onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “shame”

Making a new friend of an old enemy

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!”

 

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Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

Failure, shame, love and trust

I wonder what it is about failure that makes me want to hide it. Not that I think I am the only one. Obviously, it is part of the human condition. But the overwhelming fear of humiliation is so intense that I want to show everyone (friends and strangers alike) that everything is super extra awesome! Nothing disappointing here! I live in a perpetual state of happiness, and life couldn’t be going any better!

That is a lie. 

I was doing some writing work for the dream job I am being looked at for, and my first attempts were a failure. What I thought was going to be a natural, and seamless process of just doing my best and getting the job (easy peasy), turned out to have snags and bumps. And there is the chance that I will not get the job. Not that it’s over, but that what seemed simple is, in fact, complicated. 

I am sharing this because I don’t want to be ashamed of being humiliated. (No, that is not an oxymoron. Shame is about being embarrassed of who you are. Humiliation is about being embarrassed of what you have done, or failed to do.) We already live in a white-washed world. So many of us use social media to display our victories and hide our defeats. We spin everything to show it in the most flattering light. We love filters. We, as a culture, even Photoshop super models, because the most symmetrical of humans are no longer viewed as “pretty enough.” 

So what kind of loser broadcasts their imperfections?

That loser would be me.

The truth is, I might fail. For real. I have gone out on a limb, and chased after my dreams, and done everything to the best of my ability. And I still might not get this job. After I told everyone how bad I want it! *cringe* How uncool can you get?

Getting my eating under control meant that I had to learn to sit in uncomfortable feelings. And what I am experiencing now are uncomfortable feelings. But there is a positive spin to this, and it’s not false. It’s not bullshit. It’s not me blowing sunshine up your ass. The positive is that I trust that whatever is happening is the right thing. 

That did not come naturally. I was not born that way. I am not a special golden child with the gift of self-knowledge. Yes, I trust that life will always give me better than I think I want. But I had to work at it. I had to change the way I think. I had to change the way I act. I had to be willing to tell the brutal truth about myself, and hope I wouldn’t die. By the way, I didn’t die.

 If this job does fall through, I will be disappointed. I will be embarrassed. I will not enjoy telling everyone that I failed at something I attempted. But I won’t be ashamed. I won’t hide it. If it’s my job, I’ll get it. If it’s not, I won’t. 

I will most certainly cry if I fail at this. But life hurts sometimes. Rejection hurts. But since I stopped eating sugar and carbohydrates and put boundaries around my food, I know that it’s not about whether or not I am “good enough” for what I want, but what is the right thing for me and my life. I like and trust myself enough that nothing can make or break me. For the rest of my life I am going to want things. I may or may not get what I want every day for the rest of my life. It would be exhausting to be too attached to every single desire I have.

So I am going to continue to go full out and do the best I can. And I may fail. And if I do, I will tell you about it. With the same love of my life as I will if I succeed. No, not the same joyful excitement, but absolutely the same love. 

You are what you eat. Or are you what’s eating you?

I have been thinking about self-identification. What makes up our identities. How we choose to see ourselves, and how it feeds our choices and behaviors.

I think there must be something in the air. Friends of mine have been mentioning to me their own struggles and triumphs with identity. And over the past two weeks, I have been confronted by some decisions I made about myself that I would like to reconsider. And I have been working to get them disentangled from my identity.

I have a lot of experience with this.

Being fat was a major part of my identity when I was growing up. It was given to me by my family long before I was aware of it. It was given to me so young, that by the time I came to the age where I could make decisions about who I wanted to be, “fat” was not an “option,” it was an “incontrovertible truth.”

This idea of not only me being fat, but of fat being me, led to a lot of the lifestyle choices I made. Not just around food. But also around grooming and clothing and general self-care.

