Eating Myself to Death

I just got back to J’s house after attending a conference at the Gaylord Hotel in the National Harbor.  I had been somewhat excited about the conference and somewhat scared of it – lots of people I needed to see, a few must-be-at moments and a lot of social interaction that I am technically not that comfortable with.   This event is huge in our industry and it was the first time I was invited to attend as a full participant.

When I got there, I remembered how big the hotel is, how much walking is involved to get from point A to point B and how warm it is in Aug in DC.  The hotel common areas are beautiful – an open air atrium that looks out over the Potomac is not to be missed.  But it also means that the open air areas are fairly humid…and when you go upstairs it gets worse.

From the first day, I could not breathe.   I have asthma and the weight intensifies the issues – I am so out of shape, that I lose my breath easily on a good day.  But this was a “my chest hurts from trying so hard to breathe”, “sit down anytime you see a chair”, “can’t go 50 yards from my room to the elevator” kind of not being able to breathe.  I even had hotel staff come up to me several times to ask if I was ok cause I looked like I was going to pass out trying to get back to my room.

I felt helpless.  I felt embarrassed.  I felt out of control.  And I felt panicky.  My anxiety level was through the roof.  And that made my breathing worse as I tried to calm my air flow down so I would stop wheezing.   I told my boss I felt guilty – I did all that I had to do, but not a lot of what else I was expected to do.   I worried about having to call for help last night as I desperately tried to breathe normally.

Last nights even was one I was expected to be at and I was sort of looking forward to it.  A ride on a yacht on the Potomac with my clients and co-workers.  But I had to ask my boss for a pass.  I just couldn’t risk it.  I left that little meeting in tears trying to not feel like a total failure of an employee.

This morning my boss and I met for breakfast and he said a few things that are really sticking with me right now.  He said he was afraid I would use work as an excuse to put off the surgery.  He said that he and all of the rest of my co-workers and management were pulling for me to get better.  And that I HAD TO TAKE CARE OF MYSELF.   And whether I got healthy was the only thing that mattered.

I count myself as so lucky to have found a place like this where they are really concerned with my well being – not just my output.

But all of this has really brought to my attention just how far my health has fallen since I moved to Orange.  Its not the fact that I moved.  Its the fact that what little exercise I was getting is no longer.  I no longer have to walk to and from my car at home or at the office to get somewhere everyday.  I no longer have to walk from my desk to the printer when I need to print something.  I no longer have to leave my house for days at a time.  I don’t climb steps ever if I don’t want to anymore.

Most importantly, I eat by myself – always the most dangerous for me.  It used to be I would eat in my car if I wanted to eat alone.  Now, I don’t have to do that – I can just sit in my apartment and eat until I can’t eat anymore.  Most days I don’t.  Most days I skip meals (which is just as bad) and then binge on a large meal when I decide I am hungry.  Or I graze all day on little nothing foods that are good but not good for me.

This week – late as you can imagine – I felt like I had eaten myself to the point of death.  As I struggled to move, to breathe even, I thought this is what I have come to.  And I wished for the first time for a scooter or a wheelchair to take me around.  I thought I was doing all of this to avoid needing that, but really that time has passed.  It is here now.  And I need to own up to the mistakes, the failures, the self-loathing and the mess I have made and get real.

I am not just fat.  I am morbidly obese – a phrase I have always hated but finally felt this was the appropriate phrase this week.  It is easy to see it in others – easy to dismiss in yourself.

I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face as I come to terms with the disregard in which I have treated myself for so long.  And now I have to find a way out of it….

 

 

 

The Pity Invite

I just read this article, about a woman so traumatized about what happened at someones wedding that she has not allowed herself to be in pictures for 10 years.   To summarize, a co-worker was getting married, she was not invited.  Everyone expressed surprise and eventually an invite was extended (the original invites were handmade and hand delivered and hers was in her work mailbox and had been store bought).

