An Act of Rebellion

Thank you to everyone who commented on my post yesterday 🙂 I loved TD’s response –

“Isn’t it odd how everything we do wrong – getting ill, stubbing a toe, getting a less than perfect mark, forgetting that the new episode of Scrubs was on (grrrr!) – is all our fault, yet when something goes right it’s luck?”

Yeah…I’m not guilty of this at all 😛

Every time I write something that could be read as if I am complimenting myself I feel horribly awkward. I even feel embarrassed about some of the comments I receive, like I could be judged as egotistical because of other people saying nice things about me! That really is a bit ridiculous. I must try to get a grip on this. OK –

Sometimes I think I might possibly be not an entirely useless person.

Oh alright, that’s pathetic. Don’t agree with this next bit whatever you do, because otherwise I’ll feel like I came across as fishing for compliments or being boastful, but since feeling like I would rather sit in a bath full of worms than do X usually means that it would be good for me to do said X, I’ll try again –

I think I’m quite pretty sometimes. I am intelligent, even if occasionally I worry that my eating disorder ate my brain. I am creative, I make nice jewellery and I am a talented artist and musician. I am brave, determined, strong willed and great at solving problems. I am fiercely loyal to my friends, I love helping people and I think I might have it in me to inspire hope in others. On the whole, I am quite glad that I’m me most of the time.

There. Now, everyone please pretend that didn’t happen.

Why is it that so many people have a problem with saying nice things about themselves? Is it because they don’t believe in themselves, or because they are scared to sound narcissistic? I think up until recently it was fifty-fifty for me. I didn’t believe in myself because the only way I knew how to cope with life was to stop eating or hurt myself in some other way, and I kept getting into crises and dropping out of life. Until this year the only things I had to be proud of were concrete things like good grades in exams. They didn’t make a lot of difference to my lack of self esteem because the degree of intelligence a person has is a result of their genes, so if I ever did think  “well I suppose at least I’m clever” it was usually followed by “but I don’t deserve to be, because I keep screwing my life up”. But in fact, even those exam results didn’t come easily. Take my A levels – I was raped six weeks into my first term at college by someone I’d met there, so spent the next 18 months in a haze of severe depression and PTSD. When I should have been studying and then revising I was actually hallucinating people with guns behind every tree and putting all my energy into starving myself. When it came to exam time, I suddenly pulled myself together and taught myself two years worth of work in ten weeks, and went on to get straight A’s. To do that requires more than intelligence, it shows courage and determination (and a photographic memory!). The girl who raped me didn’t even drop out of college until a couple of months after the event, so even before I pulled myself out of the spiral I had going on I was being either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid not to quit college altogether due to the intensity of my fear that I would run into her again.

Still, even giving myself credit for that, between that year and this one I achieved very little to be pleased about. This year got off to a terrible start. I seemed to be allowing the anorexia to steal everything that mattered to me without the hint of a fight. Now I will accept that I was ill and out of control, but then I hated myself because I thought I was just weak and a coward. I couldn’t find anything about myself to be proud of. I didn’t even feel an anorexic pride for getting to such a low weight, because I wasn’t having to struggle to resist eating, it was just that the idea of eating more than ‘allowed’ was as terrifying and alien as the thought of eating a tarantula. But in a strange way the depth of my helplessless then makes the fact that I DID turn it around mean even more to me. I do feel proud of myself now, I have evidence that I can do wonderful things when I put my mind to it. I feel competent, capable and able to trust myself now, which is better than a thousand A grades.

So I have far less of a problem with self belief now than I used to. But the second thing I mentioned – worrying that I will come across as conceited – is still a big hang up of mine. For five years or so after the bullying that happened in my early teens I was quite traumatised by the experience – I had flashbacks, nightmares, phobias, could barely bring myself to look people in the eye or speak above a whisper, and I hated myself. By the age of 18 I had finally dealt with the worst of it and felt a lot better about myself, but even today, although the actual memories of the bullying don’t bother me anymore, I still have a few residual habitual thought patterns that clearly come from that period in my life. One of them is that I am terrified of seeming as if I think too much of myself. I was a quiet, shy kid, and it’s definitely true that shyness can come across as aloofness sometimes. I was always being accused of being ‘up myself’, even though I was nothing of the sort. It’s quite difficult to be full of your own importance when you are already full of self loathing!

Even now, 12 years after the bullying ended, I continue with the bad habit of putting myself down before anyone else can. I insult myself half in jest all the time in conversation, even with my therapist (whose job is, essentially, to be non-judgemental!), and I always qualify any advice or comment to friends and fellow bloggers by first saying “I’m sorry for being annoying/stupid/irritatingly positive/sounding like a self help book/*insert other derogatory statement here*”. I have to stop apologising for myself. It’s so hard though, I feel like if I don’t show other people that I don’t take myself too seriously or think too much of myself they will hate me, so I apologise in advance to stop myself feeling so anxious. Still, doing self defeating things to relieve anxiety only makes that anxiety worse in the long term, so I really should start making an effort to get on top of this.

I’ve often said that this time around in recovery, I get a huge kick out of rebelling against my eating disorder. Once I accepted that anorexia was an illness and that it was firmly in control of me I decided that I’d had enough of living under a petty tyrant, and that I was not going to be dictated to anymore. I planned my recovery like a military operation, preparing myself for every obstacle. I even burned my favourite anorexic jeans – just how much more of a ‘fuck you’ statement could that have been?! I went into town earlier to meet a woman conducting research into recovery from eating disorders, and her final question was “if you could sum up your experience of recovery in a few words, what would they be?”. My answer had to be “an act of rebellion”. And it occurs to me that this is a similar issue. Bullying is the attempt to stamp all over another person’s self esteem, to make them feel terrible about themselves, to make them hate and doubt everything about themselves, even years afterwards. I still fear being judged and laughed at to the extent that it affects my behaviour and happiness more than a decade later. People can be prisoners in all sorts of respects.

So my real act of rebellion today is to say that I like myself, I believe in myself and I am a worthwhile person, without qualification or apology.

Do you have a problem with compliments? Do you just not believe them or are you scared that someone will come and stomp on you if you dare to think that you might be an OK person? And if you’re feeling brave, be a rebel and tell me what you like about yourself 😉 no qualifying statements allowed!

Three good things about today:
1. The first thing I saw on facebook this morning. I have to stop going on about it or people will think I’m quite mad, but thank you for making me laugh Jonathan 😛
2. Getting to participate in the research I mentioned. I want to be a part of the attempt to understand eating disorders better so their asses can be more efficiently kicked!
3. I bought more of my favourite gluten free muffins on the way home, mwahahaaa. I am on a bit of a sugar high now!


16 responses to “An Act of Rebellion

  1. triumphofourtiredeyes

    I’m really glad that I was able to make you laugh… it was one of those spontaneous things done at 2 am.

    I don’t care what you say, I think it is worth rewriting what you wrote just to reinforce it:

    You are more than quite pretty and have an amazing smile. You are certainly intelligent. I can’t comment on your musical abilities, but I’ve seen some of your art and it certainly shows talent. You have been through so much shit but you continue to fight on, thus you are a brave, determined and strong-willed person. You are a fantastic friend who is always there to offer support or advice. All of that makes me glad to know you.

    I don’t care if you didn’t want me to repeat what you wrote. I don’t see it as fishing for condiments, just you recognising who you are…. I wish you would think like that more often.

  2. triumphofourtiredeyes

    “fishing for condiments”???? er…. you know what I mean.

    • themilkfreeway

      You know, I was totally just trying to get someone to compare me to ketchup…
      This is why there is no way that I will ever fall out of touch with you 😉

  3. Damn, and I was going to compare you to spicy mustard with a bit of a kick. Anyway, I have to be honest in saying that it takes a lot for me to be impressed by other people, as most of my life I have been quite disappointed. However, for some reason, I continue to read this blog with nothing but admiration and a tinge of envy for how you’ve worked so hard to become the woman you are (or at least appear to be. I suppose for all I know you could be some wacko, but I doubt it…)

    We all have struggle, some of us more than others, but it takes an extremely strong person to use them as motivation and not an excuse. Just the way you write shows not only smarts, but also sensitivity and insight, and I, for one, think you deserve any compliments (and condiments) you get.

    As for me, I’m actually the same way. I always found it easier to put myself down or disappoint myself in some way before anyone else could. It just made it easier. Now I try and take a compliment when/if it flutters in–depending on who it’s from–and do actually realize that I have one hell of a personality when I want to…kind of like salsa.

  4. Sorry, I’m going to ignore you now and tell you that everything you said was true… and I don’t think you were fishing for compliments at all, either! There is nothing wrong with thinking good things about yourself. ESPECIALLY when they’re true!

    I’m the same way, though… I tend to belittle myself before anyone else can get to do it. Which, obviously, they’re going to do, since I deserve it! But I’m also afraid of being narcissistic. This will sound weird, given the name of my blog, but the only physical characteristic I’ve ever liked about myself is my eye color. And I feel like I’m being egotistical if I say so!

    ❤ ❤

  5. laurasworthlesswords

    Yep Im gonna do as everyone else is and tell you, you are truly amazing! I was so happy to read that paragraph in which you listed all the things you like or are good at, they all are spot on. I have said it many times before you are such a strong young woman and really are true inspiration to all, what you have managed to achieve is wonderful, getting those grades required intelligence and anyway you can tell from your posts and the way you write that you are one intelligent lady 🙂

    I admit I struggle accepting comments as well, I`m the first to put myself down, I`m a very unconfident person and keep to myself and unfortunately as you said that can be taken as I`m up myself when I`m not at all.

    While modesty is nice sometimes its better to accept a compliment and just take it, dont argue it just accept it 🙂 .

    I just loved this, I never think of you as fishing for comments and I never view your responses to posts as take out from an ed self help book, your replies are some of the most helpful ones and always full of effort and to me always very much appreciated.


  6. Yes, it is interesting how we are responsible for our failures, but not our successes. I’m guilty of not taking compliments well. I feel sheepish about them. Self-criticism comes so easily for me, but ask me to spit out some good things about myself and I’ll start with, “ummmm…” We all have things we’re proud of, and I don’t know why we are ashamed to just shout them from the rooftops. You are an inspiration!

  7. I am glad you’re being kinder to yourself Katie. This feeling of being ‘not good enough’ or ‘undeserved’ is so common to those of us with histories of EDs – as is the feeling that our achievements will somehow be taken away from us.

    You are doing FABULOUS 🙂 x

  8. Totally Detached

    BAAAHAHAHAHAHA “fishing for condiments”!!!

    I can’t think of a single thing I like about myself. Does that mean I have low self esteem or is there just nothing good to think of?!

    The research thing sounds good. I think there STILL hasn’t been nearly enough research into eating disorders, considering that recovery rates are still pretty low and relapse and mortality rates are still pretty high.

    I think you’re very beautiful. I also think you’re an absolutely lovely person, very sweet and kind, and obviously extremely intelligent. You’ve been through a hell of a lot, loads more than the average person will have to deal with in their whole lives and you could have just given up and nobody would have thought any less of you. It would have been pretty understandable but instead you’re fighting back and (from what I read in this blog) getting stronger and achieving more and more each day. It’s great that you’re being nicer to yourself and acknowledging your goodness. It’s not being stuck up or boasting at all. Honestly, I wish I knew you.

  9. I am going to jump on the bandwagon and tell you how awesome you are! I’ve only been reading your blog a short time and it has been so honest and inspiring. Choosing to fight ED is the hardest battle there is and you are a strong women for choosing it.

    Like you I spent much of this year giving in to him and not even putting up a fight. My life went down the drain and I became less and less of Hannah…a skeleton of myself. Finally through the help of my amazing therapist I suddenly realized that enough was enough. Funny that you talk of going against ED as a rebellion since they last few days that is the analogy I’ve been using. “Death to ED” I’ve texted to my parents and I even asked about burning my jeans in their pile of branches and yard waste outside. I fully intend on it too. My real fight begins tomorrow when my day program starts. Scared and excited at the same time. It is like giving up the reins and I feel such an odd sense of utter relief. The past 13 years have been EXHAUSTING.

    So glad you are here and I can’t wait to share my journey with you!

  10. I think that if I was held at gunpoint and told to give myself a genuine compliment I wouldn’t be able to…the words just wouldn’t come out without some kind of qualification or ‘but’ at the end of them. It comes from a similar place to your own issues; I always want to put myself down so no-one else can have the satisfaction, and because I believe those things too. It stems from years of having a tirade of insults thrown at me every day…I think I’ve internalised them and can remember every little negative thing anyone has ever said, but not a single positive thing. I do try to work on it but it comes so naturally that it’s almost instinctive and a reflex action. Apparently it’s extremely irritating (or so I’ve been told…does that count as another negative comment :P) so I really should make more of an effort to quit it.

    Not that I find it annoying when you do it, I just think ‘aww, don’t be so down on yourself,’ but that’s probably because I totally understand where you’re coming from. And I agree with the nice things you did identify about yourself wholeheartedly 🙂 Beautiful, smart, talented, resilient, generous, altruistic, selfless, prodigiously creative…have I embarrassed you enough now? I have plenty more to add to your list.

    I think the ‘fishing for condiments’ comment has to go down as the greatest Malapropism in history…certainly put a smile on my face, that’s for sure 😉


    P.S Did you get my last e-mail? Sorry to be irritating, it's just my account's been on the fritz and I didn't want you to think I hadn't replied!

  11. Totally Detached

    Jessica – I agree with everything in your first paragraph! I always think if I say something nice about myself then people will be thinking “Oh my god, doesn’t she know that she’s xxxx? Doesn’t she know what she looks like? Doesn’t she know nobody likes her?”

    I noticed recently that not only do I think negative things about myself and deny positive things others might say to me, I actually bring them up myself without prompting!

  12. I love your framing of recovery as an act of rebellion. It’s so fitting, and it’s also motivating for me personally. I admire health/recovery in others, but when it comes to me, I call it weakness. the past punk adolescent me is pissed off at my unquestioning submission to ED’s rules, and needs to rebel.

    I was also bullied throughout school. My coping mechanism was to pick apart everything I did and said, so that I would be prepared. I would know all my flaws before anyone could call them out. I learned not to move and not to speak, I felt wrong for existing. But we aren’ that scared, hurt girl anymore. we have nothing to apologize for and we never did.

  13. Hey Katie,

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words. I just read through a few of your posts and they are honestly so insightful and so true. But knowing how strong you have been goes to show just how possible it is to get rid of ED and I do believe that this rough patch I am currently struggling to get through is ED putting up its last fight.

    I admire your courage in sharing your story and I love it that you even created a relapse prevention plan. You’re definitely an inspiration and I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!


  14. I love thinking of recovery as an act of rebellion. In part this was what started me on recovery–everyone around me looking mournful and saying things like well maybe I just need to accept that this is the way you’ll always be or you’ll never really get over this. So I decided to prove them wrong.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration! I know how you feel about not wanting to compliment yourself–I’m the same way–but the truth is that you should feel proud of all you’ve done and shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it!

  15. so exciting to see you on the way to recovery! 😀
    the best of luck…

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