Looking for the WHY Behind the Relapse…and where to go from here.

First of all, an update: I’m binge-free since–I think– 10/16/17. It’s not whether I’ve binged I’m unsure of: I have not binged at all. It’s the date. It was the 16th or the 18th. I’ll hit a month later this week. On that day in October–when ever it was!– I met with Dr. Malladi and the Weight Loss Institute person at the hospital where I’ll be having the gastric sleeve procedure. My insurance allows no weight gain, and that day was the most important, as far as they are concerned.

I made the decision to pursue gastric sleeve the week before, while walking through D-FW airport, my hips screaming with every step, and awareness that I was rocking side to side as I’d seen people walk who were much heavier than I–at least I thought they were much heavier. I have a hard time seeing myself as I really am and that’s no matter what size I am, but I was definitely out of touch with how large I’d gotten again. It was not until I saw pictures from the very event I was flying out of town to attend that it really hit me.
That day in the airport, though, I remember having this thought as I rocked my way down the corridor, being passed by others: “Oh, so that’s why really heavy people walk like that. They are in PAIN.”
I’d been toying with having the procedure ever since my oldest daughter had the sleeve done, and I’d witnessed her success, which continues now.

But it–this multi-year-slip and fall from being able to “manage” my illness back into full-on relapse, was about more than the weight. It was never about the weight: the loss of it, when I lost 100 pounds once upon a time, or the re-gain. Sure, it was thrilling to wear anything I wanted and I was ashamed when I once more was too large for my entire wardrobe, but it still wasn’t about the weight.
It was about behavior.
I slid into relapse gradually, then it spiraled out of control until I was reaching into the depths of where I was so long ago, pre-recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse. But even though I fell so far, I never forgot this: it’s never really about the weight–that is, the number on the scale. Until I re-accessed the same steely determination that enabled me to endure the Hell that was CSA recovery, though, I felt lost and helpless in my ED again.

That day in the airport, I was there super early, as is my preference when it comes to air travel. I exited security, rock-walked toward my assigned gate, but stopped short of it when I noticed an essentially deserted gate before the one I’d board my flight from. I setttled in at one of those counters where they provide little stools and electrical outlets to charge devices. I slid onto a stool, pulled out my laptop, and searched for bariatric surgeons who are on staff at my nurse daughter’s hospital in Dallas.
There was a referral number; I called it, and I was given Dr. Malladi’s number. I immediately dialed it, gave my insurance info, and was told I’d get a call back in a couple of days. I received the call back while I was at a teen book fest event, but I went to the side and called the office back immediately. I even filled out the paperwork that night while I was in my hotel room.

So, where am I in the process now? From the date I met with the nutritionist–Nov. 1, I have a 4 month period of proving that I can handle following rules and conducting my life without using food to cushion what hurts. Evidence that I can’t do that would be gaining weight.

So far, I have completed the psych eval, lifestyles class, pre-op class, & nutritionist appointment # 1 out of 4. Last week, I had a consult with the gatroenterologist, and I have an endoscopy set up for an Upper GI series on Nov. 21.

I meet with the sleep specialist on the 20th to set up the overnight study to diagnose sleep apnea. My husband is, on a scale of 1-10, giving it a “9” that they’ll diagnose me with it. I had it before when I was heavy, and, after all, he is the one who made me aware I had it again when he was shoving me awake because I stop(ped) breathing in my sleep. He says I gurgle sometimes and kick my legs a lot too.
(Side note: What a lucky, lucky man he is to be sleeping next to his snoring, snorting, gurgling, kicking bride. I’m sure some nights he lays awake, stares at the ceiling, and contemplates pressing down tightly upon the pillow that he freely admits to occasionally placing over my face. (“I just put it there when you won’t stop snoring,” he says. “I don’t try to smother you.” Methinks he needs to pay closer attention to the episodes of Snapped where the wife smothers the husband with a pillow…might be some valuable tips in it for him to avoid getting caught…)
(Side note to note how awesome and supportive he’s being about this whole journey. When I thanked him for being so supportive, he said, “Why wouldn’t I be?”–and I know he means it, and he doesn’t even mutter the rest of the sentence, which I imagine would be, “…if it’ll get you to sleep quietly and stop scaring the shit out of me when you stop breathing…” )

I committed myself at the outset to being accountable, and this blog and site are my way of doing that. Part of this journey is reading books about Binge Eating Disorder Recovery and working my way through them by reflecting on what happened to get to this point and where I’m going from here. An equally important part is to make time for myself to do things like write like this, and read recovery literature, and make sure that I don’t “lose me” again in being busy. Even if it means not getting all the stuff done on my (OCD-fueled-) To-Do list, first. For too long, self-care had become an “if I have time after X, Y, Z…”–and I know it made me resentful and that I ate junk as a way to reward myself. (Makes no sense, I know, since that behavior led to physical problems like rocking side to side through the airport feeling like my hip joints are grinding with every step.)

I’ve already committed, too, that if something unexpected happens and I am NOT diagnosed with Sleep Apnea again (the only co-morbidity I have with the weight), which would mean I do not qualify for my insurance to cover the sleeve procedure, I will still remain focused on regaining my health. I can’t be a runner again, and I’ve got some other stuff like chronic migraines triggered by exertion, but I’m determined to not fall into relapse again. I want to not only survive, but to thrive.



