Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bloodletting...

A couple of weeks ago I turned 33.  I have never been one to be bothered by getting older, but this one was a doozy.  For the first time in years, I felt terrible about myself, like I was going nowhere and just getting worse and worse as a person.  The one big area where I seemed to be offending humanity?  My weight.

I have always struggled with weight.  About five years ago I started making a real effort to get healthy and lose weight, and I lost about 70 lbs.  Yay!  Then I got pregnant and gained every single ounce back.  Boo.  Then over the following two years I got back down again.  Yay!  Then my sister revealed that she had been struggling with an eating disorder for ten years, and in supporting her through her treatment process I realized that my own obsession with my weight was not only harmful to her but to me and also potentially to my kids.  So I made a commitment to her and to myself that I would not weigh myself again and started working to reevaluate my goals for my health and life without being obsessed with the number on the scale, or tracking calories, or crushing myself with guilt about food choices.

It is a thousand times harder than I expected it to be.  Over the past year, though I don't know how much because I'm still committed to not weighing myself, I've slowly gotten bigger and bigger.  I'm still exercising and eating sensibly, but apparently if I don't obsess and restrict and go crazy, my body doesn't want to be that smaller size.  It is incredibly frustrating to feel the pounds come back on and have to buy bigger clothes.  I have paid a lot of lip service to not valuing myself by my weight, size, or physical appearance, but saying it is a heck of a lot easier than really believing it.

So back to my birthday.  For the last five years I've felt every year like I was making progress, going forward, getting more and more awesome.  But this year I just felt like crap.  And I was walking around for weeks beforehand with all these negative thoughts and feelings swirling around in my brain, feeding on themselves and growing bigger and bigger until it was all I could think about.  I couldn't see my many other great qualities, or the fact that my appearance is just one small part of my identity and life. It was a dark cloud from which I felt like there was no escape.

I started thinking about writing this post, but realized that I hadn't even talked about it to another human being.  And that maybe that would be helpful.  And that, just maybe, I should talk about it to my husband, who I know without a doubt loves me.  Duh.

So, the night after my birthday, I spilled my guts and cried on his shoulder (literally) for an hour.  And since I had been holding all this in pretty effectively, I'm sure it was kind of blindsiding for him.  And guess what: he didn't have any miraculous fixes for me.  He just let me talk it all out and tried to reassure me.

And when I woke up in the morning, I felt much better.  I don't mean to say that I was suddenly okay with everything about my body image and my self worth, but things were more proportionate with the rest of my life.  I was able to see that yes, I was unhappy with that one area, but I was also growing in many other areas of my life that I was very proud of.  I was able to stop obsessing -- instead of could see taking things one step, one choice at a time.  The dark cloud lifted.

While we were talking about it, my dear husband was sorry that he didn't have any answers for me.  He joked, "I could suggest leeches..." I replied, "Well, as a lover of the Jane Austen time period I should be all over those old-fashioned methods."  Which made me think of bloodletting (stick with me here), where doctors would open up a vein or artery and drain some blood out of a patient in the hopes of getting rid of the bad blood making them sick.  When I finally opened up and poured out all the poison that had been swirling around in my head and heart for so long, it worked just that way.  I let it all out and that allowed healthier thoughts to come in.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that keeping negative thoughts and feelings bottled up is only going to make them stronger until they poison everything in your life.  I am grateful to have a loving and understanding husband I could talk to and I really wish I had done it sooner.  For you it might be a husband, friend, mom, sister, or just a journal where you write everything down.  This blog post is helpful for me, too.  I kept it in because I didn't want to admit that I was struggling with the changes I've made.  I didn't want to burden anyone else with my negative emotions.  But the truth is, my husband knew I was unhappy about something.  My mom knew.  My kids knew, because by the time I finally let it out I was not a particularly cheerful person to be around.  So I wasn't fooling anyone anyway.

I realize that many people upon reading this would think, "Duh."  But for those who are like me, and have a difficult time talking about hard things, I hope this will empower you to open up your heart to someone you trust.

28 comments:

  1. Wow! I love this post. It's nice to know others feel the same way I do.Brandon and I had the same conversation this week about not letting it poison my life or relationships. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Tomi, gosh I love you! I totally hear you. I get into these crazy funks and just cannot get out of them. Lately it has been pain driven, but it has been to do with weight before (remember how I used to be effortlessly twiggy? That's not the case anymore and it's frustrating! I dont' feel like *me* in this body!!! but I'm coming to accept it and learn how to deal with it). Anyway... fortunately my husband has learned to read me better than I do myself. Just yesterday I was realizing I'm drowning in depression thanks to this recent (and forever) pain. Before I'd even come to a conclusion myself of what I can do about it my husband sat me down and asked me what he can do to help me. I've been trying hard to not let myself be defined by my physical issues, but now I'm having to learn that no matter how much I try to deny them, they are a part of me. I dont have to revel in them or proclaim them, but I do have to accept it as a part of me. Having my husband love me and accept this as a part of me (along with my size 16 self) makes all the difference. He took me to the store to make me get out of the house, bought me a bunch of Cadbury cream eggs (helps me manage everything but the weight issues, lol. Yes, I know that's counterproductive for that one) and some yarn and a new crochet afghan hook. Today he is working from home just to keep me company (yes, I realize I am ridiculously spoiled). I absolutely could not manage this myself. And that's okay. I don't have to!
    But lest you forget: You are such an inspiration to me! Seriously, the fact that you have such clever, hilarious kids, keep such a positive attitude, and yet are so REAL (I have a few friends who I just cringe to read their latest "perfect" life that just makes me feel about *this* big)... you're fabulous!!! Besides, you pin great stuff on pinterest ;) ;)

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  3. Great post. It's really hard not to put nearly 100% of your value into the way you look. After all, at the end of the day, that's what people see first and we live in a society in which many people do judge others purely on that first physical glimpse.

    I haven't noticed any size difference with you. I only see my beautiful older sister who is always there for everybody and is always so incredible.

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    1. Thank you, my dear. I really appreciate that.

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  4. I had a similar experience this weekend. Unfortunately mine was a rather more...spectacular bloodletting. Good for you for knowing when you need an outlet.

    Thanks, SDL for sharing this with us!

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  5. We all get overwhelmed from time to time. Congratulations on stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing a fresh start. All the best to you as you move forward.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this! I'm thankful that your brother posted this as well. I struggle with the same issue and I'm not quite sure how to overcome. If you happen to have any brilliant ideas for a complete paradigm shift - please share! :) In the meantime, I'll keep working on it!

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    1. Yeah, no miracle solutions here, that's for sure! But it sure is reassuring to know I'm not just crazy. Or at least not the only one. I think the paradigm shift just takes a long long time and a lot of work to get there.

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  7. Sometimes we truly are our worst critics. I think that is why family is so important, so that they can be there for us when we just need to let it all out. Wonderful post! Thank you for making letting it all out seem perfectly normal and natural, instead of the weakness that so many believe it is. :)

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  8. I love the emotional bloodletting metaphor -- it's so spot-on! Gotta let that poison out, like sucking the venom from a snakebite.

    It's also important to pull back from your thoughts and emotions and realize your thoughts and emotions are not you. They come from a part of you -- an often unhealthy and sometimes toxic part of you -- which is the ego. Like a bad friend, the ego's self-interest is rooted in keeping you feeling down so it can continue to thrive. You are not your ego. You are the master of your ego, or it is the master of you, but you are not one and the same as your ego would have you believe.

    It's also important to realize your physical body is not you, either. As long as you continue to identify your physical body as who you are, these toxic thoughts will continue to plague you. Your physical body is just a temporary vehicle. So what would happen if you decided to accept yourself EXACTLY as you are? No ifs, ands, buts or "once I lose a little weight," but right here and now? What if you let it be ok to weigh what you weigh, and even to continue getting bigger, if that's what your body chooses to do? What if instead of trying to control your body, you accepted it and loved it exactly how it is?

    The shame-obsession cycle will never result in better health for anyone -- not in the long run. It is toxic and soul-destroying. One of the greatest paradoxes of the universe is that the ONLY way to change something in a healthy, positive way is to accept it and love it exactly as it is.

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    1. Thanks, Nicole. That is exactly what I'm trying to do. I'm just finding that it takes a loooot longer to work out the toxins than I imagined it would. But I really believe that acceptance of ourselves is the real gateway to becoming who we want to be (that's kind of the cornerstone of this blog), and so I'm willing to go through the painful metamorphosis.

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  9. The pressure for women is enormous. It is difficult to compete with the images of them that men keep publishing. I have three sisters who are, unfortunately, more likely to spend an afternoon having extensions applied to their hair, than they are to read a book.
    Enjoyed your thoughtful post.

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  10. You've just won over a new follower. I like the real down-to-earth way you write. I look forward to reading more of your blog. By the way, I found you through your brother's blog. :)

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    1. Thanks so much! He's a pretty awesome guy, isn't he?

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  11. Your words were so wonderful for me to hear! I turned 50 in December.....it was difficult. I have struggled with some of the same issues as you have. I went to a lovely dinner with my husband and bawled the whole time. Funny thing is - I did feel better afterwards.

    A wise friend once told me, "Tears are not a sign of weakness....they're a sign that you've been strong for too long."

    Thank you for sharing.