She buys a dress and she and her husband went to the wedding.  They were not seated with her other co-workers and were essentially shunned for the evening.  After the wedding, when she asked to see the photos (some of which she had been in), she found she had been airbrushed out of them (large group shots with an empty spot where she had been – her husband standing next to no one).

She was distressed and ever since has not posed for a single picture.  She states that this is all due to her being a size 22 at the time of the wedding and the bride not wanting her fat body in the wedding pictures.

So there are a few things I would like to say about this.

First, I can imagine what this is like.  I am 43 years old.  I have been a bridesmaid exactly 1 time.  It was my sisters wedding.  There was a time when I was younger and a family friend was getting married and I was expected to be asked.  Instead, the mother of the bride asked my mother if I would be offended if my younger sister was asked instead of me as she would fit the dress better.  Regardless of the fact that she was supposedly my friend growing up.   Neither of us actually were in the wedding in the end.  The message was clear that I was too fat for her wedding and my thinner sister was more acceptable.

I had one other time when I was supposed to be a bridesmaid – or at least had been asked to.  A roommate was getting married and I made the choice to back out of being a bridesmaid and to sing at the wedding instead when I saw the dresses the other girls were picking.  I would never want to be in the position to have my comfort be a road block for the bride.  I didn’t know the other bridesmaids and I was just happy to be asked.  It was my choice to say no.  And I did sing at the wedding and I was a part of the big day – in a way that was comfortable for me and was not going to cause any of them additional stresses.

So back to the article – it was clear that the woman did not want her at the wedding.  There is not enough evidence to say for sure it was due to her weight, but the lack of invite initially and the afterthought invite later on, should have been a sign that you were not really welcome.  We call that a pity invite.

I have been there as well.  The pity invite is the one time when you should feel free to say NO.  It will not go well.  You will not enjoy it, they will not enjoy it and in the end it does more harm than good to all involved.

This is where I lose some sympathy for the woman in the story.  All indicators were that she didn’t want you there.  It doesn’t sound like you begged to be there, but either you didn’t get the unspoken clues or you were so determined to be part of it whether or not you were wanted that you barrelled forward with the plan to attend.  Either way – it was not a good idea to attend.   And that is on you.

Having said that, the bride showed incredibly bad form in acting like a diva – having someone photo-shopped out of the photos is pretty extreme.  You have to be really bothered by someone to go that far.

I know there are people who feel like the bride was rude to not invite her (especially when the other co-workers were) and yes it would sting to not get an invite.  But the hurt she felt then is not worth the 10 years she has spent letting it get to her.  10 YEARS.

I would love to here someone elses thoughts on this.  Has it happened to you?  have you ever taken advantage of the pity invite and it went well?

Breaking up is hard to do

While browsing on Facebook the other day, I came across an interview that an old friend had posted.  It was an interview of Roxane Gay, a writer I had never heard of.  She was on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and she was talking about her new book – Hunger.  The book is a memoir about what it is like to be fat.  Her experiences of how the fat happened to her and how she navigates a world that it unsympathetic and unwilling to really see her.

I ordered the book and when it came in started immediately.  I am now 90 or so pages in and I have not really stopped crying.  You will see a few blog posts as I read through the book – it is bringing up things in me that I don’t like to think about.  But I see this as the work before the work.  So much is required of me in this time before weight loss surgery and this is what has to happen for the changes to make sense – I have to get to the root of the issue.  I have to know why.

As part of my pre-surgery information, I had to get a psych evaluation and the therapist I met with asked me if I had trauma in my background.  Was there some defining moment where I turned to food to “fix” my soul in some way?  Did something terrible happen that made me want to gain weight, to hide?  The simple answer is no.  There was not.

But the more complex answer is, there were things that were hard for me and it is possible that I took to food to deal with those things – not trauma exactly – but hard things.

When the therapist asked me if I had trauma, I told her (as I say often) that I grew up in the Leave It To Beaver house.  Mom and Dad were high school sweethearts who were married, literally, until death do them part.  I lived in the suburbs, went to good schools, and while we were not rich, we were not exactly poor either.  I didn’t have all I wanted – but I had all I needed.