From Leora Fulvio’s Reclaiming Yourself From Binge Eating (Ayni Books, 2014):

“The more often you allow yourself to sit with the discomfort of an urge without satisfying the urge, the stronger you become. This is how you begin to reclaim yourself from binge eating. You are in charge and you are in power, not the urge, not the binge. Anxiety and discomfort and desire and even feeling the intense need to binge are just feelings. Feelings cannot and will not kill you. You can sit with these” (28-29).

I read this and I think, “Dammit, I KNOW this! I KNOW it and I KNEW it so how did I fall back into it?” And then I wonder how much longer I’m going to beat myself up. This did not happen overnight. I just refused to acknowledge it until my body began to buckle under the strain of carrying around the equivalent of two 35-40 pound sacks of dog food, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Also, it’s true. Even when I’m white-knuckling it through an evening, I can still sit with those feelings, and tummy rumblings, too. I had gotten to the point that I was actually DELIGHTED if I had what I thought was a hunger pang: “Oh, YES! Cinnamon Toast Crunch and/or Cookies & Cream ice cream, here I come!”

See that expression? It should be in quotation marks, like this: “Then The Biggest Liar said, ‘Eat what makes you happy, Beth,” and I did, and now I’m wondering what the hell happened to me.

I was like: .
And I DID. When my husband was out of town with our daughter, I ate an ENTIRE 1/2- gallon of Cookies and Cream ice cream BY MYSELF, then bought another before he got back home so he wouldn’t know I’d done that. That wasn’t years ago, y’all. That was in AUGUST.
I also bought a cake at a bake sale at my school at the end of last year, and when I got it home and couldn’t stay out of it (I started eating it IN THE CAR ON THE WAY HOME FROM SCHOOL), I put it out in the tall grass beside our house so the raccoons would eat it instead of me.
Jesus H. Christ. I haven’t told ANYBODY that until now.


“Your wise mind is the part of you that knows. Not the part of you that fights your needs, not the part of you that beats yourself up, but the survivor in you, the part of you that loves you and wants you to live a full, healthy life, and knows what you need in order to achieve that goal” (32).

My wise mind is the one that reminds, at every meal, “P & P, Beth! Protein & Produce!”


“Children who are emotionally, physically, or sexually abused are taught that there is something wrong with them, that they must keep secrets, that they must be small and quiet. These children might try to make themselves as small as possible to hide, or as large as possible to be protected…The sexually abused child grows up feeling contaminated or infected. They believe that their worth is tied up in being a sexual object rather than a human being.
“Healing from shame is about relearning your value…The antidote to shame is acceptance. This means sharing your secret, finding safe people who love you unconditionally, and beginning to uncover your own worth” (37-38).

This is another “Kicking Myself Because I Learned All This Between 2004-2010”-type entry but I’m going to stop it. Really, I am.
I KNOW these things. I PREACH these things, like, “The only cure for shame is sunlight. Drag those secrets out of the dark and shine the light on them.”

This is the reason I’m here, friends, sharing this stuff with anyone or no one but still being  boldly honest about relapsing into Binge Eating Disorder as well as the journey I’m on to heal from it, learn from it, and reclaim myself not only from Binge Eating but also from the physical effects roughly 75 pounds of extra weight are having on my 5’3″ small frame.

Binge Eating Disorder is a shame-based illness. I don’t blame myself for coping with overwhelmingly traumatic events in my life the only way I knew how at that time, but it is up to me to face this head on and make sure that I do not allow myself to get lost like I was, again.
I have the tools to be healthy, and I am using them again. I’m coming out of the dark, embracing the light, and holding tightly to Hope.


White-Knuckle Not Bingeing and YAWN.

I haven’t posted in several days because, ya know, Life. Last week was the end of our grading period + I had some obligations I had to take care of this past weekend, which did not feel like a weekend in the traditional sense, since I got up an hour earlier than I usually do both days and then worked up to the evening. Actually, last night, I worked into the evening, too: lesson plans after the other stuff was done.

As far as compulsively overeating/binge eating, I’m hanging in right now, meaning, I’m NOT doing it,  although it’s hard. I have to remind myself that I cannot fall into what has/had become a “usual” pattern for me, which is to forget what I am/was trying to do with healthy eating… but to be honest–this site IS called “The Biggest Liar,” you know, and that’s because this addiction of mine “whispers” lies in my ear.

So I’ll tell the truth: to say that I “forget” about mindful eating is to spew bullshit. I don’t forget. It’s a total choice to ditch what I know is the right thing to do for myself and dive face-first into food, most commonly ice cream or some other sweet. I know my pattern and I also know without a doubt that when I get super busy and focused only on doing for others or my job(s), it triggers binge eating, or at least a strong desire to do it.

One thing I’m realizing is, I need to have a set in stone rule of what I will and won’t do with my time–like, protecting the time I need to decompress, like time to write, and time to go for a walk, and time to just–BE–without multi-tasking.
It’s not so much about setting the rule with other people: it’s setting it with myself: I’m obsessive-compulsive about getting certain things done every single weekend, because I like living in a clean house, and I cohabit with three big dogs (and a husband) whose various activities (like breathing, in the case of one of my dogs), leave behind hair, sand, dust, dirt, and so on. I find a lot of comfort in a tidy, clean environment, and I frequently spend the majority of every Saturday cleaning, shopping, cooking for the week ahead, etc. It’s always my goal to “save” Sundays for writing, which feels like “dessert” to me. I love it. It might feel like work to other people, but to me, it’s an escape and it’s relaxing.
Didn’t happen yesterday, though, because I had too much other stuff going on.

