onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “feelings”

You have no power over me

The other day, for the at least second, or possibly 3rd time, I had a particular guy from junior high pop on my Facebook feed. Not by mutual junior high friends, but by people that I don’t think know him personally. He is the significant other of some social media personality that I don’t follow, and whom I am not interested in. And this woman sometimes tags this guy, and waxes poetic about how wonderful he is. But this guy stands out in my mind as the fat shaming bully of my junior high years.

So, when I was seeing friends of mine reacting with thumbs ups and hearts to some woman going on about this guy being the hero who changed her life, I wanted to write to my friends privately, tell them my story, stop them from liking and loving, and fawning over someone who humiliated and shamed me. I wanted to tell the world, or at least my small corner of it, that I hate that guy. That he is a bully and an arrogant jerk.

What? Am I twelve?

Well, actually, yes. The girl who wants to do that is absolutely twelve. And fat, and awkward, and bad at navigating the world. And she wants to shame and humiliate a forty-year-old man that she has had absolutely nothing to do with for the past 27+ years, just like he shamed and humiliated her.

I decided to take a step back and look at my part, my mess. Acknowledge my own dust and debris, and sweep around my own front door, before I go sweeping around this guy’s. (A shout out to the friend who posted that song this week.)

When I try to think back to specific incidents where this guy shamed and humiliated me, I can only think of one. And the truth is, in retrospect, it was not earth shattering. And it was not directed at my weight, but at my weirdness. Which is something I can’t deny. And which, at 12, in the company of other 12-year-olds in the homogenous south suburbs of Chicago, was not the cute, quirky asset that it would come to be in my adult years. Being a non-conformist didn’t make adolescence any easier, I’ll tell you that.

There is that quote that is attributed to many people, but as far as I can find was by a guy named Carl W. Buehner.

“They may forget what you said – but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

Did this guy make me feel ashamed of myself and my body? Absolutely. I still very clearly remember those feelings. Enough so that I wanted to rant about him at people who don’t even know the guy. Do I really think he was a jerk? I sure do. But he could not have affected me the way he had, if I had not already hated myself so much and been so ashamed of myself. Perhaps I projected my own fat shaming of myself onto him. I don’t believe so, but it’s a possibility. Or perhaps I remember the experience of his meanness clearly, and I have blocked out the more painful and humiliating particulars and incidents. (I have discovered over the years that I have blocked out many of the more traumatic parts of my childhood.) But either way, the only reason I was having such a strong emotional reaction was because I was not complete with myself, or him, in my own heart and mind. And I don’t need him to hear me or see me or acknowledge me in any way, in order to get complete. This is between me and me, and it always was. Especially since I have had zero to do with this guy at all for nearly 3 decades.

But it’s still hard. Because it still hurts a lot. So much that it has made me cry more than once in the past days. Less when I think about his cruelty, and more when I think about how scared and alone I felt those two years that I was in junior high. I think that those two years were the very worst, most miserable of my entire life. I would say that they were even worse than the years just before I got my eating under control, when I was in the throes of my most destructive eating disorders. Ok, maybe it’s a tie…

So I expect that my problem is not really this guy as a person at all.  It’s what he represents in my memory about those years: the loneliness, and fear, the feeling that nothing would ever work out, or be right. The fear that I was forever going to be shameful and ashamed. And that there would always be someone, like him, who was eager to point it out.

And I don’t know. Maybe he’s changed. I certainly did. I changed myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Maybe he really is an amazing partner and father. Maybe he is a good, kind man with a heart filled with love and honor. Or maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s still a jerk and a bully and this woman doesn’t know the difference. Maybe he’s just better than her last one. Maybe she posts only the good and never the bad. She’s a social media personality, after all. I already know not to compare my insides with other people’s outsides. I, too, made sure I looked like I had my shit together when I definitely did not.

In the movie, Labyrinth, there is a line from a book that the heroine can never seem to remember. It’s a declaration, the kind of thing that most of us forget, conveniently or inconveniently, all the time when we are dealing with difficult people or situations. It’s a line I also forget, yet would do well to remember.

You have no power over me.