It felt a little like the fact that I was fat would be so much easier to explain if something really bad happened to me.  As if whatever reasons led to my weight were invalid because it was not severe trauma.  No one said that to me but that is how it felt.

I have racked my brain now for months trying to understand how I got here.  I remember Oprah, another trauma survivor who turned to food, stating emphatically that it is not what you are eating, its what’s eating you.  So what was eating at me?  What had caused this need in me to be filled with food?

In the book, Ms. Gay, says that her trauma made her want to be bigger as it was safer – she was stronger and bigger and undesirable, to men especially, when she gained weight.  It made her disappear.  It made her fade away.  That idea has resonated with me.  Not so much that I wanted to be bigger or stronger or undesirable.   But that the weight made it possible to disappear.

I don’t have the clearest memories of being a kid.  They are like flashes of light that quickly fade away when I concentrate on them.  But here is what I do know.  I was extremely shy.  And I wanted more than anything to belong.  That is a combination that lethal to those with social anxiety.   To feel like you are on the outside looking in (“Waving Through A Window” as the new broadway show Dear Evan Hansen calls it) and that there is a world you are not quite a part of but so desperately want to be.  And when the barrier is you – your personality, your fear, your reluctance to be different – you can’t escape.

When my family moved to Woodbridge, I left a neighborhood where there were kids my age that I spent time with every day.  We were outside playing in Stevens backyard – usually some sports related game.  They all played on teams – I was the one who was not athletic – and I remember Steven would always choose me to be on his team as he was the one boy and I was the unathletic one.  He believed that as the boy he could win – even with me as his partner – against the other girls.  As a fully grown woman and a feminist, I see the conceit in that idea.  But as a kid, it just meant that I was not left out.  I was included and I felt like I belonged there.

There was a girl in the group who didn’t think I belonged.  She tried to get me to quit often – by calling me names…by calling me fat.  I was the 5th kid – the one that made us an odd number.  The one that wasn’t athletic anyway so why was I playing?  The one that made it obvious that she was younger than we were and she felt pushed out by me.  It’s the first time I really remember being bullied – maybe the only time I felt it so blatantly.

To this day I still remember her name.  I can’t picture any of those kids in my mind, but I remember all of their names.  Marsha, Janet, Steven and Denise.  I remember that I was a part of something there.  I didn’t feel like I was lonely.

But moving to Woodbridge was a different story.  No one in the neighborhood was my age.  They were all younger or older than me.  I still went outside, but I spent more and more time alone doing it.  My first school year in Woodbridge was 5th grade and I remember having a best friend for the first part of that year.  But it didn’t last the school year.  It was the first time I remember being hurt by a “friend”.  And I really don’t remember any other friends from that year.

And I turned to books to fill my time.  I loved to read and as I got older, I read more and more.  Barely leaving the house some days.  My summers were rarely filled with friends and outings and fun in the way that we think of summer days.  I read, alone, in my room a lot.  I still rode my bike and roller skated and walked the neighborhood but I stayed in a lot.

And yet, I still don’t remember that I was eating an extraordinary amount.  I was larger than other kids my age, but I was not really big…yet.

And then high school came.

I had friends in high school.  I was not popular but I was not friendless.  I was involved but I didn’t belong.  Or at least it felt that way.  I felt overwhelmed by the whole thing.  And if I look back, I was more than likely depressed.  I didn’t care about a lot of things.  I cared about people.  I cared about what people thought – but I didn’t really care about myself.  Or for myself.  And I tried to be invisible.

Ironically, I was not invisible by my own doing.  Not only did I stick out more as I gained weight but I wanted to be on stage.  Singing was the only thing I thought I did well.  And I wanted to do it all the time.  In front of people.  I was apparently a masochist.

