I was getting dressed the other day, and I looked down and I did not like what I saw. Belly rolls. It made me a little sad. Mostly what made me sad was how little I liked my body in that moment.
I was getting dressed the other day, and I looked down and I did not like what I saw. Belly rolls. It made me a little sad. Mostly what made me sad was how little I liked my body in that moment.
I am having some problems at work. Personality problems. And they difficult to navigate. It takes a lot of restraint on my part.
I set alarms for so many things in my life. Just now, an alarm went off asking if I posted a blog this week. And the answer was no, and I had totally forgotten. But I had an alarm set, so here I am.
Before I got my eating under control, I had people in my life, people I paid in either time or money, like a personal trainer, and a life coach, telling me to make plans, and keep those plans, regardless of how I felt. And I refused. Where was the joy in that? What about spontaneity? What about fun? What about what I “felt like” or “had a craving for?” What about eating out with friends or last-minute adventures?
When I got my eating under control, I realized how much I was self-sabotaging by clinging to what I thought was spontaneity and fun, but was really just an out to let myself not do something uncomfortable. I didn’t want to plan what I was going to eat because then, if I didn’t follow through, I might have to look at myself. If there was no rule, there was no rule to break, and no behavior to scrutinize.
The truth is that 1) planning makes it easier, not harder, to eat out with friends and take on last-minute adventures. With my eating under control and firm boundaries around food, there are fewer moving parts. The food has to hit certain marks. Once those marks are hit, everything else can be pretty loosey-goosey. And 2) the things that I was fighting against were not boredom or monotony, but long-term fulfillment.
Instant gratification and long-term fulfillment occupy the same space, so you can really only choose one. If I don’t want to go for a jog, I can think of a million excuses not to. I need the sleep, my hip is tight, I should do x instead. But what happens is it becomes easier to not jog. Every time becomes easier. And suddenly, I don’t do that anymore.
That is how every diet ever worked for me. I went on a diet. Instant gratification won once. Then it gradually became the norm. Then I was not on a diet. Then I gained back all the weight I lost, and then some.
I love my life of rules and reminders. I love my alarms. I love the sameness of people calling me every day at the same time to make a commitment of what they will eat the next day, and my call every day at the same time, to commit to what I am going to eat the next day. To have a plan and a commitment to that plan. To have a witness and to be a witness.
I won’t pretend that I am a particularly spontaneous person, though I have my moments. My rigorous adherence to my rules and reminders and commitments gives me a great sense of peace. And I cherish that peace. But also, I have made some bold choices and some daring leaps, because I am grounded in my commitments. After all, I left my home and my city about a month after I re-met my husband, to start a new relationship where I travel around the country with him, constantly moving. That’s pretty bold, if I do say so myself.
I did not used to like promising things to myself. And I used the excuse of freedom. But I was never free until I gave myself boundaries. Since I put boundaries around my eating, I have found that many things that seem counterintuitive are absolutely right. Boundaries lead to freedom. Commitment leads to spontaneity. Rigidity offers fluidity.
I have been working for about a month now, and there is a learning curve when it comes to time management and priorities. Finally this past week I started jogging again. But I have not been writing. And frankly, I am too exhausted.
But ultimately, that is not good enough for me. I have a novel that I have been working on for about a year. And I love it. I’m proud of it. I want to finish it and get it published. And right now, the way things are, that is not an option. So I have to change the way things are.
I forget that it takes time to get my bearings after a major life change. More than just a week or a month. I forget that I have blind spots where I can’t see the pitfalls, or recognize what can be changed. Change is so scary to me, often it feels like nothing can be changed safely. That all change is the potential for ruin.
And there are things that must get taken care of. First and foremost, I still have to take care of my food. Every day. No matter what. And what that means in practical terms is grocery shopping for the whole week in one go, and spending hours of my time packing breakfasts and lunches in advance for the week ahead. It’s an area I cannot cut corners in.
Food addiction is my problem. Really the only problem I have. Other things go badly and need to be remedied or cared for or dealt with, but they are not “problems” like food is a problem. When my food is out of control, my entire life is out of control.
The truth is, I like my job. The work is interesting. I like that I am good at it. I take pride in it. I like learning new skills. My difficult co-worker has calmed down and returned to behaving in a normal, respectable, and respectful manner. (I have also remembered that people in the world, especially in the workplace, have a wide range of personalities, but that I honor my principles in the face of difficult personalities.) But in all honesty, right now, I am not very happy. I’m just too tired. And I am having a hard time imagining how I can change my circumstances in order to both, not be constantly exhausted, and still do all of the things I want to do.
