I’ve been gone for a while.

It’s sobering to see how long it’s been. I really had no idea. A couple days of having to go to the city and having no time to post, some emergency dental work that just beat me up, and then getting sick like I haven’t been in years – add it all up, and I’ve been gone for 9 days.

It has not been a pleasant 9 days. And my lines have not been as squeaky-clean as I would like. In my last post, I confidently proclaimed that BLE worked even when I was at my weakest. Well, it may have worked when I felt like I had no motivation, but as it turns out, I could definitely become weaker. On Day 32, I was tired and crabby and didn’t care about anything. A few days later, I was in pain. And then it got worse. I won’t go into the details, as I understand not everyone is as interested as I am in the workings of the human body. Let’s just call it the flu – though I don’t believe it was that, exactly, the results were similar. And I did not handle it as well as Susan Pierce Thompson would have. I’m sorry for that – but at least it shows me where I need to shore up my plan, so that I’m ready for next time.

Dealing with the Isolator

I need to handle sickness better. I’m rather a baby when it comes to that. Two parts of me kick into high gear, in an attempt to take care of me: my indulger, and my isolator. I want nothing more than to be left alone. In fact, I was isolating myself long before any of my lines started to waver – though that could be because the nature of these particular illnesses took away any appetite, at first, I think my indulger is actually beginning to weaken, as I resist her more consistently. The isolator, on the other hand, has as much a hold on me as ever.

My isolator is very strong. It may be the strongest part of me. For the past week, I haven’t wanted to go anywhere or see anyone – I wanted to be alone in my misery. I didn’t check my email for days, and I avoided Facebook like the plague. Those things take a lot of energy from me, at the best of times. It might sound strange, but I get a knot in my stomach every time I open one of these programs, even when I’m perfectly healthy. Communicating with the outside world is a huge source of stress for me. When I’m sick, it’s nearly impossible.

But I have to acknowledge the fact that communication is good for me. It’s hard, and it probably always will be. I’m hoping that with practice, it gets easier. It is something that I consciously work at, and that I’ve seen the benefit of. I met my best friend in my 1st year of school because I made myself keep my door open. I was able to start BLE successfully only after I found the support of the Bright Line Eating Canadians FB group. I managed to reboot after joining a Mastermind group and starting this blog. It is worth it. Having gone without it for several days, I can see that more clearly.

Being out of communication has not been good for me. It was easier to isolate myself, and maybe I needed that, for a while. But I missed hearing from everyone. And I missed sharing myself. I should have come back sooner.

Beware the Indulger

We all know I have an indulger. If you’re reading this, you probably do, too. And you probably don’t like it any more than I like mine. No, that’s wrong. That’s my controller, speaking. The controller can’t stand the indulger. I can have more sympathy for her. But she does make my life rather more difficult. For that reason, I probably haven’t explored that aspect of myself as much as the others.

My indulger, as I’ve been reminded this past week, is concerned with more than just food. Yes, she craves food for comfort. But she also craves other numbing substances. Thankfully, those substances don’t include drugs or alcohol. But she teams up with my isolator to urge me towards activities that protect me from the outside world. Books. Movies. TV. Even writing. Anything to distract me. Anything to keep me from facing reality – right now, in particular, the reality of my impending exams.

I’m going to say something crazy, now. Something I didn’t even think of until this moment: I don’t think it was a coincidence that I became sick the day after taking a pilot exam. I could chalk it up to stress – it was a stressful day, absolutely, and stress does impact the immune system. But I think it was more than that.

The pilot exam was a test of the new Ontario medical sciences exam that will go into effect next year. It’s Ontario’s version of NPLEX 1, the North America-wide exam that naturopathic students take after their 2nd or 3rd year of study. I agreed to take part in this pilot study in exchange for a small discount on one of my own qualification exams, and because it would give me some experience with the new format, although the material will be different. I knew that my grade on this exam was irrelevant. I didn’t study for it. And I told myself not to be hard on myself if I’d forgotten everything – it’s been over 2 years since I wrote NPLEX 1.

