Saturday, October 17, 2009

Honesty, sometimes, hurts

The other day, a dear friend gave me the "I'm worried about your weight" lecture.

I was devastated.

It's not like I haven't heard that lecture a million times before. Well meaning friends and family members have taken me aside for the "this is not good for your health" seminar many, many times.

"I picked up this brochure on gastric bypass, I think you should consider it."

In general, I have nodded my head politely and said, "thank you for thinking of me." Then, I go home and sob uncontrollably into my pillow. Occassionally, it triggers an all out binge. Sometimes, I just say, "fuck off. get off my back."

This time, I did all three.

I'm not sure why this lecture hurt so deeply. I can't stop thinking about it. I have been crying for days. In fact, I've been able to think about little else. I've allowed this conversation to haunt me...and ED (Eating Disorder) is rejoicing. He hasn't been this strong in years.

"I'm very concerned about your weight."
"I think you have a horrid addiction."

I simply cannot get the words out of my head. I hear them when I get dressed. I see them when I look in the mirror. I have allowed the words to consume me -- and take away all the success of the summer -- a summer in which I just enjoyed being active. A summer in which I felt stronger than I had in years.

I had lost some ground due to illness and the confines of the back-to-school schedule. However in the three weeks since we had the conversation I've lost my footing and tumbled back down the mountain I'd been climbing at a point when I felt so very close to the summit.

I know they were just words. I know that my friend did not intend to hurt me or cause a relapse. I know that I am stronger than he is -- that I can and will conquer this again. But right now, my heart is writhing in pain.

"I think you have a horrid addiction."

I haven't even used the word addiction to describe my eating habits in about three years. Three years! That's a long time, but now every morsel that crosses my lips has "addiction" on it -- lit up in giant neon green.

I have fallen into a depression I haven't seen in a while. All because a well intentioned friend decided he had to say something.

I'm aware that my reaction is about me, really. It's not about him. This is about how I feel about me. It's just that I thought he was someone that understood -- understood that it wasn't about the food. We talk about everything -- have few secrets from each other. I told him about my insecurities. I thought he knew.... but then what? What could he have really known.

I think it hurt to think that despite all that he knew and all that we've shared, he couldn't get past my outward appearance.

But then, maybe I can't get past my outward appearance. Despite all the soul searching, and writing and research, the real issue is perhaps that I don't accept myself the way I am. That when I look in the mirror, at my core, I still see failure.

Honestly, I don't know why those words have seemingly managed to undo years and years of work. Months of taking charge of my health. Weeks of feeling like, at long last I could put an asterisk at the end of my addiction. As in *recovered.

I want to blame the depression, the anger and fright on him. In fact, I did. Spewing forth a profanity laced rant about how he'd betrayed my trust -- crossed a line -- thrown our friendship out of balance.

Why did he have to say anything? He knew what I looked like, he's read parts of the blog...we've talked about it... he knew I've been working on getting healthy.

In him, I'd found a pal that I thought understood how hard it is to get healthy after years of going the opposite direction. I thought he'd be aware of how sensitive the topic is... I thought he'd see past my weight and see the real me.

He apologized profusely. Practically begged forgiveness. I tried to forgive and let go -- knowing he said something because he cared. I've tried so hard to just count my blessings and relax in the comfort of a good and kind friend who only wants what's best for me.

I'm still devastated.

I told only my counselor about the conversation. My counselor reminded me that this was obviously a good friend who cared about me. He understood my reaction and we agreed it would be fodder for conversation for several more sessions -- especially since the whole episode triggered a binge -- though in relative terms a fairly minor one for me -- but I knew what it was and I didn't stop myself.

Telling other friends was risky -- as I knew there was a potential for yet another well intentioned lecture; "I love you honey, but he's right."

I finally broke down and told two of my friends. One offered a loving hug. The other pointed out something that I probably needed to hear.

"This isn't about him hurting your feelings. This is about you."

"No this IS about him," I replied.

He crossed the line. I trusted him to just be my friend without conditions and now how am I going to ever be comfortable with this man again? I won't be able to share a meal with him because I know he'll be judging every bite I take. I can't share my fitness accomplishments with him because it will never be enough. I can't say, "I just had a great steak," because in my head I'll hear him say, "you should have just had a salad". I won't be able to do anything now, because I'll always expect him to sit in judgement.

He is part of only a select handful of friends I have trusted enough to tell all my secrets to -- (OK probably not all, but enough). He's male and in general I don't trust men, but I trust him. Or at least I did.

I had this great pal -- a buddy-- and now it's gone.

Or is it?

"What if he criticized your writing," my girlfriend asked me.

"Well, oh well," I said. "His opinion would be his opinion. It wouldn't have been a big deal."

"Wait," she said. "He could criticize your writing, what you do best, and it wouldn't bother you?"

"Probably not."

"This isn't about him hurting your feelings. This is about you and your issues with your weight."