This is a luxury problem. If I were eating compulsively, I would have already given up on writing. I would not have figured out how to get my jog in 5 days a week. I would not have made time for it. But then again, if I were eating compulsively, I would already have been looking for a way to not jog, to not write, to not take care of my head and heart and body. I was always waiting for any excuse to abandon my goals and dreams, or really anything that was work, anything that took something, but made me feel good about myself.
There’s one more thing that I haven’t been doing that I need to get back into, and that is meditation. I think my first priority this week will be to get back into that habit. If any practice will help me figure out the next right step, and how to get the things I want, that’s probably it.
We are finally in our new place here in Corpus Christi. And it’s mostly great. But there are still details that need to be ironed out, and everything has not gone smoothly. Which is not to say it never does. My life goes smoothly much of the time. This time is not one of those times. We had trouble with the water heater, and the internet, to name a few things. And everything we brought is all around the place in disarray. But mostly, all is well.And through all of it, the good and the bad, I didn’t have eat over difficult situations.
This morning, I was laying in bed thinking about the internet trouble, no, worrying really, and worrying about how to possibly fix it. And this little voice popped into my head, the voice that I associate with God, or Life, or The Universe. And it said “Don’t things always work out? Always?” And of course, the answer is yes. It doesn’t always work out the way I am expecting, but it always works out, and always as well as or better than I think I want it to.
I will admit that I argued with that voice a little this morning. It took until after my husband reassured me, and a cup of coffee, for me to really relax about it. But we got there in the end.
So it’s one thing at a time. Get the place comfortable and livable. Trust that is all going the way it should. And enjoy my life.
My new job is rewarding. The money is a nice addition to our finances. And my new kitchen is big with a dishwasher, so taking care of my food is convenient. Which is important, because convenient or not, it’s got to get done.
So I will trust Life, and I will make a point to relax when I start to worry. And even if I do argue with the voice in my head, I know that it will always argue back that life is good, that I am taken care of, and that everything always works out in the end.
So work. It’s a thing for me again. I started working for my husband’s company (again) this week.
First, there is the whole food thing for me. I have to make lunches in advance so I can grab them in the morning and go. But, of course, that is something that I have been doing to travel a lot lately, so this has been, in some ways, on a smaller scale. I haven’t had to prep every single meal for days. I have just had to make lunches. And I have worked before. I was single for 35 years, after all. So I know how this goes.
But the first few days of work have been bumpy. Mostly, it’s just that there is some sort of problem with my work computer that the company sent to me. And instead of sending me a new one, they are trying to fix it remotely. For days. Several days.
But all of my work is to be done on this computer. In other words, there is nothing for me to do without it. So they are just not having me come in. So my first week of work has barely included any work. And I still have no idea when the computer, or at least a computer, will be available for me. And nobody is telling me anything.
Needless to say, I’m frustrated.
But there is something else. I am having a hard time not feeling like I should be doing something about it. Or it is my fault, or my responsibility.
Rationally, I know that this is stupid. I didn’t build the computer. And I didn’t break it. I have done everything I could to help the IT people fix it. I have offered information. I have stayed on the phone and helped with lost internet connections. And I have stayed home and not worked when I was asked to.
But there is this nagging feeling like I could do more. That I should be doing more.
And I need to squash this feeling. Because it is false, and blaming myself for things beyond my control is not only silly, it’s destructive to a person like me.
Work is an area in my life where you could say I still have a lot of fear. It’s not that I haven’t been a good employee. I certainly have. I am smart and capable. And I am willing to take direction, and I love to learn new things anyway.
But I have issues. Value issues. Worth issues. I have had them all my life. And I am sure that in some ways they are tied to the fact that I am an addict.
My inability to control my eating for so long made me feel worthless and ashamed. How could I expect to succeed in anything when I couldn’t even take care of my own body? How could I fix or help others when I couldn’t even fix or help myself? What does a person like that, a person like me, even deserve? Money? Money for services rendered?
Of course, the answer to that is yes. If I do the job, I deserve to get paid for it. But even as I write yes, there is a part of me that says “just for doing the job? Don’t you have to really prove your worth?”
I am talking about the irrational here. If I do the job, I am worth the money. Obviously. But that is not always obvious to the shamed, embarrassed, sorry compulsive eater that lives in me.
I am sure this will change. Slowly, but surely. Already it is changing. It’s changing because I am writing about it right here. And saying the scary things out loud, and shining a light on them is the surest way I know to start a shift.
