Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
I’ve been pretty introspective over the last few weeks. This is the result. I always feel like birthdays are a good time to look at your life and “reset” if necessary. Here’s to a much needed reset and attitude adjustment.
As much as I have wanted not to be, I have been in a major funk for months now. I’ve had flashes where I would feel motivation and feel like change was near, but then those flashes fizzle and I’m left feeling funky. And I’m not really sure how to get over it. But I do know that so many thoughts and feelings and such are swirling around me, day and night, and I just need to get rid of them. Or at least put them down somewhere so I can refer to them but they aren’t taking up so much space in my head.
When I went to counseling last year (oh yeah - I went to counseling last year. I don’t think I ever mentioned that to ANYONE except my health coach) the counselor spoke with me a lot about getting to the root of why I think a certain way. Figuring out what it was that made me think the things I do about myself, and pinpointing if those things were truths or lies. Then, finding a way to overcome the lies and get comfortable with the truths. That’s right about when my work schedule got too busy to allow me to continue going, and then the time on my “approved visits” ran out and I haven’t taken the time to call back and see if I can go again. So long story short, we never did get to the “overcoming the lies” part. And I think that’s really what’s holding me back. Because in the wise words of Vivian in Pretty Woman - “the bad stuff is easier to believe”. It’s especially hard when those bad things get mixed up with the good and twisted so that they are almost indistinguishable.
For a long time, I’ve thought that a lot/almost all of my weight gain and subsequent obesity over the last 15 years of my life came from just me being lazy. And don’t get me wrong - that’s a big part of it. But one doesn’t just gain almost 100 pounds in about 5 years by JUST being a lazy couch potato. There has to be something underlying that causes it - some lie that you believe about yourself. One some level, I’ve always known what one of the lies was. I have never thought I was particularly pretty. And for some reason that I’ve yet to figure out, I’ve always equated “pretty” with “worthy”. Even when I was a kid, and throughout my teens, I can’t really remember a time that I looked in the mirror on a normal day and thought “hey, I’m pretty”. Of course there were times when I would dress up for a special occasion that I would feel pretty but deep down I thought pretty, in my case, was something you put on and took off. I fixed my hair and make up and put on a nice dress in order to look pretty, but when all of that came off I was back to regular old non-pretty me. I dated a boy in high school whose nickname for me was “Beautiful”. I hated it. And I would tell him that I hated him calling me that, because I didn’t feel like it was true. He would say something stupid like “well you are to me” and keep doing it. But then - I got mono over the summer and lost a bunch of weight. I wasn’t really heavy at that point - I was at the top end of the normal range for my height, but I was still the heaviest of all of my friends. Anyway, I lost down to about 130/135 pounds and looking back now, I looked pretty good. I had finally been selected to be on the danceline with our marching band (my lifelong dream) and for some reason I thought this would rocket me to popularity in our small school. It didn’t, but that’s really beside the point. Over the summer while I had mono, Boyfriend had decided that we should break up. Like any normal teenage girl, I was heartbroken and wanted him back, because of course he was “the one”. By the end of summer, I’d become really close to another guy friend, who expressed an interest in dating me. Naturally, Boyfriend came running back, telling me he couldn’t live without me, he’d made a mistake, please give him another chance. I did. Our relationship was an on-again, off-again adventure in jealousy, manipulation, deceit and frustration. And I’m not proud to admit that those actions were two sided. Anyway, I remember shortly after we went back to school as boyfriend/girlfriend, he relayed a conversation he’d had with another classmate. Apparently, the other classmate had made some remark about wondering what had happened to me over the summer, or that I looked different, or something, and asked Boyfriend how he was able snag me. Boyfriend cheerfully told him (and then told me he’d said it) that he guessed he was able to snag me because he was the “only one” willing to look at me twice. (Nevermind the other guy who’d wanted to date me). And then he told the guy something like “now that you think she’s pretty, don’t go thinking you can move in on my territory”. That relationship had a lot of ups and downs but mostly it cemented that lie I’d always told myself - I wasn’t pretty enough to be worthy of a second look. I should be thankful that someone was willing to give me a chance and should just make the best of whatever was thrown my way. I was a doormat, and I was very afraid of speaking up for myself out of fear that he, or others who were my friends, wouldn’t like me anymore.
