Let’s Talk Regression

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statregressionlollipop(No, not that kind of regression. I’m studying English. I don’t even know what that kind of regression means.) 

As some of you who have gathered from the amount I complain about writing final papers for university on this blog, I am still working my way through a college degree. On the other hand, I’ve only got one semester left to go (Know any good jobs for a highly qualified English and Creative Writing major, fluent in French and with tons of experience on social media and internet writing? Email me!), since I’m back home again for the holiday season. And you know what Hallmark, Lifetime, and Perry Cuomo have to say about being home for the holidays: apparently there’s no place like it.

But this is my fourth year of coming home for the holidays from college, and I’m beginning to notice a pattern. I wouldn’t call hanging out at my childhood home with my siblings and my parents relapse-inducing. My family has been more supportive of me than anybody else in the world, and I know that I’m way luckier than many in that respect. It’s not a relapse, per se, because I’m not engaging in behaviors any more than I would if I were spending the holidays at my campus apartment with my lovely roommate.

I just find myself having thoughts and emotions that I thought I’d left behind me years ago.

Maybe it’s the environment. Sleeping in my bedroom kind of brings me back to the way things used to be when I was seventeen or eighteen, during the worst times I spent with anorexia. Obviously, I’m much healthier both physically and mentally than I was in 2010. But I’m catching myself engaging in way more negative self-talk in my childhood zip code than in my young-adulthood town.

“You haven’t worked out since Thursday. What are you doing? Seriously?” (My negative self-talk voice has never been particularly interested in the fact that there’s currently seven inches of snow on the ground. God bless you, Michigan winters.)

“Yes, you’re baking cookies for the holidays. That can be fun. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat them, does it?” 

“Whoa, remember last time you were home? You’re up a solid xxx pounds from then. Slob. Look at how your pants are fitting.”

Whoa there, negative self-talk voice. Wasn’t this supposed to be the season of peace and brotherly love?

This is totally me this holiday season… Sorry not sorry.

This is totally me this holiday season… Sorry not sorry.

Now, I will say that I’ve made progress this holiday season, especially if we’re looking in the long-term to how I used to spend Christmakkuh about two or three years ago. I’ve eaten some of those cookies. (Dark chocolate crackle cookies with white chocolate chips. Om nom nom nom.) I’ve worked out, but not desperately, and I’m picking up a gym membership so I can go with my older sister, rather than doing preventative crunches in the basement. And while I might sit down and cry every so often (hey, I’m a cryer! That’s what we do), it’s not debilitating. I can still enjoy myself, and I am so glad to be home.

But it’s strange, that’s all, arriving at the vacation I’ve been waiting for all this time, only to find myself faced with body-image issues and negative self-talk that I just didn’t have time to engage in while trying to finish four research papers and a final exam in seven days. That’s the one positive side to exams: they keep your mind busy, so you can’t allow it to wander off to other, less-productive behaviors.

I’m trying to keep myself busy and to be gentle with myself for the three or so weeks I’ll be here at home. I’ve taken up knitting again with a vengeance – with two newborn babies in my family, I’ll have plenty of reasons to knit adorably small items of clothing in pastel colors. I’ve checked out the first version of In Search of Lost Time by Proust, because one of my life’s goals has been for a few years to be one of those people who have read Proust. And Netflix will be my best friend, as I work through my queue. (Has anyone seen House of Cards? It’s next on the list!)

Still, I’m not sure that constant activity is the best way to fight against these feelings of regression. I’d love to be able to spend an afternoon doing nothing more than sitting on the couch, petting my dog, and hanging out with my family without the evil negative voices coming back. That’ll be something to work for, I’m sure, though it might not happen today, or even this week. We’ll have to see.

Have you had similar experiences returning to spend time with family, either over the holidays or for any other reason? What are your best strategies for coping with voices you’d thought you’d left behind? I’d love to hear from you!

In the meantime, I’ve got twelve episodes of New Girl that I can probably make a sizable dent in before the end of the day.

4 responses »

  1. I have to say reading this article was very helpful for me. I found myself recently entertaining thoughts that have not come around since sophomore year in high school. I guess it goes to show that regression can happen at any time and anywhere. Though now I know I am nowhere near what I was all those years ago, I find myself struggling hard to maintain all the ground I have gained over the past 8 years. I find myself chanting the little phrase my tummy is full, I am warm, and everything is perfect the way it is. I find this helps keep me centered and more able to get through my meals without the crippling guilt. I want to say thank you so much for everything! I recently found this site and honestly it is getting me through the toughest times right now. Keep on rockin with your awesome self!

    • Thank you so much for commenting, Nadine! I’m so glad that anything I’ve brought up has been helpful. Regression can be destabilizing and frustrating, especially when we think we’re totally past all those negative and painful thoughts. But I’m in love with your mantra! I’ve been trying to come up with one for myself for a little while now, but I’ve yet to find something that works really well. Maybe I’ll give yours a try :) Hang in there, and keep on keeping on!!

  2. Great post. You’re right, the negative voice doesn’t care if there is 7 inches of snow on the ground. What worked for me when I used to see the negative voice creeping in was to cut it right then and there with mantra. Sometimes I would say “Sat Nam”, the kundalini yoga mantra, or “I love and accept myself just the way I am”. The key is to become aware of the thoughts which it seems like you totally are. The more you shut down the negative voice the less it shows up.

    • “I love and accept myself just the way I am” is an awesome mantra! That’s exactly the kind of message that is needed to cut through those irrational and cruel negative thoughts. While it might not be easy to stop them then and there, having a go-to positive phrase with which to fight back is definitely helpful :)

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