Confession: I’m addicted to bullying.
You said what now?
Yep. I’m that big sweaty kid on the playground with bad hair, crooked teeth, and cockeyed self-esteem, laying into those oddball creative types with the skinny wrists.
But see, I’m also the creative oddball with the skinny wrists.
I am both the attacker and the victim.
Being kind to myself – and let’s be clear, true kindness is not allowing yourself to eat as much chocolate as you want – has never been easy for me.
If I fail at something, or if I don’t rise up to my own ridiculous standards, I turn into a judgmental monster with a pitchfork and rolodex-shark-teeth ready to rip my tender emotional heart apart.
Are you nodding your head right now? Can you relate?
Why is it so damn hard to be gentle and generous, kind to ourselves? To have compassion for the one person who needs it the most from us?
My inner jerk/bully/curmudgeon is Edgar. Edgar is a real dick. He’s been picking apart my inner child, Lil’ Kelly, for a long time because I’ve been feeding him nasty negative thought-food my whole life.
Don’t even get me started on how he feels about my writing. It usually sends Lil’ Kelly into pints of Haagen Dazs and dark-corner-fetal-position-rocking.
I began this journey with the intention to heal myself. But I began it with the wrong attitude. The more I researched and learned about the protocols, the more despondent I became about how many things I had to give up in order to heal. I saw it as a hardship, a burden, a sentence, instead of my road to pain-free living.
It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, and it became a prison for me, psychologically. Partly because I had things all wrong in my head-space surrounding it, which gave Edgar free rein over me. And partly because I’m far more addicted to food in general and sweets in particular than I previously imagined.
I can definitely say it has helped my gut in the way I’d hoped it would. I’ve had very little in the way of abdominal pain, bloating, and gas since I began the protocols. If you were to judge my progress by those markers, it would be considered a success.
But at what cost?
I have never felt so deprived.
While this diet may have been healing my gut, I still had no energy and generally felt tired and ill all the time. There were deeper psychological issues to dig into.
A friend and her daughter came to stay with us two weeks ago, and we had a real head to heart talk, with lots of tears (I’ve been beef-carpaccio-raw lately). She helped me realize what I’d encouraged this protocol, through Edgar, to do to my emotional well-being, which was anything but healing.
Now, I’ve had this conversation about Edgar with other friends before (huge shout out to Natascha Corrigan Aldridge for always being there for me), but I didn’t realize to what extent he’d been damaging Lil’ Kelly until my other friend heard me talking about my current experience with food.
It helps that she’s a registered dietician and counselor who mostly works with people with eating disorders or serious psychological issues surrounding food. She’s intimately familiar with the psychology of diet.
And my shit runs deep.
“It’s your fault. You ate yourself into this pain. You shouldn’t have had that chocolate cake all the times you had that chocolate cake. You’re going to pay for that tomorrow. You don’t deserve to feel good. You deserve the pain you’re in because of the things you’ve eaten. The things you’ve done.” And on and on.
You deserve pain. You deserve every rotten thing. You. Should. Struggle.
My friend asked me if I would ever talk to her young daughter that way. Say the kinds of things Edgar says to me in my head to anyone else.
“Fuh. Course not. That would be Horrible.”
“So why do you think it’s all right to say them to yourself?”
“Mmm. I see what you did there. Tou-effing-ché, sister.”
I don’t know why I’ve had this gut pain for so long. It could be because a surgeon stole my appendix (yes, he really did – “I was in the neighborhood” – his exact words) when I was in for hernia surgery at twenty. It could be all those rounds of antibiotics through the years. It could be the SAD – Standard American Diet I’ve lived on and off of for my whole life. It could be any number of things.
But blaming myself for it is not the way to heal it. Holding myself in a mental prison and letting Edgar pummel Lil’ Kelly until she’s bloody and broken and unable to find the good is no way to go about it.
When I told my friend I wanted to kick Edgar right in the berries before he had another opportunity to beat Lil’ Kelly over the head with any more “bad” talk, she said, “No, no. You should be kind to him too. Show Edgar compassion too.”
Show Edgar compassion too.
That’s when I really started to get it. Compassion is key. For Lil’ Kelly and Edgar. Edgar only feeds off what I give him. He’s not such a bad guy on his own. Kindness and compassion for all of me, every little piece and part.
We talked about how it’s my choice to be happy and nonjudgy. Just as it’s my choice to reprimand and degrade. Edgar takes his orders from me. So I’m choosing the happy.
Ding ding ding! Tell her what she’s won, Bob!
That night, when we went to The Cheesecake Factory to celebrate my friend’s daughter’s birthday, I had me some sweet Oreo cheesecake. It was glorious. Little Kelly rejoiced!
Edgar did too.
And my head did NOT explode (yes, I truly thought that was a possibility). Nor did my stomach.
I chose to be happy about indulging and allowing myself a tremendous treat after all the hard work I’ve done. Even if it may have set me back. I needed it. Not physically. I wasn’t craving it.
I needed it for my mental and emotional well-being. I needed to let go of the vice grips I’ve had clenched around me since I began this protocol.
I wanted to test out the theory of mind over matter, so I also decided in that moment that I would not suffer from it the next day. My head would stay securely fastened to my body and my gut wouldn’t rebel.
And you know what? So far so good.
Of course, because I’m me, I did more testing. These past couple weeks I’ve engaged in some spectacular culinary debauchery, because when I do a thing, I do it. And so far, miraculously, my stomach has not been a vengeful pit of despair and my head has stayed squarely on my shoulders where it belongs.
Can thinking yourself happy make you happy?
I don’t know. But I do know this:
I do not deserve to be in pain. I do not deserve to ‘pay’ for indulging. I’m human and beautifully flawed, and I deserve to be happy and healthy.
Come on. Say it with me.
As with everything in life, change takes time. But I’m determined to find compassion for Edgar when his little bald head and bad attitude show up again and maybe, just maybe, he’ll learn to be kinder in return. I’m going to treat all of my parts, including (or especially) my bully, the way they deserve to be treated. We’ve been through a lot.
I’m also going to embark on a slightly less restrictive protocol now and continue to seal up those leaky junctures and heal my gut. I may have set myself back physically in the last couple weeks, but it’s what I needed to move forward in a much healthier way.
Ready to find compassion for your inner curmudgeon? I’d love for you to join me on this journey if you struggle at all with an Edgar, or a Gus, or a Jorge. Whomever you listen to in your head that tells you you’re not whatever enough, that you don’t deserve every good thing. That you’re just plain wrong. It’s time to kill them with kindness.
I’d like to hear your story. Please share in the comments. Were you triumphant in making friends with your inner jerk? Have you learned to treat yourself the way you treat everyone else around you? If not, what do you think is holding you back? Let’s get truthy here. Let’s have a real discussion.
Side note: As I mentioned before, I struggle with another kind of addiction as well. They say when you delete sugar from your world you’re supposed to stop craving sweets.
That’s not been the case for me.
For two months I went about as sugar-free as a person can go. We even did a parasite and candida cleanse protocol along with everything else. And I still struggled with my cravings nearly every day. But they weren’t always physical.
This is the hard part. It’s like the smoker who quits but still craves the companionship of the smoke circle as much as, if not more than, the nicotine. The psychological struggles and pull of addiction are as strong as the physical cravings. So I do my best. We all do our best. And every once in a while, I’m going to have some damn cheesecake.
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