When that relationship finally ended for good, I think the damage had been done. We were in college when I finally got up the guts to sever the connection, but by then I’d decided that maybe he was right. No one else was really interested in me. I had a decent social life in college and met plenty of people, but I never got asked out on random dates, or had anyone show remote “romantic” interest in me. I always either got set up on dates for sorority formals or took a friend (and mostly it was the latter). I did date one guy in college, but that also did not end in a favorable way. After that, I realize is when my weight really started piling on.
Looking back now I know I’ve had a problem with food for a long time - even back to when I was a teen - but while living at home or with roommates it was more easily controlled. If for no other reason, the shame of having others know I was a binge eater kept it in check. But then Junior year I got my own apartment. Junior year is also when I dated and broke up with CollegeBoy. You can see where this is going.
Suddenly I found myself alone, with no one to see what I did or didn’t do. I’ve always been a night owl by nature, and so being up until 2 or 3 or 4 am was normal for me. I also began to think it was normal to be hungry sometime after midnight, and since I never ate breakfast in the morning and sometimes only had a late lunch/early dinner I thought it was ok to eat when I was hungry in the middle of the night. Maybe it was ok, if I’d been eating something normal and healthy. McDonald’s double cheeseburger meals or a sackful of Krystals in the middle of the night don’t really qualify as normal to me when I think critically about it. I remember weekends when my friends would be out of town, and I was excited because it meant that I could eat whatever I wanted without fear that they would find out (by either seeing me coming/going to fast food or the store, or seeing the wrappers in my trash). I would eat entire cakes (the Pepperidge Farms ones in the freezer section), whole packages of cheese danish, entire bags of donuts, a sackful of Krystals, etc. All to soothe whatever turmoil was going on in my head or my heart. And as I did that, my weight ballooned. I thought I was doing myself a favor. Since I only got hurt when I would wonder why no one wanted to date me or seemed interested in getting to know me when there was no outward reason to avoid doing so, I figured I’d just make it so that I couldn’t get hurt anymore. If the outside looked like a mess, then obviously no one would be interested. So therefore I couldn’t get hurt when they started to show interest and changed their minds. I was protecting myself. It all seemed very sane at the time, and is still something I struggle with every. single. day.
I can say that one of the good things that came from this self abuse is that I’ve learned to be quite independent. I can do things for myself, and I’m not afraid to do things by myself. I’m not forced to rely on anyone else to provide my happiness. I just do what I want. I have a friend who tells me all the time that she’s so impressed by the things I don’t mind doing alone. Like traveling, dining out, etc. I told her that I had to learn to do things alone, or I’d never get to do anything. I’m independent and that’s one of my truths.
The downside to this independence, or the lie, is that I don’t need people. I tell myself that all the time. “I don’t need a boyfriend/husband; I don’t need people who drag me out to the bar every weekend; I don’t need people who hover and ask a million questions and make me justify everything I want to do.” I’m a big believer in the statement “just because I’m alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely.” And to a certain extent that is true a majority of the time for me. But I’m starting to realize that perhaps that’s another lie I’m telling myself. I am lonely sometimes. I wish that there were people who thought to include me when they organize a girl’s night dinner, or a fun weekend get away. It would be nice to have a circle of friends who you could call on to go hiking/biking/walking with. I know part of this is my fault, because I don’t ask either. But if I just don’t ask in the first place, then I can’t get my feelings hurt when I’m turned down. So I’ll just protect myself and not ask, and just go do whatever I want to alone. It’s a vicious cycle. My health coach actually called me out on this last fall. She gave me an exercise to initiate contact and ask 3 people to do things with me. You know what? 2 out of the 3 said yes, and the one who said no did so because of schedule conflict. Truth: To have a friend you need to be one.
I’m afraid this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other issues I need to address, but I’m starting to feel like I’m just rambling. I hope that at least starting to get some of this out of my head will help me to deal and move forward.