onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “feelings”

Mad, but not at me or my integrity

Years and years ago, before I got my eating under control, I used to occasionally do “The Artist’s Way” which is a creativity workbook. I did not know it at the time but it is based on the 12 steps. And part of doing the “program” (for lack of a better term) is to write 3 pages of handwritten stream of consciousness every morning. The woman who created it called them “morning pages.” And they are based on the practice of prayer and meditation that is a big part of the 12 steps.

So when I was still eating compulsively, I was doing this workbook. And I hated morning pages. They made me frustrated and angry. And there were whole days in a row that I would literally just write “I don’t want to do this” over and over for 3 pages. 

I certainly didn’t understand it at the time, but I was angry because there were so many things on my conscience that I had shoved down so I didn’t have to look at them. And the writing was trying to bring them to the surface. To be healed. To be dealt with. To be put to rest. 

But putting them to rest meant I would have to acknowledge them. And my part in them. And the ways that I was behaving that left me ashamed. And while I was still in the food, I was never going to be able to deal with my shame.

For the last several years I have been struggling to pray and meditate. I have been angry at life. I have been so afraid for so long that it just sort of lives inside me now. My constant low level anxiety ramping up into a constant mid level anxiety. And the basis of my belief system, that Life is always right and always giving me exactly what I need, suddenly seemed untrue. Not just untrue. Like bullshit.

So I stopped praying and meditating. But that wasn’t really working for me either. I did try to get back to the happy, daily meditation I had been doing for years. And it never worked. That old routine was broken for me now and it was not going to get fixed.

But I did still want to get back into some sort of meditation practice. So I went back to “morning pages.” And it has been a great opportunity for me to clear my head. And get a good look at the things that are not clear while they are rattling around in my brain. 

But here is what I have noticed. There is no anger. There is no frustration. The past 17 years of having my eating under control, and looking at my life, and making amends for my mistakes, and owning the harm I have done, means that there is nothing in my head or heart that I can’t look at. There is nothing shoved down so I don’t have to deal with it. And if there is something that makes me uncomfortable or gives me that sense of dread, I know to look directly at it. To put it down on the page. To put the idea into words and deal with the reality of the situation.

I don’t remember what it was like to be filled with shameful secrets most of the time now. I don’t generally remember how it felt; all of the thick, slimy, suffocating feelings that went with being a person I could not like or respect. But when I do remember now, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my freedom from self hatred.

I may still be angry. And I may still be frustrated. And I am still very much afraid. But having those feelings project out, at an unfair and cruel world, is so much easier than having them project inward, at me and my own integrity.

Advertisement

Avoiding the pit of despair (and carbs)

First, for those of you who are dying to know, I did finish my character doll in time to gift it to the author. I didn’t get to give it to her directly, per either her own or the book store’s policy, but the doll turned out better than I expected and I was sorry to give her away. So sorry that all this week in my free time, I have been working on a smaller version for myself. (She’s a particular shade of blue -like the grey blue of hydrangeas – and I didn’t have enough yarn to make another one the same size.)

I am proud. Proud of the doll. Proud of my progress as a crafter and an artist. Proud of my accomplishments but also of my work, my willingness to work, and my willingness to undo the work that doesn’t work.

In getting my eating under control I had to learn to live my life differently, and to view my life from a different perspective. Because when I was eating compulsively, my life revolved around my feelings and my feelings were volatile and always leaned towards discontent. So when I wanted to make something – and I did. I was an artist from a young age – I was only interested in the completed work, not the process. And I was obsessed with time. Or at least I was obsessed with the time I had already spent. So if I spent time on something and it came out wrong, I didn’t want to go back. I didn’t want to spend even more time “fixing” what I “should have done right the first time.” So I either had a thing I didn’t like, or I gave up in frustration.

In getting my eating under control I leaned to deal with difficult feelings. First hunger. I learned to be hungry and not eat. I learned that hunger, at least the kind that I was experiencing, would not kill me. (I am not talking about real hunger. I am not talking about food insecurity. I am talking about having feelings that were uncomfortable and the desire to eat my drug foods to numb those feelings.) And then frustration. And then the shame of failure.

And what I learned by feeing these difficult feelings and not eating over them is that on the other side, if I don’t numb myself, there is a choice to be made. Do I leave the mistake or do I go back and fix it? Because suddenly there was a choice. And to make it, whatever I chose, made me understand how I controlled my own life.