I didn’t care/I was above being a slave to fashion. That was the stance I took on my appearance. At least that was the image I wished to project. I wore all of my clothes too big. I often dressed like a boy. I wore pants all the time. If I did wear a dress, I wore jeans under it. I grew my hair out and never got it cut. I stayed indoors as much as possible and hated the sun. (I know! I hated the sun?!?! What was up with that?)

But I did care. I wore big clothes to hide my body. I wore heavy makeup because I was afraid I was ugly. Not getting my hair cut became part of my non-conformist identity. And I avoided at all costs any scenario where shorts or bathing suits were involved. It was not the sun I hated, but the idea of showing my flesh.

I had this idea that I could never be anything but fat. So even the handful of times I lost some weight, I didn’t have any confidence in keeping it off. That would be the opposite of who I was. Having “fat” as an identity also led me to make all sorts of excuses about why I couldn’t do what needed to be done to lose weight. It’s genetic. I’m just a person who was born not liking vegetables. Diets don’t work for me. I’m not the kind of person who does things like count calories. I can’t eat rabbit food. I’m just hungry all the time.

When I got my eating under control, I was so focused on the very clear and specific boundaries I set around my eating, that I didn’t have to confront these garrisoned identity outposts until they had been substantially weakened. All I had to do was eat my three meals a day within my set of clearly defined rules.

That has become my new identity. Eating three meals a day within my boundaries. Being a woman who has her eating disorders under control. It is an identity that I am proud to have. It works for me.

There is another result of this way of life, and that is the ability to recognize and let go of identities that don’t work for me anymore. In other words, part of this identity, is to be less caught up in my identities. For example: being a smoker, being a morning-to-night coffee drinker, being a girl who wears makeup, being too cold/protected to fall in love. All of these were major parts of my identity that I was willing to give up because they didn’t work anymore.

There are two identities that I find myself shifting lately.

The first is about being sexy. Or more specifically, what kind of sexy I am.

I’m a sexy woman. I know that. (Even 30 lbs heavier than I prefer.) And I like having “sexy” as part of my identity. But recently I have been thinking about what kind of sexy woman I am. And if I’d like to be a different kind of sexy.

Lately, I have been finding myself drawn to more classic styles. Fitted cuts and cleaner lines. A linen dress. A crisp white button down. A pencil skirt. A fit and flare. A boyfriend cardigan. These are things I shied away from in the past. Somehow, I decided that they didn’t fit some decision I made about myself. Now I think that idea is outdated. For me. And I want to give it up.

I’m not saying I will be giving up my strapless mini-dresses this summer. Or My leggings and knee-high boots this fall. But my heels are already getting shorter and I am interested in making room for something new. In my identity and my closet.

And the other thing that I am making room for is writing as my calling and career. And this one goes a little deeper. It took some action and some healing to be able to change this self-imposed identity.

In the early 2000s, I was a writer. The funny thing is that I didn’t know it. I not only wrote two versions of a play that went to the stage in New York and San Diego, but I was writing freelance for an online newsletter, and doing side writing jobs for a handful of individuals. But I did not think of myself as a writer.

There was something I had as part of my identity. It was something like “unworthy.” Or “unreliable.” Or some other version of “not good enough.” I had this idea about myself from the beginning (possibly, the beginning of time). Couple that with being in the throes of my food addiction, and that was exactly how I behaved: unworthy, unreliable and not good enough. I proved myself to be what I had always feared I was, and took that on as a personal truth. I spent the next ten plus years with the identity that I did not have what it takes to make it as a writer.

This past few weeks I have been applying for writing jobs. I was communicating with a potential employer, and in an email, I mentioned that I used to write freelance health articles. But I realized that wasn’t on my resume. And when I asked myself why, it was because I ended that job like a jerk. I was given a writing assignment much like a slew of previous assignments. I was supposed to set up an interview with an expert on some health and wellness subject, and then write an article. I don’t remember who the expert was, or the topic I was supposed to write about. Either way, I never did it. And I was so deep in my food addiction, and its accompanying shame, fear and paralysis, that I never contacted the editor, never apologized, never made it right. I just disappeared, and let my freelance writing job go with it. And in doing that, I made a decision about my identity that I didn’t even recognize until today. I am not dedicated or reliable enough to be a writer. I can’t be counted on to follow through as a writer.