I just want to shout from the mountaintops and wear a sign:

"I'm working on it. I know it's not healthy. I see my doctor once a month.You should have seen me a year ago. I am who I am, why can't all of you just see me for me and not the...what does my medical chart say,'morbidly obese bright woman in her 40s'"

I rarely have a binge anymore. I exercise. I eat right 80 to 90 percent of the time. I don't know why I'm not thinner. I thought I would be, but I'm not. I do what I can. I just really work on keeping my head above water. I really just want to enjoy my life. If that means I want a dessert, I have dessert. I refuse to live like a pauper in a princess' world. I just try to listen to my body and serve it well.

I've about given up anyway. Apparently I've reset my metabolism to the point it's going to take an all out miracle to work again. I dont' really understand why I don't do all the things I know I'm supposed to to make it work again. I don't really understand why I hate taking the pills and following the doctors recommendations.

Maybe I'm scared. Maybe I have too many other things going on in my life to really give a shit right now. Maybe everyone should just leave me the fuck alone -- maybe, just maybe being in control of my body isn't as easy as it sounds. Maybe this extra weight protects me from something that scares me -- although I can't really see what -- despite the miles and miles I've written on it. Maybe, just maybe -- I want people to just love me the way I am.

The reality is, I'm probably the only person that doesn't love me the way I am. I'm the one who is holding back because I've found comfort in the defiance. I have found that shouting, "I'm working on it" gives me the "out" to work on it when it's convenient and not worry about it when it's hard.

Losing weight -- if that's the goal, here isn't so simple as the folks on tv make it. It's not just about working out to the point of exhaustion. It isn't about putting your life on hold to take off the weight. It's about figuring out why you gained that weight in the first place. It's about healing from the inside out -- not the outside in.

But as I write this, I know I've been drinking my happy Koolaid. I have every tool in place to heal from the inside -- but I've not taken the final step. Not really. Oh, it's there sometimes. I have felt the comfort of it.

I have lived outside that comfort for so long it's too hard to stay there for very long. I don't trust it and I'm not interested in getting hurt again. I don't take better care of myself because there are other people more important than me. I get sidetracked on my way to the medicine cabinet -- sidetracked by fatigue, anger, resentment, Facebook, e-mail, phone calls and the cat. When I do manage to take my vitamins and medication that would heal the parts of the body that are not working and then I start to feel them work, I panic.

What if I need to hide? If I'm not 150 pounds over weight, there will be no place to internally seek shelter from the pain of living my life.

None of this seems to make sense. I'm still hurting. I'm still trying to sort out feelings and wants and needs.

The thing is, I really thought I was doing well. I had fallen off the band wagon a little bit, but I have felt better physically this year than I had in a long time. I'm gaining confidence back ...slowly but surely find my way back to my core...and then this person that I appreciated and trusted so much reminded me I have a long, long, long way to go.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Family Peace, please

Today I'm participating in a mass blogging! WOW! Women on Writing has gathered a group of blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel today. The Last Will of Moira Leahy (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost they were teenagers. Visit the Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit to find out more about the author.

I'm sitting here, starring at a blank screen. Family relationships, Family Relationships, FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS.
You'd think, with a family like mine, I could easily write a million words. There was a time when I could, without really trying. There will be, I'm sure, a time like that again.
But for now, I'm pretty much at peace with my family relationships. That peace has come at a price and with a great deal of prayer and tears -- but, for now, it's a good place.
I spent a good portion of life wishing my family was different. I wished Shirley Jones was my step mother. I wish my step father didn't drink. I wanted my mother not to cry. My father not to withdraw. I wanted my siblings to be a few years older instead of decades. I wanted my younger brother to be sober.
But they are none of the those things. And while I wasted a lot of time wishing things were different, I'm grateful the realities made me who I am. Blessed by the love lavished upon me, despite the circumstances.
I gave up trying to help. While occasionally write a check to someone who probably won't use the money for it's intended purpose, I actually try to stay out of the drama my family loves to create. I don't bend over backwards for anybody very often. I try to say Hello when I'm in town, but I don't rearrange my schedule to accommodate anybody else. These beloved souls with whom I share genetics are intelligent and funny, compassionate and kind -- and each carries enough baggage to fill a freight liner. For most, those suitcases loaded with shame, guilt, worry and the occasional addiction are too heavy for me to carry. They choose to pack it around...and I can't change their choices. All I can do is love these people for who they are...pray for them and offer unconditional love. I cannot make their world a better place. That's up to them.
I also have a large family of choice. The people I love with or without genetic markers. They hold me up when I falter and lift me even higher when I succeed. They don't question who I am or my intentions -- they wrap me in unconditional love and keep me warm and safe on a stormy night.
I'm not a saint. I carry my own set of proverbial luggage, but I know my family is who I choose it to be -- and my relationships with those people are a gift from God. I can spend time wishing away the problems or be blessed by what I have and find peace in our shared existence.
I choose peace.