P.S. Don’t suggest a housekeeping service, mmkay? My husband and I have discussed it, and we are both too “ooged out” by the idea of somebody coming into our home.

My day job is super demanding. Lots of grading. Lots of thinking. I have about 140 students, which is 50 more students than I had last year, and their group as a whole is rowdier. My job is not “rough” in the same way it’s been “rough” in the urban schools I’ve worked in, but the demands ARE “rough.”

I can’t help but think that part of the reason I’m exhausted, too, is that I have sleep apnea, and I’m not getting good solid rest at night. I wake up tired, even after getting 9 hours of sleep. I see a sleep doctor on the 20th for a consultation regarding a sleep study. Sleep apnea is also the co-morbidity that will qualify me for gastric sleeve surgery.

Which brings me to another eating trigger I know I have: fatigue.

So, let’s talk triggers:  we have :

1. Being overwhelmed with Too Much To Do ( some of it self-imposed, I know, given my relative inability to just ignore my house being messy) and rewarding myself with food;

2. Fatigue;

3. Physical pain, like migraines..

4. ….[trying to think of another one…oh, yes]: anger/rage. Big ‘un.


So, I’m really struggling right now, but I know I can do this: I know I can maintain the “correct” eating. (That’s the phrase I use to describe it when I’m practicing non-bingeing eating behaviors). I’m not going to backslide into binge eating, making excuses in my head, and listening to The Biggest Liar tell me I should be able to eat like other people, because I can’t. I’ll slide into the behaviors that trigger self-hating thoughts and I’m going into my 3rd week of NOT doing that.

On that note, I’m off to bed. As you can guess, I’m tired.

 

That time having a traumatic past was a positive thing

Quick update:
Today I had several appointments at the hospital where my gastric sleeve will be done, including a psychological evaluation. The psychologist was super-nice. We talked about this form I had to fill out, called the ACE– which was an assessment of childhood trauma. He talked to me about the connection between overeating and trauma. By the way, on the ACE, I scored 8 out of 10, and that’s only because my stepfather never beat my mother and nobody in my family went to prison. I feel like my high score deserved a sticker or something…and because I am an OCD overachiever, I wonder if I can beat the bushes for somebody who went to jail who I just don’t know about…wonder if Ancestry.com has prison records. I want an “A”, dammit!)

Anyway.
One thing the doctor said was that given my traumatic history and the way I’ve overcome it (props to the therapist I worked with nearly 10 years ago, Matt E. Jaremko, who is now my co-author on the book, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt), I have what it takes to make such profound lifestyle changes required to be a successful bariatric patient. We talked about how I see myself–perhaps he meant PHYSICALLY, but I sat up tall and declared, “I see myself as a SURVIVOR, because I worked SO HARD to get to this place.”

It felt good.

 

Greetings from the Land of Feelings

Shit Gets Real
I’m about 2 weeks into what could reasonably be called edginess, A.K.A. Feeling All the Feels instead of numbing them as I had fallen into doing (again.) This is the Onset of Gritted-Teeth Determination to Not Gain Weight, or, Hey, Even Lose Some, since, as I believe I have mentioned in every post since I met with the bariatric surgeon, Dr. Malladi, I cannot gain weight while preparing for gastric sleeve surgery or my health insurance will deem me unworthy of weight loss surgery . . . which is not as crazy as it sounds, because I MUST be able to manage my emotions and care for myself without cracking open a half-gallon of Cookies & Cream ice cream or peeling open a package of Vanilla Oreos. Writing this makes me aware of the role of sandwich cookies in my emotional life. It’s that craving of a quick sugar jolt, coupled with some kind of intrinsic emotional button that gets pushed. I wrote about it in my last post, where I shared how this whole sandwich cookie history started.
Although I plan to be cremated, the image of a tombstone flashes through my head: “She soothed herself with cookies. #SAD.”

I see myself at a 12 step recovery meeting where there are posters showing Ernie the Keebler Elf as a drug dealer. “My name is Beth, and I sold my soul for creamy filling whose ingredients are primarily lard and the tears of relapsed food addicts.”

I will pause here to point out that for approximately an entire decade, I did not eat even ONE cookie OR eat full-fat ice cream. I did not dig nearly whole Oreos out of the center of a half-gallon of Blue Bell, which, if you do not live in Texas, you are not familiar with. (Blue Bell is uh-maze-ing.)

I’m also working at modifying/creating habits I’m to adopt, including drinking only non-carbonated drinks and cutting out caffeine. I think my overzealous pursuit of getting rid of ALL OF IT AT ONCE is what led to intractable migraines last week from caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine withdrawal headaches are like Golgothan from the movie, Dogma. All you need to know is that when they hit, The Shit Gets Real.
And, over the past few years while I’ve been dealing with worsening migraines–which were and are also triggered by exertion, I had stopped exercising, too, I self-medicated with sugar & carbs.
But I’m not doing it now.
I held on. I’ve been edgy as hell, but I’ve held on. I’ve been walking my dogs nearly daily, too, even when I’ve had headaches afterward, because I know it’s got to be part of this life I am trying to reclaim back from Binge Eating Disorder.

UPDATE: I am finishing this post the next day, because, you guessed it, I feel asleep while posting last night. I’m just popping in right here to tell you that I had THE MOST CRAPTASTIC DAY, and I did not eat over it. I’m feeling pretty good about that. I just need to build up a series of these little victories (again) so that I can wake up every morning and when that automatic self-hating, indicting thought process of “WHAT DID YOU DO YESTERDAY, BETH?” can be answered with, “Took care of myself, thank you very much.”


