So I came home from work feeling just really anxious and wired and down–all at once. My day ended badly and I know part of my anxiety has to do with that–even though I already talked to my principal about it–fronted myself out and apologized. And I know it’s not a huge deal and it’ll be okay. (So, you are wondering what happened, right? Well, I lost my patience, thus proving I’m human…although I have a hard time allowing myself to BE human in circumstances like that.)
And I keep thinking about something a therapist told me a LONG time ago–LONG before I worked with the therapist who helped me get through recovery–this was another guy, and he pointed out that every time I started a sentence, I said, “I’m bad about (x, y, z)… I’m bad about…” and he said I must have been indoctrinated with the message that I’m bad, and I needed to stop saying that about myself. He also pointed out that somewhere, sometime, somebody taught me that if I make a mistake, I have to feel REEEEEAAAAAAALLLLLLY awful about it and not give myself a chance to move on.
And I was remembering that on the way home, and since I got home, and it’s on my mind now, because, as noted, even though the mistake I made isn’t a catastrophe, it’s in my mind and just staying there. Matt, the therapist who helped me get through recovery when I stuck with therapy and walked through Hell, had another approach to this unforgiving, go-nowhere thinking of mine: he’d slap his desk or kick the underside of it to startle me–he called it “mental floss”–to break the pattern of thinking I was “spinning” in. All of this is to say, as much therapy as I had, one would think that I’d be better at letting things slide off my back.
The reason I’m even sharing the above stuff with you is that after I got home and I was able to relax just a little–while still feeling anxious and fearful–I realized that I was being overwhelmed with the kinds of feelings that, when I was in eating disorder relapse, sent me running for sweets and breads–the drugs of choice for me, back in the day. And back-in-the-day was NOT all that long ago. I was in relapse as late as early fall 2017.
I was telling my eldest daughter (who had gastric sleeve done 2 years ago and is like my go-to-person for information and support) about this, and she said, “Feeling all the feelings suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.”
I agree. It does.
So what am I doing with this? Well, I realized I needed to write it out, which is what I’m doing here. I also realized I hadn’t logged my food & water & exercise on my Baritastic app–I’m usually pretty religious about doing it–I definitely make sure I post it all daily, to be accountable, sure, but also to make sure I’m hitting my protein and water intake requirements. So I did that. After I ate dinner, I got a shower & retired to the bedroom where I could have as much quiet as I want, AND have the added bonus of not having to fight a large dog (or 3) for space on the furniture in the living room. I made my grocery list for after work tomorrow, and I’m about to get back to novel writing.
I think that recognizing the emotions and giving myself permission to be human are positive moves, as well as recognizing that the depressed “wired” feeling was something that, when I was still in relapse, would have been dispatched immediately by eating unhealthy stuff–then feeling like shit about myself for doing that– then feeling bad about THAT. Ya know, the whole “I’m bad about…” stuff. Oh-oh, let’s not forget that even hours later–maybe even the next day?–I would wake with the belief that I reaaaaaaally effed up the day before, and it would also influence how I SEE myself in the mirror.
What is it Jack Nicholson says in As Good as It Gets?
On a positive note, I received a message from a former student who read my book, Courage in Patience, and told me that she felt so much comfort from it because she was sexually abused as a child, and she only recently told another person about it. AND, today I had the opportunity to advocate for one of my students who is pretty emotionally fragile, and I did so in order to protect her. I have to point these things out to myself to remind myself that even if I lose my patience with a kid who is not being careful with his words or actions, I still did something good today. And that would be true even if I had come home and eaten my feelings.
I’m grateful for awareness and the gift of being able to recognize growth and that I don’t have to binge eat in order to cope with my feelings.
What an apropos article to pop up in my inbox today: Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator? It’s especially timely in that I ate 2 bowls of Raisin Bran Crunch each of the last 2 days.
A slip. I’m not beating myself up. But I am holding myself accountable by writing it here. I just dumped out the remainder of the box in my front yard, under my bird feeder tree.
I’ve got to learn to handle feelings without diving face first into sugar, even when it’s disguised as a reasonably healthy cereal. Even when I go for a while doing really well, if I lose touch by looking for ways to tune out of my feelings, it’s soooo easy to fall into this hole again: this hole that looks like a cereal bowl. That bowl doubles as an ice cream bowl, but it hasn’t done that lately.
Besides that, look at the nutrition grade this stuff gets. This one site gives this cereal a D+. Each serving has 19g of sugar, which is 1/2 the recommended daily allowance. Well, honey, in that case, I’ve eaten a few days worth of sugar. It tastes like oatmeal cookies. It reminds me of oatmeal cookies my mom made.
I could lie and say that I’m unsure as to why I’ve been eating this stuff. Part of it is because I’m still dealing with effects of having the flu, although they are much more minor. Physical pain is a trigger for me. But so is emotional pain. I stopped working on a new novel to write this post, by the way. I need to make sure I am keeping myself honest and accountable.
I was triggered yesterday when my feelings were hurt by a person saying really mean things to me; undeserved things. I chose not to engage with him, and I told him so: “I am not going to engage with you when you are acting like this, especially since I have done nothing to deserve this,” and his response was, “Who the fuck said you did? Get the fuck out of here!” The behavior is most likely due to a medication reaction, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s been apologized for, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t suck to be in it. I didn’t respond except to say, “You need to straighten yourself out.”
