If you take pride in being a self-aware and highly-reflective person, you’re probably in the habit of trying to constantly pay close attention to your behaviors, thought patterns, and habits. You also probably ask yourself tons of questions.
Why did I just do that?
Where are the root causes of this trauma?
Who was the person that brought up this topic for me for the first time?
What can I do to make a lasting change in my behavior?
It’s through questions like those that we learn from our path, from past mistakes, from people in similar circumstances, from our environment, etc. But while the habit of always asking questions and reflecting on important topics is indeed a remarkably effective way to heal old wounds, overcome personal challenges, get over trauma, and navigate through painful periods, it could also leave us feeling anxious, uneasy, and disappointed.
Last summer I went through a period of inexplicable apathy and total loss of enthusiasm for pretty much everything. I was showing early symptoms of clinical depression. I could barely get out of bed on many occasions. I felt tired from the moment I woke up. None of the things that I’ve always loved doing seemed to matter anymore. I didn’t care for anyone or anything. I had frequent binge eating episodes, which usually occur, when my stress levels elevate or when I’m going through some challenging personal or professional transformation. Except that, at that time I wasn’t.
I wasn’t stressed out or tense, or burned out.
I had quit my corporate job about 9 months earlier and had all the time in the world to focus on my hobby and transform it into a lucrative business venture. Which I loved doing!
My boyfriend and I were happily in love and living rent-free.
My family was all healthy and happy.
Everything seemed to be totally normal.
Yet, I was feeling empty. It was like I was a shadow of my former self. Everything was grey.
I was crying all the time and felt absolutely powerless.
I was running to food – as I always do in moments like that, and tried to blame my current apathetic state to my chronically challenging relationship with it. But for once – it didn’t seem to be the origin of my state.
I went to my therapist and I was angry.
Why the hell could I not figure out what was wrong with me?
I was asking myself all those questions and I demanded answers. If you think critically and observe yourself, if you try to be mindful and pay close attention to your repetitive thought patterns and obsessive behaviors, you should be able to uncover the answers to those questions, right? And if you discovered those answers, you’d be able to devise a strategy that would help you do damage control and improve your state, right?
I kept asking questions and insisting knowing the answers. And the more I sought after the answers, the less I knew and the more pissed off I became. And in turn – the more sad, apathetic, and maybe even depressed that I got.
And then my therapist hinted at something ludicrous. He asked me if I really, REALLY needed those answers.
He asked me what would happen if I didn’t get them.
He complimented me for being self-observant and aware of my shortcomings and tendencies, but he proposed that for a change I tried to relinquish control. Just for a bit.
He recommended that I spent some time sitting with the questions. No obsessive searching for answers. No getting annoyed for not finding any. Just being patient and surrendering to the uncertainty of the unknown.
It did sound absurd but I had nothing to lose. I decided to give it a try.
Gradually, I started feeling like the rope around my throat was loosening. I was getting naturally relaxed and I had no idea why or how. And the thing was – it didn’t matter. Ironically, it was as if accepting the state I was in for what it was and not obsessively trying to fix it actually ended up doing the fixing on its own.
My binge eating episodes became more and more rare until one day I just felt like going for my usual walk and enjoyed it. Then I went home and felt like cooking. And I ate a normal portion. My favorite things became exciting again and the grayness of my life slowly turned to color.
My therapist had helped me give this particular challenging period of my life the benefit of the doubt – maybe the way I was feeling had a lesson to teach me and maybe that lesson was patience. Maybe asking questions was indeed useful, constructive, empowering, and crucial for living a good life, just maybe not all the time.
Once again I realized that balance is a dynamic state. It requires you to make the most of every situation but reminds you that every situation is unique and no strategy, policy, or approach is universally applicable or can fix every problem and improve every situation, especially when it comes to mental health and psychological growth.
Now I know that I do have moments when sadness takes over me – it could be seasonal, it could have something to do with nutritional imbalance in my body, it could be hereditary, environmental, or due to a chemical imbalance in my brain.
It could be a million things and even though I still don’t have the answer, I do have an answer – sometimes it’s OK when things aren’t OK. Because therein wait a bunch of important lessons that you can only discover when you spend enough time in that emotional place.
I am the CEO & Founder of Foodie Boulevard – a disruptive organization that explores the role of food beyond the plate as foundational long-term strategy for personalized healthcare and wellness.
Our mission is to develop solutions that help our audience use food as an interactive educational tool, a powerful epigenetic factor, and a healing mechanism for people struggling with eating disorders.
I am a published author, blogger, lecturer, and workshop organizer. I am a certified Eating Psychology Coach by the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in Colorado and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Ambassador.