Thursday, 15 January 2009

Who Would Have Thought That Therapy Could Be Helpful?!

"set shifting": the ability to move back and forth between tasks,
operations, or mental sets, which is a function primarily linked to the
prefrontal cortex.

I was talking to my therapist on Tuesday about the difficulty I have breaking out of patterns. How I eat the same foods every day because I can't seem to comprehend the availability of other options. How I go for the same walks each day because a different route feels too complex to consider as an option. How this course I have started ('philosophy of religion' for those who asked!) is throwing up many challenges, aside from the workload itself, in terms of challenging my rituals, disturbing my routine, etc. She explained to me the link between set-shifting and anorexia which results in a sort of tunnel-vision way of living. She explained that *this* is why I get so stuck in routines and patterns- it's something which ANYONE struggles with at low weights/in states of starvation, but she said the research shows that people with anorexia have always had this, and continue to do so even after weight restoration.

It's not necessarily a BAD thing. It means a lot of drive, an ability to really focus on the task at hand- hell, if you are doing a PHD, the ability to focus 100% would work wonders. Problem I am dealing with is adapting to real-life, sans PHD (!). Looking back, it has come and gone in waves. It is definitely worse when I am deep in anorexic behaviours. The inability to shift into another mode drives the behaviour, the behaviour itself fuels the fire.

We talked about this in some depth as I tried to figure out a way to break out of the tunnel-vision, see more options and make more CHOICES rather than repeating the same things because I don't *see* any other choices to choose between. She said I can't reprogram the way my brain works, but what I CAN do is recognise what is going on, step back and look at the situation from an outsiders perspective ("what would someone else do right now?")

I've surprised myself by actually managing to do this since our session. Not in huge measures, but definitely moving in the right direction. It sounds small and stupid, but I'm actually really proud of myself for the choices I have been making with food/meals since Tuesday. Talking to my therapist, and for the first time ever, actually saying out loud *exactly* what was going on in my head without worrying about being judged/punished has really enabled me to GET advice and USE the advice.

Wow. Sounds so obvious now- that's why professionals are there, right?.. Who would have thought I might actually BENEFIT from treatment?.. (kidding- kind of...this current therapist and I have had an on/off relationship for a few years and I've not quite trusted her until recently so not been able to open up completely, and other therapists have had the "it's not about food so we won't talk about food" mentality- helpful, yes, but it's not something that can really be ignored with treatment of anorexia...)

So yeah. This is kind of new for me, and kind of exciting. It feels really good to be making some concrete changes that I can see/measure in terms of improving my situation. Often I've spent months in therapy and although I may have made some progress mentally, at the end of 6/8/12 months, nothing has REALLY changed in any way. Ha- I'm so excited that since Tuesday, I haven't eaten the same thing more than once. Wooo! (Yes, I know it's only Thursday but this is HUGE for me!)

I'm still really struggling with the feelings of guilt about not doing more/not achieving more/not saving the world right now. Nighttime is hardest- I've been watching TV to distract myself and falling asleep as the credits go up on 'Friends', but I wake up at 3-4am, tears soaking my pillow, my thoughts racing about applying for jobs/courses, moving, going back to New York.

It's hard to hold onto the thought that right here, right now, I am doing *exactly* what I need to be doing to shape my future. I can't change the past and I can't rush through the present. It's a process and there aren't the short-cuts I find myself rushing to find.

No comments: