Monthly Archives: February 2008

Failure and Identity

I found out yesterday that I failed one of the two exams I took for a post-graduate qualification back in December.  This was a huge shock, as it was completely unexpected.  I had felt good about the exams and fully expected to pass.  I’m not used to failing academically, so this was also a big blow to my sense of identity.

After opening the envelope and seeing the result, I went through a lot of emotions very quickly… first, disbelief; then, an incredible sense of hopelessness and fear, feeling completely overwhelmed.  Then, a flight reaction – wanting to get out of the situation, my mind went into plotting mode: what now?  Move away (my never-fail solution); quit the course; quit my job and get a temp job locally; and other various assorted nonsense.  It occurred to me that as my work had paid for half of this course, quitting wasn’t an option open to me (not that I would really have done it, anyway), and I felt trapped.

The whole sense of being overwhelmed, that I actually put work into this and failed, adds up to a big blow to my sense of who I am.  I see myself as a capable, intelligent person and especially in this particular field I feel that I know what I’m talking about.  It doesn’t help that there is no feedback, nor any possibility of getting feedback, as to why I failed, so I don’t know what the problem was.

Anyway, I am just not used to failing professionally.  Whenver I would get close to failure, I would quit before getting sacked and go away. Get out of the situation.  I have never before really sat it through when things get though.  This time, I saw the options before me very clearly – flee into some kind of mindless activity (TV, playing computer games) until the first shock wore away and I could rationally look at the situation after burying my feelings, or I could work this through.  And I chose the latter.  I called my most trusted friend, had coffee with her, talked about it (and cried, for goodness sake – about an exam!), and left feeling like a victory has been won inside me.  I am not what I do.  This exam has nothing to say about who I am.

Why I am sharing this is because I find myself now at a point of my recovery where I can make such conscious choices.  I never used to have such choice.  Before getting abstinent, I would be in the food without even realising what was going on beneath; yesterday, food never even came up as a way out.  In my early recovery, I would have sought solace in an abstinent crutch: TV, mindless activity, anything to escape.  I am so grateful for this program that has allowed me to grow to a point where I can recognise, address, and deal with things without running away.

Does it hurt?  Oh yes.  But it’s good when the pain lets up.

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Thank you London

Back at work this morning I feel like I’ve entered an absolute madhouse and I’ve had perhaps five minutes on my computer, but I absolutely needed to take this timeout to say thank you to the London community for a wonderful roundup this year.  Thank you also to the speakers, who carried such a strong and practical message, and thank you to those who travelled from all kinds of places across Europe and America to be there.  It is so powerful to have a room full of people of different languages and backgrounds who all do what I do, no matter what, wherever and whenever.

I have so enjoyed this time, where in the past few years I have felt somewhat uncomfortable around a crowd of people (just shyness on my part), this year I have felt fully “part of” and knew I was accepted and welcomed.  And of course, it is so beautiful to see many people who come to London every year, to connect with them again.

So I wanted to say thank you to those who put so much work into the Roundup, I enjoyed every minute of it!

The evolution of my Greysheet meals

Well, as for me, I have experimented around a little bit but I have always stayed away from foods that imitate binge foods too much.  Like that pretend Snickers-bar – I know it would not be a healthy thing for me, so I’ve never even tried it (even when I had a sponsor who allowed soy nut butter).

When I first got abstinent, the one thing that kept me abstinent was looking forward to my stellar, amazing, incredible breakfast – that kept me from eating in the evening!  (it was simply 4 oz. soy nut butter, with some splenda, and a Red Delicious apple in sections).  I can’t have that any more, which is very sad, but with the way my body has been gaining weight lately it would probably be the last thing it needs!

I have always made sure that I love my meals and eat what I enjoy.  There was a time in 2006 when I was getting frustrated with the lack of weight loss, and together with drifting away from the GS community and people around me pressing me to give up GS, that led to a relapse over the summer of 2006.  I have learned my lessons – regarding all of these things – but when it comes to food now, I try to make every meal a good one and yet because of my weight I also try to watch it – it’s a tension I have to live with.

I tend to eat the same thing over and over again and I don’t mind that.  I always used to binge on the same foods, too.  If I like something, I’ll eat it, and I don’t get tired of things easily!  So I have a regular menu that I keep to, pretty much, day in and day out.  Saturday is my LOVE-FOOD day, when I eat things I don’t allow myself too much of during the week, because of the weight.

I have to say my diet probably hasn’t changed very much since I first got abstinent, I have always cooked once a week and then eaten it for that week, and usually I wouldn’t make anything twice in the same way.  I ate meat loaf (ground beef & egg & spices) as my protein for many months, getting different flavours by spicing it differently.

My staple diet today is canned fish for lunch together with turnip or brussels sprouts cooked in the microwave, dinner is usually ground meat (which I cook by simply frying it in a pan, again with spices – the days of meat loaf are over, it’s too much work!) with an egg sunny side up on top of roasted vegetables, again either turnips or brussels sprouts or occasionally green beans.  Breakfast at work is 2 eggs cooked in the microwave (I make them sweet, and add instant coffee – sounds extremely weird but it tastes good! – I’d hate non-sweet breakfasts) with an apple.

On Saturdays, things are different: I eat lots of soy that day, as I absolutely love TVP and all the things you can make with it.  So my breakfast is a baked TVP loaf and 1/2 cantaloupe (volume!), lunch and dinner are winter squash (I don’t eat much of that in the week because I only get 4 oz.!) mixed with yogurt and tvp chunks, sweetened, with cinnamon on top.  Awesome!

Every so often I’ll try something new and if I like it I’ll stick to it for the next months.  It’s been really good to read everyone’s shares and be inspired… and to know that some eat simple, others complicated, and it’s all valid.

My own wisdom

I was reminded recently of how flawed my own reasoning and wisdom is, and how much I do need other people around me for sanity checks.  If I am experiencing difficulties, like at the moment I am struggling to juggle work, studies (a dissertation), various church commitments, being a trustee / fundraiser / PR-marketing person of a local homeless shelter, an AWOL, and a writing group – and all of it began to really weigh me down and making me anxious.  I was projecting into the future, carrying a huge load of worry on my shoulders, and felt like I was about to crumble.

Today, after finally (!) speaking about it with other people – which never occurred to me, used as I am to trying to “figure everything out” myself – my situation hasn’t changed and I still carry the same commitments, but I am trying to take it a day at a time rather than thinking ahead so much.  It helps.  It’s not an ideal situation, but I did get myself into it, and none of the commitments can be dropped at the moment, so I just have to bite the bullet and get through this time, knowing that “this too shall pass”.

And hopefully I’ll learn from it not to overcommit myself in the future.  Fat chance!

Ah well – at the end of the day, all that matters is that I weigh my 3 meals off the CGS, commit them to my sponsor, and eat nothing else no matter what.  Everything else will work itself out eventually, even if I drop some plates along the way.