Even though that was who I was in 2003, that is not who I am today. After over nine years of food sobriety, I am most certainly reliable, worthy, and good enough. I can absolutely be counted on. I have made my integrity a priority in my life.

This afternoon I searched on Facebook and I found the woman who had been my editor. I sent her a private message asking for her forgiveness, and what, if anything, I can do to make right what I did in disappearing on her. I certainly hope that she gets back to me. But no matter what, in pinpointing the decision I had made about my identity, and the behavior that created it, and in offering an amends for my wrongdoing, I was able to shake something loose and get myself a little more free.

I believe that amends are the kind of thing that can shift your whole life. This one, whether or not it is accepted, has already let me get complete with myself, and remove an identity that has been holding me back for over a decade.

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.

I make me feel like dancing

I have been listening to pop music and dancing around the house.

This is something I used to do all the time. Singing and dancing have always been a huge part of my life. From the time I was a small child.

There are two things about this that are important to me.

1. I don’t think I have done this since I quit smoking.
2. I am so grateful to be in a body that I am comfortable both moving in, and moving in front of people.

I have always danced. I danced as a small child. I danced when I was fat. I have always been a good dancer. (No seriously. A really good dancer. Like strangers feel the need to tell me.)

But when I was fat, I was always ashamed. As if I shouldn’t subject other people to having to look at my body. That my inability to control my eating forfeited any right to love moving that body.

It’s not that I didn’t dance. I did. Even in public. Because that’s how much I love dancing. But I was always self-conscious. And through my teenage years, I can remember being mocked at school or park district dances. But kids are mean. Even then I knew that kids were mean. And that I couldn’t stop dancing because of it. But it meant that I could never “dance like no one was watching.” I could never dance like I did alone in my bedroom.

And then, thank God, in my early 20’s I made friends with people who loved to dance as much as I did. They were great dancers too. And they knew that I was a great dancer. They told me. And to them, being fat and being a great dancer were not mutually exclusive. And we went out dancing two to three nights a week. And sometimes I forgot to be embarrassed. Sometimes it was just me and the music and I was free to honor my body by moving and shaking. Only sometimes. But that meant that I was no longer always worried and ashamed and embarrassed.

But even though I was graceful and talented, it was hard. It was hard on my body. I have always had an incredible amount of energy. But I had pain. My feet especially would ache. I wanted to dance all night, but I physically couldn’t. So I would sit out a few songs. But inevitably some song would come on that I just could not sit through. And I would hurt. I was hurting my body to nourish my soul.

But when I got control of my eating and lost my excess weight, dancing became one of my greatest joys in life. In public or private. I no longer worried if people were looking at me because they were disgusted. I no longer had to sit out any song. I could choose to dance to every song if I wanted.

I don’t know why I have started dancing again all of a sudden. I do know that I go through phases. With almost everything. I read constantly for 3 months and then don’t pick up a book for another three. I crochet in fits and starts. I eat the same thing every day for a year and then forget it exists. (What can I say, I’m a Gemini.) So maybe it’s a coincidence that I haven’t done it since I quit smoking. But I’m glad it’s back. It feels good. In my body and soul.

If you are wondering what I am dancing around my house to, here’s a sample.

Money is money. And time is money. But my attention is worth more than gold.

Twice now in the past three days I have had to speak up for myself. I have had to say no and stop.

It’s always an experience to see where I resist this. My “Good Girl” is a bit of a die-hard, it turns out.

Although it is not all about being a “Good Girl.” There is a line many of us walk. That line between self-care and egotism. I sometimes have a hard time distinguishing that line. I know that living my life generously is a gift back to myself. But taking care of, and responsibility for my own needs is also a gift to myself.