How all this works
Wednesday, November 1, I have a full day of appointments at the hospital I’m having my surgery performed at. I have Bariatric Lifestyles 101, a 2 hour class, as well as Pre-Op class, a Psych eval, and nutritionist consultation and weigh-in. Even though the surgery won’t be until March, these items are part of a check-list of “have-to’s” before being approved. I’m hoping for the last half of the week before Spring Break–perhaps even on my birthday–so I can have an entire week & 2 weekends to recover before going back to work.

November 8, I meet with the gastroenterologist to set up the “Upper GI Swallow Test” that is required, and November 20, I meet with the sleep study doctor because the sleep apnea I have is the thing that will qualify me as a “co-morbidity.” (P.S. Regaining weight that gives me a co-morbidity makes me #SAD.) Then December 5, it’s off to the Fitness Center for an evaluation, another nutritionist consult/weigh in). Next appointments on Jan. 2 include lab work and yet another nutritionist consult/weigh in, then Feb. 5 it’s the last nutritionist consult/weigh in, then the surgeon is notified of everything that’s been completed, they submit the whole thing with documentation to the insurance, and within about 2 weeks, and the insurance either approves or declines.

You may be thinking, “If you can do all the above for 4 months, why do you need gastric sleeve surgery?”

I look to my daughter and the success she’s had. She cannot binge eat. She does not become very hungry.

The surgery is just one more tool, in addition to the lifestyle changes I’m already making.

I want to be free. I want to be like a flower, turning my face toward the sun. I want binge eating to be a non-issue to much more of an extent than it has been throughout my life.

Songs, Scars, and Crystal Balls

Due to my propensity for falling asleep sitting up AND my day job which frequently is a night job, too, it’s taken me a couple of days to write this post.


Tuesday, 10.24.17
I woke this morning to these words in my head: “Desperate for changin’/ Starving for truth/ I’m closer where I started/ Chasing after you…” these are the opening lines to “Hanging by a Moment”, by the band, Lifehouse.

I don’t find this–waking with these words on my mind–a coincidence.

I’ve been reading and studying Leora Fulvio’s Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating, as well as a bariatric surgery prep workbook. The decision to pursue gastric sleeve is not one to be taken lightly.  85% of the stomach is removed, leaving only a narrow banana-shape. It is a life-changing choice that is irreversible. I have not changed my mind about pursuing it; I am glad that I have the ability to prepare months in advance instead of waiting until, say, February, to begin doing things like getting off caffeine & carbonated beverages. Right now, I begin every morning with a Diet Coke. My consumption has gone down dramatically in the last several months. I now only drink the morning one, and sometimes I can’t finish it.
I will be discouraged from consuming sugar because there is this thing called “dumping syndrome” that can make one nauseous. Doughy breads will be out.

It’s possible to sabotage one’s success by overeating and stretching out the banana-stomach, or by not exercising.

Which brings me to why things are rough. I’m in pain, and one of my binge triggers is physical pain. I have chronic migraines, and, while I knew that headaches are a trigger, until I really began to focus on being aware of my eating (it’s like muscle memory since this ain’t my first rodeo at attaining “sobriety” again), I did not realize how pain so AUTOMATICALLY triggers my “go to” (eating copious amounts of carbs) AND how automatically this self-talk in my head starts rationalizing why it’s okay to go off the deep end.

The thing keeping me from doing it right now is the fact that if I gain ANY WEIGHT over this 4 month period of preparation, my insurance company will refuse to clear me for the surgery. When I first met my surgeon, Dr. Malladi, I asked her, “If I lose too much weight on my own, will the insurance company say I am not cleared?”
She told me, “You can’t GAIN weight on this program, but the most important weight that matters is the one you have today.”

So I’ve got that in my head while fighting with the urge to pig out.

I ended up with this migraine because I worked out. I used to get headaches each time I worked out when I was healthier, but I always assigned their cause to something else.

I walked my dogs for 40 minutes tonight–the first half is uphill–and my dogs’ cumulative weight is just shy of 250 pounds. It’s a workout. My dogs are essentially well-behaved, but it is still a workout.
I didn’t run; if someone was chasing me with a knife I could probably barely run, because I had to have foot surgery a few years ago that involved cutting a metatarsal in each foot to shorten it since it was too long, and screwing it down. In the doctor’s words, the outcome is “Okay but not perfect,” because of the arthritis doing so much damage that I was essentially crippled until I had the surgeries, a year apart, to try to repair the devastation I did to my feet by becoming a runner. Who knew I had a birth defect?
Not me, until it was too late.
The doc took one look at my feet and pronounced, “You don’t have runner’s feet.”
I said, “Well, NOW I know!”

The other thing I’ve been thinking about is, a “good” outcome of the surgery is 40-70% of your excess weight. If I am going to have this radical step done, it’d better by God be able to get down to my lowest weight. So I’m working right now to eat super-healthy, drink lots of water, and exercise daily. I’d like to lose about 10-15% of my current weight prior to the surgery.

I’m fallin’ asleep, so I guess I’ll stop. I’ve gotten through an evening without binge-eating.  I’m feeling irritable–my husband eating ice cream next to me about made me pull my hair out–but I made it through today.

That’s how a lot of days are: one day at a time.