Sooooo, yeah. Yesterday, I kept to myself, pretty much shut down, as I am prone to do, even though I was telling myself, “Hey, you’re handling this really well,” I suppose because I did not do as I would have when I was younger, i.e. screaming back OR throwing all his shit in the front yard (confession: I thought about throwing his shit in the front yard yesterday…but I didn’t because I’m MATURE NOW, DAMMIT! LOL). I recognize extreme thoughts like destroying stuff to be coming from a place of feeling helpless in the face of someone else’s rage. When I was a child, I was helpless in the face of someone else’s rage, A LOT. I made a lot of plans in my head for revenge. It’s kind of a natural “next step” for me–to imagine what I’m going to do to indicate to the person how pissed I am, without, of course, actually doing it. I guess that imagination is what makes me able to write books.
I was kind of proud of myself yesterday for advocating for myself with my loved one and another person and leaving it to the other people to feel whatever they would feel about me advocating for myself. I still think that was good.
But there’s still this little girl part of me whose first instinct, instead of feeling how helpless I feel when I don’t do something wrong but someone behaves badly, to turn to sugary food. The fact that I do that is not the other person’s fault–how I choose to handle my hurt feelings is on me. One of the people hurt my feelings. The other situation was not hurtful, just irritating, and I handled it and moved on.
If I were one of my friends stuffed to the gills with Raisin Bran Crunch and asking, “Why did I do that to myself again?” I think I would tell her, “Well, you proved, once more, that you are human…what can you do to soothe yourself instead of eating over it?”
On that note, I am going to take a nice shower, put some lotion on this beloved body to show it I love it, and get back to writing my next novel.
P.S. Here’s a strategy: I will just imagine there are overacting children in my cereal bowl…that’ll keep me from eating it….
BIG SIGH OF RELIEF: I do not have breast cancer. It is PASH. The breast care center dr said he would present my case to the committee on Weds to see if they wanted to do anything with it since it’s growing too fast and my primary care doc just called me & told me the news as well and said I don’t have to do anything with it unless I want to wait til I lose weight, have it removed, & get a breast reduction… to which I replied, “Yes please….” anyway: This is what PASH is: https://www.dovemed.com/…/pseudoangiomatous-stromal-hyperp…/
IF YOU WERE ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO WAS SENDING GOOD THOUGHTS, PRAYERS, SUPPORT, AND UNWAVERING “YOU GOT THIS” MY WAY, I TRULY APPRECIATE YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!
This afternoon, I ate some Raisin Bran Crunch, which is a slip; I tried to stay awake for the movie, Battle of the Sexes–couldn’t do it–no disrespect to the movie–it’s common for me to sleep through movies; and I’ve listened ad nauseum to my overgrown baby of a dog, Jake, bark at his favorite stage show, which I call “Jake’s Goat TV,” A.K.A. our 2 Nigerian Dwarf Goats, who are now separated from the dogs by a beautifully built fence, courtesy of Ye Olde Tyme Goat Ranchers, Beth and Daniel, and our rain-soaked efforts last Sunday.
I just popped 2 Extra Strength Tylenol and changed out the ice pack in my bra. I’m burrowed under two throw blankets. I have the heat turned up a little too high. I’ve been wearing a jacket since arriving home, and, oh, yes, you read that right: I have an ice pack in my bra. I guess it’s no surprise that I can’t get warm.
I had a biopsy this morning on a nickel-sized mass in my left breast that was discovered in my December screening mammogram.
I found out about the mass in my breast a week ago yesterday, and I thought it was a 2 mm little bitty thing–I thought that’s what my doctor said when he called me himself on Thursday, 1/4.
I said, “I appreciate you calling me yourself,” and he said, “Yeah, I knew you’d freak out if I didn’t.” And the rest of the phone call is pretty much a blur, although I am certain that my voice sounded as high to him as it did in my head. He suggested that I could go to Baylor in Dallas or ETMC Breast Care Center in Tyler, but I’d be able to get into ETMC faster than Baylor. He told me, “We’re catching it early.”
So, 2 mm is tiny, like the size of the tip of a crayon. Lucky for me I didn’t read the lab report til yesterday when we were on our way to the doctor, because if I’d known it was characterized as an ENLARGING MASS (their caps, not mine), 12 mm x 14 mm x 18 mm, which was not there a year before, I’d have probably been more of a wreck over the past 7 days than I was. It’s actually the size of a grape, or a nickel, except that a grape is an oval and a nickel is nice & round, and the thing in my breast is kind of triangular.
My sweet doctor called me to tell me this news so that I would not freak out, but I did freak out. And when I freak out, it does not look like Kevin McAlister in Home Alone, running around screaming or putting his hands up to his cheeks and proclaiming, “ARRRRRGHGHGHGHHGHGH!”
It looks like shutting down. I shut down and I go inside myself and my mind works 24/7 on trying to process the thing that’s making me shut down. I even dream it. If I don’t tell you, you’ll have no idea how freaked out I am unless you’re close to me and know what I was like when I went through trauma recovery. This shutting down thing/hiding inside myself is a kind of muscle memory from being abused as a child. Back then, I shut down a lot. I stayed in my own mind. I worked feverishly to figure a way to avoid being touched or watched or stalked or worse. My survival mechanism is planning/plotting, and when there is no way for ME to figure a way to save myself, it sends me into a dark place. I mean, hell, for so long, there was only ME, you know?