Of course I had always controlled my own life. But I didn’t know that. And I didn’t have the capacity to figure it out. Because I was constantly shoving those feelings down and burying them under a belly full of chocolate cake.

When I put boundaries around my eating I gave myself the opportunity to learn and grow. I did not know that I was lacking it before. Because I was smart. I was capable. I was a quick learner. But none of these things were worth anything when a stumble landed me face first in a pit of despair and carbs.

Don’t worry. Tomorrow I will be dissatisfied with my doll making skills again. In fact, I already am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I am still proud of the work I have done. I just want to be better. Whatever that takes.

A memory of exhaustion

The other day I was writing my stream of consciousness meditation pages and I wanted to stop. Just stop in the middle. More like the beginning, but I had already started. I did not stop, but it gave me a kind of emotional flashback.

I used to do this particular form of quitting all the time when I was eating compulsively. It is specifically around some commitment I have made to be a better person. Or at least a person I personally like better.

There is a particular example of this that I sometimes think about just because of the timing. In September of 2001, I was taking a self-help seminar in the World Trade Center. I think the seminar was on a Wednesday or a Thursday so it was probably the 6th or the 7th, and I don’t specifically remember but I am reasonably certain I didn’t do my homework, and I was probably ashamed of that. And just in general I didn’t want to show up, and I knew that I should. And on this particular day, I schlepped myself all the way there to the World Trade Center, which was nowhere near anything else I did like my job or my home. I walked in the big doors into the giant corridor with the security stations and the big banks of elevators on the other side, and then I just turned around and left. Got all the way to the seminar, spent all of that time and energy to travel there and still didn’t show up to take care of myself. And of course, I would never go to the WTC again.

I did this with all sorts of things that I had started doing to make myself feel better, feel good, feel like I had my shit together. I would get my running clothes on, and start a jog, but I would just quit. In the middle of a jog. Just stop and decide I didn’t want to do it anymore. And I would feel awful about it. But the idea of effort was so terrifying to me that I often just shut down. I feared any pain, but especially the pain of growth.

It was interesting to have that feeling again about a writing meditation. Kind of scary, a little uncomfortable. Because that part of me is still there. But since I got my eating under control, it doesn’t win. I can feel it, acknowledge it, but not bow to it. I can want to quit and not quit.

When I put boundaries around my eating I got what some people call “abstinent references.” I learned, first hand, that I would not starve if I didn’t eat between meals. I learned that I would not die if I admitted my mistakes and made amends for them. I learned that effort is not the level of suffering I always feared it was. I learned that that once something was begun, like a workout, or showing up at the place I was supposed to be, it was actually easier to keep going and follow through than to quit. That the level of justification I would have to maintain to not feel awful about myself over it would be way more effort than just doing the workout or attending the meeting.

To remember what I used to be like is to remember how exhausted I was all the time. Because second guessing myself and stressing about everything, and being afraid of the world, and being afraid of my life was so much more exhausting than all of the food prep work and the shopping and chopping and working out and writing and meditation and that I do.

Sensible Priorities for a One Track Mind

I have spent my week building furniture. Two night stands, two end tables, a TV stand, a coffee table, a small dresser, and a platform bed frame with headboard. The dining set and couch should be delivered this coming week.

We ended up buying all of our furniture on line, and I am the one who is here. So I am the one who has to build it. To be honest, I kind of love it. I like building things. I’m good at it. And there is something deeply satisfying about taking an array of stuff, putting it together, and getting something useful. Not that the things that I am building are particularly complicated. They are not. And some of them, like the end tables, are literally just screwing the legs directly into the table tops. No tools or hardware required. (The bed was more complex.)

And any time there was something particularly difficult, or really more like cumbersome and meant for more than one person, I figured out a way around it. Because I like problem solving too. And I am good at that too.

A project like those kinds of projects are fun for me. But they can also make me obsessed and obsessive. Once it’s begun I don’t want to stop until it’s finished. Even if there is something else important I should be doing. Like eating lunch. Because it’s time, and I’m hungry, and I am not thinking as well as I would be once I ate my lunch. 

That is one of my many gifts of getting my eating under control. Common sense priorities. 

I can have a one track mind. Even when I was in the food I could have a one track mind, even about things that weren’t sugar or carbohydrate related. (Though that was a huge part of it.) I can get caught up in a crochet or knitting project and not want to stop. One more row, one more line, one more pattern repeat. I can get caught up in making a costume or some other kind of art piece, and look up and realize it’s after midnight and I have been at it for hours. 