The weight came on during high school.   I don’t really remember being bullied – I was just ignored.   I have often said I was nobody in high school and that is exactly how I remember it.  I spent 4 years singing in choir but after I graduated, my choir teacher didn’t even remember me.  She made a big impression on my life – not in the best way – but she had no clue who I was.  I had not even existed in her eyes.  I avoided class reunions for the same reason – you didn’t notice me in high school, I can’t imagine paying to go a reunion and no one having any idea who I was.

I make it sound grim.  Please know – there were exceptions.  There was my drama teacher, JC, who was a lifeline for me.  She kept me around.  She cast me.  She let me belong to something.  A few friends like Donia and Amy and Janna.  Each whom I had a different kind of relationship with and each who filled the friendship role.  And there were the other friends – the ones who were with me for a time (we shared a class, a club, an activity).  And those that I just knew because we had mutual friends.  As I said, I was not popular but I was not friendless.

When I look back and I think in some ways it must have been hard to be my friend.  I didn’t care about myself enough at times to make an effort.  And those that stuck with me were so special to me.  Still are.  I have not spoken to some of them in a long time, but I remember the friendships.  I will always remember them.

In my 20’s it got harder.  I spent a year at VCU and didn’t really make a single friend.  Not one.  I had 2 girls on my floor who I spent time with but they would drop me regularly when it suited them to do so.  I saw my parents every weekend for the first 3 months because I was lonely.  I always said I moved home and transferred to Mason because living in Richmond was not for me.  But really – I think I may have stayed if I had made just 1 friend there.  Just 1 person who cared about me at all.

I had a best friend at the time, Randee, and she was in college as well (I think that timing works out right) but I was alone at school.  And then I went home and I was alone there as well.  Mason was a school I visited – I commuted to class and then back home.  And I didn’t make a single friend there either.   Not one person.

And then I ruined the friendship with Randee – looking back it was a moment of self-sabotage that was born out of an overwhelming feeling of change happening and my inability to deal with it.  I will forever be grateful for her love and friendship at the time of my life that I knew her and forever sad that I caused it all to end.

As an adult I finally found my way when it came to how to have friends.  How to not feel so desperate to have them.  How to relax into them and how to be ok with taking the friendships for what they are – not what I expect them to be.  I have a few close friends who are scattered about the country.  Each fills a space in me.  And I have J who does not complete me but he makes me a better version of me.

I say all of this because I need to speak my truth.  I think I turned to food to fill the void that I felt people were not filling.  It was never enough when I was younger – I didn’t have enough friends or I wanted other people to also be my friend and they were not.  And I turned to food because I could – and it justified why people were not my friend.  It gave reason to what I could not articulate.

And now food has been my friend longer than any people have.  And breaking up is hard to do.

I will continue to write about this.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment.  I am a work in progress.

Rule-follower

For the most part, I am a rule-follower.  I always have been.  I have never really been the one to push the limits, see what I can get away with, or even tiptoe over the line to see what happens.  For this reason, I have never been drunk, I have never touched an illegal drug, I politely follow most laws (I have sped down the road but I do try and stay in a reasonable speed limit) and I try to be polite to other people.

That is part of why I am so mystified at the rash of stories on the internet in the last couple of years wherein parents are “outraged” when their kid breaks a rule at school and is punished.  Now, to be fair, there are some schools that are taking things too far.  But for the most part, I keep seeing stories about angry, irate parents whose kids broke the rules and how unfair it is.

My favorite are the ones about girls outfits at school.

Now, I don’t have kids, but I was a girl in school at one time (a million and a half years ago), and I don’t really remember school dress code violations being such a thing.   The biggest thing I remember from my school days is that you were not allowed to wear shorts after a certain time of year or before a certain time of year.  And once you were allowed to wear them again – no matter how cold the day was – you had a bunch of people in them…because they could.  And if you wore them before/after you were allowed, I am pretty sure you went home to change.

And I can guarantee you, that my parents would have sided with the school.

I don’t care how hot it was, how inconvenient it was, how stupid we thought the rule was, my parents would have said – you knew it was not allowed, so you should not have done it.