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The strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake

This week was an exciting food week for me. First, I found my favorite winter seasonal flavored coffee, cinnamon sugar cookie. (It’s even better than gingerbread, and frankly, blows pumpkin spice out of the water.) Now I usually hate it when companies start selling a season months in advance, and I certainly found it ridiculous that there was a “fall scents” display in my local grocery store this July. And if I were in New York or Chicago staring down an actual winter, I might be more annoyed than excited to find this coffee. But on the other hand, it is reaaaaaaaally good, and I’m in southern Texas where I will not have to wear four layers of pants to leave my house. Ever. So yay yummy coffee!

And then I found a meat market that will custom make me mild Italian sausage with no sugar, grains, or starch. I have not been able to find an Italian Sausage I can eat since I left the Chicago area. In fact, I was buying a bunch of it there when we traveled home to visit family, and driving it back to Kentucky in a cooler and freezing it. Now, we don’t go home by car. So we have not had sausage in months! Months I say!

And then somebody told my husband about a meat market, and I called and asked about the ingredients in their fresh sausage, and of course, it had sugar in it. But the guy told me that he could make custom orders. And he talked me through all of the ingredients one at a time, seasonings and spices, hog casing and pork, to make sure that I could have everything on the list. I had to order 25 pounds. It’s a lot. But I will freeze it, just like I did before. And it’s Italian sausage! I get to eat Italian sausage again!

Look, this has been a rough week for me emotionally. Possibly for you too. I have been heartbroken, frustrated, furious and disgusted. These kinds of emotions, and the kind of fear and anxiety about the future that I have been experiencing, are what I ate over when I was eating sugar and eating compulsively. Now I don’t eat those feelings.

But eating still makes me happy. Happier now because it is guilt free and still keeps me in a comfortable body. So I am grateful for yummy seasonal coffee, and sausage I can eat. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for so many little things, laughing with my husband, making new friends (human and animal), the time and ability to make Star Wars amigurumi (crocheted dolls), but for this recovering food addict, the food ones don’t hurt. In fact, they are the strictly proverbial icing on the nonexistent cake.

I trust my gut (except about cake)

I have had a couple of things happen in the past week or so that have made me question my savvy.

The first incident happened late last week. I jog my two miles in the morning, and I usually start before sunrise. On this particular day, it was drizzling. (In case you are wondering, I wear one of my husband’s reflective vests so I can be easily seen.) At one point on that route, I would run for about a quarter mile with no houses nearby. There are some buildings, but they are set back about a block from the sidewalk where I would run, not to mention that the whole area is fenced off.

While I was approaching an intersection on that houseless stretch the other day, I noticed a black pick-up slow down, and then stop. I was wary. I veered off a little to run farther away from the truck, when the man inside it got out. Now I know that southerners are friendly, but this was a huge red flag for me. I yelled at this guy to “stay the f*** away from me,” but he kept approaching and just smiled at me and asked if I wanted a ride. Now I don’t care where you are from, if a woman tells you to stay the f*** away from her, the next right action is always to immediately leave her alone. So I veered even farther away from him and yelled at him that I was going for a run, he was scaring me, and “don’t get out of your f***ing car!” At which point he got back into his truck and sped off, clearly furious, tires squealing.

This man set off my fight or flight reaction. Do I know that he was up to no good? I don’t. But do I think so? I sure do.

When I talked to my husband about it later that night, he said that he suspected that this man was just flirting with me. But we agreed that I would change my route so that there are houses around me the whole time. Plus he got me a whistle and a can of pepper spray.

Then this week, a man knocked on my door and said that he was from the local fire department and he wanted to check that my smoke detectors were working properly. I believed him, but I told him that I was not from the south and that where I am from, we do not let people into our houses. Then I posted about it on Facebook, and a handful of people I know from New York and Chicago freaked out. They thought it was a scam. They were sure this man was dangerous, or at least out to rob me. But this man did not set off my fight or flight reaction. I was simply being cautious. However, I did call the fire department and it turned out that the guy was legit. I live in an apartment that is attached to another apartment, and in those circumstances, the fire department here does, indeed, send someone out to check the smoke detectors.

The man who answered the phone at the fire department was very nice. We joked and laughed a little, and he said that it was fine that I did not let the man in the house. That my safety should be a priority and that I did the right thing.