I freaked out on the inside, and I was determined to not let on to my family how freaked out I was (I have no idea if I was successful or not), and what that looked like was getting really, really quiet, and going to bed earlier than I usually do, which is already pretty early. It looked like trying to be sarcastic and dry-witted about the whole thing to people who are not in my inner circle, and making jokes about “if I have cancer and need reconstruction, I’ll get the tits of a 20 year old. Those things will be up under my chin.”
It looked like sharing with only one other person how scared I was, and he did not respond, but I know that’s because he wanted me to prove to myself that I can do this: I can handle this. I have what it takes; I’m going to rise to the occasion, whatever it is. I know this because in the past, this was our pattern, and I know him, and he knows how I think. (Thanks, Matt.)
But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been freaking out, and I’m going to say here and now that it’s okay that I’ve been having these feelings. They are normal.
I felt freaked out during the day at school, and what that looked like was getting confused easily and feeling like I was going to cry and calling kids the wrong names halfway through the school year and not recognizing my own car one time and forgetting how to spell things, and I’m the queen of spelling.
And I freaked out when I came home in the afternoons and a couple of days that looked like eating some Raisin Bran Crunch and eating after dinner, which I don’t do when I’m eating the way I need to eat to manage my eating disorder (it was a protein bar, but you have no idea how badly I wanted ice cream. NO IDEA.)
And one afternoon it looked like standing at the kitchen counter with an open jar of Reduced Fat JIF and a spoon in one hand acting as an automatic shovel. I think I ate 5 spoonfuls, but it was probably more, and I know there was a random spoonful here and there. And I thought about writing it here, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it yet.
And I wrote a little bit about how nervous I was/am on Facebook, but I was trying to be really careful not to be needy and pathetic and pandering because that’s not me (any more. Used to be but it’s not any more.) I appreciated the confidence my friends expressed in me to be able to handle whatever the answer is, and the way they shared their own stories that were not scary ones.
Yesterday Morning I was a wreck. I was walking to my classroom in the morning, because I knew that I needed to work 1/2 day rather than taking the whole day off; I needed to be somewhere other than stuck inside myself at home, and that’s part of my muscle memory; my training, if you will, that I received when I entered trauma recovery in 2004. It includes things like:
A to-do list.
Having a purpose.
Thinking about others
Focusing on one day/hour/minute at a time
Breathing through the anxiety
As I walked to my classroom and I felt a sob climbing up the back of my throat, threatening to escape, I stopped in the hallway and thought, “I’ve been here before. I have been in this feeling/this space/this body, when I was so racked with anxiety and it was a struggle even to breathe. I have been here. And I got through it, even when I wanted to die, so I just need to remember what it felt like.” (You can read more about it in a recently published post on the Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt website I share with my co-author, Matt Jaremko: What Trauma Recovery Does to Your Close Relationships.)
And I went through my list of “What I Can Do Right Now to Cope” and decided that even if I couldn’t do anything else, I could still “do” one day/hour/minute at a time, until I got to the next one.
That’s been the last 7 days.
Yesterday Afternoon in Tyler
There is something about the cross street just before the turn to the hospital in Tyler that made the blood feel as if it ran out of the rest of my body and puddled in my feet. I told Daniel, “My body feels cold. I think I’m going to cry.”
He said, “That’s nice,” which is a lot better than if he had said, “Oh, honey, I know, and I’m scared, too.” Because Daniel is the one who does not get scared or if he does he does not let me see it. And if he’d said more than 2 words, I’d have lost my shit completely.
The atmosphere at the Breast Cancer Center is colored by patients whose faces looked like I felt: terrified, and the office staff who work with an amalgam of militant precision, saying the same words again and again in the same way again and again, and carefully controlled kindness. It’s as if they balance the terror in us with a businesslike manner that does not invite meltdowns. I think it works well for them. The mammogram tech is more personable, and the doctor is a compassionate expert.
I had a diagnostic mammogram that confirmed the mass. [I named it Trump, after my daughter asked me what I would name it, since it’s an ugly, unwanted, irregularly-shaped lesion. My friend Jean suggested that it should not have orange hair. Noted, Jean. 😉 ]
This diagnostic mammogram was followed by a comprehensive sonogram that could not easily find the mass, which is a characteristic of the type of cancer (Mucinous Carcenoma) that I was tentatively diagnosed with 24 hours ago by a diagnostic radiologist who is also the director of the ETMC Breast Care Center. He found it at last and used words like “sinister.” He noted its irregular shape and said he didn’t like that.
I asked, “Is this the kind that stays in one place?”
He said, “Yes–as long as it’s caught early.”
Later, he told Daniel and me that this thing was not something he was comfortable “watching,” i.e. giving time to evaluate if it grows or not, but that if it was cancer, surgery could take care of it. The doctor said it could also be just an angry lymph node, but he left Daniel and I with the impression that he thought it was cancer. He also told me he’d like me to do genetic testing since I have cancer in both grandmothers (breast and uterine), and breast cancer killed my maternal grandmother’s sisters, as well. He wants to see if I am a carrier for this hereditary cancer, and he said if I’m not, then my daughters won’t get hereditary cancer.