My mother and I were talking not too long ago about money. She said that my whole life, even when I was a child, if I “lent” somebody money, chances were I would never get it back. Because I never made it a priority. In some ways that was generosity, and in some ways it was a lack of self-care.

The truth is that while I like money, I don’t love it. It does not motivate me or thrill me. Losing it does not scare me. But over the past several years, as my self-care has become ever more important, I have done very little “lending.” And more often than not, if I am going to give you money, I am going to gift it. I don’t want there to be expectations. This also makes it easier for me to say no. If I pretend that I might get it back, I might feel like I “should” say yes. If I know that once it leaves my hand, it is gone, I can better gauge if I am willing to part with it. It’s a kind of Jedi-mind-trick. But it works. And brings me peace.

But what I had to do this week was not about money. It was about time, sort of. But really, it was about something else. It was about access to my attention. It was about allowing people in. And this is a line I have a very hard time walking.

My first reaction is to keep everybody out. I spent my life building fortresses and hiding within them. When I was actively in my addiction, I lived in a fortress of fat. That I fortified with isolation. I would hide away and eat. I would sit alone for long stretches and binge. I would eat all day until I passed out in a sugar induced coma. And I would wakeup fatter and more “protected” than I had been when I came to from the previous night’s passing out.

But I also have a history of doing things I don’t want to do because I “should.” (There’s that word again. I hate that word…) Things that I thought I would want to do if I were a good person with a pure heart and an honorable soul. I have a history of being a “Good Girl” and resenting the hell out of the people I was being “good” for.

The first boundary I set this week was a long time coming.

I am part of a group. A group I like and love and enjoy. We meet once a week on a video conference call. And it is important to me.

Several months ago, I was asked to help a couple of people to get set up on their computers. Make sure they had the proper accounts and software. And I did that. Even though I don’t like computers. Or interacting with strangers for that matter. And then it became expected. And for months, the expectation was that I would help everybody and their brother set up their computers. And even the few times I said no, I didn’t stick to it and ended up doing it in the end.

Part of this was my “Good Girl” who could not bear to say that my time and attention were too important to help somebody else. And my ego that told me that I had let it go on so long that it must officially be my job and that I would shame and dishonor myself by saying anything about it after all this time. And part of it was my arrogance that insisted that if I didn’t do it, it was not going to get done. And that that somehow made it my responsibility.

And I got more and more resentful. And as time went by and my resentment grew, the level of responsibility that I grudgingly and hatefully took on grew. Until this week I got a message from a complete stranger, saying that somebody had told her that there was some sort of meeting on the internet for our group and that she should get in touch with me.

First I boiled with rage!

And then I said no. I said that they should refer back to the person who referred them to me for help.

And then I wrote a message to the group and I said no again. To everybody. I said that I was not available to help people get on the group any more. That if people wanted people to join us, they were going to have to take some responsibility for it. And I am so grateful to have said it. I am so relieved.

Resentment feels awful. It feels dirty and itchy. Plus it’s exhausting. You would think that I would recognize right off the bat that it is not something I want in my life. That if a behavior of mine is cultivating it, that I should stop that behavior. Immediately.

But it can be so hard. It can be so easy to second guess myself. And this is coming from somebody who works at exactly this every day. I’m not some schlump walking through life blind. My only ambition in life, besides being an amazing girlfriend and partner, is to grow spiritually. To be an amazing friend to myself. And I can still harbor a resentment for months and months.

And then two days later the next one happened.

It was late at night (for me. I happen to be incredibly lame.) I got a PM on Facebook from an acquaintance. She wanted to ask me about something and told me that for that purpose, I needed to accept her friend request.

Now you should know that I have a hard time with Facebook and friend requests. I already have many people on my friends list that I have hidden from my news feed. If you share a lot of pictures of cakes and brownies and various foods I do not eat, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of weight-loss/diet articles with pictures of skinny women in yoga pants, chances are I have hidden your posts. If you share a lot of violent stories and pictures, chances are I have hidden your posts. Or just generally, if what you share upsets me or makes me uncomfortable, chances are I have hidden your posts.

