onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Vulnerable, unpredictable, and intense – just as it should be

When I was in New York last weekend, I was with a group of people who make it their lives’ work to be present and honest. And it’s intense.

Now, it is also my life’s work to be present and honest, so quite frankly, I loved being there. But it was still really intense.

When I strip away the pretense of day-to-day living – like wanting to be liked, wanting to look cool, wanting to be acknowledged for being “good” or “right,” or any of the things that I do out of fear so that I don’t have to acknowledge my truth or be present for my life – what I am left with is unguarded love. To love and to be loved in return.

Here’s a secret. Love is scary. It’s vulnerable and unpredictable. It’s intense. Sometimes it can feel like it’s too intense.

I wouldn’t understand until years after I got my eating under control and got sober from sugar, but food was my main defense against being present and honest. And it was my first fortress against love. It did not matter how much love was sent my way. I had a wall up, and that wall allowed me to filter how much of it got in. I could take my love in easy-to-swallow, palatable doses. A lot of the love meant for me went to waste.

Being with this group of people was also interesting because I met them before I got sober from food. One of them was the one who sent me to get sober. Because of having known them for so long, I have memories, in my body, of how uncomfortable I was when I was eating compulsively. I could feel very clearly how free and peaceful I have become in the last 9+ years. I remembered how much I thought I had to hide then. I could feel so clearly, in contrast, how open I am now.

Another dear friend of mine talks about how getting sober from sugar and compulsive eating lets her discover who she really is, as opposed to who she was trying to be. And how she really likes the person she is discovering. That is my experience too. That in being who I am, I really like and love me. That I am happier being my flawed self than I was trying to be a perfect someone else.

So I am posing a question to you. (Yes, you. Who else?) Who would you be if you were totally yourself? What would it look like if you could let that true self be loved without filtering how much of the love you let in?

Serene, warm, squishy joy.

This is a super short blog today because I am visiting New York City, and I have people to see and things to do.I am here for an event. A Bat Mitzvah. I am seeing old friends I have not seen in a long time.

And I am totally unselfconscious. I am available to show and accept love. I am able to be in the moment without hesitation or fear. I am free to have fun. But most importantly, I am able to let the celebration be about the Bat Mitzvah, herself. Even in my own head.

A friend of mine recently pointed out that “it’s all about relationships.” I am able to be available because I have my eating under control. I am not high. I am not ashamed. I am not thinking about food, and how much I want, or how to hide how much I am eating. I am not worried about what my body looks like. I am present in the moment in the physical world outside of my own head. All because I have my eating taken care of.

I am always grateful. But on this trip, the results are so profoundly laid out in front of me. 

This is joy. Serene, warm, squishy joy.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

I used to be a miserable person. I was a victim. I saw everything from a negative point of view. Now I am a cheerful person.

I made a choice to be a cheerful person. I made that choice even before I got my eating disorders under control.

I started by faking being cheerful. I adopted a cute-girl smile. I would ask myself things like “what would a cheerleader do?” It got easier once I got my eating under control, because one of the people who helped me do it would tell me to be grateful for what I had. So I started saying “I’m grateful” like a mantra. Being grateful automatically makes me more cheerful. Plus, I didn’t hate myself anymore. And I couldn’t act like a victim anymore, once I had taken care of my eating problem.

In many ways, my pessimism and victimhood was based on what I thought a really smart fat girl should act like: snide and indifferent.

That person, the one who decided that she wanted to be cheerful, is the one who got her eating disorders under control. That person is the person who believed that she could change. That part of me believed, even while I was a miserable finger-pointer.

It gets me a little choked up. It’s good for me to remember that the person I was is the one who changed. That snide and indifferent fat girl is the one who decided to be a cheerleader (figuratively…sorta…I mean, I can’t do the splits or anything cool like that). That took a lot of courage. I sometimes forget how strong I was as that miserable fat girl.

Sometimes I hear people say things like “People don’t change.” But I have changed so much in my life. The first change was not getting my eating disorders under control. That was the biggest, yes. It cleared so much space for me to change in bigger ways, even more rapidly, but it was not the first. By the time I did that, I already had a history of changing. Maybe I could only do it because I was already a believer.

I don’t remember what the first change was. It doesn’t matter. It could have been anything. I am forever grateful for that thing in me that believes that people do change, and that I am the light bulb that really wants to.

Wanting and not wanting

One thing that I notice is that if I talk to people about food, most people equate managing one’s food with weight.

I have had a huge weight loss, so I’m sure my own personal story feeds that idea for a lot of people. But for me, keeping my eating under control is only about weight in a round about way. For me, weight was a symptom of my real problem. My problem is eating.

There are a lot of people who have a problem with eating and they do not have a weight problem. I am grateful that being fat was part of my eating disorder story. If it weren’t, I don’t know if I would have found relief. I may not have even noticed how miserable I was.

One thing that happened when I got my eating under control was that I stopped hating myself. But I didn’t even know that I did hate myself until it stopped.

I am bringing this up because something happened the other day. It doesn’t happen very often, so it’s worth noting.

I didn’t want to eat my dinner.

It was later than I usually eat. I was tired. I just wasn’t feeling it.

Now, sometimes I don’t want to eat, but then I get two bites in and it’s so good that I forget that I didn’t want to eat it two minutes ago. That doesn’t count. This time was a time that I didn’t want to eat it, and all the while I ate it, I never wanted it. Even though it was a super yummy meal, including frozen yogurt and a cookie (all homemade, sugar-free, and within my food boundaries, of course.)