We left the hospital and went to On the Border in Tyler, and, after being told there’s a pretty solid chance I have breast cancer, being freaked out looked like snarfing tortilla chips BUT ordering the Border Smart Chicken Fajitas (the “healthy” version), not being able to finish them, crying a little when trying to explain to Daniel what I had been trying to do for a week to hold myself together, asking for a to-go box, and leaving the box on the table, but not realizing it until we were halfway home.
But, y’all, compared to how badly this week could have gone?
Oh, honey… let me tell ya. My eating disorder could have gone a lot worse than it did. And I need to acknowledge that. I am not going to beat myself up. I am instead giving myself credit and express gratitude for the “muscle memory” that has kicked in after nearly 3 solid months of eating mindfully (again) and avoiding trigger foods/binge foods (again) and establishing a pattern of healthy eating that seems to be overruling the one that had taken root as much as whatever this thing is in my breast.
Today Like clockwork, we approached that same cross-street on the way to the hospital, and I felt like I was going to cry at the same time it seemed that all the blood left my head and pooled in my feet. I closed my eyes and focused on breathing. We’d been listening to songs from this playlist.
The biopsy wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It was practically painless. It was weird, laying face down on an elevated table with the breast hanging down through a hole in the table, and it was a little slow getting going since, once again, the Mystery Mass made itself difficult to find, but after more mammogram pics were taken, they found the target. A tiny metal coil was placed in the mass after they took samples, so that it’s easy to find next time. It will remain there until such time as it’s removed through surgery, or, I suppose, it’ll stay there forever and hopefully it won’t make me beep in the metal detector at the airport.
The biopsy netted tissue samples that led the same diagnostic radiologist to tell me that his eyeball assessment of the tissue is that it’s quite possibly a benign fibroadenoma rather than the rare invasive cancer that is curable when caught early.
I’ve gotta tell y’all, at this point, I’m afraid to give much power to either diagnosis, especially since this type of cancer sometimes hides in fibroadenomas. (And that, dear friends, is the point that I stopped googling the two terms together.) I’ve decided to take the long-ago advice of my dearly beloved former therapist and now-coauthor: “If somebody wants you to know something, they’ll tell you.”
The boobie doc is leaning as heavily toward it being benign as he was toward it being cancer, and I’m not going to allow myself to be whipped about emotionally. I don’t think I CAN handle that any more. At first I made the decision to be excited; to go with his benign diagnosis, but my daughter who is a nurse told me not to do that. Just be cautious.
Well, I’m going to let the doctor tell me the definitive answer on Monday, Tuesday at the latest.
The Best Laid Plans…
I began this blog in mid-October, 2017, as a way of charting my journey through eating disorder recovery and up to gastric sleeve surgery in March, on my Spring Break.
Is it scheduled yet?
But I made up my mind that would be the date and the surgeon’s staff is aware of it and willing to work with me. I have been compliant with the presurgical requirements. I have had an endoscopy (upper GI) done; I have had a sleep study done (I now use a CPAP at night); I have had labs done; I have had a psych eval done; I have 3 out of 4 nutritionist appointments complete (last one is 2/6); I have had a fitness eval done. EVERYTHING. I HAVE DONE EVERYTHING. I’m even supposed to be starting my bariatric vitamins so I can get used to the pattern of taking those. The only thing I haven’t mastered yet is not drinking anything 30 minutes before, with, or after meals.
I met my 5,000.00 insurance deductible BEFORE CHRISTMAS, y’all.
I have had a GOAL, and this cancer uncertainty (or certainty) is fucking with it big time.
And one thing that’s been swirling through my mind is that if this is cancer and I have to
have surgery and possibly any kind of follow up like radiation or chemo, depending on what is found, my plans are sunk. I told Daniel that I will be so pissed if I can’t get it done before my deductible has to be met again after 8/31.
I know, I know…if someone wants me to know something, they’ll tell me.
I’ll be the snarly sweating one…
Oh, one last thing? The doc told me yesterday that if this is cancer, he wants me off my HRT as soon as possible. My motto has been, “My primary care doc will pry my Estradiol from my cold dead hands…” because I sooo don’t want to be irritable and HOT. But at this point? Cancer or not, it’s got to go. I can’t risk this kind of roller coaster again.
Like most people at this point in the holiday season, I barely know what day it is.
Overall, I did okay throughout the holiday “eatings.” I did make 2 pies: cherry & pecan. Next year, I won’t make pecan, or, if I do, I won’t make a great big deep dish one, because apparently, I am the main consumer of pecan pie. I mean…I KNEW I ate an entire pecan pie in one sitting when I was in high school, but since I haven’t been paying much attention the past few years (is 5 a “few”?), I guess I didn’t pay attention to the fact that I ate more pecan pie than others did. At any rate, this Christmas, I did have 2 small pieces and snack on it a little here and there, but I avoided bingeing.
When Daniel (the cherry pie connoisseur) informed me that he eats “maybe” one slice of pecan pie a year, and the other partakers of pie weren’t fans of the this pecan pie recipe’s caramelesque filling (oh my GOD it was so good), I realized that I was the main one who had eyes for it.
