“In this world nothing can be certain, except death and taxes,” Benjamin Franklin declared.
But way before him, came the wise words of Heraclitus – “The only thing that is constant is change.”
Yes, the one thing we can all be certain of is CHANGE!
Some changes are uplifting and exciting … other changes are challenging and tragic.
Some of the positive changes include:
- getting a better job,
- starting college,
- getting married,
- going on vacation,
- having a baby,
- getting a new pet,
- and so many others.
What would you add to this list?
Challenging and tragic changes include losses, such as:
- losing a job,
- flunking out of school,
- getting divorced,
- death of a loved one,
- declining health,
- losing a cherished pet,
- and an awful lot more.
What personal losses would you add to this list?
When you go through positive changes, it feels good to have a support system to cheer you on and celebrate with you.
However, when you go through a loss or other challenging change, it is not just nice to have a support system – it is imperative that you don’t go it alone.
What a support system looks like
A support system helps you get through the distress and will…
- Listen to you so you can express what you’re feeling.
- Give you empathy though words or maybe just facial expressions.
- Be there for you (also known as “holding the energy”).
- Not judge.
- Not try to fix.
- Be loving and accepting.
Having a support system is like having a safety net below you at all times.
Support gives you a place where you can share your feelings (rather than stuffing them). You don’t need to feel so alone in the world.
The time to begin building your support system is NOW… before you are faced with a significant loss.
Creating a Support System
(The following excerpt is from Stop Eating Your Heart Out, pp. 34-5)
Often we are our own worst enemies. I vividly remember a poignant Ziggy cartoon illustrating the truth of this statement. In the first frame we see Ziggy, with head bowed, and the caption, “God grant me one request – destroy my worst enemy.” The next frame is a large lightning bolt and the word, “ZAP!” The third frame displays a pile of ashes with smoke rising. “Let me rephrase that!”
Yes, we can each be our own worst enemy. As you do the inner work necessary to curb emotional eating, it is crucial to surround yourself with supportive people. When uncomfortable feelings arise, you now have the outlet of writing in your journal, and it is important to also have someone to confide in and discuss those feelings. Then, if you somehow fall into old patterns with your food and move into judging yourself, you could admit to this person, “I screwed up … I did such and such or I ate such and such.” A typical response from your Inner Critic is blaming and shaming, which can lead to more self-loathing and more binge eating. A nonjudgmental friend, however, might say, “Wow, I bet you feel awful about that.”
Developing a solid support system means surrounding yourself with friends or family members who care about you and want what’s best for you. Fostering the feeling of security, a support system is like having a safety net below. It gives you courage to take the next step forward, and then the next, as you embark on this journey of self-discovery.
Likewise, it is essential that you avoid people who might sabotage your efforts – those who encourage you to not change, or bring you unhealthy food as treats. Identify for yourself people who are critical, cause you to feel bad about yourself, or drain your energy – and stay away from them. Choose instead people who applaud your efforts, who celebrate you for being you, and whom you can trust with your feelings.
Building My Support System
When I was 29 years old, I discovered 12 Step Recovery and, after not too long, I felt a sense of belonging and the members became my ‘family of choice.’
Lynn McTaggart in her book, The Bond, says: The need to move beyond the boundaries of ourselves as individuals and to bond with a group is so primordial and necessary to human beings that it remains the key determinant of whether we remain healthy or get ill, even whether we live or die. It is more vital to us than any exercise program. The Bond we make with a group is the most fundamental need we have because it generates our most authentic state of being (p.40).
I discovered this self-help group (12 Step Recovery) at the perfectly right time for me: I had been struggling with an eating disorder; I was filled with shame and self-loathing; and I thought I was damaged goods and terminally unique. Going to meeting, listening to others tell their stories, and beginning to connect with other members was a huge turning point for me.
Before 12 Step Recovery, I was living a life of Pretend. I pretended I was happy, though I now know I suffered from childhood depression which probably continued on way past childhood. I acted “calm, cool, and collected.” And it was all an act. I felt like an imposter, a fraud. There was a huge discrepancy between the inside me (curled up in a ball of self-imposed shame) and the outside me (who acted like everything was fine and dandy).
Up to that point, I was lonely because I had constructed thick walls to keep me safe – and separate from others. I took baby steps, and little by little I got to the place where even though I might not be happy about my behaviors, I gradually discovered that I could accept myself, warts and all.
Although my original support system was a self-help group, I now have people in my life who are my friends and spiritual family. I feel safe with them and can call them whenever I am in need of support and I know they will be there for me.
Because in 2011 tragedy hit – my son ended his life. You can read about it in my article, “Grief, Loss … Life Goes On.”
I am so grateful that I already had a support system set up. I had people I could count on that held my hand, sent me energy, and took care of me in many ways.
There were many days I felt like I was drowning. I called on my ‘peeps’ and they sent me energy that kept me afloat. Without them, I couldn’t have survived the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.
Do you have a support system – people in your life you can really count on?
Please let me know in the comment section below.
Watch for a future post with even more information on creating your own personal support system.