Thursday, July 15, 2010

Struggling with Growing Up

A reader asks,Italic

"There are still things that I struggle with that I do not blog about, such as how my eating disorder is related to my fears of growing up and regression issues. I think a lot of people with EDs struggle with fears of growing up and regression- especially adolescents. I feel like a lot of people know that they struggle with this, but they're not very open about it. I would love to see you post something about eating disorders and fears of growing up. I've done my research and my therapist also tells me it is very common."

It is quite common. You're not alone. My hardest time within my own eating disorder was when I went away to college. I was turning 18 and everything seemed like a huge transition for me. I was becoming an adult, I was adapting to living on my own, I was figuring out who I was and what I wanted. I was making new kinds of friends. I was becoming more and more independent. It was very strange and made me very anxious.

I remember a time, as an older adolescent, that being dependent on my parents just seemed safer to me. It felt more natural and more comforting. I felt like growing up was completely out of my comfort zone.

And I think that's really what's at the heart of this issue: growing up feels unnatural. Why? Because you are so used to being young. You aren't used to being an adult because you've never been one yet. So how can you like it? Understand it? Be okay with it?

Some people are just better at adapting than others. I wasn't one of those people. I was anxious and I was looking for a way to make myself feel better about the whole thing. Cue eating disorder. I don't mean to say that my eating disorder stemmed completely from the fear of growing up, but that fear certainly played a part in my anxiety, in my transitional thinking, and in my eating disorder development.

I think being a kid is (normally) associated with feeling safe. So NOT being a kid often feels like the opposite.

The question then becomes, my friends, WHAT can you do to make you feel safer as you embark upon the journey of growing up? What's going to make you feel better about the whole strange thing?

A few suggestions:

1) Don't let go of childhood completely. Keep something with you/near you that represents comfort to you, whether it be a blanket, a picture, a stuffed animal, a book, a doll, etc. You'd be surprised how the memories and the feelings that go along with that object sink into your subconscious when you look at it/hold it while you're feeling anxious.

2) Talk to someone (or more than one someone!) who represents great adulthood to you. Someone you admire. Someone who is not very far from your own age. For example, if you're 18, maybe someone in their mid to late 20s would be able to make you realize that growing up can be just as good as staying a kid. Seek someone out who embodies positivity... someone who can be a role model... someone you like to be around. Let those encounters/talks/discussions be a guide into the future.

3) Remember that you're not alone. Everyone grows up sometimes. It's not necessarily a fun process, but it doesn't have to be terrible. Ask yourself why you're really afraid. What is it specifically about growing up that makes you so anxious that you want to regress?


Veggie said...

I think that growing old shouldn't be a bad thing. A lot of people grow old gracefully and, like a fine wine, they only get better with age. Immature as I may be, I like the concept of maturing so that I can overcome those feelings of growing old, rejecting responsibility, or being alone.

I only want to say to the reader who made this question that you should be looking ahead and saying to yourself, "Damn, I've still a long way to go". Having that perception of time mentally eases the process of aging so you don't feel so isolated when you finally realise that you are of old age. A lot - and I really mean A LOT - can be accomplished in 60 years. You could do anything you please. Is that not motivation enough to grow up?

M said...

For me, the main qualm I have about growing up is gaining curves. I don't fear responsibility. I relish the challenge of higher education, the workforce, and other emotional battles. But for some reason, the awkwardness of soft and curvy hips is something I cannot stand to have. They are fine on other people, but I feel the need to remain slender, trim, and defined. I don't like the notion of jiggling when I walk, and I'm not really sure what to do about it. How do you cope with that?

sol123 said...

^^you don´t necesarilly have to "jiggle" if you have hips, M...I have hips and they don´t jiggle, lol! I used to think like you, that I HAD to be slender, that it was ok for other people to gain weight(normal weight) but that it didn´t apply to me, I was terrified of gaining weight....and then I finally did, and you know what? Absolutely nothing happened! In fact, now I think what I must have looked like weighing so much less, I can´t imagine myself like that, and I thought I looked fine.
But like with everything else, it´s something inside you that has to "click", so you won´t feel like that anymore about gaining curves.


Love, Soledad.

Arielle Bair (Becker) said...

M- It's like Soledad says. Curves don't mean you jiggle. A lot of what we feel is in our heads - especially when we are struggling. We're our own worst critics. I weigh more than 25 pounds more than I used to and I used to feel absolutely sick thinking about breasts and hips and other curves. I thought it would never look or feel right on my body. But I was wrong. I like the way I look a lot. It took some getting used to, definitely, but that is all part of the recovery process. Don't let the fear hold you back. You're missing out. Hang in there.

Kia said...

I feel just like M.
I can't stand the fact I could weight more than right now, even if my friends say I'd look so much better if I'll gain some weight.
I know they are true, I agree with them. With my head - I know. But with my feelings, there's something wrong. All the gaining of weight I had in the past (and I have to admit that they were not so big gain of weight...) lead me to the worst relapse in anorexia.
So, I feel like I am sitting in the middle waiting: I have the minimum weight that I need to be healthy (to have the cycle and so on), but I'm quite scared ar rhe idea to gain more weight even if I know if I do I'll be better.
Maybe the main problem is that I'm still not sure I want to be better.
And that's the worst thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with saying that adulthood seems out of your comfort zone. I think my dad stopping seeing me at 13 cued mine - I didn't know how to act without him so got stupidly anxious about everything.

I don't really admit it, though.