You may know from last week’s post that I have had an infection in one of my gums. I went to the dentist on Monday and she told me that she thought it was the result of a broken wisdom tooth. So on Thursday I went to an oral surgeon and had that tooth pulled.
Now it is no secret to anyone that I am emotional. But when it comes to medical procedures of almost any kind, I freak the hell out. I always have. From the time I was a little kid. I can remember totally losing it in the doctor’s office at five, when they were going to prick my finger for my routine kindergarten checkup. Once, the phlebotomist at Planned Parenthood had two maintenance guys come talk to me about the heaters they were installing to distract me while she drew blood.
I cry and start to hyperventilate. As I have gotten older, I tend to rock, wring or rub my hands in an obsessive way and do deep breathing exercises. This usually keeps me from actually hyperventilating. It takes a lot just to keep the panic at bay.
There are things that I want to change about myself. I believe in changing. I believe in growing as a person and being better. And hell, I am good at that. I am really good at it. But I also believe that there are things that you have to learn to live with, that you just have to make friends with. For me, being sensitive to sugar, grains and starch, and not being able to “eat like a normal person” is one of those things. And freaking out about medical procedures is too.
It is humiliating to discover that you are a compulsive eater and a sugar addict. It takes something to stop being ashamed of not being able to control yourself when it comes to food and accept the truth of it. But as long as I fought against admitting that I am a food addict, I was never going to get any relief. I was just going to keep trying to get it right, keep trying to manage, keep trying to eat in moderation. And I was going to keep failing and falling deeper into misery.
Once I admitted that I had a problem with food and that I was incapable of eating like a regular person, I was able to really do something about it. Namely putting boundaries around when, how much, and what I ate. I was able to make it work. And I was able to stop fighting against myself. Fighting myself is just plain exhausting.
I have come to the point where I have decided to make friends with my medical panic. When I called to make the appointment with the oral surgeon, I told the receptionist that I would cry, that I am emotional. I said, “you might want to make a note of that in my file.”
The truth is that it makes other people deeply uncomfortable. I can’t tell you how many people in the office asked me if I wanted to postpone, come back another day and have them put me out for it. (Thank God I didn’t agree to that. My mother pointed out that if they put me out, they would have given me an IV!!! Just the thought of that gives me the chilly-willies! I’m still shuddering at the idea.)
I am sorry that my emotions make people uncomfortable, especially my irrational fears over medical procedures. But so do my food boundaries, and I am not willing to make other people’s comfort a priority over my own wellbeing.
So I am not going to be ashamed of the fact that I freak out before procedures. I need to make friends with it so I can deal with it. It’s one thing to be deathly afraid of being poked and prodded, but it is something else, something extra and totally unproductive, to be ashamed of that fear. I have decided I can do without the shame.
My shame, the idea that I shouldn’t be this way, is the kind of thing that makes me walk away. When I was younger, I absolutely would have walked away from every stitch, blood test, physical exam, and shot, if my mother had let me. I would have forgone all needles and drills and what not if they would have let me go to school without my shots and tests. But in my old(er) age, I have come to recognize that not having the procedure wasn’t going to get rid of the infected tooth. I wanted the results of the procedure. So I cried, and wrung my hands, and panicked, and did my very best to breathe. And I stayed, and opened my mouth, and kept still and quiet, and let the man do his work. And he was awesome!
The procedure was quick and easy. The oral surgeon, against the odds, got the infected tooth out in one piece. (I know because I asked him the odds and he said it was an 80% chance that he would have to drill it into pieces to get it out, and then stitch my mouth.) It literally took him longer to numb my mouth than it did for him to extract the tooth. And I have had minimal discomfort, completely manageable with over the counter pain relievers. And when the doctor called me that evening, I was eating dinner and I told him (while laughing) how I told everyone the story of how I freaked out and how he was awesome.
P.S. Did you get that? My oral surgeon personally called me that evening to ask how I was doing! As my husband said, “Now that’s small town living!”
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where pretty much everybody drives, but I never learned how to drive. I was afraid of it. I used to have nightmares as a very small child about being expected to drive a car and not knowing how. I can still remember how small and frightened I felt in the big driver’s seat in these nightmares. I didn’t even understand there were peddles when I started having these nightmares. And my fear of driving did not really lessen as I grew up.When I was 18, I left the suburbs and went to college in the city of Chicago, and lived on campus. Public transportation was the norm. And then at 21, I moved to New York City. Where the subway was not only the norm, but was cheap and reliable, definitely the best way to get around. I loved NYC immediately, and expected to live there for the rest of my life. I remember a feeling of relief at one point early on when I realized I would never have to learn how to drive.
