Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Round and Round I go, where this stops? Is anybody's guess!


What it is to be me. 

I have found myself in a vicious cycle. I get the energy to work hard at my current mountain. I go for it with a massive amount of gusto. Then...

Not so much.

I engage in behavior that undermines my efforts. The behavior isn't "that bad". I mean it isn't like it falls into the traditional self-harm categories. Although, if I were being honest with myself it truly is self-harm because it does one of two things, A) in the long term it is harmful for me and B) it manifests and breeds behavior that over time is directly harmful to myself. 

So what do I do about it? I have been chasing my own tail trying to change it. Honestly, I still don't have the solution formulated fully. It all is still a bit fuzzy.



Let me outline some of the finer details in this case, so this can all make a bit more sense:


So here is how this goes, I am attacking the current effects of the trauma that I experienced as a child. This is huge for me. I have customarily begun this task to fizzle out later. Justifiably so in some cases. Noted, some cases. 

I would be trucking along in my self discovery of the effects and eventually I would feel too frustrated and "bad" that I would turn to drinking and partying and various other irresponsible behavior. It dulled the pain that I felt I was creating by messing with it. I felt, "if it ain't broke, then why fix it?" Obviously this reasoning was seriously flawed. Of course it didn't feel broken when I was drinking and partying like the world was coming to an end the following morning, really how did I feel much of anything? I was engaging in instant gratification and dulling of the senses. But the stink of it was that I also was learning. In the brief sober moments of my life, you know those times that I was honestly addressing the trauma and had all that energy I mentioned before, I would learn bits and pieces of what makes me tick and how it was impacting my life. It was when I would learn something about myself that I did not want to look at or even accept that I would hit the brick wall and sink into the pit of selfish living. Clearly I wasn't learning enough to make a difference. Just enough to make it a nightmare.

Over the years I finally came to the understanding that part of the impact of the trauma was that I was contending with a mental illness (or two!) Well now, that was something amazing really. I was relieved to some degree, I honestly had a sense of the idea that healing was around the corner. Granted, that corner quickly became the largest, deepest, longest corner known to man, but still finally I had been notified that there was something to be done about my condition. This was great news. I started right away. I got on it and worked and worked and healed a little more each day, each week, each year. It was amazing. 

I slowly lost the harmful target behaviors, well at least the minor ones. The over drinking began to subside, it was no longer necessary. Circumstances in my life drastically altered the partying lifestyle and so did the gratification I had achieved through it. It was no longer appealing to me. But something else happened along the way. I packed on the pounds as if there was going to be a catastrophic famine in the world and my body was merely preparing for it. 

Yikes. 

This was an unexpected turn of events and I was amazed at how far it sent me reeling back down the mountain I had committed to climb. What was even more amazing was that I learned something new about myself, that I truly had major self-image issues. I mean like seriously major. I was obsessed, I clung to the devastation of the weight gain and began to behave with a lot of the same destructive crutches. Like alcohol.We can all see where this is heading, I mean talk about weight gain when you add alcohol to a train wreck of weight gain. Sheesh, I wound up at the heaviest I ever care to be, heavier than any one of my pregnancies by like 40 lbs. Drastically heavier. But here again reveals my obsession. You talk to my husband and friends and they would readily admit that yes I had gained weight, but they are shocked when I tell them how much, because to them I didn't look morbidly obese. But to me I did. This was an interpretation thing. I was interpreting my situation 10x bigger than the reality of it. 

What happened with that? Well, my response was 10x larger than necessary. I matched pace with my interpretation. Of course that blew up in my face too and the effects of that are what I am battling today. It is the key that is turning this crazy merry-go-round that flings me into this horrifying nightmare of circular living. 

I was able to ignore this cycle for a long time, not entirely on purpose, rather I was busy getting this whole Borderline Personality Disorder under control. That was reasonable, I triaged the situation and the mental illness was threatening to be deadly, where-as this whole self-image and comfort eating that I had learned didn't seem to be immediately dangerous to my life. 

Well, after many successes with DBT and converting my life into something that was finally worth living, there sat that 900 pound gorilla, right in my kitchen. I did what I was accustomed to doing, I started back on my trauma issues. My attention finally was torn between so many "problems". I certainly am not cured of BPD, not by any stretch of the imagination. But what was obvious to myself and those around me was that it was being managed as best as it was ever going to be until I address this trauma thing. 

So, I opened Pandora's box once again. This time however I had skills. Woo-hoo! Right? OK so off I go with all of the energy of a successful woman, wife and mother. I was going to make it this time. I wasn't going to start this journey and divert again. I wasn't going to convince myself that "it wasn't really that bad" or the age old excuse of "how many times can one talk about it, it is what it is" Although there is much truth in those statement, but what I was ignoring (which I have become quite adept at) was that there were other things that can be done about my situation that did not require me to sit on someone's couch and talk it out. Talking about it had become tiresome and revealed nothing more. The trauma may be categorized as "not that bad" to some, but others were shocked and saddened. Regardless to any measuring tool one could place on it, it was still impacting my life in an ineffective way. That reality had to be faced. Had to be dealt with, period. 