But there is also another aspect to being Facebook friends with somebody. It gives them license to comment on your life. When you say yes to a friend request, you are saying, I care if you “like” what I post. I am willing to hear what you have to say about what I have to say.

And guess what? If we are not friends or family, I don’t give a shit what you think.

Now the reason this was particularly poignant for me was that this is not the first time that this person has sent me a friend request. The first time, I told her no very clearly. I even gave her a brief explanation. Which I did not owe her. I do not owe people explanations for the choices I make. (And no, I did not say that I did not give a shit what she thought. I was clear but diplomatic. In case you were wondering.) And shortly after that, she sent me a Facebook message that said she did not know how to get in touch with me since I wouldn’t accept her friend request. Of course I responded, without noting at the time that she was, in fact, being in touch with me.

A few months ago I got yet another friend request from her. By then I had realized that if you just leave the friend request there, you don’t have to reject the same person repeatedly. So her request has been sitting there since then.

And last night it happened yet again. Her PM said that there was something that she needed to go over with me, but she didn’t know how to get in touch with me if we weren’t Facebook friends.

Now I was angry.

And I took a few deep breaths, and I wrote her immediately. Sure, sometimes I believe that communication should be slept on and considered. When I need to disentangle what part of it is my BS and what part of it I need to address with the other person. But there was no doubt in my mind what I needed to say. It was obvious. It was simple. It was “Respect me.” “Respect my no.” “Stop it.”

When I was eating compulsively, I ate difficult conversations. And sugar made me high enough to make the uncomfortable feelings go away. And not feeling the uncomfortable feelings allowed me to convince myself that a conversation didn’t need to be had. Or a statement didn’t need to be made. Or a boundary didn’t need to be set.

But the farther I get from the food, the harder it is to sit in the discomfort. And I will say this. I have been keeping my commitments to water and meditation this week. And it has occurred to me that it is perhaps no coincidence that I have had a little breakthrough in saying what needs to be said. Perhaps it was hard to sit still and be with myself when I was itchy and gross with resentment. And perhaps forcing myself to sit still has made not saying what I needed to say unbearable.

I don’t know. It might be a coincidence. But then again, it might not…

The best way to know why you do is to don’t

I am feeling like such a brat this week. I’m tired. And I don’t wanna! (Can you hear the whine?)

Of course, I did. And I am. Even though I don’t wanna. First, and most importantly, I did all of the things that I needed to do to keep my food boundaries. Plus, I did the laundry, even though I didn’t want to. I cleaned up the deep-fryer and strained the oil and put it away for next time, even thought I wanted to leave it and deal with it “later” and sit on the couch and take ridiculous quizzes on Facebook. I am writing this blog, even though I would rather be lying in the sun doing the Sunday crossword puzzle.

But I will tell you what I did not do every day this week. I did not drink my 64 ounces of water two days this week. For some time now, there have been occasional days when I have fallen short of drinking all of my water. And I have not been doing my morning meditation regularly for a while, either. I do it some days. But not every day like I had for years. I don’t wanna. And somehow, I have let both of these commitments become less than commitments.

There’s no particular reason I’m tired this week. I have learned over the years that bodies sometimes get tired and slow down. That minds sometimes get foggy. That thoughts and emotions sometimes get wonky. Human bodies are complex. With hormones and chemicals and all manner of reactions going on that I personally can’t comprehend. I have realized that if an experience is not a trend, I should not, under any circumstances, worry about it. If it is a trend, well, that’s something else. And it merits exploration.

And these episodes of resistance to drinking my water and sitting down to my morning meditation are trends.

I have wondered what could have come between me and these commitments. I have thought about it. I considered using this blog to ferret out the answer. But then I remembered a very important lesson I learned when I got my eating under control. If you want to know why you eat compulsively, stop eating compulsively.

