Curb Appeal

When i was crying in therapy yesterday, my therapist asked if i wanted the weighted blanket. Instant Nope! because i hate that thing. Then she asked if she could come closer and help me feel better. To maybe put her hands on my bouncing knees. No thank you, because touch is too much. Then she helps me find something i can do to honour and respect how my body is reacting. It doesn’t matter how small, she says. All i can muster is 1 foot, up on its heel – a sign. My body is saying Stay away.

I know i’m not saying stay away to her. I know i’m saying it to people who’re long gone from my life. She stands in their stead for me, knowing how much i need to say No, and I don’t want that, and You can’t do that, and Don’t touch me.

My foot, saying Do not come closer. Stay back.
My knees, bouncing. Let’s get the fuck outta here.
My eyes, always glancing between the window and the door. Avoiding her gaze. But it’s not her read i’m trying to hide from. It’s other prying eyes. Eyes that looked into mine and read me to use me better. My mother, reading every book, attending all the conferences, learning how to get more of what she wanted from people through subtle manipulations. People wanted to open up to her. They wanted to give her what she wanted.

I always opened up to her and gave her what she wanted.
Even my brain was hers to poke around in.
She purposely made some of the parts that live here with me.

So i look away from my therapist and calm myself by looking at the door i can rush out of, or if worse comes to worst, there’s always the window.
She doesn’t take this personally. She lets me set fear-based boundaries because it’s symbolic. It’s healing and empowering for me to say No! and set limits, even unreasonable ones.
Don’t touch me.
Don’t talk to me.
Don’t look at me.

This is the beginning of learning to soothe and comfort and care for myself. And this may be the hardest thing i ever do. (Yeah i know i keep saying that, but JFC, if you could “Strange Days” my current experience you’d understand – this shit keeps amping up!)

I was born to be a receptacle for pain, frustration, rage, sickness, filth.
I was taught it was my job.
I was also taught that i deserved it.

My therapist looks at me with care, her eyes are watery.
She says, “I could wind up and smack you across the face as hard as i could, and you would probably be able to handle that more easily than my offer of kindness and care.”
She asks me questions about how i’m feeling, and all i can come up with is a head shake and an I don’t know. But that’s not quite right. I have thoughts and feelings all jumbled up inside me, and words want to come out, but there’s so many i can’t isolate any one thing in order to make sense. It would just be a big, soupy spew.
So i demure, frustrated, and full of vitriolic froth.

This is my life right now. It’s therapy. It’s my absolute #1 priority. I mete out my spoons, Scrooge-like, becoming more miserly with each passing week.
I cannot care about this right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot share space with this person right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot deal with this situation right now; i need my spoons for therapy.

This is gonna have to wait.
YOU are gonna have to wait.
I NEED MY SPOONS FOR THERAPY.

I’m curating my life like i learned to curate my social media exposure.
I won’t be making any new friends or any big decisions (hell, even small decisions).
If there’s something not working in my relationships or my daily routines, it’s all getting stuffed in a junk drawer for now because i’m constantly exhausted and stressed dealing with this stuff and there is no room for anyone else’s feelings or issues or problems.*

There’s a baby in my brain. She’s in a frilly bassinet and i have someone that watches over her. Other parts are allowed to go and visit her, but only if they’re in a good place – or at least good enough not to cause trouble. I’m sorry to say she’s not alive, but she is beautiful, and perfectly preserved. Behind her is a vault, where i keep the toxic waste. I thought that was the best place to keep it, locked to all but me. I’ve been gathering it over the years – slurping it up into tanks in my hazmat suit. Hiding it behind metres of steel and locks only i can open. It’s the stuff that killed me as a baby, and poisoned the rest of us. I thought it would stay there, safe and untouched, forever.

But now i know it’s got to go. And i know how to do it, too.
I made a door at the back of the vault. It opens like a big metal one in a scifi show. There’s an episode of Star Trek: TNG, where the ship accidentally travels beyond space and time, “Where No One Has Gone Before”. Beyond my back door lies this place. It will swallow the tanks and they’ll no longer be capable of bringing harm to anyone. They’ll be timeless, formless – existing and yet, not.
I’m preparing to dump them overboard.

