a message from showpigeon
Congratulations for identifying that this family member was being a dingus.
That’s a hard and important thing and it’s the first big step.
It’s not always easy to identify that your family member’s behaviors and misinformation are reinforcing problematic and untrue nonsense. So that is a huge part of the equation. I think what can be so scary when you have a bad day (week. month. six months. year.) or a relapse is that it feels so close to what it used to feel like pre-recovery. But it’s really important to remember that you’re in a different place, have done the hard work, and this is a refresher course, not starting over from scratch. It’s easy to forget that when you originally felt these feels, you didn’t necessarily know these thoughts were false/untrue/wrong/ or that there was an alternative. Knowing that is half the battle. It makes the work ahead of you (yes, there is some) feel less daunting and the feelings you’re feeling seem less permanent.
So. What to do from there? Three things.
One. Give yourself space to heal.
This is the most important. It means checking in with (and adjusting) your existing safety net to let them know that you need to take care of yourself so they can be there (or NOT be there).
It also means not answering your phone or spending time with toxic people who you don’t feel safe giving that information. Like the family member in question and anyone who is, even passively, championing their cause. That is a horrifically difficult thing to do but how can you expect yourself to remove the venom while the fangs are still in there. Stop taking their calls. Excuse yourself from a few upcoming planned events. Block them on social media. Tell them whatever you need (oh I’m so busy at work can I call you back later? oh I’m in the shower? hey my next appointment just showed up.) to get them away, but know that you have the right to disappear without explanation if that’s what you need. You also are in a situation where you likely have people in your life who are happy to do dirty work for you. Can your partner field contact (auto forward e-mails, pass them your phone) from problematic parties for a while?
Two. Take care of yourself. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually (however you define it).
Get yourself into a routine of self-care that feels best for you. Start with basic needs. It’s amazing what getting enough sleep and drinking water can do, even if you don’t have the faculties to deal with other stuff right now. Expand from there.
If food is particularly challenging at the moment, I know it helps me to make a list of foods that feel safe AND I enjoy (yogurt. oatmeal. omelets. goldfish crackers. roasted vegetables. trail mix.) and keep them basically everywhere so I always have them if I get a second where I feel safe enough to eat. I also cannot recommend Recovery Record strongly enough to help sort of. Re-automate. the eating process. Gentle prompts and non-judgmental reminders can keep you accountable for taking what is important to remember is, in a disordered mental space, actual medicine and a physical necessity. If you need more structured support than that, get it.
Find productive ways to reconnect your mind and body so you can appreciate your body in new ways. Sometimes getting a hair cut/color or having someone do my eyebrows or having a favorite, beautiful person tattoo giant bows on my thighs brings me right back into my body and helps me appreciate the things that I had forgotten that I love. Other times I need to find cool shit my body can do. Like dancing. Or cooking. Or pottery. Or long walks with the dog. Or orgasms. Or stretching.Thinking of my body as a tool that facilitates me/my mind/my soul doing awesome shit is probably my favorite way to counter fucked up thinking. It’s a lot harder to feel negatively about a thing that is actively making your life better, when you remember that it’s making your life better.
Dub over that shitty broken tape you were given with the messages you know to be true. Go back to your required reading. Find your favorite articles, studies, and essays on why you should love yourself. Look at the science of it. Check in with your community of like minded people and call out specific things this person said to have them contradicted out loud. Get an outside opinion so you can remove the bias you will obviously assign to yourself in this less assured state. If people are reinforcing specific false beliefs pertaining to health (I know I get into that medical panic spiral sometimes) go to your health care provider. Get a blood test. Get some acupuncture. Give yourself some proof that the tapes are wrong. Look at pictures of hot babes with different bodies. Bodies like yours and bodies shaped differently. Appreciating beauty in others is a great way to start appreciating it in yourself again.
Once you feel ready, start adding fun shit into your self care. It’s time to road trip to a museum. It’s time to fill your brain so full of art, you feel like you’re going to explode. It’s time for a massage. It’s time for a day spent entirely at the movies on your day off, living off of jr mints and buttery topping. It’s time to paint your home office your favorite color or buy a new coffee cup that makes you smile. Whatever thing you can do to luxuriate and remind yourself that you are an entity that deserves fun, pleasure, and good shit. Because you are.
Once you’re feeling fortified
Address how you want to handle that problematic family member. You have options.
-You can re-enter into the relationship as before and contradict their noxious messages privately. This avoids confrontation, but puts all the work on you, which doesn’t seem terribly fair, since relationships are about taking care of each other. But this is a good option for someone you don’t see often. Is your relationship structured in a way where you really only see them on holidays or every few months? That’s something you can plan for and, with the right support, can be managed.
-You can engage this person in a dialogue about why their behavior is problematic. identify the specific behaviors, make an effort to not conflate their behaviors with them as a person, relate that to how it makes you feel and why that makes you feel that way, and why that is problematic. (e.g.: when you speak negatively about your body, it makes me feel as though you also view my body negatively because we share these certain features, and that is deeply triggering to my own history of body image issues). Do it over by e-mail. Do it over the phone. Do it in person. Do it in a group therapy session. Whatever makes you feel the most safe. This is a great solution if this is someone you have deep connections to, who you believe has the capacity to change, and it’s especially great for folks you think need help of their own. Even though confronting someone can be scary, you are giving them a really tremendous gift by opening them up to the possibility of stopping that destructive behavior in their own life.
If those don’t work out: you can cut them out of your life. That is a valid choice to make. No one has the right to hurt you and anyone willing to do so casually isn’t worth your time. If you had recovered from lung cancer and someone refused to stop blowing cigarette smoke in your face, you would have all the right in the world to tell them to go get fucked. Your mental health is just as critical as your physical health, and individuals who refuse to stop actively derailing your mental health do not deserve the privilege of your companionship.
I love you and am here to talk and I’m proud of you for taking care of yourself.
edit: re-reading this I realized that I might be making this a bigger deal than you intended. and then I realized that nope. your mental health and self preservation is important. really important. probably the most important thing in the world. and deserves to be taken this seriously.
- showpigeon said: Thank you my love! Screen-shot and on my desktop for easy reference. xoxoxox
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- fatfeistyandfashionable said: Can I please request that you make this rebloggable? I have a few followers that are going through a similar situation right now, and you are, as always, so eloquent and thoughtful in your response.
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