Wednesday, 10.25.17
Just as I woke yesterday to music, this morning I woke to music via link in an email my daughter sent, with a short, sweet message: Thought you might like this song 😘❤️
She thought right. This song is amazing. I’m sharing, first, a version that shows the lyrics, then the video my daughter actually sent me, which is really cool because it is interspersed with real people talking about their challenges and how appearance plays a part in them.
Lyrics version:

“Real People Interspersed”  version:

While I have numerous scars on my body, none are as deep as the ones I have on my mind. I have been out of therapy over 7 years, but, as noted in the “When I Made Up My Mind” piece (a blog entry and a separate page on this site,) I’m still kind of a walking wound when it comes to my eating disorder. I will reiterate my characterization of B.E.D. (Binge Eating Disorder): It is a mind fuck.

The past week, I’ve been managing it quite well; that is to say, I have not binged. I have been INCREDIBLY careful and I’m already working on drinking more water, cutting back even more on caffeine (I normally guzzle caffeinated (sugar free) iced tea all day), and being oh-so-mindful of what and why I’m eating.

At times, I’ve been holding on by my fingernails, y’all. As noted yesterday, the onset of a migraine was an auto-thought-process of, “Well, let’s find some sugary stuff, Beth! NOW NOW NOW!”

On top of that, I’m just edgy as hell. My husband was just eating a popsicle and I snapped at him. I have that thing where sounds get on my nerves REALLY badly (Misophonia: the struggle is real, y’all)– but since I’ve crawled/heaved myself –onto the metaphorical “wagon” of managing my B.E.D., I’m especially pissy. If I didn’t have to be around anyone eating–and, hell, that includes my OWN eating sounds–that’d be one less thing to make me feel wired.

Here’s the thing that’s a mind fuck about B.E.D.–or, actually, I’m thinking any eating disorder, addiction, or compulsion: I had a grip on it for so long, then I lost it. Haven’t lost it right now–(the word “yet” is echoing off my inner skull. Which pisses me off. )

It’s not that I can’t lose weight. I am losing weight right now.  It’s keeping it off, and even more than that, it’s being able to maintain what I think of as “abstinence”–that is, maintaining healthy management of my eating disorder. I am highly motivated at this time to maintain it. But that doesn’t mean the whispers of “Just this once” are silenced. I hope I am approved for this surgery because I have seen how it has helped my oldest daughter manage her own B.E.D.

One of the B.E.D. book exercises is to write to your eating disorder as it will be in 15 years if you don’t stop doing it.
I can foresee the future: my hips will deteriorate. I will be walking even worse than I do when they are really painful right now. I fear I’ll be one of those people at WalMart who can only shop if they use one of those scooters.
I don’t even want to think about how much worse the sleep apnea could get.
And the self-hating/self-loathing torrents of shame that accompany a binge will, essentially, be kind of like an alien inhabiting an unwilling test subject’s being.
I guess I fear that I will have given up, and giving up is not in my D.N.A. If it was, I would not be here to type this right now.


Another favorite song:

Exercise begins with copious cursing; Breaking up with B.E.D.; “Meditation”, A.K.A. “Napping”

Exercise begins with copious cursing
It starts like this:
Oh, man, I don’t feel like going for a walk.
I pause to think about a very important lesson learned long ago (although I have frequently forgotten it when in the grip of electrified compulsion to eat, which is): “Behavior Comes Before Feelings.” And I also think about the fact that my hips will be less painful if I get ’em movin’, AND that the bariatric surgeon wants me exercising. Oh, AND there’s this: I cannot gain ANY weight over the next 4 months. My health insurance won’t approve my gastric sleeve surgery if I gain any. I have to weigh in once a month.

[Sigh.] Okay, okay. I will now guarantee that I will go for a walk. I approach my 3 dogs, Chase, Kevin, and Jake: “Hey, guys! Do you wanna go for a walk?” [I show them their  leashes and harnesses. The crowd goes wild.]

My ears ringing from enthusiastic barking as I put on their “clothes”, (known to non-dog people as their harnesses), we move en masse to the front door. I wade through dogs in an attempt to reach the doorknob. This is where the swearing begins, because Jake is already tangled in his own leash. How the hell does he wrap it around his face? (I am cleaning up the cursing here. It’s actually much worse and includes generous splashes of “Fuck!”)
I manage to open the door, whereupon Chase and Kevin test the sturdiness of the extension leashes, and Jake, who is on a shorter leash since all he does is attempt to glue himself to my leg the entire time we walk, attempts to follow them.
We have GOT to get better at this. I have to do better at planning this and training these guys on my expectations.
But for today, I’m not quite sure how, I manage to close the front door and we rocket toward our road, which is an asphalt county road with very little traffic. Most days, I don’t see any vehicles, and the times I have, it’s always a truck. Because Texas.

Our goal–and this is progress– is to walk up the hill to the entrance of a Christian “Guest Ranch”, turn around before I break out in hives being that close to evangelicals, and inspire Jake to keep walking forward by saying, “Let’s go HOME! Let’s go to the FRONT DOOR!”

Meanwhile, the entire walk, Kevin is just beside himself with joy at being able to roam more freely than before. He used to be on a tandem leash with Jake as I attempted to help Jake, A.K.A. The Spokesdog for Dogs With Anxiety Disorders, feel less freaked out that We Are Leaving the Driveway! Oh My God, Will We EVER Go Back Home? After too many times of Kevin and Jake nearly clothes-lining me by splitting up to walk from behind me on either side, I decided to try 3 separate leashes.