In other words, if I want to know why I stopped meditating regularly, start meditating regularly again. If I want to know why I’m getting lax with my water intake, get vigilant again.

The truth is, I don’t know if I will just get right back on the horse here. I have unsuccessfully attempted to recommit to these things before in the past few months. Specifically the morning meditation. But it occurs to me that I did it in my head. And not in the world. Where I know real changes happen.

And I will also say that writing it out makes it seem so much less shameful. In fact, I hadn’t even realized I was ashamed until just now. It even takes the pressure of success away.

So as of today, I am recommitting to you that I will do my morning meditation and drink 64 ounces of water every day. And when I glean some new (or recycled) insight about myself, I’ll let you know.

For now, I have to go meditate.

Glamour is pain. Beauty is something else.

I have been thinking about beauty lately. Not just prettiness, though that too. But beauty. And where it comes from. And what it means. And what it is.

When I was a very small child, I was stunning. No, seriously. At 4 years old, I was positively striking. I had unusual coloring. My skin was on the darker side, and my hair on the lighter. Big deep brown eyes. I was a beauty. And I knew it, but not in an obnoxious way. In an innocent, 4-year-old way. It was just the way it was. And it was nice.

And then I started being told that I was fat, or that if I wasn’t careful I would get fat, or even if I was careful, I would get fat. And then I eventually did get fat. Really, truly, and undeniable fat.

I come from a fat family. In my childhood, the people I grew up around either were and had always been fat, had been fat and would be fat again but at any given moment might not be fat, or were fat, but had once been quite thin.

We were all scrutinized from a very young age. There was no accounting for growing and changing. There was no recognition that growing bodies look awkward. That bellies and thighs plump and elongate and shift as little people grow into big people.

And let’s face it, I would get fat. 300 lbs fat. But sometimes I have seen pictures of myself at some time or another and I see that I was not fat yet. And I can think back to that time and know that I believed I was. In truth, I think that 4-year-old beauty was the last me who didn’t think she was fat. I think by 5 I was ashamed. It’s a sad thought, really.

Because it was also never my experience that my fat family believed that you could be big and beautiful at the same time. The attractive ones were the thin ones. And the ones who went up and down were attractive when they were thin and not when they were fat.

I sometimes wonder if starting out so pretty made being fat such a hardship for me. Perhaps if I had been plain, or even just merely “cute enough”, I wouldn’t have devastated me the way it did. I wished so desperately to be beautiful, and at the same time, shunned all things pretty and girly. I wore men’s cologne and men’s clothes. I hated pink. It infuriated me whenever people called me Katie. Because Katie was a pretty girl’s name. (I still don’t love to be called Katie, by the way. But more because I am Kate. It so obviously suits me better than any other name.)

So yesterday, I had a group of ladies come over to my home for lunch. We are all women who work every day at keeping our eating disorders under control. And we are all beautiful. We are different ages, different sizes, different styles. But we all sparkle.

I remember years ago meeting the mother of a man I was seeing. And she loved me. And I loved her. (Frankly, she liked me more than her son did…) I think she liked me because I sparkled the way she did. I certainly liked her because she sparkled the way I did. And that sparkle was her beauty. She was a very pretty woman too. But it was her sparkle that made her beautiful.

And then I think about the women that I have known or met or just encountered who are beautiful, but not pretty. And conversely, the women that are very pretty, but in no way beautiful. I am very clear that prettiness and beauty are not the same.

So I have a theory about what that sparkle is. I believe it is self-care. Not just the physical part, like eating well, and keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep and exercise. Though, of course that’s a good part of it. But also taking care of yourself in other ways. Like taking care of your integrity. Doing what you say you are going to do when you say you are going to do it. And being honest. So you can look God and yourself in the eye. And being confident. Not just in the way you look, but in your thoughts and actions. Doing things whole heartedly. Being bold. Knowing that it’s OK to be wrong, and get it wrong. Knowing that all will still be well if you fail. And feeling free to be yourself. Without regard to people and their judgments.

