The older I get, the more complicated life seems to get. I think it can be even more difficult sometimes when you’re a die-hard black-or-white thinker.
I will openly admit that my self-esteem has never been at elevated levels, and I don’t want to put myself down more than what life has already dished at me throughout the past 30 years, but that is probably one of the main things I do not like about myself.
Just being real and honest. If you’re new to my blog, welcome to my honest writing. Just doing my job. I write brutally and honestly. When it comes to posts like this one, I think it is so important to be raw and honest. When I took a memoir writing class as part of my major at Georgia Southern, that was something that was stressed–telling the truth, no matter the cost.
I think there is a fine line between flat out bashing yourself and trying to look at yourself in a constructive way. I am trying to be constructive, so hear me out.
If you have been keeping up with my blog, you will know that I have shared my struggle with disordered eating and poor body image. Everyone has their struggles, and this is one of the decks that I have been dealt. This is the one that has haunted me for about half of my life. It would really, really be nice if I could figure out how to get past this. I am willing to try and make that journey, and talking about it seems like a good place to start.
My weight didn’t really become an issue until I was 15 and 16-years-old, and it was then I realized I had a problem with my relationship with food. Instead of using food to nourish, I used food to numb. It became the only thing to truly make me feel somewhat like myself again since my mother’s passing a few years prior and the residual trauma that followed her passing. I paid a price for allowing my behaviors to get out of hand, gaining 20 pounds from my junior year in high school to my senior year. Then freshman fifteen hit.
Just let me be very, very clear–I take FULL responsibility for gaining weight. I am not blaming others or my circumstances. Eating to numb was how I chose to cope, and I had to pay the price for it. To be fair though, I think we do the best that we know how to do at the time. We make mistakes. We sometimes don’t make the best choices. I knew numbing with drugs and alcohol was a bad idea, so I turned to food, and it did the trick. Little did I know that it was MY drug, though I never would have called it that at the time.
Anyway, keep in mind that I am a petite 5’3″ gal. 162 pounds looks VERY different on a taller person than someone like me. Although that was what the scale said, my eyes would change that number to 500. I am not kidding. Hence why I use the word “disordered” throughout this post.
The first time around when I became serious about losing weight was in December of 2009. That was a very dark, dark time in my life. I was extremely depressed and felt so hopeless and lost. I had no sense of purpose or direction. I was burnt out of college, and I thought seriously about dropping out for good. I had had my heart set on getting into nursing school, and when 3 programs rejected me, I didn’t know what to do. I was angry. I was confused. I was hurt. The little bit of self-esteem I had was crushed. All I could think about was all the time I wasted, taking classes required to enter nursing programs. I didn’t want to take all those biology and chemistry courses. I didn’t want to take statistics. I didn’t want to take any of that crap. But I did, and I was resentful because there were so many other things I would have rather taken…like writing classes and more art classes. I decided to move back home with my fiance (now my husband) and go part-time and online, just so I wouldn’t have to pay back the student loans yet.
I had felt so out of control of what was going on in my life, I decided I would take control of something I knew I had full control over–my eating habits. That was the ONLY thing I knew I had 100% control over. I just wanted something to go MY way.
I think that was one thing that made my eating habits go from bad to flat out disordered–it was about control. I couldn’t control the other things that were going on in my life, but I COULD control when I ate…what I ate…how much I ate…or just not eating at all.
It dawned on me. I will never forget that epiphany moment I had (that I thought was a good idea at the time, but it is not, and I do not recommend it to anyone): “If I just don’t eat, that will solve my problems. I can’t control X, Y, or Z, but I can control this.”
Logically, I do not know why anyone would ever think that, but that is why my eating was disordered. No one in a healthy state of mind would think that.
I look back on it now, and I think that was what it boiled down to: control. I was so tired and fed up with life not going my way. So, I reflected my pain inward, and what started out (or what I told myself and others) to be for weight loss ended up being self-sabotage. I hated myself, and starving myself was indirectly my way of letting my body know that. I hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I hated it. All of it. Seeing myself made me sick. I guess not eating hardly at all was my “F-U” to the world and life. I don’t know why. But it was.
I did lose 40 pounds that year, and there for a while, it did improve a lot of areas in my life. I transferred to a new school with a new attitude and pursued my new major in Writing and Linguistics. Although my self-esteem did improve a noticeable amount, it still didn’t “solve all my problems” like I imagined it would. I was HUNGRY all the damn time. My stomach constantly burned and grumbled, but I would test myself and see how long I could go without eating. You can’t gain weight, I thought. You’ll go back to being miserable. For once in your life, don’t f*** something up.
It got to the point to where I was compulsively weighing myself throughout the day and eating no more than a fistful or two of food a day. I lived on diet soda. I had to convince myself to eat whenever I did.
That is dark and morbid and depressing and scary, you may say. I know it is. Imagine how it felt inside my mind and my soul. This is a glimpse inside the mind of someone with an eating disorder, and it is not a good place to be. That’s the black-or-white thinking I mentioned earlier and from what I learned in graduate school, it seems to be common among people who have eating disorders.
Deep down, I knew I had a problem. I knew I was sliding down a very slippery slope, but I couldn’t just stop. People were telling me constantly, “You’re so tiny” or “You’re so skinny.” It fueled my ego like carbs does an athlete. To me, hearing that outside validation–because it definitely was not coming from within–was worth EVERYTHING. I was taking psychology classes for my minor, and some of the topics discussed in these courses were convicting to what I was doing to myself. So, to make myself feel better, I started seeing a clinical psychologist on campus a couple of times a month, and he was an expert in body image and eating disorders. He quickly diagnosed me with an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). (I don’t know what it is called now with the DSM-V. I am too lazy to look it up, but I know it changed.)