But 14+ years later, and I did leave New York City to be with the love of my life. And oddly enough, to return to the suburb of Chicago I grew up in. And that meant I did have to learn to drive.
So just about a year ago I got a permit and got behind the wheel for the first time. I got my license in February, at the age of 38.
Last week, I did something a little terrifying, and pretty exciting. I drove over 2 1/2 hours, by myself, to an airport in a city I have never been to. And it was particularly empowering.
I have always been an anxious person. When I was a kid, I used to bite my nails, and chew on the sleeves and collars of my shirts. I would often have large wet spots under my chin, or up my arms. It was how I managed. As I got older, I numbed my anxiety with food, specifically sugar and carbohydrates. True, I was less anxious. But I was also either ineffectual, or reckless. Instead of worrying about everything, I didn’t worry about anything. And nothing got done. Or I would fly headlong into a situation without thinking it through. But either way, the situation probably turned bad, and I got through by expecting someone else, usually my mother, to bail me out.
A lot of the anxiety I feel is not specific. It’s like a fear of the unknown and unknowable. It is fear for the sake of fear.
What having my eating under control does is allow me to break my life down into manageable pieces. It allows me to look at real possibilities, and create contingency plans. Like having enough meals with me, or leaving myself more time than my GPS estimates I need. And it also allows me to trust that all is well, no matter what happens. It reminds me that I am capable and clearheaded. It lets me recognize that if I stay calm and present, any issue can be resolved. That it’s all just experiences anyway.
I don’t really know why it works that way. I’m pretty sure it’s two parts peace, quick thinking and self-possession, which come from not being high on food all the time, and one part magic. But either way, it works.
This drive to the airport felt like a turning point in my life as a driver. I expect there will be more of those turning points in the future. That’s life, after all. But I don’t want to miss feeling the satisfaction of this one. And I can feel the satisfaction, just like I felt the anxiety. Because I feel things when I’m not numbed out on sugar. And that’s as it should be. It’s all just experiences anyway.
Since this blog is an eating disorder blog, I generally keep my writing personal, and if I am going to touch on a topical issue, it’s usually one related to eating disorders. And while that is still sort of true today, I’m going to venture a little further out.
I want to talk about how the past few days have left me feeling crazy. I want to talk about rage. I want to talk about the serenity prayer. I want to talk about justice, and I want to talk about peace.
I quit sugar, grains, and starch, and put boundaries around my eating ten and a half years ago. When I did that, I put a kind of change into motion. My entire transformation was not immediate. I had a lot of stuff to clean up with myself and others. I was then twenty-eight, and had lived a life of fear, dishonesty, manipulation, and self-loathing for as long as I could remember. I was pretty far down the Anakin-Skywalker-becomes-Darth-Vader road. You know, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering….But within surprisingly few years of getting a handle on my eating, less than five, I had become someone I liked, loved and respected. I had changed the way I lived my life to point where I had found serenity.
So lets talk about The Serenity Prayer. I know that I have included it in past posts, but I am going to include it again, because it’s worth knowing:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
When I first learned this prayer, the people who taught it to me explained some things to me. They wanted me to understand the “wisdom” part. They wanted to clear up what I could change and what I could not. The things I couldn’t change included people, places, and things. I have no control over anyone else, or their thoughts, words, or actions. I have no control over past events. And I have no control over world leaders, natural disasters, or grotesque acts of violence. The things I could change were always me. I can change my beliefs, my thoughts, and my actions.
There is something else about the “courage” aspect of this prayer that I want to note. It’s about solutions. If I have a problem, there is a solution, and it is inside me.
But here’s my problem today. I am filled with rage. I am filled with rage at humans murdering other humans. But more, and more, and most, I am filled with rage at those of us defending the murders, defending the violent acts that ended the lives of others of us. I am filled with rage that fear of change, fear of losing privilege, fear of “otherness” has lead us to act, not simply believe, but ACT in a way that declares that some humans are worth more than other humans. I am filled with rage over people, places and things that I cannot control.
And it’s impotent rage. Because for as much as I want a solution, I am not a human being killing my fellow human beings. And I am torn between wanting serenity, and fearing that my serenity will simply be a lack of action that overlooks injustice.