Chase, who has 4 legs but uses only 3, is skinny. If I came upon him on the street, I would assume his owners should be shot for starving him. He has IBD and it’s hard for him to keep weight on. The meat he does have on his bones is all muscle, and he is incredibly strong. And I normally believe he’s incredibly smart, too, except that when he runs over to a fire ant mound, he knocks the top off of it, and observes, ears perked, as a bazillion pissed off ants emerge. He’s also the most observant in terms of seeing wildlife in the brush along the road, which is when I say, “Uh-uh. You are NOT going after whatever is there and taking us with you.”

We arrive home about 30 minutes later, and my walking partners are energy antonyms of their prior selves. Except Jake: he is more jazzed about getting home than he was about leaving. Although Jake gets excited about going for walks, he visibly relaxes each time we, once more, return home. I know the feeling, Jake.  I’d love to show you guys a video of me walking roughly 250 pounds of Fitness Partners, but I’d have to have a Go-Pro on my head.


Breaking up with B.E.D. (TRIGGER WARNING for SURVIVORS OF C.S.A./SEXUAL ASSAULT)

I am studying Leora Fulvio’s Reclaiming Yourself from Binge Eating (Ayni Books, 2014). Today, I annotated the Intro, Chapter 1, Using This Book, and Chapter 2, What is Mindfulness and How Will it Help Me Heal?
I really admire Fulvio for her authenticity and honesty about her history with Binge Eating Disorder, and I relate to her childhood of having to wear women’s sizes even as a pre-teen. It brought to mind the way I had to wear “older” clothes to go with my body, which developed early and served to constantly remind me that my body was too large and that’s why I couldn’t wear the same stuff as other kids.
While Fulvio’s mom thought that by enrolling her in Weight Watchers at age 11 she was protecting her child from “not being liked” because of her body type that Fulvio inherited, my history of wearing adult women’s clothing was in part because I began binge eating shortly after my stepfather began sexually abusing me, and I outgrew my clothes so quickly that my parents could not afford new clothes for me. So I had to wear my mom’s clothes to school.
All that time, I longed to be petite and delicate. I wanted to be a free-spirited child wearing jeans with stitching on the pockets. I was jealous of girls who could wear what they wanted and I know I also envied my friends whose dads didn’t seem interested in them sexually or yell and shake empty plastic tumblers at them to refill with bourbon and Diet Pepsi.

I felt like such a weirdo. I loomed over my peers–I was taller than others until I stopped growing in height in 6th grade– and, anyway, the goal of clothing was never to find pleasure in what I wore. Instead, the goal was always to attempt to fix my “flawed” physique. Mom would gush, “Oh, that’s so slenderizing!” when I found something to wear that apparently made me look less Incredible-Hulk-like: usually some sort of draping garment. I was a kid, but I didn’t look like a kid, and I resented the changes in my body: the boobs, the hair, the periods–the reminders that my body was womanlike.
It sucked, and for me, it just reinforced my sense of “otherness.” I was already coated in shame from head-to-toe because of the sexual abuse being perpetrated on me from age 8, and my perpetrator specifically told me that my body was irresistible to him. He’d molest me then tell ME, a child, “Slap my hands.” He put ME in charge of stopping HIM. He was fixated on my breasts from the time they began to form, and as a result, I hated them. I even tried to claw them from my body. I felt helpless because there was nothing I could do to make these changes stop, and there was nothing I could do to make a 35 year old man stop coming in my room at night or spying on me or physically overpowering me.

I remembered recently a “modeling class” my stepfather told my mom to send me to, when I was 12. It was through a J.C. Penney program, and every day for a week, my mom drove me from our suburb South of Dallas up to Valley View Mall in the North Dallas area. All these other beautiful little girls were there–they were so delicate and excited about being there. I didn’t even want to go but my mom kept going on about how generous it was of my stepdad to want me to do this. It didn’t matter that I knew I had no desire to learn to be a model or be introduced to beauty regimens. I was a late 70s version of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird.
The show culminated in a “runway” show in the center of the junior’s department. They had nothing in that section that would fit me and I ended up wearing something from another department. All these other girls were wearing stylish stuff and my frock was this shit brown pattern. Man, I didn’t want to do that runway show. I did not want to be looked at and judged. I already felt like an outsider–I never did assimilate with the rest of the girls, because I was an “other” and I knew it. I was incredibly, painfully, shy and always felt so fucking awkward. Doesn’t matter that it was all in my head, does it?

Is it any wonder that I have lived a lifetime of hatred for my body, and I inadvertently modeled B.E.D. and self-loathing to my children? In the Q & A segment of a recent school visit I did, a student asked me, “If you could go back and have what happened to you NOT have happened, would you do it?”
Of course I wish it hadn’t happened. Although I like the strong survivor I am, I cannot imagine wishing a traumatic childhood on an innocent child, especially since the damage did not end with me. My children were raised by a damaged person, and my husband married a damaged person, and they pay the price in some ways, too, for what I was and still am in some ways. I suppose it would be heroic to say, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone through hell as a child. It was a real character builder.”
Fuck that shit.

Fulvio says, “Healing from Binge Eating Disorder is like breaking up with someone you have been in a dysfunctional relationship with…[Food] has always been there for you, has always comforted you, and, unlike people, food has always made you feel better when you were down. But then comes the let-down. The after-binge feeling…” (Fulvio 12).