In other words, I believe beauty is peace.

In retrospect, I can see that I was still pretty when I was fat. In a different way, of course. My face was pretty. Rounder than it is now, but still pretty. And I had an hourglass figure. Just a very big one. But I was not beautiful. Because I hated myself. And because I had no confidence. And because I believed I was ugly.

I was not beautiful because I had no peace.

I didn’t know where I was going, but I got there in the end.

This week was a mixed bag.

At work, I spilled coffee on my computer while some IT guy was setting up a remote file sharing system for me. So I now have a remote file sharing system set up on a computer that I can’t use. I am waiting for the main office to send me a new computer. And in the mean time I am using a really crappy computer that is difficult to maneuver, saving all of my work on a flash drive so I can print from a printer in another room of the office, and file sharing by emailing my work to my colleagues.

It was upsetting to break my computer. It felt shameful. I was embarrassed. And then all of the inconvenience that resulted was a moment to moment reminder that the cause was my “stupidity” or “failure” or “inadequacy.”

There is a joke that I find particularly funny. When a normal person goes to their car and sees they have a flat tire, they call AAA. When an addict goes to their car and sees that they have a flat tire, they call a suicide help line.

The problem is that I have a lifetime of abusing myself for mistakes. As if natural consequences were not punishment enough. It’s a habit that is hard to break. My body and my brain are very familiar with the knee-jerk reaction of thinking I’m terrible and worthless, and feeling ashamed and humiliated.

The simple truth is that if you spill coffee on your computer, it will not work. And you will have to make do with other, less convenient, means of doing what you had done before. That is all. And it’s enough.

But I have a default setting of thinking everything is a moral issue. It’s like I’m living in the Middle Ages. My sinful existence has angered God and I am being punished with faulty electronics.

But then yesterday, I had a group of friends come over. All of them women who put boundaries around their eating. And that was wonderful. I got to spend time with people whose company I enjoy, and laugh and talk and tell stories and hear stories. And I also got to talk about the way my life has changed over the past 8 ½ years.

9 years ago, breaking my computer would have been the end of the world. Of course I would have eaten a chocolate cake over it. But back then I was going to eat that chocolate cake no matter what. I was at a point where I didn’t need a particular excuse to eat. Life was enough. And that particular chocolate cake that I had eaten after that particular incident would have let me be paralyzed in relative comfort. I would have been high enough that I wouldn’t have worried about what to do next. Until I came down. And then that end of the world would be even bigger and scarier because I wouldn’t have done anything and it would have been even later. So I would eat more cake. Or perhaps make a rash decision. Do something. Anything! Even if it was not logical or well thought out. Even if it just made everything worse and more complicated. And then I would eat more cake. And eventually life would move on. And it would drag me along with it.

I got dragged a lot for the first 27 years of my life.

The sad thing is that there might not have even been something to “do next.” I had a habit of making uncomfortable situations into all out problems. By not looking straight at them. Or making rash decisions without thinking about them.

And as I write this, it occurs to me that I have been making decisions too quickly lately. Not necessarily rashly. But without giving them the kind of time I would prefer. Because people want answers now. And I have been wanting to please.

I have forgotten that I am allowed to ask for time to think. I have forgotten that I am allowed to take time to think. Even if the person asking doesn’t want to give it to me. I have forgotten that I am a slow processor. That I need time to figure out what I want and need. That I need time to make decisions about what I should do next. And that nobody else has to like it. That I can be myself. That I don’t need anybody else’s permission.

I guess that’s the lesson of this blog, even though I didn’t know it when I started writing it. Even though as I look back at how it started, it seems like a complete non sequitur.

I suppose it doesn’t matter how I got here. It’s where I ended up. And it feels right.

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