success considering I was so isolated and withdrawn before. I’ve moved out so I can have my own space to work on myself which challenges my fear of being alone but good in the sense that it teaches me to be happy without the need to rely on others. I know it’s a cliche but I really feel as though I’m ‘finding myself’ and the more independent I become the more confident I get as I truly know who I am and ultimately I can only grow to be the best version of me. Doing something spontaneous for myself such as taking a random outing to the Southbank or going to a gallery still seems out of reach. For some reason doing something impulsive and nice for myself feels out of my depth as I feel I don’t deserve to give myself that self care. Likewise, I don’t like being alone as my eating disorder constantly reminds me ‘you are unloved.’ Therefore, an unplanned and unjustified moment to myself feels very scary and isolating.
When I read this article back I realise it makes me sound like an utterly crazy control freak but this is the reality of having an anxiety disorder which affects so many of us. The nature of eating disorders is the need to control everything which is why it manifests so much in the food as it is the one thing we all take most control of in our lives. Each day I am growing in confidence and becoming more comfortable with spontaneity and flexibility as well as owing myself the self care I deserve. The key to this is independence.