*There are exceptions, for instance my kids, or if someone isn’t asking for too much from me and i want to give them some. “Want to” being the important part. Drama is the onion on my pizza right now – and i pick that shit off, man.

**********

I was getting groceries yesterday, and a lovely woman i know commented on my appearance, and asked me how i’ve accomplished my weight loss. I told her, “I changed one thing about the way i eat, and i did that one thing until it became a part of me. And then i changed one more small thing and did it again.”

And that is exactly how i’ve been chipping away at the 100lbs i’ve been struggling with since around 2009.
Yes, 10yrs. Yo-yo-ing the same 30lbs or so, over and over, with diets and food plans and shakes and pills.
But that entire time, i was learning things. About myself, about food, and about how i used food and how i relate to food, and how all of that is affected and shaped by who i am as a person and the trauma i endured growing up.

So while it may have looked like i was stagnating in my 100lbs-overweightness, i was absolutely not. I was tearing myself down to my foundations and building myself back up: Better. Stronger. Faster. (Like Steve Austin, except i’m Jamie Sommers.)
Yes, it’s taken years. That’s okay with me, because i know that i’ll never be obese, morbidly obese, or knocking on the door of super morbidly obese, ever again. My weight might still fluctuate on occasion, but i have infrangible confidence in my ability to handle it, should a problem arise.

As i’ve moved through therapy and learned about who i am and how i work, i’ve been able to tweak what i eat and how i eat. I no longer become despondent when something doesn’t work. I just try something else. I know that i’m in this for the long haul and i can trust myself to stick with it, and everything… Well, everything is gonna be okay – or at least some version of okay that i can live with while working towards a better okay. Or –what the hell– why not try for better than okay?

Then it hit me. I’ve done the exact same thing with my mental health.
It’s been 15yrs of looking my diagnoses full in the face and working on living with my abusive childhood, all to achieve a better quality of life. I’ve lost treasured relationships and i’ve abandoned even more.
I’ve been judged, whether unfairly or justly, to be too fucked up to associate with by many. I started out being devastated by this, but eventually i learned it was their right, and kind of not my business.
Then i thought i could avoid this by starting each new friendship with a serious, candid warning about how i can be a lot, so honest, open communication is helpful…
Sometimes that’s worked and sometimes it hasn’t.

I must’ve seemed like a freakshow that derailed a train.
Well, i know i did, as some people were kind enough to tell me so. /s
Ah, thanks?

I wasn’t any of that, though.
I was tearing myself down to my foundation so that i could build myself back up with better materials, in a style that suited me. Me. Not them. ME.
I was a bit of a fixer-upper, yes. And the renos have taken a loooooooong time, yes.
But i’m no money pit.
And no, i’m not on the market. I do the odd showing, but most people will just have to admire me from a distance. I’m private property.

I’ve been tweaking myself like i’ve been tweaking my diet and my lifestyle and my relationships. I’m just finally starting to reflect on the outside, all the work i’ve been doing on the inside.

So there.
Neener.
And also, How about that, eh?

Happy Monday.
Love and Peace,
~H~

Hunger

Hunger is the best sauce in the world.
~Miguel de Cervantes

This next diet tweak is hard. I may stumble quite a bit, but i am 100% committed, if not terrified.