When one lives in places like New York City, or Chicago, one acquires a set of skills for reading the atmosphere. I have long prided myself on my street smarts. But the truth is that living in a smaller town, especially a southern one, is different. People tend to be more trusting, and friendlier. And because of that, the way official business gets done is in a friendlier and less “official-feeling” way. I’m sure that the people who were born and raised here think it’s better this way. I’m sure they appreciate the neighborly ambiance of their culture. But to a Chicagoan and a New Yorker, yeah…not so much…

So these two incidents, and more specifically, other people’s reaction to them, had me start to doubt myself. They started to make me feel crazy, or at the very least, like I was losing my “instincts.” My husband thought I was overreacting to the man in the truck. My city friends thought I was not being vigilant enough regarding the man at the door. And I started to question myself. Am I losing my street smarts? Am I not seeing things clearly?

I often talk about the clarity and confidence I get from keeping boundaries around my eating. One of my favorite benefits is that I don’t doubt myself. I always felt that getting my eating under control only made those atmosphere-reading skills stronger and more reliable. But when my reactions were repeatedly called into question, especially after years of small town living, I began to call those skills into question.

When I first put boundaries around my food, people in my life (and strangers too) had a lot of opinions. People questioned whether it was healthy to give up carbohydrates. They thought I was losing too much weight. Or losing it too quickly. They thought it was “crazy” to give up sugar forever. They said I should eat it once in a while. They said I should have a cheat day. They said it was okay for my birthday, a holiday, a special occasion. They said it was just one bite. Thankfully, at that time, I had the wherewithal to realize that I was experiencing, from my strict boundaries, a peace and freedom that I had never experienced from moderation, or just one bite, or sometimes. I trusted my gut. (I mean my instincts, not my stomach. My stomach was still campaigning for cake then.)

I think what happened in the past week or so was an important lesson for me. It was a good reminder that I am still clear-headed and perceptive. It was a good reminder that I not only can, but should, trust my instincts. It was an opportunity to reaffirm for myself that, while I may ask for help sometimes, or for a sounding board sometimes, or for someone else’s opinion sometimes, I don’t have to doubt myself or question my clarity. That I am just as savvy, even after all this time in small town America. And it was a chance to recognize that I do not have to listen to the chatter that tells me to question myself.

The truth is, I was pretty sure that the man from the fire department was who he said he was, and I still did not let him in the house. You can take the girl out of the city, but it’s a damn sight harder to take the city out of the girl. But I am grateful that these incidents brought something to my attention; it was not that my instincts were getting eroded, but my confidence in them. And now I feel pretty confident. I know that the people who questioned and doubted did so out of love. And I can be grateful, and honor that. But I don’t have to trust them more than I trust myself.

Way too close to chocolate cake

I have to say that I am so ready for November 9th. Seriously. I am having a hard time emotionally. Every day, the political noise gets louder and angrier. And more than once I have been sucked in. But I don’t want to be sucked in. 

I want peace. Today my husband was watching something and I had to get up and walk away from it. It brought up so much hate and rage. 

I hate these feelings. They scare me. I am ill-equipped to handle them. And I can’t dive head first into self righteous anger. It’s a sick place for me. It’s a dangerous place for me. Each toxic, hate-filled thought I entertain is a paving stone on my personal highway to hell. And not the cool highway to hell that AC/DC was on. I’m talking more like Illinois expressways during summer construction. I’m talking about picking up my substance. Because do you know what would numb all of these uncomfortable feelings? Cake.

Consumerism in the U.S. is all encompassing, and that includes the news. I believe that people, in general, like to get riled up. It’s exciting! They like the way their heartbeats quicken. They like to yell, and berate, and accuse. They like it so much they are willing to pay for it. And somebody will always sell what everyone is willing to buy. 

I used to be one of those people. I loved to get angry. I loved to argue. I loved to show how clever I was in mean spirited ways. (I still love to show how clever I am. I just try to keep it light and friendly now.) But that kind of thinking is like peeing your pants. It feels good at first, but soon it leaves you cold and uncomfortable. 

