As I’ve mentioned before, I was anorexic decades ago, and I still can have what I call anorexic thinking – where I get rigid and stringent, unrelentless with myself, and vigilant about doing everything “just so” and following every rule and guideline. It most likely stems from a need to control, to be perfect, and to make sure I f—k nothing up. It most likely comes from fear.
I may have mentioned that my oldest child used to be, at least in some ways, a rigid rule follower. We used to celebrate if they would ever color outside the lines in a coloring book, or act out in school. I wonder where they got it?
Rule following is helpful and productive at times. There are rules that make sense and guidelines that can help us. Rigid rule following, on the other hand, is at least a slippery slope, if not a dangerous decline no matter what. Especially for me.
A few years back I stumbled through a challenge. Well, crawled through it, I guess. What got me at least somewhat to the other side were rules – a bit of cognitive behavioral therapy with which I retrained myself around my challenge. So the rules were helpful, but my rigidity kicked in. I was swirling – and drowning – in my anorexic thinking and unyielding need to follow exactly (and I mean exactly) what I was told to do.
Which wasn’t a good place to be. It may have been better than the depth of the challenge, but I became so severe and inflexible that I was mostly, if not totally, driven by fear.
Until one day I stopped. Or, actually, bit-by-bit I dropped rule by rule. I breathed. I trusted. I took chances. I had faith. I eased into a new place.
My therapist asked me how I managed to break the rules and be less strict. She was shocked. I honestly don’t actually know.
Once again, maybe I’m lucky. Maybe I’m resilient. Maybe I have a steel rod for a spine (as my mother used to say) that kicks in and saves me EVERY time. Maybe I have guardian angels who won’t let me totally crash and burn. I don’t know.
But I’m damn proud of myself for breaking the rules. Even as I applauded any violation of rules by my oldest child, I applaud mine as well.
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