I was complaining to my therapist recently about a pattern of thinking and behavior that I just can’t seem to get unstuck from. “I don’t know whether it’ll ever change,” I said, blinking back tears. “And I don’t know how to change it, or what that even looks like.”
She took a pause, and then said something to the effect of, “I don’t know, either. But I can tell you that it’ll happen gradually, and in lots of very small ways.”
As soon as she said it, I found myself nodding. I knew it was true.
I knew this because I’ve been through at least one major healing process before—eating disorder recovery—and if it taught me anything, it’s that growth is kind of a slog. It’s not glamorous in the way that we want it to be, bracketed by epiphanies and breakthroughs. It’s plodding and slow, more about sheer persistence than insight or inspiration. Triumphs happen, but it’s amazing how tiny they can be, so minute that someone on the outside might never know what a big deal they are.
If I were to list my “breakthroughs” in eating disorder recovery, they’d probably sound ridiculous, at least to someone who hasn’t struggled in that way. Putting a little extra peanut butter on my toast. Taking bites of a cupcake. Passing a mirror without checking myself. Ordering something even slightly different than usual at a restaurant. Not getting on the scale one day. Getting on the scale and not allowing the number to affect my behaviors for the day.
I could go on and on. Some of it would probably be even more microscopic and difficult to explain. But this is what recovery looks like a lot of the time. It’s not glamorous, but neither are eating disorders.
Growing out of my current, unhelpful patterns feels plodding in the same way that recovery once did. I keep waiting for a sudden shift, for the clouds to part or the veil to be lifted or whatever. So far, that hasn’t happened. What has happened is that I’ve gradually gotten better at challenging myself in the areas where I tend to get stuck.
With depression, my “stuckness” tends to manifest as paralysis and withdrawal. I’m learning that I can turn this around by reminding myself of my own self-efficacy. As I mentioned last week, this usually means the right amount of doing. I try to do enough things in a single day in order to have some sense of accomplishment and be reminded of my own ability. I avoid over-scheduling or aiming to do too much, both of which are self-defeating.
“Doing” can look incredibly simple, and maybe even silly. It can be a trip to the post office, some household chores, responding to emails, seeing a work task through to completion. When I’m really struggling, it might look like washing dishes or taking a walk. It sometimes feels embarrassing to admit this, the fact that I’m staying well by maintaining what’s arguably a basic level of functioning.
But anyone who has had depression knows that the everyday can feel insurmountable. Challenging that feeling truly does have a healing effect, at least for me. When I’m able to confront the small roadblocks, I often find it easier to take on bigger stuff: turning a negative thought pattern around. Breathing through anxiety. Staying in my truth. Facing a fear. Holding a boundary.
The other day, I came across a quotation from Vienna Pharaon:
“Sometimes being your own hero means acknowledging the victories no one sees; like getting out of bed, taking a shower, replacing an old story with a new one, or practicing self love. Many of our greatest victories aren’t recognized by others. There’s no medal or badge of honor. There’s just you. Clap for yourself.”
I’m clapping for myself today. If you’ve had a win lately, no matter how small, I’m clapping for you, too. Big or small, witnessed or private, the little victories count. They add up. But one or two is enough for today.
Here are some recipes and reads.
Katie’s grilled potatoes, which are tossed with a mustard maple dressing, are so perfect for the season.
Love the looks of Lisa’s super quick spicy noodles and pan-fried tofu dish. She’s got a good tutorial for baked tofu on her blog right now, too.
Speaking of tofu, I’ve made panko crusted tofu before, but I’ve never tried cooking tempeh that way. Thanks to Shira, now I will.
And speaking of panko, I can’t wait to try Lisa’s Japanese macaroni gratin!
Finally, I’m mesmerized by Hannah’s vegan Battenburg cake.
1. A thoughtful essay about the importance of preserving quiet spaces, especially in national parks.
2. If you’ve been interested in supporting black vegan businesses—eateries, bakeries, and brands—this is an article worth checking out.
3. I found this New York Times article, which details exactly how disparities in healthcare access and hospital care impact Covid-19 outcomes, pretty horrifying. But it’s important to read, to know, to share.
4. More reporting on on asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus (and more reason to stay vigilant about wearing masks).
5. Finally, NPR broadcast a reading of one of Frederick Douglass’ most famous speeches, What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? It’s read by Douglass’ descendents, and you can listen here.
On that note, friends, happy Sunday. Hope it’s been a restful and reflective weekend so far.
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