You can see by the picture above how I handled the temptation: I checked with the people around me to see if they wanted any more pie, got a negative response, and I spirited that sucker right out of my house. I dumped squirrel feed around it and accented the whole thing with an old dinner roll. Somebody, somewhere, MUST see this as either some kind of Rorschach test, or a work of art…
I would have expected the raccoons to make quick work of it, but perhaps they are likewise not fans of the caramelesque filling… wanna know what’s sad? Shortly after putting that pie plate out under my bird feeder, I had the urge to run out and grab one more bite before the woodland critters had a go at it.
Otherwise, I didn’t do as well as I planned to over the holidays–I had set this expectation of myself to maintain my “usual” eating routine I’ve developed–but in retrospect, I think that was unrealistic, because it’s NOT the usual “anything” when I’m cooking for a crowd and making stuff I usually don’t, i.e. a full-blown turkey dinner. I did make some “Hungry Girl” holiday recipes, but even those were so similar to the stuffing & sweet potatoes I ate as a child that the behaviors still wanted to kick in and pig out.
Imagine my relief when I realized that when I weigh in with my nutritionist on Tuesday, the weight does not have to be LESS than I weighed last time; it just has to be AT or LESS THAN my weight on the day I weighed in the first time on 10/18/17. This actually worked as kind of a double-edged sword, though, because I felt some leeway to eat a little more of the stuff I don’t usually eat. All in all, though, I could have done much worse than I did. Perfection is impossible, and it’s okay that I wasn’t perfect.
The Return of the Awful Migraine
As if the holidays weren’t enough of a temptation to lose the progress I’ve made (more importantly than losing roughly 15 pounds, I do not want to return to bingeing behaviors), one of my biggest eating triggers is back in just the last 48 hours: super-painful migraines. The Botox I receive for migraines is rapidly wearing off, as it does at the end of 12 weeks, and because of either gross incompetence on the part of the specialty pharmacy, or gross incompetence on the part of my neurologist’s office staff, or both, I will not be receiving my next Botox dose on January 2nd, which is the soonest I can receive it according to my insurance. I don’t want to go into it much more than that because it makes me so incredibly angry that I did my part to order the medication and someone, at one of those offices, is lying about why the medication won’t be there on the date it was scheduled to be there. I’m going to call them on Tuesday and try to find out who is lying. If I have to insist on speaking to the doctor, I’ll do so, and if I don’t get a satisfactory answer, I’ll be switching neurologists because getting this medication coordinated should not be a stressful event every 12 weeks.
I wish the Botox didn’t work as well as it did, because it would not be a big deal if I can’t get in at the right time to receive injections, but it does. It gives me my life back and creates the possibility that I can work out without triggering an exertion migraine. Those are really bad.
What’s Up Next:
I’m having my pre-op bloodwork done on Tuesday, meeting with the nutritionist for the 3rd consultation & weigh in, then I’m done with everything except the last nutritionist appointment on 2/6. After that, I will see my surgeon and they will submit all my paperwork.
It’s me! I’ve been MIA from updating/accountability by writing at least once a week here–which is the purpose of this blog. Reminder, if you’re new here: the reason the blog is called “The Biggest Liar” is that my eating disorder IS “The Biggest Liar.” And I don’t even care if anyone else reads this thing, because it’s making myself accountable that is making a difference.
The good news is, I’m NOT coming to you from beneath a vat of Blue Bell Cookies & Cream ice cream (although I’m fairly sure Halo is the devil and I could easily fall into that trap if I allowed myself to do it…), and I’m also not poking my nose up for a gasp of air from inside a washing-machine-sized box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
I’m hanging in, even though the holidays are in full-swing.
I haven’t updated, but it’s not because I’m curled up in a food coma in the corner, in too much pain to move. It’s because between my day job (finishing the semester and all that entails with grading grading grading,) and becoming a family with 2 Nigerian Dwarf Goats but not having time to prepare for them properly (i.e. building a fence to separate them from my dogs), plus prepping my house for family to come home for Christmas, I have not had time to update here. And that’s not okay, because with every day that has passed without me kind of checking in with myself by writing here, my anxiety has been ramping up and I’ve been wondering if I could make it another day without a binge.
I’ll be completely honest: I’M AMAZED that I haven’t slipped and fallen into any of my “drugs of choice.” Refusing to do so has caused me to really become aware of automatic nature of The Biggest Liar, and the years-long deliberate indifference to the truth that caused me to regain roughly 75 pounds of the 100 I lost around 2004-2005.
So, this will be a long one. It’s been rolling around in my mind for a while. There’s a little navel gazing goin’ on here, but I’m writing this for me, not you. (No offense, ha ha ha.) I’m working through a book, Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating, by Leora Fulvio, and part of it is writing one’s history with food.
NOTE: It has taken me a good three days to write this blog post. I want to say so much and say it in just the right way. What you are reading is heavily revised…
At this moment, I am sitting outside a McDonald’s, using their Wi-Fi, because my Internet at home SUCKS SO MUCH right now! And I want to finish this and have it uploaded prior to diving headfirst into cleaning my house and de-goating one daughter’s bathroom….and training goats to go into another daughter’s bathroom…more on that later…
Why It’s Important to Remember Why It’s Important Not to Forget If I allow The Biggest Liar to run the show, it sends me careening into the numbed out, zombie behavior of consuming my trigger foods, which are sugar & processed carbs. I went through treatment & recovery many years ago, and The Biggest Liar (TBL) and I were not on speaking terms for a long time. I had, essentially, “blocked” TBL as if saying, “Talk to the hand.” I had control of my eating disorder–I told myself that–and, like any addiction left unattended to, I fell into complacency.