I ate it. Every last bite. When I was done, I was grateful it was over. But I did it. I keep my food boundaries under control by eliminating “wanting” and “not wanting” from the reasons I eat. If my food boundaries were about weight, then I could just not eat a meal that I didn’t want. Easy. But conversely. there are many (many many) days where I would happily eat another whole meal after I finish one. So let’s say I didn’t eat dinner that day. The next day, when I wanted two dinners, could I do that? What about the day after that? Could I skip breakfast and lunch and just binge eat all night? Because when I am eating compulsively, I start to think like that. I get irrational and obsessive.

What I gained when I eliminated “wanting” and “not wanting” from my food life was peace from my obsession with food. Wanting and not wanting mean making infinite decisions around food. Because food decisions are infinite for me. I don’t think straight when it comes to eating. I feel crazy. I feel ashamed. I get all messed up and mixed up. It is so much easier to know that I will eat three meals a day. That they will consist of protein, vegetables, or fruit, and fat. That I will eat all of them and nothing more. It’s so simple. It’s a no-brainer. Because I can’t brain when it comes to my own food.

When my dad’s mother was dying five years ago, I didn’t want to eat either. I cried almost constantly. I was never hungry. But just like the other day, I ate my meals. And I will say that it was a huge blessing for me. I felt like my whole world was falling apart at that time. The person who loved me best in the world was going to leave me. I was not prepared. But there was something constant in my life. Three meals a day with protein, fruit, or vegetables, and fat. No matter what. Even if I cried through the whole thing. I had been doing it that way for four and a half years by then. It was three little respites in my day. I may not have enjoyed the food, but each meal was a little sanctuary of normality.

If I had not eaten my meal the other day, I would have invited all of my crazy in. I would have lost the peace of mind that I have had for over nine years now. That’s a pretty high price to pay for the sake of wanting and not wanting.

It’s all just experiences

As I have mentioned, I live with a steady stream of low-level anxiety. It buzzes in my background like a radio station on the edge of a signal. (Does that even mean anything to anybody younger than 20? Anyway…) You know that thing where they say before you get upset you should ask yourself “Will this matter in 5 years?” Well, for me, even a minor struggle can be played out to me being homeless on the street in 5 years. I know it’s irrational. Knowing that it’s irrational doesn’t make the worry any less real. Since I gave up sugar, this kind of irrational anxiety is easier to keep in check, but it takes work on my part.

I have a similar anxiety about being stuck. About some difficult situation or another never, ever changing. I know this is irrational too. Same rules apply.

Since I have been working, I have not been writing fiction. I was doing a lot of writing before I had this job, but now I’m tired. If not all the time, close to it. And it makes me worry that I won’t write again.

There is a part of me that says I should start a new regimen of waking up at 4 every morning to start my day writing for 2 hours before anything else. But the tired part of me tells the writer part of me to shut the hell up, thank you.

What I have to remember is that everything changes. This part of my life where I am tired from my job and I don’t have time to write will change. Somehow. I am not saying that I will definitely start writing again any time soon. What I am saying is that when I look back on the past 10 years, I have lead so many different lives. I have encountered countless situations that I feared would never change, and they changed. Not to mention countless I wished would never change. They changed as well.

When I was younger, I used to believe I was supposed to make my mark on the world. I thought I was supposed to create a legacy that was big and bright and undeniable. I thought that was where meaning lay. I thought that was why I had been given such a big presence and prominent personality.

In getting sober from sugar, I came to realize that I am making a mark on the world. And it is bright, and undeniable. Right now it’s not big. It may never get any bigger than it is now. I am positively great with that. It doesn’t make it any less important.

Big personality celebrities and self-help gurus will tell you that you need to go after your dreams. That the only one stopping you is you. And I believe that. They say “don’t regret the things you never did.” But I’d like to take it a step further. Even if I don’t do them, I don’t have to regret the things I never did. I don’t have to have regrets of any kind. Life is not a race. It’s not a test. I don’t need to do anything to justify myself. I don’t need to “earn my spot.” I already have a spot. I already have a purpose. To exist as myself.

A friend of mine once shared an epiphany with me. She said “It’s all just experiences.”

I love that. I was freed by it. That is the meaning of life for me. To experience it. In the body I was given, and the circumstances I was born into, and the choices that I make every day. The meaning of life to be Kate. And that includes everything I missed out on because I was too afraid, and everything I ruined by being an addict, and everything I marred by being a liar and a manipulator. It includes all of it, because it’s all just experiences.

I want to write fiction because I love it. Because I’m good at it. Because I have characters and ideas in my head that entrance me, and I would love to share them with others. And because I make myself laugh and cry and think. And because I love to slip into another world and another life. Because I want more experiences than just the ones I am given. I want to feel all the feelings. I want to know all the corners of what it means to be human.

But if I never finish writing the stories in my head, there would still be nothing to regret. They provided me with hours of my own personal amusement. They were all experiences in their own right.

I don’t know why being sober from food made me content, but it did. Slowly but surely I stopped needing to prove myself in ways other than existing day to day. I keep my boundaries around food and I do my best. And suddenly that’s enough. And that takes a lot of pressure off of the anxiety-ridden girl who thinks that homeless on the street in five years is a perfectly reasonable possibility for the future. A day at a time, life seems pretty rosy. I’m madly in love. I have a job. I have a home. And I don’t have to do anything monumental to have any of it. I don’t need to prove myself in any way to occupy the space I’m in. It’s my space. In my lifetime, it has always been mine. It will be mine until I die.

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