To be honest though, I am not sure if he ever really understood me or took me seriously. I was involved with a Positive Body Image group on campus, but it was something I did solely so I could keep seeing the psychologist. I wanted him to fix me. I didn’t know how to fix myself, so I was waiting for him to save me.
I look back on this now, and after going through a master’s program in counseling and really learning about what a counselor does and does not do, it wasn’t his job to save me. It was mine…but part of me didn’t want to change. I knew I NEEDED to, but I didn’t WANT to.
People didn’t notice me before. I spent my high school years wanting nothing more than to feel like I belonged. I wasn’t the girl that people would just walk up to and compliment, and I don’t care who you are…deep down, you want to know someone else thinks you’re pretty or _________. We all do. Approval is a human need. We all want to be approved, whether that’s being told we’re pretty or skinny or a good worker or funny or whatever.
That got me thinking that if I were to quit starving myself, it would make people stop complimenting me or noticing me because I would gain weight. If people quit complimenting me or noticing me, that meant that I was worthless and ugly. If that was true, then what was the point in anything?
Spoiler alert: My starvation way of living did not last long, and having to have an emergency appendectomy in May of 2011 was the turning point. Of course, going in, I knew what I weighed before, and you better believe I weighed myself compulsively in the days following surgery. No matter how much I restricted in food, the weight was not coming off.
10 damn pounds had glued themselves to me, which may not seem like a big deal to someone looking in from the outside. “It’s 10 pounds,” you might be saying. “Get over it.”
My friend, it is not that easy.
I was pounds-obsessed, compulsive, and a super control freak. I was so in tune with my body, I instantly recognized where those 10 pounds went, and I HATED it. 10 pounds WAS the end of the world to me. That was 25% of my weight loss progress–gone! 10 out of 40 pounds had come back.
If you have ever lost weight, gaining anything back really, really, REALLY sucks.
All the pain and guilt and shame and worthlessness and depression that I hid for that past year came back with VENGEANCE. It was ruthless. It showed me no mercy, and it was then I began to struggle with suicidal thoughts. I felt like an absolute utter failure. After several days of the scale not budging, I just lost it. All hope. All confidence. All self-worth. Any positive thing I had artificially built up was blown away, like a house on a hill made out of seed.
The ONE THING that I had 100% control over, the unimaginable happened–I LOST CONTROL. I failed. There I was again. That feeling of helplessness. That feeling of resentment of something else other than me having CONTROL over ME. So, what was the point? In anything? In any of it?
See where my black-or-white thinking has gotten me into trouble?
So, that brings us to current day 2018. I am in SUCH a better place now–mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and although I am overweight, at 200, I would say physically, too, I am in a much better place. I am not in constant pain from hunger, so that it a plus. I know this is not a healthy weight for me, and I don’t feel like my best self. I don’t feel like I am at my best potential at this weight, but for right now, this is where I am at. It has not been easy to accept this. I am not going to lose all this weight over night. It took time–although it did not feel like it–to put this weight on, so it’s going to take time to get it off. It has taken several mental health professionals, the passing of time (YEARS), angry talks and crying fits with God, and forced acceptance to get to where I am today.
It did not come easy, and it did not come fast.
I really like to use the word “recovery” when I think about where I am now because I still have “relapse” days, where I feel like total crap and let the negative self-talk and body image consume me. I am not perfect. I think for me, this is an issue with the mind, heart, and soul, and there is not necessarily a legitimate “cure” for it. In other words, there is no magic pill that I can take that will heal my eating disorder. It is something I have to live with, but I don’t think that means it has to control my life. I don’t have to be a victim of it. By the grace of God, here I am, and I pray He will give me the strength and guidance to improve my life in a healthy way.
But I wanted to take an honest and critical self-reflection at WHY I really want to lose weight. It is so hard to not make it about losing weight. People say “Oh, go by how your clothes feel” or “Just work out to feel better” or some other feel-good like that, which I am not bashing. But, damn, it is hard to change.
I WANT to change, but then again I DON’T want to change.
A large part of me is scared that I will fall into old habits of restriction and purging through exercise. A large part of me is so scared of failing AGAIN. There is nothing more frustrating than putting in a shit ton of effort and not getting what you want, kind of like my experience with trying to get into nursing school. What a waste of my time. I put forth EVERYTHING I had, and it STILL was not good enough. That is a TERRIBLE feeling, and a very real one, let me add.
I know, I know. “Failure is part of success” and “You never know until you try” and “Oh, but what if you fly?” and insert other feel-goods here.
I can just feel myself making excuse after excuse. I need to stop that. I am the QUEEN of making excuses, another thing I would like to gently point out on stuff I need to work on.
I need some time to really think about my WHY. I have joined a local gym and saw their dietitian the other day, so I have some good tools on getting started in the right direction. Put it this way, I know what my body needs to be nutritionally sound. Hopefully, feeding it this way will get me the results I am looking for. I would love to return to the internalist I saw recently 10 or 20 pounds lighter!
I just have to tread ever-so-lightly. I do NOT want to go down that slippery slope again.
Maybe I need counseling. I probably do. Actually, I think a lot of us do. I don’t think there is anything wrong in that. Perhaps writing this honest post is a step in the right direction.
So, the next thing to do on my list: What is MY WHY?