But getting my eating under control taught me that eating my weighed and measured meal at a reasonable time is more important than the momentum of building a bed frame. And the bed frame will still be there when I get done, and my body is sated and my brain is getting enough fuel to not put the piece on backwards and screw the hardware in so tight I strip the screws. 

I have a lot of crazy. A lot of intense feelings. And not just weepy sadness or incandescent rage. I have a lot of strong desire and driven ambition. It’s not a particularly useful kind of ambition that makes me a boat load of money, like the desire to build a company from the ground up, or be a CEO. It’s definitely centered more around arts and crafts. But it can still make me crazy and single minded to the detriment of my health and well-being.

So getting sensible priorities was a gift of putting the food down. Yes, I can still get lost in a project. Start designing a new part of my latest crochet doll and miss my usual workout time. Or get caught up in fixing a mistake in my blanket and look up and realize I need to stop and eat lunch or I will have to push dinner back. Or stop trying new crochet techniques for nothing in particular but my own learning and go to sleep if I want my 8 hours. And I most definitely want my 8 hours. 

Getting my eating under control didn’t change my personality. It just made me able to manage my own natural craziness. But that is definitely a gift worth having.

My comfort arsenal

So far, 2022 has been a great year for books for me, but a terrible year for my health. I fell down the stairs on January 1st, got myself a bruise bigger than my head on my thigh, and before it was even remotely healed, I caught some kind of cold, had a really intense reaction to my covid vaccine booster, followed by some other sickness that has been lingering for months. (I have never tested positive for Covid, but I have sure had something.) I have had some form of hurt or illness every day this year. Every. Single. Day. So well over 6 months. And I am frustrated and exhausted from it.

But one thing I appreciate is that throughout this year, I have never thought about eating compulsively. And that’s a miracle. Because before I got my eating under control, food was always my comfort. It didn’t make everything better, but it got me high enough that I didn’t care. 

I still take comfort in food. I expect I always will. But it used to be my comfort at the expense of being at the mercy of my drug foods, a whole different kind of discomfort lurking underneath, waxing and waning with my high. And now it’s comfort in the safety and peace of self-care.

I don’t miss sugar. I don’t crave it. I don’t think about it. But eating for me is still about the sensations and the ways they make me happy. Crispy bell peppers, and creamy homemade ice cream, and snacky cheese bites, and fresh, citrusy pico de gallo. All of these things make me happy and take my mind off of my troubles. 

And when meal time is over and the next meal is not for hours, I have learned to have other things that give me peace and comfort. Crafting, and listening to audiobooks, talking books with my reading buddy or my mom, writing, or binge watching some show or other. 

It certainly took time to acquire this comfort arsenal. I was not good at it right away. It was years of managing to just not eat a cake. To get by as best I could. But now I am well equipped to deal with discomfort in a healthy, sane way. 

And of course, like all things, this too shall pass.

In my circle sitting in it

As a person who has lived with a kind of constant, low level anxiety for basically all of her life, you might think I am not feeling much different in the face of some of the more terrifying things that have been happening here in the US over the past several days, months, years. But you would be very, very wrong.

It’s a funny thing to know that things are bad, but that also, there is really nothing to do about it except carry on. I read a really interesting article a couple of years ago with this quote. “Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else.” 

So here I am, more and more afraid every day, but someone has to go to the grocery store and do the laundry and make dinner. And I can. I have money and time. Everything terrible and horrific that I am afraid of has happened to someone else. For now.

I have to constantly remind myself that there is nothing to do but what is right in front of me. There is no difference I can make except in the place I am at any moment. That I cannot fix any part of the world I can’t reach.

It helps me to think about my life in concentric circles. I am alone in my first circle, and that is where I have the most control. I keep my eating boundaries. I exercise. I drink my water. In the next circle is my husband and our marriage and all of the ways I can make a difference in our partnership. And so on.

Another thing that helps to “sit in it.” I hate that part. The sitting in my fear and discomfort. The being alone with my powerlessness. The letting Life be what it is. I absolutely abhor it, but it is necessary for me and my sanity.

I could eat a cake. That would certainly numb me for a while. But a while is not that long. And then I would just need more cake, and nothing would change. Except that I might not be able to do the mundane stuff anymore like grocery shopping or laundry. Because I am a low bottom, non-functioning food addict. 

So I am going to keep my eating boundaries and navigate the fear and just put one foot in front of the other. I don’t think that will make a difference in the world, but I know that it will make a difference in my very small part of the world. Even if that means only that very small circle around just myself.