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  12. This is so crazy. I have recently started a blog but it's more of a journal and only a few of my very close most trusted friends read it. I needed an outlet for all of the "crazy" that was taking over my "social" being. It was getting harder and harder to keep a lid on it. If you go to my post, I think it was the one, "Mirror, Mirror" you and I could be twins in thought. One of my friends found this and sent it to me because I feel like such a freak and like I am the only person going through these things. It somehow brings me comfort to know I'm not.

    www.isthereapillforthatkiraly.blogspot.com

    If you want to check it out...to know you too are NOT alone in your thoughts.

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    1. Kiraly,
      I checked your post and thank-you. I hate that so many of us struggle with this and yet its so comforting to know we are not alone. My hope is that you and I and others will come through this stronger. You are such a beautiful person and that shines through simply in your smile.

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    2. Thank you so much for sharing that -- I know how hard it is to open yourself up like that. Isn't it crazy how all-consuming this body issue thing can be? And it's amazing because you are smaller than I would ever imagine being, and yet our feelings are so much the same. I think that really shows that #1 we are all in the same boat and #2 it really is an emotional issue that needs to be resolved, rather than a purely physical/behavioral one. I hope things start to look up for you -- we're in this together!

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    3. Thank you so much ladies. The saddest part is my mind operated EXACTLY the same way when I was even 40 lbs. lighter. I look in the mirror now and think, "what could I have been seeing?" It's funny since I've started this journey of blogging I'm finding so many of my friends have these same issues. We all keep such a tight grasp on our lives that we are so afraid to show the cracks. I'm finding such peace in group insanity, lol. So happy to have found you!

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  13. I have always struggled with weight and self-esteem issues too. Yesterday I spent the entire hour of my therapy session with tears literally splashing out of my eyes over these and some other issues. Once the headache from crying wore off and I finally got a decent night's sleep, I am not my own predator today. I hear you- God bless you - and take care.

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    1. Thank you! I have to tell you, the times I have been involved in therapy sessions I have bawled the whole time, too. It's so good to just let it out. God bless you, too, and thank you!

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  14. This was just what I needed. I lost my best friend to cancer just last month and I saw such a separation of body and person as she got worse. I realized that her body (though it was changing) did not make her who she was. I remember her by her beauty and strength as a person not as a vessel. I have TRIED to start incorporating that ideology into my own life that this is just my vessel, it doesn't make me who I am. However, like you I have been obsessed with my "number" for years and years and have watched people I love struggle with eating disorders and now my own 4 year old daughter becoming obsessed with weight. I know in my heart what is right but putting it int practice is so difficult, but we have to because our daughters are WATCHING everything we are doing and mimicking. If my daughter thinks that I am beautiful just the way that I am then I want to believe it, too because she has a beautiful soul and for her to see me as beautiful just as I am it must be true. My support to you, we are truly our own worst enemies on this disease with body image and having kids is so hard on our bodies, the weight distribution changes and we seem to keep more weight on AFTER having kids then we ever did before. That's a tough pill to swallow but one of the heavy prices of bringing miracles into the world. You are beautiful and it took so much courage to write this. I have had many days in my life where I would stare at my naked body in the mirror and say "you are disgusting, who will ever want you" those thoughts are thoughts I had never shared with anyone and they have been more damaging than anyone can imagine. Thank-you so much for your wisdom and courage.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this. Such a tough thing to go through, losing a friend that way. And I so hear you on the worries about passing on eating disorders and negative self-image to our daughters. Well, I would say to our children in general, since boys are also more susceptible than they usually get credit for. I have a little 3-year-old daughter that really motivates me to get to an emotionally healthy place. I want her to grow up with that just being a part of who she is, not something she has to struggle for as I continue to do. My mom still struggles, and I think HER mom still struggles with it -- trying not to set your whole value on the number on the scale or how you look. We talk a lot about how God made people in all different shapes and sizes and that our job is to treat our body well and not worry about what it looks like. So easy to say, so hard to really, truly believe!

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  15. My weight was a huge problem when i was married. I was never the perfect size for my ex....either too big or too small. I love your honesty in your post. You are lucky to have a husband you can turn to and get it all out. Some of us single women are not so lucky. Ive learned when it comes to the way i look that as long as i am healthy i am happy. We are not intended to all fit the same mold. Just live yourself for who you are and strive for healthy. That is perfection.

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  16. thanks for sharing. You should check out the book, Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. Don't let the title scare you off b/c it is not about religion. It is helpful to me in learning how to stop the mental obsession and hatred.

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  17. Hey girl! I don't what I can say that hasn't pretty much already been said, and I so appreciate your thoughts. I have much I could say along this topic, especially the eating disorder thing and how we see ourselves physically, I have some personal experiences with that, but I won't. I just want you to know that I *heart* you and think you're fabulous.

    P.S. Happy Birthday!

    P.P.S. I just became aware of your brother's blog a little while back and wow ya, he sure is famous!! But I love that he commented on your blog. :D

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