Addiction is also like that. I would eat a cake. I would feel like I didn’t have a care in the world. For a little while. But then I would come to, and I would feel fat and gross. And the only thing left to do, the only way to get rid of that feeling, was to eat another cake.

I don’t know that I won’t get sucked back into the mire of heinous depravity that is this election season. But no matter what, I can’t take it lightly. I can’t say “that’s just the way it is.” I have to protect myself. Because It’s too close to temporary oblivion. It’s too close to resentment and righteous anger. Because it’s way too close to chocolate cake.

The luxury of comfort 

It has been a long week. Cleaning, packing, driving 7ish hours, and unpacking, on top of the usual everyday life stuff. But I’m with my boyfriend again. (Yay!) And we’re on the road.

I’m happy. But I’m also raw. It’s emotional. And that’s uncomfortable.

Driving in this town is very different from the suburbs I am used to. It is stressful for me. I am going out every day to practice, but it I’m still not at ease on the roads here. The internet at the hotel is bad, so I called around to Internet and phone companies, and thought I got better web access. But after all that, I couldn’t get on to send out the invitation to an important video meeting. Then we decided to start looking for an apartment closer to my boyfriend’s job site. Plus keeping in touch with various people who are taking care of our house. 

It’s a lot. And I feel it. Of course, I feel it. I’m not high on sugar and carbohydrates.

I was talking to some friends the other day, and one of them was talking about how she was feeling nervous, and anxious, and worried that she didn’t know how to do some things she was doing. And then she realized that she was feeling like that because she was doing new, exciting things. She was pushing her comfort limits. She didn’t know how to do things because they were things she has never done before.

I could live a very small life with relative ease and happiness. I can find a million reasons to say no, stay home, take my usual path. I like the usual. It’s comfortable and comforting. 

But for some reason, I have repeatedly chosen to do things that make me uncomfortable. Or perhaps it’s just that I have decided that comfort will not be a major factor in whether or not I do a thing.

I ate sugar and carbohydrates to feel comfortable. Dazed, zoned out, numb, heavy. They call it a food coma for a reason.

Being aware can be uncomfortable. Even when it’s beautiful. Even when it’s pleasurable. I have to make decisions. I have to take actions. I have to be in new, uncertain, scary situations. It’s just the way it is. 

When I quit sugar I agreed to be uncomfortable. Not only did I have to sit in feelings I had been avoiding by eating sugar, but I had to sit in the feelings of withdrawal too. Thank God I stuck it out. It turns out the feelings I was eating are almost never as bad as sugar withdrawal. And even the most painful feelings, the ones that are worse than sugar withdrawal, pass so much more quickly, and are ultimately so much more easily soothed and satisfied. 

Being okay in the face of discomfort is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

I don’t mean to say that I don’t enjoy comfort. I do. Maybe I love it all the more for keeping it as a luxury, rather than a necessity. A thing my compulsive eating self would never have understood.

Presence for Christmas (Yes, I know it’s a bad pun…)

This week has been an e exercise in keeping my focus in the presentmoment. And on top of that, keeping happy and peaceful.

I don’t know where I stand in the job process. And I have not allowed myself to dwell on it. I have especially not allowed myself to worry about it.There is a saying: Hell is in the hallway. It means that the time that one is waiting or transitioning is always the most trying and difficult. 

I don’t have the luxury of wallowing in worry. I’m an addict. Wallowing of any kind is a chocolate-cake-binge waiting to happen. 

Having huge emotions is something I have had to make friends with. I have learned that they have their place. I won’t pretend I’m good at controlling them, but I no longer let them control me.

I used to think that my emotions meant something. I thought they were “The Universe” telling me some irrefutable truth. It turns out that my emotions are the physical expressions of my thoughts. When I change my thoughts, I change my feelings.

It’s not hard to change the way you think, but it takes something. Mostly, you have to be willing. Willingness is key. Willingness and commitment.

Giving up sugar took willingness. I had to be willing to sit in what was uncomfortable and not numb it with cake. And sitting in discomfort made it possible for me to change my thinking. Commitment to not eating sugar meant that if I didn’t want to be uncomfortable forever, I had to come up with new ways to be comfortable. (By the way, being high on sugar was not really very comfortable. Certainly not as comfortable as self-respect.) They say necessity is the mother of invention. I had to invent new thoughts to go along with my experiences. I had been thinking like an addict for my whole life. I had been thinking like a fragile, dramatic child. And that kept me eating compulsively.

