Ahimsa: Not harming…myself
January 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My past is riddled with bullets I’ve fired at myself. I, like most people I know, am my own worst enemy, my own harshest critic, my own biggest destroyer. I’ll leave the sordid details in my old diaries but that urge to punish myself for doing something wrong, for not doing as well as I should, has been a part of my personality for longer than I can remember. Again, like most people I know.
It’s like I have this little evil monkey taskmaster sitting on my shoulder with a whip, just waiting for me to fuck up to lash, and I always let it, except that evil monkey is actually just me waiting to beat myself up.
In my darkest points I believed that this suffering is just the way it’s supposed to be, everyone suffers and hates themselves so I may as well just keep going with it. Over the past two years or so, somehow, I’ve found a crack to allow some light to slip through, and light is a little bit trickier than you think, because once you let a little through, it actually begins to act like water and the water begins to flow and open the crack until the whole dam just breaks down and there’s a flood of light. It’s that whole if you give a mouse a muffin situation, except in this case the mouse is positiveness and the muffin is…more positiveness. Like increases like and all that. Yeah, weak metaphors all around. It’s alright. The point is, I don’t have to be that way.
When things are going well, it’s easy to make self-caring choices: going to bed on time, eating meals, working out, getting where I need to be on time, you know, all the things that evoke “being on top of things” and “being alright.” When things start to fall apart, I start to let things slip…laundry piles up, I stay up later and later, I replace bunches of kale with bars of chocolate. When things just explode, that’s when I generally tend to give up, pull the covers over the head, and cry myself to sleep. I forget to eat regular meals. And, yes, sometimes I make choices I’m not proud of, like deliberately hurting myself in some way. I don’t need to go into graphic detail, each of us has our own way of self-destruction, I have had my poisons and they still haunt me in some way, some more than others.
But I’ve finally found my antidote.
Things blew up in my face, a la Liz Lemon’s explosive breakup with the Matt Damon pilot where things end in a terse standoff between two lovers, one aiming a gun, while the other shields herself with an unwitting passenger. No, I’m not being hyperbolic (ha). The urge to hurt myself in some way was so powerful that I had to find my roommate and tell her (that’s a change) because I genuinely didn’t want to do something to myself (that’s also a change) but I was scared I couldn’t maintain it for long, I was certain I was going to lose my mind and lose control.
I didn’t, though, because as I sat there with tantalizing and damaging thoughts dancing through my head, a louder voice made itself heard. I’ve come way too far on my path to let myself slip in such a stupid way, but I was so sorely tempted. Progress can’t be tested when everything is going well, it’s what happens when the pressure is turned up that will show if something has truly changed. What I found that night truly surprised me. Over the past year, I’ve found my veganism transform from a place of wanting to help my body to a place of knowing that the choices I make affect the world around me. Making choices for the sake of animals and mankind, for the sake of NOT HURTING OTHERS finally made it clear to me that I am not ALLOWED to hurt myself either, because otherwise I would be the biggest hypocrite on earth and I may as well go eat a steak. Uh, so as hyperbolic as that sounds, finally, finally I had that full circle realization that being vegan is about the world, is about me, is about always making the choice of compassion and non-harming, and will continue to save my life again and again.
I guess this is a long-winded way of saying, recovery is not about the number on a scale or what kinds of clinical checkmarks you can meet, but about the process that goes on inside your head on a daily basis when you encounter the pressures of daily life and extraordinary life. It is not about never having those thoughts again, but instead about having the wisdom, the foresight, and the SELF-COMPASSION to remember that thoughts are fleeting and misleading.
“We create the world we live in. If we want to change what we don’t like in the world, we must start with what we don’t like about ourselves. This is a task that we can handle and one that will actually succeed in changing the world.” -Sharon Gannon, Yoga and Vegetarianism.