That mental preparation was not adequate.

I can tell myself not to care about my performance. It does not stop me from caring. There is a primal part of me, very deep inside, that not only cared that I wasn’t able to answer those questions well, but was terrified by that fact. These are things I knew, or should have known, 2 years ago. The fact that they were gone, completely, as if I’d never known them at all, was devastating. I lost all confidence in myself. I’d already been scared of my upcoming board exams. I’d already doubted my ability to prepare within the time available to me. My performance on this pilot exam broke me entirely. And I think my body made itself sick, because my brain couldn’t handle the thought of approaching failure.

I haven’t just been out of touch for a week. I also haven’t cracked a book. I blocked my exams from my mind. And being sick gave me an excuse to do that. It gave my indulger the ammunition she needed to shut me down. And she did so, very effectively.

The body is very self-protective. I become more convinced of that all the time. And being sick last week was just entirely too convenient. Miserable, yes. Awful, painful, and very unpleasant. But ultimately, I think it was preferable to the alternative.

Preventing Future Absences

Life is full of conundrums that I can’t solve. Endless routine fatigues me. The future scares me. Communication drains me. But without the routine, I deteriorate into chaos. Without a goal to work towards, I have no purpose. Without contact with others, I collapse in on myself. I don’t know what the solution is. Finding the right balance? Taking short, scheduled breaks? Or simply being more strict, and not allowing myself to slip away, for any reason? I don’t know.

I don’t want a repeat of the past week. It could have been worse – I could have run away and cut off all communication for a month. I’ve done it before, and it never ends well. But this was bad enough. I lost a week of studying. I lost a week with you. I can’t afford for either of those to happen again. I need to figure this out.

I need to find a way to handle stress. I am, as my mother would say, a tiny bit overdramatic. I have an unreasonable fear of failure. Although I know better, I base too much of my self-worth on my performance. I can’t keep these things in perspective. And that leads me to extremes: absolute dedication for as long as I can maintain it, followed by burnout and a downward spiral into total ruin. It’s true in my studies, in my social interaction, and in my diet and exercise.

I’m not sure what I can do, exactly. But I’m going to hypothesize.

As far as I can tell, Bright Line Eating has been the best way to control my eating. And this involves strict rules. But the rules themselves are reasonable, rather than extreme. I’m going to try to apply this to other areas of my life.

I need more sleep. So, I’m going to start waking up a little later. I am not SPT. I can’t wake up at 4:30 – or 5:30, as I’ve been doing – on a long-term basis. My body needs more sleep. It’s going to get an extra hour, starting tonight.

This extra hour of sleep will also serve to reduce my activity level. I have been trying to walk for an hour every morning – in addition to an hour every evening. I didn’t think it was too much. It’s just walking. But for now, I I need to limit myself to a single hour. I can continue to take small, 10-minute breaks while studying, but the hour in the morning has to go.

There is a limit to how much information I can cram into my brain. I started out the summer with a schedule that allowed for 8 hours of studying per day, 5 days a week. With my increasing anxiety, that quickly became 6 days a week, and then slowly crept up to 9, and then 10 hours per day. I’m going back to the original plan. And it will just have to be enough. Because I can’t handle any more.

I need to write. My blog is important – I can’t break down and miss another week. I can take weekends off. Saturdays and Sundays. Leaving Saturday open for necessities, like shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and for one completely selfish, unproductive endeavour: personal writing. I don’t like the effect that TV has on me, and I only resort to it when I’m completely run-down. But I like writing stories – it offers just as much of an escape, without the numbing effect of TV. And a little escape is necessary, for me. I think this will help.

So that’s the plan. Moderation, and somehow convincing myself that it’s good enough. Not comparing myself to others. Not feeling guilty for failing to do more. Giving myself goals that I can achieve, and letting go of the results.

We’ll see if I can do it.

Day 42: Absence
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