When I committed to putting boundaries around my food, I committed to changing anything that got in the way of that. And that included being responsible for having positive thoughts. It meant being grateful for all of the amazing things in my life. And having faith that life is always working toward the better. 

The other day, our furnace broke down. I had to be at work that afternoon. For the first 15 minutes, I was in a panic. And then I remembered that whatever happened, it would all turn out fine. I called the repair people. I set up an appointment. And I stopped worrying. 

It actually all played out perfectly. The furnace was fixed and I made it to work on time. But the best part was knowing that even if it hadn’t gone perfectly, it would have been perfectly fine. Because in any given moment, I can choose to think gratitude, and feel faith in the benevolence of life. 

Egos or I go. (Yes, I am aware of how bad that pun is.)

I had another week of intense feelings. They are still not my favorite. I didn’t want to eat this week.

I ate my meals. Because it’s part of my boundaries. It’s how I roll, if you will. But it was not easy. It was not fun. I did not enjoy it.

As a compulsive eater, it is rare to not want to eat. I usually love every bite of my meals. Sometimes I’m even a little sad when they end. But just like how I feel doesn’t change whether or not I eat more, it doesn’t change whether or not I eat less either.

My boyfriend had some things to point out about me and my behavior this week. He wasn’t wrong. And it was hard to hear.

Look, I know that I write a lot about making changes to myself and being a part of the solution. Yadda yadda yadda. Of course, what I write is true. But for the most part I am writing about it after the fact. After I have already done the hard part. That might make you think that kind of thing is easy for me. Perhaps you are under the impression that I am naturally humble.

I’m not. At all.

I do the things I do because I want things. I want peace. I want to be in a great relationship. I want to be a person I like and respect. I want to sleep easily at night.

But I have an ego. And it really wants to argue. It wants to make excuses. It wants to manipulate and put others on the defensive when it feels threatened.

It is work not follow my ego. It is painful. It is uncomfortable and humiliating. I do it, even though it is not easy, because I want to be happy more than I want to be right. Or seen as right. Admitting I am being a jerk sucks. And I will have to do it again. And again. Until I’m dead. Because I don’t imagine I will ever entirely rid myself of jerkiness.

I only know what I want because I have my eating disorders under control. Because I am sober from sugar. Because I eat my committed meals, whether I want to or not. I only have the ability to keep my ego in check because of this. I can only look at myself honestly, as painful as it may be, because of this. And I can only change myself because of this.

Putting boundaries around my food took a specific kind of honesty. And keeping my integrity around my food requires me to bring that honesty to all areas of my life.

For a long time, I ate compulsively, and it fed my ego. Here is the irony. It is my vanity that has me check my ego. It is my desire to be, and be seen as, my authentic self, that allowed me to put my ego in its place.

There is a saying (you know how I love my sayings): You can’t save your face and your ass at the same time. My face is always just fine. It’s my ass that sometimes needs saving.

It turns out you won’t bleed to death from wounded pride.

For most of my life I ate my feelings. I do not recommend this. It didn’t work particularly well. I could only stuff them down so long before they burst out in unhealthy, unseemly, and uncontrollable ways. But more importantly, eating, instead of feeling my feelings, kept me stuck. In ways I didn’t really understand until I stopped eating and started feeling.

Now, I don’t really have any alternative to felling my feelings. The escape mechanisms I have, and use, are tame. Healthy. I read books. I watch movies. I crochet. In moderation (sort of.) I still manage to get stuff done. I am not paralyzed. Nor am I too high to care about my commitments or my integrity.

I am having a lot of feelings lately. Difficult feelings. The worst kind. I have a lot of shame and humiliation popping up.

I still don’t have a job. And it is hard for me to find peace around it. I have applied to a bunch of places, and I have had almost no response. That is beginning to affect my self-esteem. I know that I am not only a capable employee, but a desirable one. I have a fantastic work ethic, and the highest level of trustworthiness. Not to mention the fact that I am highly intelligent, a quick learner, and experienced in a wide variety of fields. When I think of myself as a worker, I can see that I am a catch.

