Updated: Jul 8, 2022
I pulled into an empty parking lot outside the closed health food store, sliding into a spot under a tree that cast me in shadow, shrinking from the exposure of the streetlight so I could feel invisible. A car crawled by now and again, looping into the nearby drive-thru or leaving the gas station on the opposite end of the adjoining lots.
I ate a cheeseburger and listened to a podcast for highly sensitive people, paranoid of being seen in a town where I knew hardly anyone.
Filling up quickly, thoughts slowing down, sluggishness setting in.
I took a full-body sigh and thought, When will I get over this?
When will all the tapping and meditating and transformational seeking kick in? When will I not be so bowled over by the intensity of my emotions that I reach for my oldest, longest coping mechanism?
I knew the feelings were fluid, and they would pass. But in the heart of angst, with all my thoughts swirling, every little observance triggering, my success rate of sitting through it and foregoing the grab, was low.
“If I don’t have a liver detox drink, then my celery juice 30 minutes after, a fruit breakfast at least an hour after that . . . no fat until dinner time — which can only be in the form of an avocado . . . well, it’s shot to shit! . . .” I smiled and giggled, playing off the spiral of my black-and-white thinking in what I hoped came across as a dramatized exaggeration.
“There’s a lotta gray,” my friend said sweetly, shrugging gently, utterly neutral. It rolled off their tongue smoothly, without thought or effort, as if it really could be that simple.
But I sensed the faintest glimmer of a wince, their head dropping down and to the corner, breaking eye contact.
The gap was real. I was sitting across from someone who practiced far healthier ways of handling life, and I couldn’t brush away the shame of my failings, my insecurities, the fraud syndrome that clung to me as someone who’d given themselves a voice in the spirituality/self-development space. Why can’t I fucking get this right?! I was still there, that embarrassing, total turnoff of a place along the journey of personal evolution where cravings still reigned and misaligned choices mirrored through my life like glass daggers.
I want to hide forever.
That’s why, most of the time, I acted like I was beyond it. I went off the radar, or downplayed, showcasing my health knowledge in desperate attempts to mask my undeniable weight gain and resulting skin issues.
I should be past this by now. I know what I need to do, why can’t I stick to it? What’s wrong with me?
Eating badly when I knew better wasn’t for lack of knowledge or even failing willpower.
In addition to fulfilling a deep-rooted need for recognition and comfort that stemmed back to childhood, my repeated dips into overeating were the only physical feeling I’d captured that anchored me in a body, and a life, that felt out of control.
When my mind was racing, thoughts spiraling into worst case scenarios across the board, my past rearing up — ugly and dark, hopelessness overcoming me . . . I ate, and my body slowed down.
The lethargy, even the discomfort, was welcome relief from my own feelings.
Guilty. So guilty. Dysfunctional. Scared. Worried. Stressed. Self-conscious. Negative. Resentful. Angry. So angry.
All deep, frequent, mixed. Hidden and revealed, handled then unresolved.
In my search for true healing, the path I’d stepped off enough times but never fully abandoned, I’d acquired great tools to meet these feelings in the field. When I used them to process, release and forgive, they worked. But for me, as a neurotic, highly sensitive that has engaged unhealthy coping mechanisms for the larger part of my life —“Processing” becomes beyond a full-time job.
I needed more:
quiet, tech-free, alone time
than almost anyone I’d ever met.
I was not yet fully at peace with what my lifestyle had to be in order for me to thrive on all levels.
I dove in a decade ago with a healing diet that cleared my psoriasis, set myself up to work from home through freelancing and a dogged pursuit of online business and never stopped seeking information + know-how to improve my life. Looking back, the ferociousness of my approach didn’t allow for the nurturing and reflection my nervous system needs. I hit walls, weathered breakdowns and went into hiding for four years, depression taking hold through long periods of procrastination and aimlessness.
I realized the work I thought was the work, was something completely different altogether.
Then I‘d forget, become lax, click back into default or choose to let it all overwhelm me until the momentum felt too great to stop — to the point of plane crash versus slowing to a walk after jogging. I justified choices that no longer served me under the pretense of wanting to be “normal.”
I can handle it. It’s no big deal. Everybody drinks coffee and meets their friends for dinner, works full-time and takes vacations, gets up when the alarm goes off and brushes their teeth twice a day. I need to live more life. I’m not doing enough, like, not even close. Why can’t I handle more? Why do I need naps? Having a three-hour morning routine with my cat is not okay — how will I ever manage a full workday? A successful career? How can I do all this work on myself and get anything else done?
I knew I was drawn to self-care for a reason, but it was still sinking in that it had to be my way of life in order for me to sustain health, creation and success.
A cheeseburger in the dark felt easier, especially with bacon.
But it wasn’t. It made everything harder. I knew that.
I wouldn’t give up on myself. I would never give up on myself.
I would come to relish this soft stance on productivity that included frequent breaks, daily siesta, bubble baths galore, cat-combing, phone off and complete lack of explanation. I would inevitably fuck it up by pushing to do more, guilting myself over not, eating outside my self-determined perfection and lining up too many social outings in a week.
And that, had to be O-K.
It had been a long time since I’d found myself in a parking lot, eating a cheeseburger in the dark of night. Used to be, I’d hit up one drive-thru after another until I couldn’t anymore, hiding out, calorie hoarding to to the point of food coma.
I wasn’t doing that exact thing anymore, but I also wasn’t beyond it.
I could be so much better by now. I could be worse. Somewhere inside that tricky sandwich of comparison, was a thin layer of progress. Even in the lowest moments, I could taste it.