No more eating, unless i’m hungry.
Really hungry. Like, approaching hangry, if not already there.
No more, “I could eat.”
No more, that looks good so i’m gonna have some.
No more eating just because that’s the regular time i eat, or i’m eating now because i won’t have time later.
No more eating just because everyone else is.
There will be the odd exception, as there is with any of my prior tweaks, like No Eating While Standing, and Must Eat At The Table, No Media Distractions, etc.
I taste test for seasoning when i’m cooking, and i’ll eat sitting on the couch if my husband is really tired after work and wants to watch a show and then go to bed.
I eat relatively well, and it won’t kill me to miss a meal if i’m not hungry at family suppertime, or if i’m out and about and don’t have time, money, or great choices for something to eat.
I had a gastric bypass in 2005, lost over 250lbs, and then gained around 80lbs back. Sure, it was initially due to being put on bipolar medication, but that’s no longer an issue, and i still find myself wrestling with the first 30lbs… I’ll take it off and put it back on, take it off and immediately put it back on. Over and over, ever since i regained it. I can’t seem to get to that second batch of about 50lbs.
As my mental health has improved, i have been, as some of you know, making small, manageable changes to the way i eat. Nothing magical, just sound alterations to my diet. Not so much what i eat, as HOW i eat.
What i eat is not so much of a problem for me. I don’t struggle with junk food or sweets. Maybe potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta, but dealing with my childhood and the myriad, complicated reasons behind my struggle with those particular foods have reduced that to almost a non-issue.
Here’s the thing: you can out-eat your weight loss surgery, and it’s not that hard. I’ve struggled with taking off this weight that came back on, and it has nothing to do with medication anymore.
Due to my personal health problems, my stomach has been scoped a number of times, and it is, thankfully, still the size of a lemon. I’m not bingeing. I’m not consuming vast quantities of food at a sitting.
So i’ve had to get unflinchingly honest and take a hard look at what my real issues are with eating and food.
I’ve tackled them one by one.
The first thing is i’m no longer a heavy, compulsive drinker. The booze weight is gone. I didn’t quit drinking for weight loss, i quit it because it’s a sick behaviour that will result in my premature death.
The second issue was simple to identify, but required management in a number of areas – a multipronged attack, if you will.
One way to out-eat a weight loss surgery is by snacking and grazing, and that’s what i’ve been doing. I haven’t taken it too far, but it’s been enough that i cannot lose the pounds i gained when i went off the rails with Bipolar Disorder.
That must change.
Over the years i’ve tried to deal with it through diet, but i went about it in the old way. You know, the way that hadn’t worked in the first place and caused me to seek the surgery solution?
Yeah, that way.
<you may roll your eyes here>
It failed, just as it had always done. It wasn’t until i began managing my brain’s diet, that i was finally able to tackle these accursed eighty-or-so extra pounds. I approximate numbers, because one of the things that i’ve learned is unhealthy for me is the scale. My doctor knows my number and she knows my mental status, and i trust her with both. I can make a fairly educated guess based on how i look naked and how my clothes are fitting, and if things go wrong i can go see my MD, or talk with an RD.
Learning to control what my brain takes in and puts out not only gave me the clarity of mind to address my weight problem, but it gave me some strong indications of how i might manage it as well.
I feed my brain mostly healthy stuff, with only the occasional treat.
If garbage is coming out of my face, the first thing i do is check my brain-diet. Am i watching crap telly while consuming nothing but junk like anger, bitterness,or hopelessness? If i feed my brain information, what i get is knowledge, THE vital nutrient required to keep my brain running in peak condition. Writing is the exercise necessary to rid my body of those unnecessary emotional pounds that feeling trapped and helpless and alone had slowly packed on.
So i have devised a way to eat that i can live with, and live happily, for the rest of my life. I have created it with my years of experience, my intense, hard work to know myself, and the knowledge and input of those who are experts in the field of nutrition (your friendly, neighbourhood Registered Dietitian), all under the care of my personal physician.
I have progressed very slowly, giving these small alterations to my lifestyle a chance to take root.
There this one big thing left (there may be other small things, for sure), with respect to what and how i eat, that must be adapted, and that is my caloric intake.
And so, with that firmly in the forefront of my mind, i do perhaps the hardest thing: put an end to grazing and between-meal snacking.
It is clearly the solution to my overconsumption of calories. I won’t be discussing my activity level in this post, just suffice it to say that it is currently evolving along with my eating, but is sufficient.
If i only eat three squares a day with nothing in between, it will reduce my calorie intake to weight loss levels. No matter how hungry i am, i simply cannot eat a large amount of food; i’m restricted by my small stomach pouch.
Being hungry is normal. One is supposed to feel hunger. I am dreadfully uncomfortable with the feeling, due to childhood abuse and neglect, and my aversion of the feeling for the vast majority of my adulthood.
The modifications i’ve made have brought me to the edge of the thirty pound boundary. I am determined to cross it and never look back.
This may very well not be the way for you and i am in no way suggesting it should be. Excess weight and unhealthy eating habits are an incredibly complex and personal issue. I have no advice to give you. This blog post is what almost all my blog posts are, and that is a journal that i share with anyone who wants to know about me, how my brain works, and how i am slowly-but-ever-so-surely, creating the life i want to live and the happiness that i have always sought.
Your kind attention to my process is helpful beyond measure.
Thank you.
Love and Peace to You All,
~H~