So why are so many parents outraged by the school dress codes that have existed since we were all in school?   Do school dress codes unfairly target girls over boys?  Should girls be punished for their “effect” on boys?  Or, is this a larger issue that has to do with how girls are taught to be “sexy” too young and therefore don’t even realize that the way they dress is (at times) inappropriate?

As a rule-follower, I am inclined to side with the school in MOST cases.  I have a seen a few that were ridiculous and I shook my head at an overzealous school system that took things too far.  But for the most part, like it or not, these are the rules and you have to follow them.  It is a great lesson for life really – there will always be times and places where you will have rules to follow and it doesn’t matter if you agree with the or not.

So what do you think?

Rest

I am writing from a hotel room outside of Boston MA.  Its 7am and I should be checking work emails from yesterday.  But while my body is up, my mind is not quite in the same place.  I am tired.  Not – I didn’t sleep well tired.  I mean the bone deep, soul weary kind of tired where the stresses of a long period of time start to weigh on you to the point of absolute exhaustion.

I am about due for a body breakdown.  I am not looking forward to that part – but the rest that it can give you – that I can get behind.   I don’t remember the last time I felt this run down without actually being sick.

So what is causing all of this?  Well, it is a series of things that have been going on lately.

Work has been stressful.  It is my own doing to some degree, and some of it is not.  It is my tendency to put a lot of self-worth into my work and when it is running off the rails, I take it very personally.  Also, I have been working more in order to correct some of the things that have been going on.  And traveling more for work to be a presence where the work is happening.

As mentioned, I have been traveling a lot.  Not far – mostly back and forth to NOVA.  But – and this will sound weird to some – J’s house is not my place yet.  It is not home.  As much as I love seeing him – it is not home yet at his condo.  My stuff is not there.  I am living out of a suitcase there.  I am out of my element in a way that feels overwhelming at times.  I am comfortable there  – but it is not home.

I am trying to work through some of my issues with food and behaviors.  I think more about things like why I am eating and how often and why I skipped breakfast.  I think about the things from my childhood that may have led to my inability to fix the food issue.  I also think about why I hate exercise so much.  Why I never was athletic.   And how I got myself into this place after 40 years of bad behaviors.  And I beat myself up quite a bit over all of the things I did to my body and continue to do too often.  Then I beat myself up over beating myself up.

In the midst of this, I am supposed to be thinking about wedding colors and guests lists and receptions.  Everyone wants to see me excited – and I am excited about marrying J.  I am just not as excited about the work right now.  There is so much to do, so little time and a finite amount of money to make it happen.

I just want to rest.

I need someone to hold me and make me slow down.  I need someone to make my mind stop running and my heart feel some relief.

I know that true peace comes from God.  But there are times when you need some earthly peace.  Some rest.

When Its All Your Fault

I am a perfectionist.

Ok, not one that most people would recognize as one.  My brand of perfectionism is that when I can’t do something perfect – at least perfect in the way I designed something to be – I don’t want to do it at all.  It is the reason that when I get a new notebook that I have deemed will be dedicated to writing something everyday and I miss a day – I rarely go back to the notebook.  I have not completed my task perfectly and so I can’t make myself go back and start again…it will not be perfect.

That is how it manifests itself in my personal life.

But at work – well that is a different story.  Perfectionism means I hold myself to an impossible standard.  I will work myself into a frenzy to be sure that I am not the cause of an issue.  I will put my own health and needs to the side and I will push and push myself beyond what I thought I would ever be able to do.  All so I can be seen as perfect – not be perfect – but be SEEN as perfect.  This pushing is almost always tied to how others see me…my boss, my clients, my team members.  I have to be better.  I have to be flawless.  I have to be perfect.

As you know, perfect does not really ever happen.  One man ever was perfect and he died on a cross for me.  Other than that, we are all flawed.  But still I persist in pushing myself so hard in order to try and achieve this impossible goal.

