Recovering from and learning to live in my recovery process from an Eating Disorder and Bipolar Disorder has been really challenging at times. There is no sugar coating it. My brain at times operates against me; and I have had to develop skills and tools to combat that. Thankfully I’ve had a lot of really great treatment providers patiently teaching me and coaching me though fighting my own brain.
One of the things that my brain does is all or nothing thinking. Naturally I want to be the best or I don’t want to do it at all. I want to be best friends with someone or not friends. I want to write a book or write nothing. I want to run a marathon or run nothing. You get the idea. This way of thinking is harmful in many ways. First, it set myself up for failure and disappointment. My expectations for everything I did or wanted was so high that my ability to achieve it was actually very small. It also put really high and challenging expectations on relationships. I had all of these ideas of what the relationship should be; I never actually got to enjoy any of the people around me.
It also filtered my life through a lens of “This situation will either be horrible or wonderful” This is emotionally taxing on anyone and creates a lot of ups and downs in moods and behavior. This mindset combined with my perfectionism and fear of failure pushed me to ignore the my emotional and physical cues of needing a break, needing help, knowing when the stop or slow down.
There is also the other side to the “All or Nothing” thought distortion, you know the nothing side. I would neglect parts of my life that I either felt hopeless and overwhelmed over or these were things that made me feel most uncomfortable. At different times these things were: my outward appearance, connecting with my peers, my health, school, my family and my friends.
The things that I was ALL about and the things that I was NOTHING about fluctuated given the time. Living this way added to the chaos of my life. I never felt satisfied, and always felt not good enough.
So how do you recognize and begin to change this way of thinking?
- [Awareness] Notice a pattern. It takes time to create a pattern and sometimes it helps to have another person help with this part (someone that knows you well and that you trust).
- What are you ALL invested in?
- What do you neglect of invest NOTHING in?
- At this point think about your expectations, are they reasonable?
- How do you feel in your relationships?
- Decide what you really want. Its hard to change out you think. For the longest time I told my therapist that if I gave up this method of thinking than I would be less successful. That wasn’t true. I became more successful as I became more balanced. Once you decide you want balance it becomes a matter of defining it.
- What does balance look like to you? [DO NOT confuse balance with perfection.. my brain will do that]
- Use the awareness of your patterns (behavioral and emotional) and start reminding yourself in the moment that your dealing with a thought distortion and the world really isn’t all or nothing. In those moments give yourself other options. This takes a lot of time and hard work. But with practice new patterns are formed based on the balance that you desire.
I know it’s hard, but you can do it.
My name is Erin and This is Where I Stand