The forgotten recipe

It’s again that time of the year when the days become shorter, the nights become longer, and the weather becomes colder. It is, once again, the time to sit and look backward, to the good, the great and the terrible things that happened. To be grateful for the lessons, for the good times, and to note down our questions that are still looking for an answer.

So I’m gonna do what I feel like would be my share of gratitude and understanding, and will say a story. This is not meant to be a diary page. It is just a story about which I know it’s relatable for a lot of people, as 2020 came with such an emotional struggle to manage.

I remember a talk I’ve had with a guy in a moment when I was feeling really tired. I knew it’s about the burnout, yet only when he told me You’re being way too hard on yourself, you need a day to do literally nothing. Just to be lazy and stop thinking about all the things you are thinking about daily. And you’ll see how many things you’re actually doing.

That was a revelatory moment for me, the moment when I’ve understood, in the end, that my exhaustion was rooted in my incapacity to relax. It was a hard pill to swallow, the idea that I forgot how to relax. Yet, it’s true. I got all caught up in the craze of showing that I am willing to do things as good as possible even if the possibilities are rather low and…I forgot. I forgot to put myself first, above the Social Media numbers, views, shares, aesthetic or content ideas. And this got right back at me.

I’ve started, in a short time, to feel tired. Really, really tired, and the never-ending to-do-list of the day. I was enjoying less and less what I was doing, and I was always finding flaws in what was already done. That talk was what I needed to hear at the moment, that I’m doing enough things at once, and I gotta loosen up a little. To slow down the rhythm.

And… I tried. I started to post less, to stop worrying that I don’t know what to post that day, or that there is X thing that could’ve been done better. I tried to do things at my own pace, one day at a time. But there is a secret to all these. The mix between a brain so overwhelmed that it refused to cooperate anymore, and my willingness to actually talk about this, to go to people I look up to and tell them I’m tired, I forgot how to take a break from all this, and I need to relearn it, otherwise, I’ll be over and done.

Having external support is a huge deal because no one can do it alone. No one can escape the ropes of their own mind. You can’t shut up that voice telling you day after day that you didn’t do enough by yourself. You can’t escape the guilt trips by yourself. You can’t get rid of the productivity rush by yourself. No one can, no matter how strong their mental is.

The tough part is the journey before that breaking point. The exhaustion, the work, the feeling of not being enough. The internalized voices of all your critics. That ugly carousel you get a free ride into.

Because there is more to toxic cultures than diet culture. The hustle and productivity culture is just as toxic for individuals, as it reinforces the mindset that one has to be 24/7 busy and productive, to stay relevant. You don’t. An individual is not a business. An individual is not a brand either. An individual is a human being, with human needs.

And human beings need breaks. They need periods to stop thinking about what’s done already and what should be done afterward. Denying yourself the time to rest will only harm you. That’s the thing felt by all those promoting hustle culture. Felt, but never gone public about them, only talked in small circles.

I can’t say that now I’m doing things in a totally different way. Or that I am done with the burnout, even if, to some extent, I’ve overcome a lot of struggles. I’ve understood that looking at myself like I’m some kind of content-creating machine is not the way. That my value isn’t the quantity of the things I am doing daily, but their quality. That I am owing to myself to be alright in the long run. But most importantly, I’ve learned that the moment when something I enjoy doing becomes a source of worry, more than a source of joy, it’s time to let loose.

There is still a lot to be thought about and done, but the most important part is becoming aware that whatever you do, you have to find balance, as the smallest things impact your mental health.

#apoteoză

timpul trece,
filă după filă
tic-tac,
eroare.

o noapte, două nopți.
o lacrimă, două lacrimi
grandoare.

un an, doi ani, jumătate
povestea bântuie lumea,
metastază.

o încercare, două-ncercări.
remușcarea colaborează cu speranța,
lumea se-ntoarce pe dos,
apostazie.

o atingere, două atingeri.
un infinit de atingeri, pielea
mijloc de comunicare inter-spirit.
opulență.

un sens. atât.
un singur sens pe care
se plimbă-n voie dorința.
dorința precede-n pași de dans Ființa.

o plăcere, două plăceri,
căutare onest-a plăcerii
libere de vinovății.
relaxare.

un bărbat, doi bărbați,
nostalgie.
dorul de-a te simți dorită.
revoluție.

o dimineață, două dimineți,
lipsă.
lipsa durerii din piept
ce te-anunță.
uitare.

un vis, două visuri,
moliciune.
absența încordării toropește.

un păcat, două păcate, șirag
al vinilor închipuite
ce nu mai sfârșește.
aroganță.
amintirea ta nu mă mai privește.

New times opening new doors: when self-love fades away

There aren’t many things that can compare, when depression comes into one’s life, to the loss of individual’s self-worth. And, today more than ever, this loss is visible, impacting especially the way that the person thinks about her appearance and body. If this used to be a girls’ thing, now it’s a collective problem, affecting us all. Because, yeah, when depression comes, the self-love starts to pack and fade away. When you’re in a bad place for your mental health, all the insecurities that you thought there are long gone, start making their comeback into your life. This is how you know that things are getting rough again.

For as long as I can recall, my most difficult relationship was the one that I’ve had with my body. It was never good enough for me, with the extra-weight and all the other things I used to hate about myself.

Because I’ve been hating myself and the way I look for way too many years. I used to say that it’s enough that I’m ugly, and tried my best to achieve what society defined as beauty. Obviously, this led me to a whole bunch of debatable decisions. It was in my early teenage years where I started to feel unworthy. Unworthy of being seen as attractive, beautiful, of receiving compliments regarding my looks, of feeling…I don’t know, feminine, maybe?