Unique Up On It*

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine made a comment on a blog post regarding my willingness to know myself, and all the hard work i’ve put in to doing so. It relates to some stuff that’s been sloshing around in my brain, so i thought i’d write a bit about it.

My mother was intensely interested in psychology. I think she may have genuinely been seeking help for herself in the beginning, but by the time i was ready to attend school, it was more of a weapon than anything else. She jumped on every bandwagon, embraced every fad, and swallowed every line of pop psychology she could find. There were therapists i saw for individual and family counselling during the day, that would be involved in our nighttime activities, and then there was the odd social worker who would come to school to speak with me. The former were criminals, and the latter merely useless, but they both cemented a distrust of all involved in psychology – a science so soft one could call it “mushy”.

I knew something was wrong with me but i never knew what. My religion taught me that i was a hopeless sinner in need of salvation, which i pursued generally, sometimes even tirelessly. (I was gonna say single-mindedly, but that doesn’t quite fit. Heh.) My family either reinforced religion, ignored the problem, or contributed to it. This left mental health professionals, from whom i regularly sought answers, despite my wariness and stunning lack of success with them.

It wasn’t all for naught. As i have with many things, i took what i liked and left the rest – like the religions from which i took that advice. Over decades i’ve amassed a decent amount of knowledge on the subject of the functions of my mind with respect to my behaviour within a given context. You’re not going to hear a bunch of current buzz words coming from me. I’m not a spiritual person, but neither am i only about that which is tangible and provable. Every day my understanding that i am a truly unique individual, deepens. I think you are too, although that understanding is more exoteric. What i know about myself is more abstruse.

There endeth my grandiloquence.

I draw from this font of knowledge every day. The more i know myself the better able i am to make good decisions and enjoy positive outcomes.
Take for instance, my lifelong, contentious relationship with food. From chubby at 8, to super-morbidly obese at 35, to thin at 38, to Bipolar Disorder packing 80lbs back on… I’ve been through it all with food. Abuse and neglect warped my mental and physical connection with food. Being intermittently starved, and frequently lured, rewarded, and placated with food, has done an incredible amount of damage in my life.

You’ve heard the stories before. Some of those stories may be like your own.
Yeah, i eventually tried all the diets. It was in later years though, not really ever as a child. Regularly not having food in the house made the thought of dieting anathema.
School was excruciating. The children were unrelentingly vicious until the latter half of grade nine, when i switched to a half decent school where only about half of the boys and a few of the girls were truly heinous. I cried myself to sleep as so many of us fat kids have done. I sobbed out desperate prayers to the god i was raised with, begging him to make me thin. I mostly thought my school troubles were due to my weight, i only came to realise through years of the kind of self-study that i’m right now referring to, that it was sosoSO much deeper than that. I look back now and i see a chubby girl who was quiet, another who had money, one may have been wide, but she was very, very short, and one or more of them came from families whose names everyone knew and respected. None of them got it as bad as i did.
I’m telling you, i’m a very nice person, but there are some people from those last 2 schools i attended that i would be hard-pressed not to punch right in their smug faces and gouge out those glittering eyes filled with cruel glee. I may be odd, honey, but you’re still a shitty human being.