Then, slowly, insidiously, TBL began whispering in my ear…when I had to stop running, became very depressed, and went through consecutive summers of foot surgeries; when I had other surgeries that kept me from working out for weeks at a time…and, most of all, when the headaches I’ve had for years exploded into full-blown, “you-can-look-at-my-face-and-tell-I’ve-got-one” debilitating migraines, I ignored the person I’d become and relapsed into a person who uses food as a drug.
I listened to The Biggest Liar.
You can go back & read “When I Made Up My Mind” to know what changed, to figure out how I got to here.
With my resurrected commitment to living without bingeing has come a heightened awareness of just how automatically TBL-thoughts spring to the forefront of my mind when I’m triggered by stress, sadness, rejection, and anxiety.
And, y’all, rejection and anxiety are the collective Big Kahuna of emotions that trigger those thoughts. People who know me now and perceive me as a really strong, tough-minded person have no idea how vulnerable I am to feeling abandoned, rejected, or as if I am under threat. I have a hard time shaking that stuff off. Takes lots of self-talk & remembering lessons learned in therapy long ago to get through it.
Teach Your Children Well / Their Father’s Hell / Did Slowly Go By
I can connect the foods that act like jet fuel for my eating disorder. When I was a child, I was alone a lot, and many times, I was alone even with other people. My relationship with my bio dad was non-existent for the most part, but my keenest memories of him when he and my mom were still married were of being maybe 4 years old, us sitting at the dinner table, me forgetting sometimes to chew with my mouth closed, and him yelling, “Pig! You’re a pig!”–and it’s like I have muscle memory of that feeling–and I can still remember the realization of shame associated with eating. It’s like I’m there, inside that 4 year old’s mind, going from laughing and a feeling of belonging—kind of excited, actually, that my dad was with us again–to lowering my eyes to the table and being enveloped by that hollowed out, empty space in my center as whatever was there before was replaced with shame and self-hatred. His angry face is scalded into my brain. I was self-conscious and aware of being watched and criticized by this man I barely knew; this man who, anytime he was at home with us, seethed with resentment and anger. He wasn’t around very often, and when he was, his presence was irregular and punctuated with my mother being grief-stricken and inside herself. And, although we have a different relationship now, my brother’s favorite thing to call me when we were children was “Pig.”
A bit of trivia: I was so unfamiliar with what my father looked like that when I was itty bitty, I used to stare at a Robert Goulet album cover and tell myself, “I think he looks like that.”
Specific Foods and My Emotional Connection to Them
Bread and butter with sugar on it: I’d get home from kindergarten, which was like Hell on Earth for me because I had such huge separation anxiety about being away from my mother. When I got home, she’d feed me bread-butter-& sugar sandwiches for lunch as I watched Cartoon Carnival after the noon news on Channel 11. I was so freaked out by changes at home that when my mom started kind of pushing me out on my own more–using a car pool and not always taking me or picking me up–that if my school went on a field trip, I had to ride in the teacher’s car (I went to a private kindergarten). I didn’t know how to make friends and I did not relate well to other kids since I’d only been with my mom.When I first started kindergarten, I even locked myself in my parent’s bathroom and refused to go out to the car pool lady when she came to pick me up. After my mom took the doorknob off and got in, I was dragged, screaming, out to the car and shoved in. For years, my mom joked at what I looked like with my face pressed against the car window.
Not long after that, I began first grade, and my mom went to work because she and my dad finally divorced. My brother and I walked home from school every day–we lived like a block away–and I wore our house key on a piece of yarn around my neck. I was adjusting to her not being home when we got home from school.
To this day, if I start eating bread-butter & sugar, it is a gateway to a binge. Just thinking about doing it, I feel the memory of spacing out.
Ice Cream and Approximations of Ice Cream, i.e. Halo, and other Creamy Sweets such as Pudding and Pie…
I was maybe 6 years old. I know I was in first grade. My brother and I left school for the day and as we exited the back gate of the fence surrounding the playground–our exit to our neighborhood–we were met by a lady my mom knew. The lady’s name was Pat R.; she was one of my mom’s good friends, but I also knew her name well because I heard my mom talk about Pat’s husband drinking every night at a bar that was by a big drive-in-movie screen. I had absorbed the information that he was scary, and he beat her. Pat met us at the back gate and told us that our mother was gone and that we were staying with her.
Anyway, Mom was gone, and my brother and I were never told where she went. She was not even talked about. She never called. I can remember having a feeling of hope every night that she would call, and she never did.
And every night when Pat’s husband came home, I was frozen in fear, sitting at the end of a sofa bed in the living room. I had no connection to these people, my brother and I were not close, and I was the only one of us freaking out, at least outwardly. The only other person I was attached to, my grandmother, was not contacting us, either.
My brother seemed to be having a great time with Pat’s son, Lee, who was one of his best friends, but I was scared shitless, not only because my mom was gone, but I had my head full of negative impressions of Pat’s husband, who I knew only by what my mom told me of him.
