Thursday, April 1, 2010

Breaking through walls

Facebook has an application called "status shuffle." It's basically a random collection of quotes and one liners. Most tend to be on the funny side , but this one was poignant and caught my eye.

"Sometimes people build walls not to block others out of their life but to see who cares enough to break through the wall."

At times, this was certainly my case. I used to have many walls that surrounded me. Various therapists would say they imagined me with this invisible wall that needed to be broken through or torn down. But they weren't exactly sure how or what I truly needed to do so. I never had an answer for them other than I was just too scared to break down my wall. That wall was a barrier, but it also kept me highly safe.

There were moments when I wanted desperately to let go of my shield and be totally vulnerable. Yes, I did eventually have those moments which always seemed to be stress/anxiety/sleep-deprived induced. My problem was afterwards, I felt so weird and worried about what I'd done/said that I immediately rebuilt my wall. Thus, treatment took a long time to truly get anywhere. My former therapist C used to say "it's like I'm reaching my hand out to you, and you're within grasp, but can't take my hand."

I'm sure most of us with EDs have at one point had walls that surrounded us. Walls keep things out defensively but they also don't allow things in. I think many of us have that juxtaposition of blocking people out, but at the same time, wanting and hoping someone can break through as well. And what does breaking through our wall really mean to us? Does it mean that we are vulnerable? Does it mean that someone cares enough to notice?

I don't have the answers to these questions, and they are different for everyone. But I do think in general, when we allow ourselves to start tearing down our walls, glimmers of the healing process have been initiated. Then, it becomes up to us what happens next.


Eating Alone said...

While I wanted someone to break my wall, there was no way I would let them. I would put it back up just as fast as they could take the bricks out. After 8+ years they just stopped trying. Sorry to say but I know I hurt some people very bad.

Nicole said...

What a great, thought provoking post. I definitely surround myself with walls. My therapist always asks me if I've built my walls to keep everyone out because of my trouble with trusting others, or if my walls are to keep me in because I feel I'm not worthy enough to be a part of the world. My answer is always the same: it's a little bit of both.

You're right, real healing begins when we start to tear down the walls we have built. It's a hard thing to do, but not impossible. My therapist has me use the "share, check, share" method. With this, you open up slowly with someone by sharing just a little bit about yourself, then you check the other person's reaction and decide if it's safe to tell them a little bit more, and if it is, you can share again. It's a way to tear down our walls brick by brick instead of all at once, which can help to alleviate some of that fear we experience when we allow ourselves to open up and be a bit more vulnerable.


James Clayton said...

Really thought-provoking post and i agree with Nicole - you need other people to help take down the barriers but you've got to want to bring that wall down yourself.

If people don't try and break the wall then the ED voice inside says "no one cares about you! See! It just goes to show that you're not worth caring about!" If people do try and break it down then that voice is liable to say "see! They're forcing themselves on you and you can't trust them! Life is better in total isolation!"

That voice likes to get its negativity in any way it can. More reason for the need to try and take down that wall in part yourself. At least, that's my thought on this. Thanks for making me think about an important part of the healing process that I hadn't really considered!

ola said...

My therapist allways used the wall as a symbol of more or less voluntary isolation. She often used the term : exosceleton. However she never had this idea about testing who will try and try to break through. Interesting!

I sat in the therapy and had the feeling, the wall is INSIDE me - not between me and the outside world, but between what used to be healthy me and what anorexia wants to be me. But maybe it is the same, I don't know.

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for everyone's interesting responses. Glad to spark thoughts!

Eating Alone, it is hard knowing that we have hurt others. All we can really do is try to rebuild those relationships and if it is not possible to move on.

Nicole, I agree with you about trust. I know that is a huge reason for many people's walls, mine included. I've used a similar approach your therapist mentioned. It is often easier to just expose yourself a little. Vulnerability is a hard feeling to feel.

James, you're right that negative voice likes to inch its way in and can easily make us feel we are not worth it and people don't care. I agree with you that it does become up to us ultimately to break down those walls.

Ola, yeah, I can see how the all would be referred to as an exoskeleton. Interesting question about inner and outer. I think it is probably complex and maybe no one answer. :-/