Sorry for the digression – i don’t know if that school stuff will ever go away.
So, back to food and fat then.
And diets.
Oh my eff-you-see-kay, did i ever try ’em. All of ’em. The late-night infomercial scammers, the impossibly petite and perfect, smiley Buffybots, and the anti-science pitchers of expensive woo solutions… All of ’em.
Exercise is the answer.
Eliminating the sugarcarbglutenfat is the answer.
Eating like a caveman. Or a coeliac. Or a diabetic. Or a fat man on the fasttrack to a massive heart attack. Or a runway model. Or a toot widdow bunny wabbit.
I’ve done most of it, and had similar results to those of you who’ve also done it.
PFFT.

You know how i said i take what i like and leave the rest? Well, here’s something i picked up from one of those places and put right back on the shelf for someone else.
“Terminal uniqueness”.
See now, that just doesn’t work for me. The implication is that the answer is already out there, you’re just not working the solution correctly. Or hard enough. Or long enough. Or honestly enough. Or… Eff you in the eh with a dee.

It’s not to say that that concept is never helpful for anyone.
I’m saying it was not helpful for me in this particular aspect of my life. (Honestly, it wasn’t particularly helpful for me in any area, but i’m trying not to do that digressing thingy i did a while back there.)

I AM unique, and if one bears in mind that i will one day die – terminally so.
I wasted a tremendous amount of time trying to be like other people when i wasn’t. To fit in when i couldn’t. To belong to groups i didn’t want to be a part of, and be liked by people i didn’t care for.
For years i ran away from a diagnosis that would change my life, forever and for the better, because i thought being different was bad and being alone was bad. Neither of those things is either always the truth, or always a lie.
Not for any of us.

And so none of those diets worked. For all the reasons that anyone who struggles already knows, but also for this reason that i am now telling you – because i AM terminally unique.
The only “diet” that will ever have a healthy and long term affect/effect on me is one that is tailored specifically for me. It will only fit me. It will not fit you or anyone else.

I now understand that i’m the only one that can craft the perfect solution. And between all the knowledge i have acquired over the years about dieting and myself -you throw in a registered dietician (the ONLY people i think should be trusted regarding the science of nutrition)- and i am set. I am set for life! (That’s the title of some diet book i read once, i think. HEH.)

I will give you one example of how this works for me, and then i shall stop jabbering at you for the day.
I read a very popular diet book once. Well, actually i bought it and all the stuff that came along with the book, and i read the book itself several times. The first thing this doctor, author, diet guru did was tell me that i must go through my entire house and remove foods that he deemed not healthy, or dangerous to my eating plan, or however he put it. (That book is no longer in my house, so i can’t/won’t refer to it for accuracy.)

Removing foods from my house is a bad idea for me. Removing foods that some call treats or junk is an exceedingly bad idea for me.
I was starved growing up. There was regularly not enough food in my house. And worse.
My mother ate while i starved. She would hide sweet and salty treats from me, and often cook for herself after she’d sent me to bed. She kept money aside to support her junk food habit, that should have been spent on clothing for me, or school supplies and fun activities. She would serve me spoiled food. I’d be starving and i’d scrounge food from the garbage, from other people’s homes. I stole other kid’s lunches or dug them out of the trash.

To this day, when i get low on something, or my fridge doesn’t look full or my cupboards are emptying out, i get nervous and anxious. I will leave a smidgen or a dollop of something in a box or a jar until i can get to the store to buy more – because being completely out of something can cause an anxiety attack.
And here’s the other thing, the barer my larder, the hungrier i get. When my kitchen is full of food, i don’t graze as much, and i snack less frequently. And when the sweet and salty snack foods are around i don’t experience an overpowering craving for them. Those things don’t call to me when they’re on my shelf, but when they’re not there, the 7-Eleven is a siren song.

So that extremely successful dude that’s sold millions of diet advice books starts out with a bad idea for me, and goes downhill from there.
Factor in all that science can and has debunked as far as diet fads and crazes, and i can toss out almost all the other books and videos and videotapes and CDs and equipment that i’ve bought over the years (decades).
Factor in that i’ve had weight loss surgery.
Factor in my Peanut Gallery.