We lived in Richardson, Texas, a suburb a little northeast of Dallas–really, there’s not even a separation of them anymore–and there was this drive-in-theater off Central Expressway. I think it was called The Gemini(?) and there was this shack of a bar in the shadows of the drive-in. Every time we’d go by, or at least it seemed to me, Mom repeatedly pointed it out and told us that that bar was where Pat’s husband spent every night before he’d go home and beat her. Oh, and that Bonnie and Clyde hid out there, back in the day. So I had a pretty good negative impression of what it must be like at Pat’s house, (and a little gossip about a possible connection to famous Texas criminals of the 1920s…)
My brother and I were left with Pat, and we were never told where our mother had gone, or when she’d be back, and when she returned, she refused to tell us. Years later, after I was married, I learned that my mother left us like that because her father was believed to have had a heart attack in San Antonio, and he was with another woman. He was still married to my grandmother, and to keep her from finding out, my mom left us with these people to be by his side.
That incident created within me a fear of not seeing my mom again. I carried that fear within me until I entered recovery and for a long time afterward, too.
When I fear loss of relationships, or loss of security for any number of reasons, my urge to binge is like a tsunami of panic.
Soooo, how does this fit into the whole ice cream thing?
The only food I could eat that whole time was ice cream. It was orange sherbet, actually, but the ice cream thing stuck in my head and became my go-to-food when I was too upset to even consider anything I’d have to chew. Who knows?
Maybe I’d discovered that I was able to eat ice cream in a way that was acceptable to my father; maybe my steaming turd of a sperm donor; maybe a man in his mid-20s did not deem it worthy of bellowing insults at a 4 year old from across the table, if she didn’t have to chew.
Jesus, but that man hated me, and I knew it from the time I could comprehend his body language. He left Mom the first time when I was 3 days old, came home intermittently (when his girlfriends and he broke up), and told me when I was older that he left because “he just didn’t want to be there.” His pattern of coming around stayed true into my adulthood: he only seemed interested in being my father when it was convenient to him. We have no relationship at all now, and that is fine with me. When he dies, I have no interest in attending his funeral. He is not my father.
So there was a set pattern with Bio Dad, and Mom was also setting up a pattern of protecting and choosing men over her children, damn the fall out.
I’m in my early 50s, yet that hollowed-out empty feeling in the center of “me” is just as overpowering today as it was back then. It’s the same feeling I get when I feel rejected, abandoned, or sad. I think that’s the feeling I’m trying to fill up with the same kind of stuff I turned to as a little one.
Vanilla Sandwich Cookies A.K.A. Vanilla Oreos A.K.A. Vanilla Duplex Cookies A.K.A. The Bricks in a Misguided Attempt to Build a Wall (of Fat) Between Me and the World
After I began being sexually abused at age 8, getting home from school was a trigger–the anxiety when I got home had to do with not knowing what was going to happen next. My mom bought huge packages of the off-brand vanilla sandwich cookies, and I gorged on them.
I still carry this trigger in my nearly 52-year-old brain. It’s the same feeling I sometimes have when I’m on my way home from school even now–this untargeted, undefined dread–and I talk myself through it and tell myself it’s just my anxiety disorder talking. For a long time, I did not do more than just think, i.e. follow it up with action, such as distracting myself instead of acting on the urge. I started mapping out my binge on the way home. After enough doing that, I stopped trying to argue with TBL. I willfully ignored what I had learned to about my eating disorder and what I need to do to live with it in a way that it does not destroy me.
Christmas Cut-Out Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing, Millionaire Fudge, “Noël” cookies, Crumb-topped Coffee Cake, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Crescent Rolls…
The holidays used to be, and to some extent, still are, a hard time for me because of the loss of connection to my mom. It’s a period ripe for numbing out with food that makes me feel some sort of connection to her and/or that dulls the ghosts of abandonment past. It’s like… my family was so fucked up in so many ways, but one thing that was consistent was Christmas traditions.
Decorating the house–more than the tree–putting up decor throughout the house–was one of them. I do that for my children, too.
But cooking–just like every other American family that embraces the “food” aspect of the holidays–man, that was the centerpiece of everything. Every one of the foods listed in the subtitle above represent a connection to my mother. These were our traditional holiday sweets, and the sweets were all that mattered to me. I spent time with my mom making these and when I think about Christmas food to prep when my kids come home, these are all on my mind.
With Buttercream icing.
I can fool myself into thinking that these are a requirement for celebrating the holidays, and that if I do not make them, I am somehow not creating the climate and experiences my kids deserve. (I know, it’s fucked up thinking. I have told you from the outset that Binge Eating Disorder is a Mind Fuck, and it is, and ever it will be.)
When my kids were little, I made cut out sugar cookies with them, and we used to have an all day cookie decorating celebration at my mom’s. That is, I know, a memory they carry with them. The cookie day at my mom’s was an annual tradition that might even still be going on if things hadn’t changed.
But they HAD TO CHANGE.
But I can’t keep up the baking tradition, and I don’t think my kids really care, but I sometimes feel as if I am failing at Christmas because I’ve had to let go of so much they grew up with.
I didn’t bake when I was in recovery/therapy, then I fell into making cookies again for the last several years–told myself I could handle it–I wouldn’t eat any–but that was, of course, a LIE, and I always made so many that it was guaranteed I’d have plenty to binge on. I was AMAZED at how naturally/automatically I fell back into a behavior after not doing it for several years.