I used to think that eating like I did began when we moved to Terrell, Texas, a city in East Texas that, to this day, I cannot drive through without triggering flashbacks. Even though the city is unrecognizable in some ways, there are still enough landmarks remaining in downtown, like the bank, that I feel myself beginning to panic when memories begin to intrude. I once went on a job interview at a school there, insisting to myself that the pay was great and I was healed enough to work there, and they offered me the job–they called me less than 24 hours later–but I knew I couldn’t take it. Post-interview, I blew out of that town, my heart racing. I knew I’d be a wreck if I had to pep-talk my way through my drive to work every day.

Eating the way I do started before our move to Terrell. It began when we lived in Richardson, Texas, right after my mom married my stepdad. My mom put vanilla sandwich cookies in a glass candy dish that had a lid on it. It was on a dark brown bookcase that we had. I was perhaps just barely 8. It’s possible I was still 7. I have a poignant memory–it’s very powerful emotionally–of experiencing an overwhelming anxiety and panic. I feel myself putting my hand on my chest and recall numbness as I stood staring, transfixed, at the crystal candy dish with the cookies in it. I lifted the lid and took some cookies, and when I replaced the lid, I was careful–oh, so, so careful–that replacing the lid did not make a tell-tale “clink” that would reveal my presence there. Somehow, this memory is tied to an episode in which my friend Tom and I were playing with a garden hose in the back yard. We were pretending it was a snake, and the water pouring from it was the creature’s venom. We were taking turns. I accidentally hit Tom in the face with the metal end of the hose, and my stepfather, who I had noticed watching us from the window in the kitchen door, threw open the door, yanked me roughly from my friend, and dragged me into the house. He was hitting me all over and screaming at me. He was grabbing at me and when he was through, he threw me into my room and I hit the wooden floor hard. It was the first time that happened; it was the first time I’d ever met this side of him; it was the first time anyone had ever handled me like that. I sneaked into my parents’ bedroom and hid on the floor as I called my grandmother for help. My mother caught me on the phone and told me that I was never to do that again.
My clothes were wet. I did not yet wear a bra.
Now I realize what it was. Now I see why he did it.I know that I began emptying that candy dish of vanilla cookies any time Mom refilled it, and I never told that it was me eating them all.
There’s a lot I didn’t tell.

My husband loves vanilla Oreos. I did not eat them for YEARS, but in the last several months, I fell into it again. Not long ago, I opened a new package and discovered I had bought lemon instead of vanilla. I ate the entire middle section from the package and the only way I was able to stop was by placing the package in the kitchen sink, coating the cookies with dish soap, and running water on them. Hadn’t had to do that for years, either.
Then I was wracked with anxiety: will my husband notice they’re gone? He would have bitched about the wrong flavor anyway…it took me 2 days to work up the nerve to tell him–via text–that the cookies had been “causing me problems” and what I’d done to stop. He texted back that I was goofy, but next time I went to the store, even though I told him I was sure I could stay out of them now, since I can’t gain weight, he said he didn’t think I could. I asked him if it made him angry and he said it didn’t. I’m grateful that he does not resent me for his being unable to have his cookies here.


“Meditation”, A.K.A. “Napping”

Leora Fulvio, MFT, author of Reclaiming Your Life from Binge Eating

Leora Fulvio says that healing begins with Mindfulness. She says, “Creating a mindfulness practice will give you the tools to pause, notice what you are feeling, notice what you want to do in reaction to that feeling, and allow you just a little bit of space to make that choice willingly” (16). She suggests setting an alarm on one’s phone and when it goes off, ask, “What am I feeling?”- then label the feeling without judgment. Then, ask, “Does this feeling put me at risk for a binge?” That is supposed to make it possible to just “sit with” the feeling as opposed to feeling like something has to be done about it.

She suggests how to practice meditation by relaxing, placing one hand on the chest and one on the belly, filling the belly with air, and breathing in and out slowly. Another great place for such relaxation instructions–although more detailed–will be found in Appendix D of the forthcoming book I co-wrote with Dr. Matt E. Jaremko, Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt. In fact, I learned about Leora Fulvio’s book, Reclaiming Your Life from Binge Eating, because Matt read it and it’s mentioned in our book as both a recommendation and a plot device. I once spoke to Ms. Fulvio on the phone and totally fangirled!

At any rate, I took her advice on meditating and promptly fell asleep. This has been my prior experience with meditating, as well. If the goal is relaxing, though?
Mission. Accomplished.

 

Why I’m a semi-annoying patient. Sometimes. But not to the staff.

I’m having my gastric sleeve done at a hospital in Dallas. It’s a good 50+ miles from where I live, but my youngest daughter, a nurse there, insisted that next time I willingly put myself in the hospital (i.e. an ambulance is not bringing me there because it was closest), I was not allowed to have anything done at our local hospital.
I can’t blame her; if my surgeon for the procedure (in 2003) had not been on staff there, I wouldn’t have gone back after another procedure I had done (also by him, in 2013).

A decade prior,  just prior to going back to the O.R., a nurse quizzed me about my laundry list of allergies to nearly every antibiotic. She said she was supposed to give me one before the surgery: Rocephin.
I told her, “I’m allergic to anything ending in -‘in’–as in, PencillIN, ArythromycIN, etc.”
She said, “Well, let’s just try it and see what happens.”
I’ll note here that I was not the person I am now; the person I am now would say, “Fuck no, you’re not giving me that. I could die.”
She shot it into my I.V., and I began breaking out in hives, then my throat began to itch and feel funny, as in, getting tight and threatening to cut off my airway.
My husband buzzed the nurse. I showed her my hives. Told her my throat was itchy and tight.
She looked genuinely shocked and said, in a deep East Texas twang, “Oh, ah guess yew really are allergic to that drug!”
She gave me a steroid to stop the reaction, then left. I turned to my husband: “Don’t leave me alone with these people. They are going to kill me.”