I know how to eat now, to be healthy, and to lose some weight. I’m on my way down, very slowly and mostly surely, and i’m fairly certain that, barring mental/physical issues i may face in the future and the resultant medications – it’s staying off for good. I’m not even excited. I just know it’s a pretty safe bet.

So yeah, to clumsily bring it all back around to my friend’s comment on my blog from the other day.
I’ve been thinking about how none of what i now currently enjoy along the lines of daily functionality and enjoyment of life might just not be possible at this level if i didn’t know myself as well as i do today. (That’s a helluva sentence; i hope it made sense.)

To know myself, to know who i am, what i think, and why i think it, is without question, the best thing that i have ever done, or will continue to do. It makes me better, happier, and more productive in every way.

Have as good a day as you’re able. I’ll do the same.

Love and Peace,
~H~

*From a favourite old joke:
Q: How do you catch a unique rabbit?

A: Unique up on it.

Q: How do you catch a tame rabbit?

A: Tame way.

Off You Go

I like this British idiom. It seems to mean giving someone leave to go and do something in particular. An informal, but not unkind way to indicate that if one is prepared for a particular action, then one should go ahead and begin.

So off i go…

I’ll be spending this year concentrating on small, significant lifestyle tweaks that are intended to improve my health and well-being. Not just mental and emotional, but physical too. My physical health has consistently taken a back seat to my other issues, but i intend to make it a priority this year. I tried to last year, but i just didn’t have enough good brain days to make it work. Now, i finally have some decent experience with managing my mental issues, and i’ve been able to live months (MONTHS!) without any significant chaos or mental hiccoughs.

Don’t get me wrong, life still happens. I have a particularly large issue that finally required my complete attention last year. I’ve been in the shit ever since because of it, and after a year of quietly and calmly dealing with it, it’s clear that it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. And just to make things interesting, another issue is surfacing, one that may prove particularly challenging, and one that holds the potential for a lot of short-term drama. Whee.

I’m implementing two small changes to my lifestyle today. One is that i intend to go for a walk outside every day. No matter the weather and no matter the company, and regardless of whether i’m on the treadmill or elliptical that day. I live in a beautiful place, where i’m very fortunate not to have to see people regularly. I’m also most fortunate to have furry companions that love to go for walkies. I already take them out fairly regularly, but it’s one of the first things to go when i’m feeling low. Physical exercise and being outdoors have both been proven in multiple peer-reviewed, scientific studies to have a positive effect on mental illness, both in prevention of onset symptoms and treatment should symptoms occur. So that’s pretty clearly a beneficial addition to my daily schedule.

The second thing is no eating after 9pm. Pure suckage here, but it’s an absolute no-brainer. I’ve been a nighthawk my entire life, and i’m trying to transition slowly into a more regular schedule. It’s been tough. Daytime means people and normalcy and nighttime means alone and as strange as i wanna be. There are all kinds of studies out that show some initial support for certain kinds people having legitimate reasons for keeping late hours, but they aren’t definitive, and even if they were i wouldn’t care. I want to experience life as a Daywalker. I may actually like it – hell, i might even prefer to live amongst the living. Heh.

Of course it’s not just the matter of my circadian rhythms. Food and weight have been an issue since i was 8yrs old. There were many nights that i ate myself into a coma and woke with one helluva hangover. And although i haven’t lived like that for over a decade, my weight has crept back up due to mental illness, medication, and yes, complacency. I’ve addressed the illness, and my medications levels may always require adjustment, but it’s time to require more of myself with regards to eating. Nothing to eat after 9pm will encourage me to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and it should also keep me from more than one after supper snack. Plus, my brain seems to be really grooving on a regular schedule. I think i might thrive on rules and regimens. Rules and regimens that are mine, made by me, of course. Because screw you – i do what i want.

Oh and by the way, life has thrown me a super suckass curve ball today. Just its way of welcoming me to the neighbourhood. Life can be a real asshole. Still and all, i’m gonna finish my tea, put on a sweater, and take my fuzzbuddies for a walk.

dogbone