When every Miss America ever said that she wished, more than anything, for “World Peace,” she made it sound like a thing. Like a book, or an apple, or a hobbyhorse. Something she could unwrap under the tree on Christmas morning. Or perhaps like a magic spell that would render us docile, a planet of seven billion Snow Whites and Ned Flanders (Flanderses? – whatever….)
But what world peace would really look like is seven billion people choosing love instead of hate. Daily. Hourly. Moment to moment. It would look like seven billion people answering violence with forgiveness. It would look like seven billion people liking and loving themselves enough that they didn’t have to lash out in anger and hate, and then blame the ones they lashed out at.
In my experience, when you wrong someone, in order to live with what you have done, you have to do one of two things. You can make an amends to them, or you can justify your cruelty by making them the bad guy. In your own mind, and often, in the minds of others. Making amends is hard. Amends take the courage. Making amends is the “courage to change the things I can.” Making someone else the bad guy is easy. It’s terrible, and toxic, and leads to the kind of shame that ruins loves and lives and families, and even whole societies, but you never have to have that hard conversation. You never have to humble yourself. You never have to admit when you are wrong. And maybe most of all, you never have to experience the pain and shame and horror of what you have done. You just have to live with the incompleteness of it for the rest of your life.
I don’t know what I can do. I don’t know how to change the things I can. I have been thinking about it and thinking about it for days. I’m exhausting myself. And I have to do something with this rage, MY rage. Because it is toxic.
But whatever I do, I cannot cover my eyes and pretend that I don’t see. When I put down the sugar, I put down the oblivion. It turns out, there’s no sugar-coating when there’s no sugar. When I put down my addiction, I agreed to look with both eyes open, and acknowledge the reality of things. So I’m acknowledging reality, and the sad truth that sometimes, it f*cking sucks.
Yesterday was, as the 12-steppers say, life on life’s terms. I went to the grocery store, got about $100 worth of groceries, checked out, and tried to pay with my debit card. It didn’t go through. I tried it again. Nope. Then the checkout clerk said the bank was declining my purchase.So I asked the clerk to take care of the people behind me while I called the bank.
It turns out someone used my card information to make some purchases. The first went through. The second, for over $300 went through. And the bank shut the card down when they attempted to make purchases for $500 and $700.
The gentleman at the bank unfroze my card long enough for me to buy my groceries, and asked me to call back when I was done to have the card cancelled.
So I did. I bought my groceries. I packed them into the trunk. I got back in the car and immediately called the bank and cancelled my card, and confirmed that the fraudulent charges were not mine.
The lady I got that time cancelled my card, took my Kentucky address so the new one could be mailed to me here, as well as the paperwork to dispute the fraudulent charges.
Do you know what I kept thinking the whole time? I kept thinking how much I like myself, and it’s all because of having my eating under control.
What I am saying is I was gracious and grateful and kind to every person along the way. I was friendly with the clerk at the store when he told me the bank declined my card. I was friendly with the man from the bank who told me about the fraud and reactivated my card so I could pay for my food. I was friendly with the lady at the bank who helped me cancel the card and who issued me a new one. I was able to make jokes with them all.
I was more than just nice. I was grateful. I was grateful that the bank was looking out for me and shut my card down when purchases looked suspicious. I was grateful they could unfreeze my card so I could buy my groceries.
This is the stuff that happens to everyone. This is the stuff that is not personal. This is life. But when I was a compulsive eater, when life happened to me, I was a complete jerk.
I was already angry at life all the time anyway. I had a lot of anger and rage. And I used any opportunity to unleash my rage. Even, or maybe especially, at people who had nothing to do with it, and were trying to help.
My first reaction to this kind of thing is fear. Fear of what I did wrong. Fear of losing. Fear of having things taken away. Fear of scarcity.
In order to keep my eating under control, I had to learn to do certain things differently. I had to learn to cultivate gratitude. I had to learn to behave in a way so that I would not be ashamed of myself. I had to do the next right thing, one step at a time. This all comes from having my eating under control.
When people see or hear that I have lost 150ish lbs, they think that is the accomplishment. They assume that is the ultimate reward. And while I do enjoy this body, and how it looks and how it moves and how easy it is to get around in, the parts of my life that are the most profoundly impacted by having my food addictions and eating disorders taken care of are the parts of my personality that have improved over the last 10 years.
For me, the real gifts are all of the ways I like and love myself. For me, the real gifts are being calm and peaceful in the face of fear. The real gift is that I can look back on yesterday and not have to justify why I was a jerk. Because I wasn’t a jerk. I was a nice lady, grateful for other nice gentlemen and ladies, who helped me get a lot of unpleasant stuff taken care of.