Driving my meat car with the low fuel light always on

I was talking to a friend yesterday who forgot to eat for a long time and didn’t understand what was wrong. And it reminded me that there are a lot of us who don’t have bodies that function like other bodies.

My friend was raised with intuitive eating. (Not that it was specifically called that, but she was taught to only ever eat when she was hungry.) And that worked for her sisters and her parents. But my friend was feeling stressed out last week, and she did not feel hungry, so it never occurred to her to eat. So she didn’t. And it made her sick. Obviously.

And it reminded me that some of us don’t have the bodies with properly functioning “indicator lights.” My “hungry light” never goes off. My “full light” never goes on. For my friend, her “hungry light” never goes on. She usually takes her cues to eat from people around her, so when she is not around people, she can forget.

Before I got my eating under control, I thought hunger lived in my stomach. But since I have put boundaries around my eating, I have learned that my feelings live in my stomach. So any feeling used to feel like hunger. Unhappiness occurred as hunger. Anxiety occurred as hunger. Excitement occurred as hunger. And joy, and fear, and worry and dread. 

It turns out that actual hunger doesn’t really *feel* like anything to me. I’m more irritable, and my thinking less cogent. I am more likely to be scattered and not know what to do next. And I might, under extreme circumstances, feel wobbly or lightheaded. But none of those things *feel* the way I always thought hunger felt. They don’t feel like much of anything.

So I am grateful that I found a solution to my eating problem that doesn’t have anything to do with “listening to my body.” And I am grateful to have a point of reference for *not* listening to the feelings I have when it comes to food. 

I am not opposed to intuitive eating. I think that when all of your indicator lights function properly, it’s a smart way to nourish yourself. But here is to all of us driving around in our meat cars with the “low fuel” light always on (or off.) May we all find the best way to keep ourselves on the road.

Panic! At the Grocery

On Monday last week I dropped my phone in the grocery store (I do basically everything on my phone including keeping my shopping list) and it broke. The screen did not work at all. 

It was very upsetting for me. Number one, how was I going to remember what I had on my grocery list? (And yes, I did, indeed, end up missing a couple of important items that day in my panic. Yes I managed anyway.) But also, as I mentioned above, I do everything on my phone. So I was totally out of sorts. 

There was a store from my service carrier in the same parking lot as the grocery store, though. So I went in there to discuss my options. And friends, they were anything but helpful. Two of the three employees in particular were rude, gave me condescending looks and side eyes, and made it clear to me that I was interrupting their conversations. They basically told me that I needed to take it up with Apple. Even though I had insurance through them. 

But I had not eaten lunch. Which would have to be my first priority because keeping my eating boundaries is alway my first priority. And I had promised my husband that I would do laundry that day because he was running out of work clothes. And I had just made a promise to my career coach that I would get him my first draft of my cover letter and a revised resume by the end of the week. And now, on top of that I needed to find an Apple repair place and everything would be more difficult until I did.

I was pacing around my apartment, on the brink of hyperventilating, too distracted to do one thing at a time. Making part of my lunch, but then walking away to sort laundry. And then looking at the time and realizing I still hadn’t eaten any lunch. Too worried about getting everything done to get anything done with any grace. Too muddled to finish a task. 

This is a default setting of mine. When things seem too complicated and unthinkable to process, I just don’t process them. I shut down.  

And then I made a decision. I was not going to deal with my phone that day. I just made the choice and let it go. I made lunch and then sat down and ate it while watching Bridgerton. Again. (Don’t ask how many times. You really don’t want to know. Or at least I don’t want to admit it to you.)

In making the choice, I was able to stop my mind. I decided that when my husband got home, I would use his phone. I would call and make an appointment at an Apple repair place for the next day. And I would manage for the following 24 hours. 

And moving forward, everything went smoothly. I used my husband’s phone to make an appointment. The next morning I ate breakfast and packed myself a lunch. I got there on time. They took my phone and told me to come back in an hour. And I had Apple Care so they fixed my phone for free. I got back home with a working phone in time for lunch.

The ability to pause, to actively make a choice, to *accept* that it is always life on Life’s terms, is a gift of having my eating under control. My default may be to pace and mutter and flit from unfinished task to unfinished task, but I now have the option to *choose* something else. 

Does that take something? Some effort? It does. I had to learn how to do it. I have to continue to practice it. All the time. And even after 16 years of having boundaries around my eating, that panic still pops up first. But in having priorities, especially when my first priority is that of self-care, I can change the way I think and act in any moment.

