Thursday, June 24, 2010

I wanna talk about me...

I never got it, why when you are considering gastric bypass surgery you have to go through a six month preparation before they will do the surgery. Why there were required support groups, therapy sessions and other steps to help prepare mentally for what is to come. I truly believed that losing weight was a physical undertaking, that once you reprogrammed yourself to like working out and once you overcame the food issues (whether that be cutting back or in my case learning to eat more) it would be smooth sailing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The physical is such a small part of this, and in hindsight the easy part.

The emotional side of losing weight, particularly if you are trying to lose a large amount of weight, is what no one prepares you for, it is what so few talk about and it is like no other place I have been in my life before. As a child who grew up in an abusive home and a young adult who fought through a rare chronic illness I am used to powerful emotions. I have fought clinical depression (to the point of needing inpatient treatment during the worst days with PTC), I have done the therapy thing, I know what it feels like to hurt. But this isn’t that. This is not a depression issue, this is emotions I have never had to wrestle before. And to be quite honest, I am not so sure most days exactly how to manage them.

I feel like I am on the world’s tallest, fastest, longest roller coaster and despite those around me who try to help, I feel at times like I have gotten on the ride alone. I can easily swing in a moment from being ecstatically happy over a great workout, or being able to wear something I couldn’t a week ago, or being able to use a tampon for the first time in 4 years (sorry to my male readers, that was today’s newest accomplishment and a BIG deal for me) to being totally crushed by having gained a couple pounds, or feeling incompetent in the gym or someone in my life not noticing a change. I feel like there is very little neutral ground in between, and I miss that stability.

And on top of the wild ups and downs, I feel like I have no clue who I am most days. I make a lot of jokes about it. About dressing different or eating differently or whatever, because sarcasm and jokes are how I hide what is inside and protect myself. But what I really mean is I don’t know who I am anymore at my core. Most of the things I thought about myself are changing, or maybe weren’t even true to start with. I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself physically or otherwise. Things that seemed to matter before don’t, things I never cared about do, my likes and dislikes have all changed (and keep changing) and my goals for my life and who I want to be seem to be in transition also. I feel like a stranger in my own life a lot of the time!

I was puzzled a week ago when my trainer said he was worried about me giving up because of the emotional side of all this, that he had seen it before and was concerned. It made no sense at the time. Why would anyone bail on losing weight because of their emotions, but today I get it. And he was right…it is a risk. I am at the point of saying “stop the ride I want to get off” and it isn’t because I can’t do the workouts, when I put my head in the game they aren’t so bad. And it isn’t even over food, I am working on getting some additional help with that. It is purely a matter of emotional exhaustion…good and bad. It is confusion, frustration, fear, and a general sense of being lost.

I keep trying to think how to explain the emotions to others but finding the words is the hard part. Finding words seems to be a lot of my problem in general these days. Part of what I am coming to realize, slowly, is that I am causing a lot of the feelings by how I communicate (or don’t as the case may be). I posted a couple days ago about not easily letting people in, this is becoming a bigger and bigger issue the more weight I lose. It is impacting my training, it is impacting my commitment to this journey and I fear if I don’t solve this in short order it will start impacting my weight loss and sabotage all that I have accomplished. Because the more confused and lost I become, the farther I am pushing out even those who I let in in the beginning.

It seems VERY odd for me to say I am at a loss for words. Very few who know me would believe it. Most people usually hope I’ll just shut up *smile* and I feel more now than ever I talk about myself too much, but what I am talking about being a problem is going beyond the surfacy chit chat. I am talking about finding the words to talk about where my heart and head are, and that is my current challenge. Even with those closest to me, I can say at some high level (what we call at work the 10,000 foot view) that I am upset or frustrated or happy or whatever, but to go any lower than that I just clam up. I don’t know how to even start the conversation most days, and when others do I quickly manage to change the subject. And I know all of that is about fear more than anything.

Fear of putting my heart out there and how will others react. Will they get mad, will they laugh, will they think less of me and walk away. I don’t know how to undo the reactions of the past that run through my head. I hate to sound like I am putting blame on my parents, I am an adult, I am past doing that. But I can’t say that their reactions when I would try to talk about how I felt growing up aren’t a big part of this. I can’t once in my life ever remember having a serious emotional talk with either of my parents. I don’t remember it once with anyone growing up as a matter of fact. It just wasn’t something I was ever learned how to do. And those few times that I would let my parents see my emotions, the response was typically to “get over it” or my favorite line of my mother’s “if you don’t stop crying I will give you something to cry about”. Heart to hearts didn’t happen in our home, and I learned very early on to protect how I feel and think because once put out there it was often used as a weapon later on. I look back now and realize it is why my brother turned to writing poetry and why I prefer writing to talking, it was safer to put your heart on paper than to put it out where it could be hurt.

I think the first time I remember any kind of heart to heart talks was with a dear friend in college, and I very quickly realized I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings. I took to note writing and then email once that became an option. It provided a safety net, a way to think through what I wanted to say and make sure it didn’t sound stupid. I also didn’t have to worry about the reaction on the other person’s face. If they laughed at me I couldn’t see it, if they thought I was dumb I didn’t have to see that either. Or worst of all, if it upset them I didn’t have to know how to handle that. It’s why I started this blog, as a way to share where I was at, but not have to say it to anyone. Because the minute I try to talk about it, I find myself going back to that high level, it’s all good reaction.

Until a week ago I didn’t see this as a problem. But it is now becoming a huge one, both for me and those trying to help me with my weight loss, to the point it is threatening my relationship with my trainer and putting all I have done in jeopardy. And as much as I can see the problem and the potential repercussions, I genuinely don’t know now how to get past it. How do you learn to say what you don’t even understand enough to put into words and what you so fear others reactions to? How do you look someone in the face and become that vulnerable after protecting yourself for 4 decades from admitting that you feel scared, confused, unsure of yourself and at times very out of control? How do you learn to trust that those you tell will treat that information with respect, privacy and not later use it against you? And most importantly how do you learn to do it in a heartbeat before you lose the people who you are trying to tell in the first place?


  1. One of life's great irony's is that to love, you open your self up to great pain, risk, and fear. But I cannot imagine life without love in it's many different forms.


  2. Probably all that you need to express would be better guided by a professional listener/counselor/coach (a Gui-type to retrain your letting go of emotional baggage). Friends struggle with their own stuff and are ill-equipped to really get to the bottom of each other's pain. Art therapy is very freeing!

  3. You look wonderful!