Saturday, January 10, 2009

Guest Blogger - Observations on Habit

Today's blogpost is written by a friend of mine "Moana"(the ocean). She is witty, intelligent, caring, thoughtful and beautiful. Despite all these great attributes, she too struggles with longterm depression. She mentioned she was writing a piece about her habits, how they inform and maintain her depression, and how she might change those habits. It is a beautiful piece about her struggle to recover and overcome habits she feels feed her symptoms. I suggested I post it on my blog Enjoy!

[Written] January 5, 2009
by Moana
Observations on Habit

Some behaviours and habits seem harmless when pursued consciously, and not at the cost of other more positive behaviours or activities. These contrast with alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, lying, or cheating which have detrimental physical and social repercussions.

In the past I have used cutting my body with a razor or needle, over exercising, overeating, restrictive calorie regimes, drinking, and smoking as ways of coping with the uncomfortable feelings that are aroused around the control and ownership of my body and my sexuality. Now with the occasional exception of a cigarette and overeating I no longer use these first coping skills. Yet the negative feelings and confusing thoughts persist. How do I cope? Here I take for consideration that certain so called harmless pastimes may not be as benign as I have believed. They restrain me, keep me passive and ignorant and unengaged in my life. These are: overeating, tv watching, moodiness and oversleeping.

Why do these behaviours?

I do these behaviours to stop me from feeling strong emotions such as anger, hurt, sadness, fear and strangely - excited anticipation. These first began as my sexuality emerged as a girl and a teenager. I was afraid of this powerful force within me and my ability to attract men, including my father. I developed physically before other girls and had no idea what to do with this attention, especially from my father. He made me afraid of my sexuality by punishing me, frightening me, mocking me, isolating me from group activities, and ultimately molesting me. So I held back in fear.

This caused me to disconnect from myself, my body, a lack of engagement with myself and pulling back from wanting something out of life because I equated all wanting with sexual desire. It has made me satisfied with less because I feel I don’t deserve better. I don’t stand up to the fear by requiring more of myself.
As I engage in these habits I tell myself that it’s okay to do them because;
It’s just this once, I won’t do it again, I’ll behave better in the future, I deserve to feel bad, and I have lots of time to change.

Cognitive Distortions

The cognitive distortions that I am making are; no one will love me because I have needs so I am dirty so why should I try. I will always be rejected because the behaviours that I have used to mask my fears such as overeating have actually caused the fears I have to come about; too much overeating makes me fat "asexual" (but safe). Another way I avoid sexuality is to remain a child; docile, passive, manipulate able. As a child I am uninformed, I watch tv. Other peoples wishes are more important than mine. It is bad to have wants/needs/desires sexual and otherwise. To want something is to ask for what I deserve; respect and consideration.

I can address these thoughts by saying:

It’s okay to want or desire, it isn’t dirty, I didn’t do anything wrong by becoming a sexual being.
I have almost never been rejected or had poor results when I try hard
It’s okay for me to get my own way as everyone else is.

What true spiritual hungers are not being satisfied because of sleeping, tv watching, overeating and moodiness?

To make a contribution to the world
To express my full self
To know
To love and be loved
What alternative behaviours could I substitute that would replace these passive habits and allow me to fulfill my true wants as above?

Overeating: Recognising that the way I eat, quickly, unsatisfying food in front of the TV is NOT fulfilling any sensual desire. It just makes me fat and disconnected from my feelings.
  • Replace with filling myself up with love or knowledge instead. Talking to people and learning. Acknowledging sensual pleasures other than eating.

TV Watching: Distracts me from true feelings and circumstances in my life. Stops me from spending time achieving the accomplishments that I crave. Mentally unstimualating. Entrenches passivity not debate. Pacifies me from developing what might be (adult) opinions that might be challenging to my family and others. Fills time that I could be making a contribution through meaningful work or expressing myself. Is a dilute form of knowledge. TV dulls me allows me to be absorbed in something that doesn’t give back to me.

  • Replace with reading, going to cultural events, making music, making art, writing, (my desire to express myself). Prepare myself to say what my truth is – "This is how it is for me" ("like it or not…") Takes hours of time that I could spend loving and being loved. (If I could trust that that could happen; take a risk)

Oversleeping/Napping: When I feel strong emotions (including excitement), I go to bed to sleep it off, which dulls the feelings down. The fear or anxiety that I feel at expressing myself, through art, writing or conversation passes somewhat. I literally tire of the repetition of my unachieved ambitious thoughts. I seek to quell them by knocking them out. A lot of the mechanisms that lead to TV watching also apply here.

  • Instead I could be expanding my experiences, becoming loving and knowing and expressive and as above with TV watching and overeating.

Moodiness: This is a hard one. I let my moods dictate what I will do with my day (and my life) rather than my ambitions, which frighten me (wants-desires=bad/dirty). I know I can accomplish things when I am not well, sometimes better than when I am, or at least under certain conditions.
The negative aspect of my moods keep me in a fearful childish dependant state. When I am moody I feel shame. I would like to have positive attention from achieving and being whole rather that the negative attention of pity and sorrow.

  • Instead of giving into my moods I can use my words and language to express my truth – I am sad, fearful, upset, excited about…I can form my emotions into physical manifestations; art, writing, meditation, conversation etc instead of letting them fester inside me toxically for years.

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