Every Feeling In Its Place

It has been a few days of what some people like to call “broken shoelaces.” These are not life or death problems I’m having. They are manageable troubles that happen to everyone. They are just life. But gah! They sure do suck!

My car battery died. And the store only had the really expensive replacement battery in stock. My internet won’t work. And I can’t get my provider to send a technician. I just end up on the merry-go-round of their automated system. But also, if we change providers, we don’t know it will be any better, and they may have to drill holes in our cinderblock walls. Sigh. 

I am frustrated. I am annoyed. I feel like none of this will ever be resolved. But of course it will. Because I am not drugging myself with food. I am not making myself numb enough not to care.

I don’t like these feelings. I am not comfortable being frustrated, feeling powerless, feeling invisible. I don’t enjoy not being able to get what I want even through my own actions.

But I know how to manage those feelings. I know how to be with them. I know how to sit in the discomfort until it passes, either from me fixing it, or sometimes, life fixing it. Everything passes. And sometimes it passes because I made it. And sometimes because things change. But however it happens, in the mean time, I know how to be calm, or more likely how to calm myself. I know how to accept my situation and take stock of my opinions. And I know how to be patient. To not need everything right now. 

And I learned that through practice. And the first thing I had to practice was not eating compulsively even when my thoughts and my feelings were screaming for cake.

Having my eating under control gives me a kind of control over my thoughts and actions that I never had in the food. And it puts my feelings in their proper place. They are signposts and guides. They are warnings and signals. But they are not the truths I used to take them for. 

I am still annoyed. I am not an angel or a saint. But I am in control of my life in a way I was not when my sugar addiction was active. I am in control of my actions, and my thoughts, and how I present them to others. And that makes all of these broken shoelaces feel like what they are, inconveniences, rather than the overwhelming problems that I used to be afraid everything was.

Vanity, Pride and wanting to be skinny enough to be loved

I was talking to some friends who do what I do with food the other day. And I was reminded that the difference between me as a kid eating compulsively and me as an adult with boundaries around my food is much bigger inside than outside. I did lose a lot of weight. And that is one thing. But most people I still have in my life didn’t care about my weight when I was fat. And they really think that I am basically the same as I ever was. Only not fat. And they don’t care about that.

This is interesting to me because I feel like an entirely different person. On the inside. And not just because I don’t think about my weight or my body anymore, which is HUGE, because when I was eating compulsively I thought about my body and my weight all the time. I worried about what other people thought about my body. But more importantly I worried about who was going to humiliate me because of my size and shape. Because people loved to humiliate me. People love to humiliate fat people in general.

But aside from not having that constant nagging fear and shame, I feel entirely different than I did when I was in the food. And it is about having my addiction under control. I have a clear head. I have a clear conscience because I have done my best to clean up my past messes and to “clean as I go” in my relationships now. I have a peace around not only my actions and words, but also my circumstances. I have a new relationship to what happens to me and how I react to it. One where I assess what is the reality of the situation, accept it, and act (or abstain from acting) according to who I want to be in my life.

Here is the deal. I believe whole heartedly that the people in my life would still love me if I were fat. I believe my husband would still love me. I believe my friends and family would still love me. That they would not see me as all that different.

And if what I do with food were only about being thin, and I knew that people would still love me fat, I would have quit. A long time ago. If it were about my body, and my weight, and I knew that my husband did not really care about my weight, I would have said screw it. I would have gone back to cake. Because when I got my eating under control, it really was to be skinny enough to be loved.

But now I do what I do because when I do it, I love myself. And I do not love myself because I’m skinny. I am not skinny. I love myself because I do what I say I am going to do. I be where I say I am going to be. I tell the truth and I honor myself. These were not things I could do before. Because how could I have been honest about anything when I could never be honest about food? I have sometimes heard “how you do anything is how you do everything.” And I was a liar about food. How could I not be a liar in any other aspect of my life?

As time goes by and I get more clearheaded, I know that weight is less and less important to me. That I don’t keep my eating boundaries for physical vanity. Though I’ll admit it is a kind of vanity. I like looking like I’ve got my shit together. But also, I like that I actually have my shit together. So maybe that’s more pride than vanity. (Do I sound like Mary Bennet now?!?) Either way, I am grateful that my happiness is not all tangled up with my weight anymore. Even if it is still tangled up with my food.

Post Navigation