I had this experience as a woman before I ended up with my boyfriend. I knew that I was the kind of person I wanted to be. And that I was the kind of person I wanted to be with. I had done a lot of work on myself to get to that point. And I knew that I wanted to be the kind of person who would continue to grow and get better. So why was I still single? I started to wonder if I was wrong about myself. If there was actually something wrong with me.

Of course, now when I look back on it, I can see that I could never have imagined how happy I would be with my boyfriend. I hated waiting when I didn’t understand that what was coming was worth the wait. I want to trust that the same applies to me and getting a job.

And there is something else that I really don’t want to talk about. But I am going to. Because this blog has taught me that keeping secrets only makes me more ashamed. Telling the truth, ugly or embarrassing as it may be, is the best way to get those painful feelings out. It is the opposite of eating them. It is the step after feeling my feelings. It gets me unstuck.

I have been applying for jobs on the internet as well as in person. And I was offered a job the other day. But it was not a real job. It was a scam.

First, let me assure you that I realized what was happening before I did anything that put myself at risk. And I turned over all of the information that I had, and all of my correspondence, to people who have launched an investigation with the FBI. The only harm was to my pride.

But that is a pretty big wound. I have a lot of pride, not only in my intelligence, but also in my savvy. I lived in New York City for almost fifteen years. I like to think that I can smell a rat a mile off. And I was tricked. And I am deeply ashamed of that.

I will tell you that I cried quite a bit over this, and then talked about it with friends and people I trust. I have come to the conclusion that my pride is not doing me any good in this situation. This experience doesn’t mean anything about me, what I deserve, or who I am.

I had to feel my shame because I refused to eat it. And it didn’t kill me. More importantly, it wasn’t that bad. I used to eat my feelings because I was afraid of them. But the fear of them is so much worse than the reality of them. And stuffing them down only allowed me to stay afraid. Telling the truth, shame and all, gives me freedom. I get to move forward without being shackled by my embarrassment.

This is where I don’t blink

So many things I want to get out and get off my chest. But this is not my diary. And you, as a collective, are not my friends. (Though obviously some of you are.)

I have to remind myself that this is a blog about living with eating disorders. And that can mean so many things for me, because my eating disorders touch every part of my life. But this is not a place to complain.

And even in those places that are places to complain, I try to do minimal complaining. Or at least minimal “all I’m doing about it is complaining.”

I am in a lot of pain lately. About circumstances. And life. And it is time to do that thing where I look at what is my responsibility, and what I can change and what I can’t, and what I have to let go of. And then let go.

And that is always wrapped up in my eating disorders. Partly because feelings are all wrapped up in my eating disorders. When I ate compulsively, pain is what I ate.

The correlation between an event and a feeling doesn’t even have to make sense. It doesn’t have to be some huge incident. It doesn’t have to be traumatic for me to be traumatized. So much of it is about feeling helpless.

This is a good lesson for me right now. I just had a little epiphany writing that. I don’t know if I have ever been able to pinpoint this feeling. I know its physical sensations. The intense tightness in my throat, like I am strangling myself with my own throat muscles. And the feeling in my arms and legs, hands and feet, like they don’t exist. Sort of the opposite of phantom limb syndrome. But I don’t know if up until this point I have ever been able to clearly note that it comes down to wanting something to be different that I have no power to change.

I don’t know the last time I had this feeling. It comes, and I let it go by trusting. By trusting that life is going the way it should. That whatever situation will be resolved and I, personally, will be better off with whatever the outcome. That has always been true, even though at the time it didn’t always seem to work out in my favor.

But the last time I remember this feeling being so terrible that it was practically unbearable, was about four years ago. I was a babysitter at the time and I could not stop thinking about the possibilities of the children I took care of getting hurt or dying. Especially when they were under my watch. I could not get these thoughts out of my head. Not matter how many times I tried to stop thinking them, they kept creeping in.

Now that I think about it, that was simply that I was overwhelmed by my lack of control over life. I was a fantastic child-care provider. I was not flighty or careless. I just knew in that moment that things happen in life, and people get hurt and it’s nobody’s fault. And I couldn’t control that. And it terrified me. And traumatized me. And it created the most intense pain.