So today I find myself in a daily cycle. I am energized in addressing this, the emotions become overwhelming, I grab a tool, I feel good about using it, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Then, whether the emotion is positive or negative,  I had trained myself to filter my emotions through eating. But this time it was different, I had spent the last three years working to take the weight off and I had succeeded. I was back to a weight that I was before having children, I was back to wearing a size I was accustomed to. So to turn to food now I was terrified I would gain weight. And gain I did. But this time the gain had not been allowed to spiral out of control. I snapped to it as soon as my jeans became tight. That is all fine and well, however what isn't fine or well at all is that even gaining that little had completely devastated me beyond belief. I was reacting BIG to a small problem. So, I started hiding the eating, as if no one saw me eat it, then the weight would not continue to climb. How unreasonable is that thinking? I mean come on. Although it did reveal something about my journey, after having come this far I was painfully reminded that in some areas I hadn't gone anywhere. I still sat with a horrible self-image, I was still obsessing over my self-image and I still comforted myself with over-indulgence and although I had outgrown the alcohol and I had not outgrown the food. 

I then spiral into guilt that this is still a problem, and after all the effort to lose the weight I was still gaining. I reach a panic stage, where I am completely unpleasant to be around because I am completely and utterly terrified of the total weight coming back. My mind races that I want to stop the spiral. When I wake-up in the morning, I start my day off with commitment to attack my problem and a commitment to eat healthy and mindfully, I get half way through the day and my urge to eat due to emotions (successes or failures) starts to get the better of me and I either indulge and feel guilty or fight it and become so grumpy and snappy that I feel my family is better off without me. 

Now wait a minute...hold the phone. 

When did it become so drastic to me that I felt my family would be better off without me? OK, that was a cue to go back to the beginning, when I feel suicidal I have skills I use. I address that feeling and bring myself back to reasonable thinking. Now a week has passed, maybe I have spent a few days in bed hiding from my reality, but I start out a new week with much energy and confidence that this time I will make headway with all of this. 

You can guess what happens the first time I have the urge to eat. I go around and around in this circle and it makes me dizzy. The cycle repeats itself either every day or every other day or, if I am lucky at all, every week. It is exhausting and I am ready to throw the towel in. But then that feeling cues me in to use my skills, I start looking for some skills and they remind me that I need to be less obsessive about my weight, so I start to problem solve how to keep myself from gaining weight. I then feel as though nothing works and I am totally panicked that short of not eating, I will just continue to gain. Of course not eating is ineffective and harmful, so I will starve myself and when I come to my senses I make a food plan, I stick to it until the emotions crop up and I turn to food... AGAIN. I want to scream!

I AM BACK AT THE BEGINNING!!!!!!

What to do? How do I sort this out? What do I focus on to resolve first? How do you possibly triage this??

After much deliberation I realized I have to "do what works" where some may feel it is necessary to address how I feel about my body image first, some may feel that it is necessary to address why it is that I turn to food when I have intense emotions. But honestly this is me, I have to do what I think will work.

...for me. 


I have a plan. I decided I need to bring this all back into focus. I want to enjoy my daily life. I want to enjoy my kids and I do not want to feed them the same line of baloney of what a girls body "should" look like or what a guy "should" look like. It is ridiculous and harmful to their over-all well being. 

What I commit to attacking first is how I process emotions. I am eagerly working towards rerouting that release I get when I eat into getting that release when I take walks. Walks only. Maybe in the form of hiking or trips to the park. I want to train myself that when I feel intense emotions, I get the gratification I need from spending time outside getting my body moving and breathing in fresh air.

This has proved to be trickier than I expected. I have taken this to a very literal level. During my walks I use mindfulness exercises to imagine that release I feel when I eat, but this time I imagine it working with each step I take. I talk myself through it breathing deeply. I reflect on the differences of processing my emotions through eating or through mild exercise. There obviously is a specific boundary on what level of exercise I aim for with this release. Because if I were to allow free range on this no doubt I would then run the risk of not healing this part of me, rather I would simply move it from one vice to another. I have already done that, so I know I have a habit of it, and I do not want to risk rolling this over to yet another ineffective way of coping. What I want is real healing. 

I will try and post about the progress of this endeavor. I need to make this statement for myself more than anything, but this is not a deviation from addressing the trauma, in reality this is one of the very things that still impact my life because of the trauma. This is all part of climbing that mountain. I have stepped back and reorganized. The ABC's I have put into place are this:

  • I only weigh myself on Monday's.
  • I have a clear and simple food plan.
  • I have a daily regimen of mild exercise to which I use talk therapy with myself.
  • I have a weekly regimen of regular exercise simply because that is healthy for me and I do not practice my talk therapy because I do not want to put myself in danger of moving vices.
  • If I should fail on any one of the above, I have installed a reset button for each morning so as not to give way to guilt. 
  • I journal on a daily basis.
  • I remind myself that my main focus is reprogramming the emotion outlet and to put less attention on all the others with comforting myself in the understaning that I will address it. But just not first. 
This list may seem long, but I will use it as rules to live by for now. It is clear and concise. It takes all the guess work out of "what to do??" I feel as though I have a plan, so I am not merely flapping in the wind.

I have jump started this plan with fasting for two days and contemplating the ins and outs, my weaknesses and my strength. I am ready, today to make a difference for... today. Tomorrow will take care of itself. So I leave tomorrow for tomorrow.

Thank-you for reading this, it is the way each of you can support my efforts. Please offer your thoughts on this, maybe successes you may have in this, or perhaps to share your failures so that I can possibly use your insight to avoid failures of my own. 

Sincerest of appreciation.

MJ