The Uneasy Balance of Self Care VS Challenging Fear

I have a particularly uneasy relationship with food. Buying it, cooking it, remembering to eat it. I will go hungry for hours, sometimes days when the headweasels are particularly bad. I develop this dread of dealing with food that causes me to freeze and want to just sleep until the anxiety goes away.

I've always had some sort of weird tension around food, from what I can recall- when I was a child, I would break into the baking cabinet and binge on chocolate chips until I was sick. It's sort of funny, as back then, I was skinny as a rail- it was only when I started taking medication for depression and thus gained weight that I went from devouring everything in my path to picking at what was on my plate. I learned how to ignore my body for hours, and am still unlearning the damage, even while people scowl at me in restaurants for eating at all.

I feel like most people, when they need groceries, or want a snack, just pack up, go to the store, and buy what they want. None of the individual things are particularly difficult for me- making a list, driving, finding what I need, paying for it, unpacking. But because of all the the above trauma, when I need to go to the shop, I spend sometimes weeks persuading myself that I can do it. I put it off by buying takeout, and portioning it out for several days. I go through my pantry and eat random things that don't really go together in order to procrastinate going to the store. I find friends to go to dinner with.

With the advent of the internet, it's much easier than ever to get all sorts of things delivered, including the dreaded groceries. I did that for the first time today- had a stranger buy my groceries for me and bring them to my apartment so I didn't have to leave. And as I clicked the "order" button and was flooded with a sense of relief, I wondered- was I doing self care, or was I avoiding challenging myself and my fears? Was the fact that I am now more willing to pay extra for someone else to bring food to me actually making my anxiety around food and cooking worse?

I'm not sure. Sometimes it feels like a reward for doing something I find difficult, like finishing a hard piece or getting an unpleasant task done. But sometimes, it's simply because the idea of going into the fridge and figuring out what to cook is just that horrifying for me. While I appreciate that my partners cook for me, I don't want to be frozen in place forever on my own, only eating fruit and vegetables that require no more prep than rinsing them off.

I'm trying to give myself small challenges, like today I made guacamole, and also I made my own french fries from scratch. Nothing too complex, but quick and easy enough that I could make them and be eating food that came from my veg box and would end up going bad. I like the food I make, but I'm still exploring why I have so much panic about the process. I suspect that it comes in part from having multiple kitchens in my life that were difficult to maneuver or cook in, which often stood in the way of me taking care of my food needs. Now I have an open kitchen and the dishes are always done, so I'm very slowly becoming less tense around food prep.

In the meantime, as I slowly breathe through this, I'm trying not to feel guilty when I pay someone to do my grocery shopping for me. It feels so ridiculously privileged, but it's also the only way I'd eat sometimes. I struggle a lot with wondering if my mental health issues make me seem like a bougie bitch when really it's just that people terrify me, seemingly more and more so each year. I suspect the hardest part is going to be giving myself space to need that kind of task done for me, for a while, as I keep pushing forward in relearning how to be outgoing. The world doesn't feel very safe, and for now being in retreat makes sense... but it's not where I want to be forever.

How do you balance taking care of mental health issues with not wanting to give into the spirals that hold you back?

Categories: anxiety, balance, personal, psychology, reflection, self care, support

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