All or Nothing Thinking

All or nothing. Black or white. That tends to be how my mind works. All or nothing thinking. I don’t do the bit in-between…I don’t LIKE the bit in-between. If I have a goal, I want the goal to be achieved. I don’t want the process in the middle of working towards achieving the goal.

Middle ground doesn’t exist in my life-if I haven’t got the goal, I’m failing. I’m either completely depressed with life and everything in general or I’m really happy. The really happy times are just fleeting moments on the odd occasion. If I’m not experiencing that feeling, then life is awful and I don’t want to live it. This is my over-riding feeling on a daily basis. I’m depressed, life is crap, and I’m never going to achieve my goals. I want to have and be doing everything I want in life RIGHT NOW. I want to be able to click my fingers, wave my magic wand and abracadabra…life is perfect.

But life isn’t like that. Big life goals don’t come easy and with most things in life, you have to work hard for what you want. Now it’s not that I don’t want to work hard, believe me, I know what hard work is and I have applied it to every aspect of my life, my whole life. It’s just, feeling like your dreams are never going to come true is very disheartening. And the longer you live without your dreams as reality, the more it feels like they will never actually come true. The realisation that your dreams aren’t going to happen is crushing. And the more you try and the longer you spend in the middle ground, the more likely it seems that those dreams will remain just that, dreams.

But I don’t avoid trying. You know what they say, “God loves a trier” and believe me, I try. But trying leads to more disappointment. So often, faced with a hurdle, a non-successful I attempt, I want to give up. Pack the whole lot in and just accept life is shit. It’s black or white. Coping with disappointment is unbearable so best not to try in the first place. This is a thought I have to fight against a lot, and I have to make myself try…In all areas of my life.

Take my athletics training sessions this week for example. I didn’t run particularly well and I straight away came home and said “Right that’s it, running is making me depressed again so I’m going to quit”. But in hindsight, yes my running hadn’t been brilliant but it also hadn’t been awful. I need to teach myself that just because something isn’t exactly how we want it; it doesn’t make it the worst thing ever. My running had been somewhere in the middle…and this should be ok. Also, I’d had a really nice chat with one of the other runners, so it wasn’t ALL bad. It wasn’t black or white and I don’t have to give up because it wasn’t perfect…it’s not all or nothing. This thought process is something I need to practice.

Another occasion this week that tested my all or nothing thinking was Wednesday. I felt really depressed, really fed up and all I wanted to do was sit in my pyjamas, not face the world, and stay in the comfort of my anorexic bubble. But I had made plans weeks ago to meet a friend from university (who I met up with for the first time again a month ago) in London for dinner. So I made myself try and go…and I did. And in paradox to how I had been feeling earlier in the day, I actually had a lovely time…the company and the evening itself was fantastic, and I did experience that feeling of happiness. However, because this is a rare feeling and I don’t experience ALL the time, I conclude that my life is still rubbish.

But this shouldn’t be the conclusion and I do acknowledge that it isn’t the right way to think. Yes, I may not be where I ultimately want to be, and life may not be wonderful at the moment but that doesn’t mean I have to be completely miserable. Life has been worse, a lot worse, and the bit in the middle, where I am now, is providing those odd moments of happiness and I should enjoy this and accept the middle is ok for now. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing thinking.

Maybe my hatred of middle ground, my clear cut black or white, all or nothing thinking, is why life feels quite difficult at the moment? I am not 100% committed to anorexia anymore and dedicating all my life to it. But I am also not fully recovered, or wholeheartedly attempting recovery. I am somewhere in the middle…sometimes more to the anorexic end and sometimes more to the recovery end.

It is an uncomfortable place to be and I don’t know whether I will completely be at one end of the spectrum…I have no intention of sacrificing my life completely again for anorexia but also going full-on into recovery seems a million miles away. The middle ground is exhausting. Anorexia makes me feel guilty for not being at the anorexic end. Anorexia tries to make life black or white and maybe I need to fight this to gradually fight anorexia. I need to accept that middle ground is ok and it is probably this which is allowing me to experience those happy moments. I need to challenge all or nothing thinking.




Rebecca Quinlan eating disorder recovery blog about ll or nothing thinking
All or nothing thinking – Bex Quinlan

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