For the past two nights I’ve had one terrible case of the shpilkes. No that’s not a typo or a venereal disease. It’s a Yiddish word that means I’m freakin’ agitated, man. I’ve been trying to piece it all together, and think I found a few ideas why I feel this way.
First off, I thought what brought this on was the death two nights ago of an old friend who was my age, early 40s. She fought a terrible fight with cancer which took her in less than two years. Death and dying are a totally different topic, and I don’t want to get derailed here. But you see, I expected the reason I’ve been on edge is from sadness and concern for my friends who were, in all honesty, much closer to her than I was. Rationally, I didn’t think that would make me feel agitated or anxious. So it didn’t make sense to me.
Tonight, it kind of hit me. I’m killing time, watching a cool old movie, Almost Famous, and constantly checking my iPhone for emails, Facebooks updates, CNN stories, and anything else that might give me a little bump of dopamine. But there’s nothing coming up. No emails. Nobody posting of on social media. No articles jumping to the top of my news feed. Nothing.
That’s when I heard good old ED (eating disorder thought) cranking up his volume. “Go eat something. Don’t even bother with shoes. Just get in the car, hit a fast food joint open 24 hours, and chill.” Oh, that little shit.
It was clear to me now what my shpilkes were about at that moment. When ED start chiming in, that’s when I’m searching for control. There it is. I don’t know why I was so blinded to it before. In my book Man Up to Eating Disorders, I wrote about how hard it is for me to ask for help. I’m always trying to fix every problem, solve every puzzle. and handle every emergency by myself. To do otherwise is a sign of weakness, vulnerability, and ineptitude.
Right now, I’m feeling particularly vulnerable. My eating disorders clinic, The Body Image Therapy Center, is expanding staff in Central Maryland and opening up a whole new clinic in Washington, D.C. I’m taking on debt to make it happen with my home as the collateral. I’m in line to become the president of the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, have talks coming up around the country the next two months at national conventions, and am featured in lists like “7 Men to Follow in the Body Positive Movement.” I’m returning to the music world with a new album, putting out my first music video, and getting involved in local projects like the Baltimore Song for Unity to raise funds for youth empowerment programs in the aftermath of the Freddy Grey riots. This is incredible stuff! But I’m not in control of it.
Life has gotten so busy and so big that I’m completely at the mercy of the whims of others. If my business succeeds or fails, it’s because of the work done by others. . If my professional momentum wanes, maybe people are tired of hearing me preach that those with binge eating disorder or males with eating disorders of all types deserve attention. If my music sells or becomes cold product, it’s because the consumer and critic said it wasn’t that good.
That my professional and artistic lives are this busy and productive should be a good problem to have. That’s what my accountant would say. But what I struggle with, which is a major common denominator with the majority of my clients with eating disorders, is that I hate Hate HATE not being in control of everything. And not being in control is making me a little nutty right now.
So here’s what I tell my clients to do, and what I’m currently doing sitting here at my computer. First, get out of your comfort zone. That means not going to my eating disorder behavior, first and foremost. Second, I’m sitting with the feelings and thoughts, and blogging on them so I can figure out their roots. Third, find support when that’s not enough. I’m okay right now, but my wife is in bed in the next room and I know she’ll let me bend her ear in the middle of the night if need be. Fourth, check back in with my body and see if it needs anything. Hungry? Have a nosh. Tired? Go to bed! In pain? Advil is in the cabinet.
By writing this down, I’ve already found myself feeling more relaxed about things. I’m no more in control of the whirlwind of my life and the financial risk I’m taking expanding the practice. But I took control of the things I can honestly be in control of: my healthy behaviors, developing my support systems, using my support systems, and taking a few breaths and recognizing “I’m still alive today and that’s a gift.”
I’ve now checked in with my body. I’m a little hungry, tired, and sore. My plan now: a bite of food, pop some Advil, and hit the hay. Tomorrow is new day.
By Andrew Walen, LCSW-C - Founder, Executive Director, Psychotherapist at The Body Image Therapy Center. If you would like to get in touch with Andrew please call (877-674-2843) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.