I haven’t felt this down in a long, long time. In fact, just sitting down to write this is difficult because I’d rather not feel my feelings or even think about them, let alone open up about what I’m going through (and in this very public way). But if I’m supposed to help people through this brand of pain, I have to experience it myself. So let me share this story and lay it out for all of us (for myself, especially)–and suggest why it matters.
Here’s The Story
It’s literally the perfect day outside; I had an energizing morning talk with a wonderful friend; I’ve been looking forward to a weekend away with my husband and college friends; I finished my work early; I listened to a fun podcast on my way to meet my family at the doctor’s office for our camp physicals.
Fast-forward to the moment I stepped on the scale: 25 pounds up from my lowest weight of two years ago.
Here’s what shot through my head and body at lightening speed, in no particular order:
- A voice says, “Failure!”
- Another voice says, “Shame!”
- “I thought it was only 10 pounds.”
- An image of myself looking delightfully thin and happy in a photo with my brothers
- Sinking sensation
- I’m being called to help others with weight issues?! ME?!
I said something snarky to one of the nurses like, “I’m up 25 pounds, fantastic!” She looked at me with pity, and I imagined her thinking, “You poor thing. It must be so tough to struggle with weight, especially when you’re so pretty and sweet. Awww. That’s just how it goes with you chubby people.” (For the record, she is one of the kindest people I know and definitely wasn’t thinking anything like this. She probably did pity me a little, though, for feeling the need to berate myself.)
At this point, I was unable to engage in any normal way with my family or the nurses or doctor because all I could think was, “Really? I know I put on weight, but 25 pounds? How did this happen?” These thoughts were accompanied by a vision that looked like a kaleidoscope of chocolate malts and potato chips.
But here’s the significant part: underneath these thoughts, on a much deeper level of consciousness, I was thinking, “I am such a pathetic, flabby loser who just can’t keep the food out of her f’n mouth. Just can’t get it together, huh, stupid?! Happy now? You just couldn’t keep the weight off, you damaged thing. A poor excuse for a woman!”
Meanwhile, my kids were getting checked by the doctor and my husband stood there, probably picking up on the sad, faraway vibe I was sending out.
Needless to say, my desire to EAT flared up like crazy. I started thinking about getting a snack. What’s for dinner? I wondered if it would be “so bad” if I picked up a malt on my way home,
but I told myself, “No, it’ll only make me feel worse in the long-term. I know that’s not the answer.” But still, a Portillo’s feast would soften this blow.
Once outside of the office, I actually had this thought: “If I just found out I had a terrible disease, at least there’s something I could do about that, some treatment plan I’d be given. The load I carry in my mind, heart, and body regarding this weight is so much worse than that, because the problem starts and ends with me. I AM the disease.”
I got into the car. My heart wanted to talk with a particular friend of mine for support, but I couldn’t muster the strength to text her.
So here I sit, writing this post. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever chosen to do. Facing these feelings. Eating would have distracted me beautifully. And I could easily have made the excuse that I needed it. But doing that would mean taking the same damn path over and over and over and over again…the same path that pumped me up 25 pounds in two years and that will keep me trapped in this cycle. I’m so grateful that I drove home without stopping for food, and headed straight for my laptop instead.
Here’s Why This Matters
Today, I’m willing to face the pain. I’m willing to NOT punish myself with food. I believe this willingness has come from the bit of self-love I’ve cultivated, along with the Spirit of God, if you will, that I’ve recently welcomed in.
So let’s dig into this pain–because this is where the healing comes from. The pain of seeing that weight on the scale felt like the pain that hits when a stranger yells at me in traffic (hey, I’m sensitive!). That punched-in-the-gut, I-didn’t-mean-any-harm, small-feeling, hurt. It’s palpable, but so much worse than an actual physical pain. I’d actually prefer a punch in the gut to the pain associated with receiving proof that I’m just not enough. That I’ve failed. That I’m powerless. That I’m not safe with myself. That I’m not acceptable. (There’s where the healing is needed!)
And then there’s the pain brought on my intellectual musings. I know that gaining 25 pounds isn’t a real problem. GOD DARN IT! People go to the doctor’s office and receive legitimately heartbreaking news. Back in 1999, in fact, I received the news in that very same office that I have MS. But de-legitimizing my pain isn’t very kind, is it? I’d never tell my daughter that any pain of hers isn’t legit, would I? Of course not.
It’s so sad that I actually believe, somehow, deep down, that a disease diagnosis would be easier for me to deal with than the reality of gaining 25 pounds. Why? Because in my unhealed, vulnerable mind which is just now seeing the light of day, this weight gain confirms my f-ed up-ness. It proves that I’m not good enough. That I can’t control myself. That I’m a slave to food. That how I look is more important than anything. That how the office staff perceives me (in my mind, anyway) is reality. That I’m really, truly, just someone to be pitied and probably shamed.
And there’s fear, too. It’s scary to think that there’s not enough food to make me feel better. I’m frightened by my desire to eat, and I’m frightened by my body’s ability to pack on the fat. I’m frightened at how powerful the societal message is that “you’re just not good enough until you’re thin enough.” But most of all, I’m frightened by the fact that these voices in my head–these terrible, self-deprecating thoughts–are coming from a place inside that’s been so hard to reach.
Here’s Where We’re Heading
The reality that I have to accept is that I struggle with the insurmountable desire to stuff my face with food–because I have an insurmountable belief that I’m not enough, just as I am in this moment. On a subconscious level (not intellectually!), I connect my self-worth with my body/weight–meaning this weight gain represents how absolutely unworthy I am! SEE? The lack of self love, coupled with my as-of-yet inability to fully surrender my life to a higher power, is the real issue here.
I have to accept that I can white-knuckle myself down 75 pounds–but I’m bound to pack it back on as long as I don’t address my relationship with myself and my relationship with God.
Here’s the really incredible part: in the middle of writing this post, my phone rang. Guess who it was? Yep. That friend my heart called out for.
I feel a lot better now that I’ve written this. And it’s not even solid writing. But I’ve made a promise to myself to keep it real and authentic. My mind and heart are still processing today’s experience, but I’m welcoming you in before I synthesize it so you can see the rawness underneath. So that as I heal, I suppose, the progress is traceable.