There are days when it seems that everything I do is aimed at shoring up my defenses.  I exercise to regulate my brain chemistry and strengthen my body.  I journal to catch any distorted thinking and plan my day to avoid impulse eating/spending/reacting.  I work on a short story or a longer fictional piece to bleed out the fantasy thinking that collects like rain water in my barrel.  I practice Tai Chi as an exercise in Will, proving to myself that I can do things that are uncomfortable or difficult.

An underlying tension runs through all this doing, a sense of glancing over my shoulder toward the horizon.  Something’s coming.  Then, I shake it off and get back to it.

I’m sure much of this anticipatory dread comes from making so many changes in my lifestyle.  Change shakes everything up—physically, mentally, emotionally.  There’s no part of us that really likes it.  And those parts will fight to return to the status quo.  Dr. Phil calls this instinctual drift—the tendency for all organisms to revert back to their natural or learned tendencies.  It’s why all those “tame” wild animals keep mauling their owners.  It’s why lost weight always finds its way back.  Deeply ingrained patterns are just that—carved deep—and it will take more than a couple of weeks of tap dancing around them to make a difference.

The patterns that grew up around being bipolar kept me alive.  Maladaptive and unhealthy though they were, they became the only way to survive in my world.  Some days it feels like I’m jumping out of my lifeboat into shark infested water.  Ooo, and I hate sharks.

But, I have a precedent.  I have made a huge change before and incorporated it into my life.  I went from never exercising to working out at the Y five days a week.  Every week.  There’s no resistance to it any more.  It is simply part of my life.  So, I know change is possible for me.  It takes vigilance.  It takes making the choice every day, several times a day.  It takes carving out a new pattern one splinter at a time until that is the new learned response.

Every evening that I swim with my friend in her pool instead of watch TV is a splinter.  Every time I notice my thoughts turning to food and close the book I’m reading is a splinter.  Every time I walk uptown instead of getting into my truck is a splinter.  They all feel unnatural and forced.  My body twitches and there are parts of me that feel like I’m dying.  Sharks!

Sometimes I jump back in the boat, return to the comforting and numbing old ways.  But, the sharks are just a dream.  There is no water.  So I climb out of the rotten boat and start again.

I am shoring up my defenses—against my old patterns, coping skills that don’t serve me anymore.  What’s coming over the horizon is just a scared little girl flailing against pain and darkness.

Come here, darling.  Let’s whittle together.

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pegoleg
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 09:00:54

    “Instinctual drift” makes so much sense. I’m struggling with that with compulsive eating right now – need to get back into my new/good habits instead of wandering back to the bad, old ways.

    Good for you for recognizing all these truths when they come up and try to knock you out of the boat.


  2. Kathryn McCullough
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 09:57:18

    God, I can’t tell you how much I understand these senitments. I may not have written this as well as you have, but I have so often felt this way.I can’t tell you the comfort I feel in hearing you articulate it. Thank God, I’m not alone–not the only one. Thank you for this post, Sandy. And may I whittle with you, as well?
    Hugs to you, my dear!


  3. rachelmiller1511
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 12:44:50

    I sometimes think my eating habits kept me going through my depression. It’s just so damn hard to stop eating now!!!! Sometimes I don’t even want to stop the pattern!!! It’s like I need food!!! You’re doing great to even have the intent to stop and that makes me think I want to turn my thoughts in that direction too. Thanks.


    • Sandy Sue
      Jun 14, 2012 @ 13:16:58

      I know exactly how you feel. It takes a lot of whispering to oneself to get to the point of even wanting to change. Good for you for even thinking about it.


  4. littlesundog
    Jun 14, 2012 @ 22:11:41

    My “Instinctual Drift” is crazy, endless work. The more my mind conjures up thoughts and the rehearsing begins, the more I delve into physical work… chores… wearing myself out physically and mentally. It’s a coping skill that works… but I’m wearing out. My age will dictate more and more that I need to quit pushing myself needlessly, and stay on track with more relaxation and taking care of self. This post is soothing, for I am among friends who understand and have compassion. You say so well, what we all feel and struggle with!


    • Sandy Sue
      Jun 15, 2012 @ 05:51:04

      It’s so interesting to see another facet of this—getting physical instead of chowing down—but how the emotional driver is the same. Thank you so much for your insight and sharing.


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