As any story, this one reached its peak when I’ve reached my biggest weight, and my lowest self-image. It was 6 years ago. At that time, I was sick of seeing my own body, and started to avoid every mirror or reflection of it. Looking backwards, I can’t explain how comes that I didn’t developed an eating disorder, but it must be some magic involved.

But at that time, the self-hatred started to fade away, even if I was stuck with the guilt. That’s why, when a weight-loss plan was proposed to me, I’ve accepted it: because I wanted that guilt to stop. And, as I was getting thinner, the guilt was leaving room to confidence.

It didn’t last as long as I wished, though. As the depression made its comeback into my life, so did the insecurities regarding my body, and the mindless eating. Yet, it was something different in this comeback.

And the difference was that I knew that I can do better. That it is a period, not something that would last a lifetime.But this doesn’t mean it has not been one hell of a journey, because it totally was.

Being aware of the fact that I was, at a certain point, capable to do better, was a thing that really enhanced the hurt and frustration. The if I was able to do it then, why am I not able to do it now mentality wasn’t helping me at all, it just helped me  become more frustrated and guiltier day after day. A big part of the recovery journey was a fight.

Fighting the guilt, the frustration, the thought that I failed myself by not reaching my goal. Trying to come back to a disciplined way of eating and living, and failing every attempt. The more radical it was, the bigger and quicker the failure. Add this up to the already old battle with my feelings of hurt, numbness, being unworthy, and lack of purpose, and here we go: a big, beautifully dramatic depressive episode.

But as nothing’s ever built to last, neither was this thing. One day, I gave up on the diary where I was rating my weeks, in the attempt of becoming more aware of my progress, understood back then as a comeback to the life I’ve had until that summer, and stood still.

I stopped trying to force things and, as letting life flow, I’ve understood one important thing. The most important relationship I will ever have is the one with my own body. It is the ultimate relationship, as it sets my demands and expectations from interacting with other people, my relationship with the society, my long term well-being. It was a huge revelation, understanding the fact that I don’t have to love myself in order to genuinely care about myself.

And this is how things started to change again. Not on the scale, but on the inside, as I’ve finally understood that what I deserve and the way I look like should never correlate and, if they do, it is a sign that I’m in the wrong context.

If it was to choose a point, some kind of milestone that marked the beginning of the real recovery, this was it. Understanding that I may not feel beautiful, I may not love my body, because I didn’t reach that point yet, but that is not my right to bring it harm. That food is not going to help me get over the bad times, or make the depression walk away.

That was also the moment when I’ve noticed how depression alienates me from my body. How it made me sleep, eat and behave was totally opposed to what I knew. But not unexpected. Because when the pain comes, we gotta deal with it somehow. And here this meant lots of sleeping, eating, isolating and crying. It was not the best thing to do, and definitely not the wisest, but it helped get through the period as safe as possible.

Can’t say that I’m proud, or that I’ve made it. I’m still looking at what the society calls beautiful, and then I look in the mirror. I still notice how far of the social beauty I am. But the achievement is that it doesn’t hurt anymore. I am aware of the distance, but I don’t feel guilty for not fitting in anymore.

It might sound sad, and almost cliché, but it took me 25 years and a serious depression to really aknowledge the fact that I can still be pretty in my own way, regardless of what society claims as beautiful, feminine or attractive.

This period brought the clear image of all the ways society made me feel bad about myself, by constantly telling me that I’m not enough. That my body doesn’t look magazine-worthy enough to allow myself to feel beautiful or eat my favorite foods without shame or guilt trips.

That I can’t afford being picky about my clothes, friends or men, because I don’t look beautiful enough to afford having my own standards. But I suppose that this is also a part of growing up, the development of the ability to give no damn about what is inoculated as a general standard. Not in one’s personal life. And any attempt of personal life begins with the relationship we have with our bodies.

There is no universal recipe to do it. Just spend time with yourself and the people who love you, ask them about the good they see in you, because we often tend to see our bad parts before we see the good ones, do things that really make you happy. Dance, eat, smile, enjoy any kind of pleasure. Don’t get stuck on façades that have nothing to do with your own image about yourself, and explore.

Explore the internet, the fashion history, the subcultures, the aesthetic of your favorite decades, you name it. Explore, document yourself, pick your favorites and try to integrate them into your wardrobe, and give up on feeling guilty about who you are.

This was my recipe, mixed with lots of moments when I’ve just sit in front of the mirror, naked, analysing it, as an attempt of getting familiar with it without the judgment. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes did not, but for sure it led me to an intimate connection between me and my body, happening as the attachment to the socially-promoted ideas was fading.

Of course, this story has no ending. Every depressive episode shakes the balance and brings up physical insecurities. It is part of the process, as well as learning the lessons which are unfolding in front of our eyes. But, as I know more about my body, managing depression becomes easier. Because, at the end of the day, I know, deep down, that between being worthy and looking like you’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine covers, ain’t no correlation.

We are all in this, fighting all these constant pressures daily, and we are all worthy. Worthy of love, acceptance, care. But, first of all, we’re all worthy of having a good, intimate relationship with our bodies. And this is something I hope that each and every one of us, men or women, will achieve, in its very own rhythm.

Because there’s no outer relevant shoulds and what ifs when it comes to one’s personal journey towards well-being and balance, and we should never let other people drag us into journeys that are not ours. And this is something that applies on the way we get to know our bodies as well. Or especially there.