That was when I started meditating. That was when I made an agreement with God, and then took time every morning to renew it. I agreed that I would honor what ever happened in a day as exactly what was supposed to happen. I didn’t have to like it. I didn’t have to put some spin on it. I just had to honor it. In other words, I had to trust.

That agreement doesn’t mean I always trust. It doesn’t stop this feeling from showing up. And it’s intense. But I will say that wading through it is so much better than eating it.

I used to eat all of my feelings. But I can think of growing up, and the times I felt the most crazy and out of control, and it all came down to this feeling, magnified times a thousand. Because I ate it. And then I ate it again. And again. Until eating it wasn’t going to work again. Until it had to come out. And when it did, it was all tied up in my worthlessness and my brokenness and the shameful things I had done and the shame in what I had failed to do. It was muddled and cloudy and I couldn’t see it clearly. And I couldn’t hold it in. I could eat as much cake as I wanted, but it was going to come out. And by that time it was so big and heavy and intense that it scared the shit out of me. There were times that I actually thought I might be going crazy.

There is something about using a substance that is ultimately lacking. If it weren’t, it would work. If I could have numbed my pain with food, and it had kept working, I would have done it. Eternally. Before I had love in my life, I would have gladly traded love for numb. I did, in fact trade love for numb for so many years. If only I could have stayed numb, I would have happily gotten fatter and fatter. I would have happily died of some obesity related illness. If only it had worked.

Thank God it didn’t. Now I would never trade love for numb. Even when this pain is so intense. And anyway, it passes, eventually. But first I have to let myself fall into the helplessness. I have to look my lack of control in the eye and not blink.

Oh, is that your cry? I hope you don’t mind that I borrowed it.

Gosh am I weepy lately. I have read a book and watched two movies in the past 3 days that made me cry.

I am not sad. I am not unhappy. I am just emotional.

It’s funny to be able to pinpoint this idea. That I am having emotions that make me feel a kind of pain. A pain that makes me cry. (And I’m not talking about pretty, sparkly teardrops delicately skittering down my cheeks. I mean streaming, snotty, puffy, phlegmy sobbing.) But also knowing that this pain does not mean anything about me. It is not the result of something being wrong. It does not have to be about an event, or a personal experience. It is simply about being alive. Being human. Living in a body in the world with other humans.

And it feels good. Letting it go is kind of gross at the time. Not particularly comfortable or pleasant. But freeing. Relaxing. Cathartic. Holding it in hurts.

But I’m an addict. And pain used to be something different to me.

First of all, I was terrified of it. I have mentioned before that I have a sensitive heart. I feel things very deeply. And when I was a little girl, those feelings were overwhelming. I can remember being 4 or 5, lying in bed and saying to God that if life didn’t get easier, I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I certainly didn’t know what the alternative was. I just knew that being alive hurt too much to bear sometimes. I don’t remember what had happened. It doesn’t matter, really. Or maybe it does in the sense that whatever happened, it was not monumental. But my pain was.

Since I have gotten control of my eating, I have often wondered if it is that extreme sensitivity that made me an addict. Because food allowed me to control that pain. Not entirely. And not forever. And the truth is that it always made it worse, ultimately. But I could cease to feel for a little while. I could suspend the ache.

But there was something else about being an addict. I did not trust myself. I could not look at myself. If I had looked at myself, I would have had to have done something about the way that I was abusing myself. So I had to accept things blindly. I had to believe my feelings. If I was weepy, I must be sad. If I felt pain, it must be mine. If I was uncomfortable there must be something wrong. If a book or a movie made me cry, I let it stir up my own personal pain. Wounds that I had not let go of. It would not have even occurred to me that I was feeling something separate from myself. After all, I could feel it so acutely. It must be real.

There are so many blessings to getting my eating under control. But one of them is feeling without drama. It is so nice to feel something and know that I feel it because I am a human being living in a body. And that’s all. That it does not have some deeper meaning. That it does not mean anything about me personally. There is something wonderful about a good cry. Especially when it’s not really mine. When it belongs to the world. And I just get to borrow it.

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