Mostly, I hate letting people down.  I hate the phone call when a client calls you or you have to call them and explain there is an issue.  I hate the disappointment I hear and feel when it becomes apparent I have missed something that I should have seen.  It often moves me to tears of frustration and humiliation that I was not perfect.  That someone had to see how imperfect I really am.

In my line of work, it can easily feel like we are trying to save the world.  The missions of the charities are so close to us and to our client contacts, that it is hard to have any perspective of how big of a deal the particular issue may be.  It all feels like life or death in the moment.  It all feels like the end of the world.  It all feels like my lack of perfection is going to cost the client in money or resources that are vital to their efforts.

I am in a season right now where mistakes – mine and others – are causing a great deal of heartache.  One came to light yesterday and I have been up all night beating myself up for making such a dumb mistake.  I know how it happened.  I can retrace my steps and I know how to stop it from happening again.  But I can’t seem to let go of the fact that I made the mistake to begin with.  It feels like a death has occurred.  Like I killed something that was good.

I know this all sounds so melodramatic.  I can hear the echos of “it’s just direct mail” or “snap out of it – you can’t hold yourself to that” from past mistakes.  And as right as I know that is, my Type A, driven perfectionist personality can not seem to let go.

I wish I could just let this go.  I am told “we will get through this.”  I just hope I can get out of my own way to do so.

 

 

A Season of Pain

I am in a season of pain.   A season of sifting and changing.  And that is not an easy process.  In the past, I have been through these periods and I know the other side brings real revival, but the process – the valley – is not fun.

The thing is this season on pain is very different than it has been in the past.  And a large part of that is my not trying to just get through it – I am putting the work in to try and resolve the issues this time.  I am living in the pain in an effort to finally understand and to finally do more than bury it.  I am ready to rid my life of it.

I am tired and I am weary.  And sometimes I find it hard to fall to the one whose arms are prepared to catch me.  God keeps waiting for me and when He sees that my stubborn self is not getting there…well, He does what He is best at.  He makes the first move.

Friday night I was at the hairdressers getting a hair cut.  It had been one of my worst work weeks in a long time.  I felt beaten.  My back and legs/knees were aching.  I had been up since 3:30 in the AM with the worst case of acid reflux I have ever had and I was tired and my throat hurt.  I had been to therapy that afternoon and I was still reflecting on the ways in which I don’t give myself enough credit at times and that change is a slow process.

When I came in that evening I had decided to cut my hair shorter and get highlights.  But as I came in, they told me it was about a 45 minute wait and I almost said, never mind.  But I didn’t – I went to Tropical Smoothie and got a drink to wait out the time.  When I went back in it was clear that this was not going to be enough time and I was in for a long wait.  A younger woman came in and added the names of her 2 kids to the list and did as I did – went to get smoothies.  When they came back, they were really cute.  They ended up called before me as I had arrived near a shift change and no one who would be able to commit to my hair for 2 hours was available.  Once finished they left.

A few moments later, the mom came back in and I thought – oh, she must have forgotten something.  I even looked over at the station where she had been waiting for her kids to see if I saw something.  But when she entered, she stopped and sat next to me.  And she said – this is going to sound really weird, but God told me to come in here and tell you that He loves you and you are beautiful.  She said He literally would not let her leave until she did this.  I hugged her and told her thank you for letting Him speak to you and she left for the night.

And then today when I got home from church, I was worried about carrying a bunch of things into the house and my knees were in a lot of pain and I was trying to not cry as I stood up.  And then out of nowhere, there was a man and a young boy.  And they had roses.  And he handed me on and a card “from the children of God.”  Inside the card said “Rejoice always.  Pray continually.  Because Jesus loves you so much.  Have a happy day.”

In the painful seasons of my life in the past, God has not felt as present as He does now.  And I am continually amazed at how I feel like this is validating the pain of the moment.  I am meant to be here.  I am meant to be going through these things.  I am in the right place and while the valley is a tough place to be, He is with me.  I just needed a reminder.