04 June 2014

Toxic Relationships: Calling It Quits on Our Bad Habits

It can be difficult to leave a long-term relationship, even when our inner-wisdom tells us it's time to let go. At this point, we can choose let go and endure the intense pain of leaving behind the familiar to make way for a new chapter in our life. Or we can stay and suffer a low-grade pain that slowly eats away at our heart and soul, like an emotional cancer. Until we wake up, one day and realize, we are buried so deep in the dysfunction of the relationship that we scarcely remember who we were and what we wanted and needed to be.
~ Jaeda DeWalt

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R
elationships define us.

You’re someone’s child, possibly someone’s parent, someone’s aunt or uncle.  A boss.  An employee.  A coach.

Even as a writer, I have a relationship with you, my readers.

Sometimes these relationships are good: healthy, integrated, interdependent.  Sometimes, they’re toxic: shattered, abusive, codependent, even addictive.

This pretty much sums up my relationship with food. . .and my health.

Mental WWE
It’s been proven time and again that the mind has great power over the body.  Grief can produce fatigue, insomnia, lack of appetite.  Joy produces more endorphins, ups our energy, makes our skin glow.

For some of us, however, our mental/emotional health is in a fight to the death with our physical health.  Or more accurately, in a fight with our habits.

And let’s face it, some of those habits are downright toxic.

For instance, I eat when I’m bored.  I eat when I’m depressed.  I eat when I’m hungry.  I eat when I’m full.  But when you really look at it, 9 times out of 10, I eat when I’m bored.

The Root of All Evil. . .Er, Toxic Habits
As with any unhealthy habits, addictions, or behaviors, to truly “cure” the disease, you have to answer the question Why.  Why do you watch five hours of television instead of talking to your spouse?  Why do you eat a dozen doughnuts when you come from a family of diabetics?  Why do you put off writing that report/proposal/book/post until you give yourself an aneurysm completing it?

In my journey towards a healthier, happier, more integrated me, I’ve discovered that they why of my eating when I’m bored had an even deeper why: why are you bored at all?

Because I’m a creative.  A smart creative with mild ADD.  The question is not do I have an idea; the question is which idea do I explore first?  And yet, I get bored.  And then I eat.  And let me tell you, when I’m bored, I don’t eat carrots and broccoli.

The answer is two-fold and I’ve already answered half of it above. 
Image credit: www.mbrozafoods.org

Having even mild ADD makes concentration and focus a challenge.  People with ADD or ADHD, can hyper-focus, that is, become completely, 100% engrossed in something.  I’ve almost missed my train home a couple of times because I was immersed in some writing or editing project.  (Once I almost missed the train as it was standing right in front of me because I was hyper-focused on downloading music on my smarty pants phone!)

But as you can see, it’s not always the something that we should be focused on at the time.

The other side to this tale of habit woe is perfectionism.  I’ve talked about this double-edged sword before, but it bears repeating:
As with all artists, the writer pours himself out in his art ~ there in bloody black and white for all to see. Once the words are on the page and published, there is no going back. . . This means that our art flows directly from our soul. It is real. It is painful. It is achingly beautiful. But it is truly our blood and bone, heart and sinew. And so if we fail to reach someone; if the observer fails to "get" us or the beauty or idea we are trying to convey, it is like singing in a darkened theatre.
You put everything into your performance and the lights go on afterwards and instead of the attentive audience you thought was there, there is only empty space. Or worse, empty stares. (The Perfect and the Real, February 2011)

And of course, what is part and parcel of perfectionism?  Fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of rejection. Ergo, the root of my boredom is really fear.

That’s just great, Mikaela.  But now what?  How do you “dig out” that root of fear?

Now, it’s decision time.

There is Such a Thing as a Good Goodbye
I’m with Charlie Brown on this one.  I like hellos, not goodbyes.  But sometimes, in order to save one’s sanity and health, you have to call it quits.

My relationship with food right now is not healthy.  In point of fact, it’s driving my mind crazy and my body bonkers.  Because remember, I don’t eat veggies and fruit when I’m bored.  (We won’t go into what I do eat ~ I have healthy, organic friends who read this and they might die of the shock.)

When I eat when I’m bored, I can actually hear my gut saying, “What the…!?  Again!?  Lady, last time you ate that piece of bleep! we sent it back ~ with a big helping of acidy horse head complaint!  What kinda scam are ya tryin’ to pull here?!”

Who knew this Southern belle had a New Jersey digestive tract?

My biggest and number one task is tackling the fear of failure and rejection.  It’s the root that needs to be dug out.  Otherwise, like a weed, the habit never dies.  That’s one of the reasons I see my therapist regularly. 

But I can’t just sit back and wait for the cognitive and dialectical behavior therapy to take.

I need to do some extra mental and physical homework on my own.  Some of these I’ve tried, some I’m still working on.  See if these might help you say goodbye to your long-term bad habit:
Get rid of all the comfort food (poison) in my house and my office.
Replace it with healthy yet fun alternatives. (I just went to Whole Foods and got a bunch – woohoo!)
Get outside.  (Now that my garden is growing, I try to visit it every day to weed, water, and walk in it.)
Get up without hitting the snooze and get in 15-20 minutes of yoga and strength training. (This one is tough ~ I am NOT a morning person.  I’m a morning growly grounchy-pants.)
Write.  Write everything.  Journal the good, the bad, the ugly, the insane.
Spend time with supportive friends.  (Just went camping with some ~ woot!)
Join a support group (haven’t tried this one yet)
Relationships define us.  But the toxic ones don’t have to anymore.  We ARE strong enough to walk away.  We ARE strong enough to form healthy, integrated relationships.  It’s just going to take some time and some hard work.

But as the wise guru Clairol reminds us, we’re worth it.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Read it again: The Perfect and the Real
Learn more about Interdependence: Psych Central

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