I burned my thumb badly yesterday.
I had been cooking dinner for Fiona, and my mind was preoccupied with some current stress that’s been going on. Fish sticks were on the menu, so I had preheated the oven, and was getting ready to pop them in. There was another baking pan in the oven I hadn’t seen, so I put an oven mitt on one hand, and proceeded to absentmindedly grab the 425 degree pan with my bare thumb and forefinger that was not covered.
It hurt like f&$*.
And I felt like an idiot. If I didn’t have stuff going on, then I wouldn’t have been distracted by my thoughts, and I wouldn’t have burned myself. And if I didn’t burn myself, my entire attention would be on Fiona, and not on submerging my hand in a cup of cool water whilst dowsing it with aloe.
And it hurt for awhile. It bubbled and swelled up. It was most likely a small second degree burn, and the severe pain lasted for a couple of hours, more than the medical website said first degree burns should last.
I kept my hand in water for a really long time, because I simply couldn’t tolerate the pain and take care of a 19 month old at the same time. I would take my hand out periodically and gage how severe the pain was. When I first took it out, it STUNG. It hurt. So I pushed it back in the water.
But as the hours passed, I noticed something. When I initially took my hand out of the water, if I could just sit with that painful burn, that passing glaring sting, then the pain would slowly decrease. It got used to being in the air. And by the time night fell, the pain was almost nonexistent.
And if you’re thinking this is a big goddamn metaphor for how my addictive side can deal with pain, then by George, you’re right.
I hate that sometimes I slip back into avoidant behavior. But I do. When you deal with any kind of addiction, avoidant or numbing behaviors can creep back up on you in the sneakiest of ways. Yesterday, once I got over the embarassment of burning myself accidentally, I was able to see how it paralleled my (rapidly decreasing) ways of handling feelings. The pattern, as detailed above, is as follows:
1. There is a problem/incident
2. I immediately judge myself for having the problem/incident happen, and the subsequent feelings that come up,
3. I push the feelings away and numb them in some sort, whether it be by getting attention, skipping a meal, binging, or whatever.
The good news is, these days, I seem to find my way back to feeling feelings again. With a small u-turn at avoidance crossing.
I do this with the help of several friends and spiritual guides; I cannot do this on my own.
Glennon from Momastery talks about the role of reducing shame in conquering addiction. Getting rid of that shame is such a big player.
Your feelings are your feelings, bottom line. They are amazing signposts of where you should journey next and what your truth is, but in certain communities and families, we’ve been taught to push them away. They’re non-existent, in some cultures. Which is a shame, because when we avoid our feelings we are avoiding one of the most human experiences in the world. And at the end of the day, they’re just…feelings. A body’s reaction to the circumstances around us.
A very wise woman has told me frequently, “Pain is a great motivator.”
I think it’s kind of funny that after a couple of weeks of not blogging and taking time to process some things, literal pain is what motivated me to write again.
And I hope that my emotional pain can guide me exactly where I need to go.
How about you? Have you experienced shame when it comes to feelings? How has it played a role in your eating disorder or experience in life?