The cookies were also a problem for my daughters–talk about teaching your children well– and they even grew to resent me for having all this stuff around that they realize is a problem for them, too. Making those cookies is not okay. They are toxic to me because the trigger binges, and they make problems for others, too.
This year, I am not making any of those sweet foods. I am making one or two recipes from the Hungry Girl site but I will not make 6 dozen of anything, and none of what I make will be cookies. Or fudge. Or coffee cake. Or rolls. There are a couple of pie recipes I’ll check out, but I’m not even sure about that. Making my grocery list and having a plan in place is on my to-do list for today, when I finish this blog post & leave this McDonald’s parking lot and it’s FABULOUSLY FAST WI-FI.
Given what I know about my mom and the events beginning in December, 2004, when our relationship shattered and I experienced the darkest days of my entire life, then her subsequent amputation of not only me but my husband and children as well, I’m sure it’s hard for anyone to understand how deeply I still miss the way she created holidays for us, and the amazing grandma she was to my kids.
But I do. I miss it, even though it’s nothing but a ghost now. And I think about her, and I wonder if she still decorates her house, and I miss the feeling, the illusion, that…I’m not sure how to say it except, the illusion that I was loved the way I love my own children, in spite of all the history suggesting that I was not at all loved that way.
I love my children with a ferocity that I was not loved.
I think it’s a monumental step to recognize that every Christmas since I relapsed, I have been trying to recreate the feeling of being loved, and the way I was close to my mom was tied to memories of creating food and eating it.
From the bread-butter-&sugar sandwiches to sitting on the counter and her handing me the beaters to lick when she was making icing, sugar was and is inextricably linked to feelings of love and soothing.
And it was a lie.
Subtitle to Subtitle: Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing were Weights Anchoring Me to My Memories of Christmases Past Nothing to add. It’s all been said.
The Sleep Apnea Olympics
I met with the doctor for my follow up. I have moderately severe sleep apnea; the biggest problem detected by the home sleep study was that my oxygen level dropped too low. I have my C-Pap machine now– I call it my “snorkel.” I have used it 2 nights now, and both mornings, I have awakened with NO HEADACHE. I have been waking with headaches for YEARS. I have gone to work with headaches for YEARS. I’m also no longer snoring, gasping, or choking for air.
I’m so encouraged by my headaches already decreasing–apparently caused by lack of oxygen to my brain during the night–that I am starting to try to lower my Gabapentin dose–it’s the med I take 3x a day to prevent migraines from starting. It has a side effect of making me feel draggy, so between the problems with my sleep and taking a medication that causes fatigue, my frequent exhaustion is understandable.
I have hope bubbles percolating that I will eventually have a life that does not include so much headache pain. My next Botox for migraines is on Jan. 2.
So, my husband was given a Nigerian Dwarf Goat for Christmas. Goats can’t be alone and be happy, and we would never have an animal without providing it the best life we can give it, so Daniel went back to the guy who his friends bought the goat from, and bought the sister. So now we have Onslow (AKA “The Gift”) and his sister, Daisy. These names may be familiar to anyone who watches Keeping Up Appearances on PBS. Onslo and Daisy are the brother-in-law & sister-in-law of Hyacinth Bucket (pronounce it Bouquet!), and they are essentially white trash. They spend a lot of time in bed watching TV and they go to bed whenever they please, including the daytime. Thus, when Daniel and I are exhausted and find ourselves in bed on a Saturday afternoon, snoozing & watching TV, we joke that we are Onslow and Daisy. The names were his idea.
Daisy the goat is believed to be pregnant– but Onslow, her brother, is NOT the daddy. When Daniel bought her, she was in a pen with another female goat & a male. The good news: female goats can only get pregnant once a year. The bad news: Onslow the goat is so well-endowed–like, ridiculously well-endowed–that attempts to “band” him to neuter him were unsuccessful because the tool & band cannot fit over his well-endowed self. Thus, it looks like we’ll be setting him up with a vet to be castrated.
All of this has come about in the past 10 days or so. Our dogs are a threat to the goats. We did not have a separating fence built when the goats came home, although we have an adequate shelter for Onslow and Daisy- a dog house constructed with an iron frame, metal roof, and Hardie-board (siding made of concrete), hay, and a heat lamp. But the fence, that would permit us to simplify life so much, is not up yet to separate the goats from our dogs. Thus, until the ground dries up and Daniel’s work schedule permits, we are having to switch out goats & dogs whenever the dogs want to go out.
Side note: The goats are now trained to come into the house by being called, AND, they go immediately into my daughter’s bathroom.
Side-side note: This morning, they discovered that they have the ability to jump up onto the toilet AND the sink.
Side-side-side note: Next time, guys, a gift certificate to Chilis or something like that will be an adequate expression of your appreciation and affection for Daniel…the goats are adorable and we know this will work out, but…maybe a little heads-up instead of having the auto parts guy deliver the goat with an order?
Well, they were originally going to give Daniel a goat OR a pig, so thanks for choosing the former.
Next Nutritionist Appointment & Weigh-In
January 2nd, I have my next weigh in, consultation with the nutritionist, and lab work done. I’m supposed to be giving up my one and only daily Diet Coke by then, and also working on not drinking anything 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after I eat, in order to be prepared for the changes coming in March.