In 2013, my daughter was ever-present for me, and, my God, she was a saint.

I’d wake in the middle of the night and groggily ask her to hand me the bed control/remote. We still joke about this:
[Whispers:] “Hey. . . Kristen . . .are you awake?”
[Startles awake on the excruciatingly uncomfortable God-knows-what chair/cot combo]: “Huh? Yeah.”
“Can you hand me the remote? I can’t reach it.”
[Works the control through the bed rails]. “Here.” [Reclines once more on the hybrid bed-chair.]
[Moments later, I whisper:] “. . .What do you want to watch?”
[Exasperated yet sleepy at the same time:] “I DON’T CARE.”

What can I say. . . I’m a considerate pain in the ass?

I had some complications and was in the hospital longer than I thought I would be, and I think she was afraid if I was left alone for long, I’d not be cared for adequately, seeing as how when she left to take a shower one day, I buzzed the nurse for help getting up to go to the bathroom. I was assisted in sitting up on the edge of the bed, then left alone to make my way, catheter bag & I.V. stand accompanying me, to the bathroom. I was still heavily medicated and a “fall risk”, and I should not have been left alone to attempt this. At the time, I did not realize I was a fall risk, but I’m also a pretty non-demanding person (unless I’m waking my daughter in the middle of the night to hand me the remote then asking what she wants to watch, ha ha ha)–and–had I been told I was a fall risk, I probably would have told myself, “I’m not going to be a baby about this. Surely I can go to the bathroom like a grown person …”

I didn’t fall, but when I moved the tray table out of the way, I ran over my catheter tube and leaked pee all over the place–and I honestly don’t remember if I was aware of it since I was on drugs. When Kristen returned, freshly bathed and ready for another day of binge-watching “Intervention” and “Snapped” with me, she discovered the mess.
Sidenote: I credit my youngest child with introducing me to any and all trash TV that I watch.

(Have I mentioned she is a saint?)
Kristen cleaned up the puddle of pee, bitching the entire time about the staff at the hospital, muttering that she ought to open up the entire bag; that is, my angelic daughter considered aloud dumping the whole damned thing on the floor seeing as how I’d been left alone to go to the bathroom. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…is all I’ll say…)  Alas, she did not do it.

I’m so glad she was with me. When I was told I’d have to have a blood transfusion, I cried and told her, “Don’t let me die.” I was dehydrated and my head hurt SO BADLY. I’ll chalk up my hyperbolic reaction to that. (Actually I was seriously scared. Especially when the only vein they could find was in my neck.)
Aside from learning that accidentally running over a catheter tube with a tray table is a bigger deal than one would think it would be (you’d think those things could take a lot of punishment, you know?), I  learned that I am NEVER NEVER NEVER allowed to ever again tell medical staff that Kristen is a nurse, because if they know, they won’t “do their damned jobs.”

For my upcoming stay, I hereby vow to maintain, to the highest degree of integrity, my catheter bag and tube, should I have one. Kristen is a nurse in a different department, and of course if she stops by in her scrubs, my caregivers will know she’s a nurse on staff there, but I have faith that this will be a much better experience. I’ll do my best to be a model patient. And I’m always nice. Really, really nice. I say “Thank you.” A lot.

Besides, having a kid who’s a nurse and having heard horror stories of badly behaved patients, my goal is to avoid being the subject of conversation at some later date.

Post 1: When I made up my mind

10.15.17          When I made up my mind

I began writing this on an American Airlines flight from McAllen, Texas to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I was returning from a book festival in South Texas. I write teen fiction and recently completed co-writing a creative nonfiction book for trauma survivors. My name is Beth Fehlbaum. My books are Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, Truth in Patience (The Patience Trilogy); Big Fat Disaster, and Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt.

I know what I want to write in this defining piece; I know that I began creating a website for this “project” last night in my hotel room; and I know that what I am writing is likely to become a book of some sort, whether it be an exercise in self-reflective navel-gazing—something I’ll write just to see if I can do it—or perhaps I will, as I am wont to do, work out my shit through teen characters.
Or at least try to.

There’s a teeny tiny person in the center of this image, which represents the convergence I feel is happening in my life.

Or, maybe, I want to live this journey publicly; to force myself into what I have lost in a very important way: authenticity.

That word: AUTHENTICITY, is, for lack of a better term, my calling card. Jennifer Brown, who wrote the wonderful book, Hate List, is one of my favorite authors. She once said, “Beth Fehlbaum writes without looking over her shoulder.” In other words, I strive to be “real” in my writing—to not shy away from hard truths, from using real-life language; from being bold—not for shock value—but because I know too well the hell so many kids endure, and even though it’s been a good 35 years-plus since the day I stood in our living room, pointed a shaky finger at my alcoholic narcissistic stepfather, and announced, “Since I was 8 years old, he’s been molesting me,” that kind of dysfunction still happens in too many homes. Every time I visit a school, at the end of each presentation, I usually have at least two kids come up to me, lean in, and whisper their truths to me. I also teach teens. I see. I hear. I am told their truths, too. I respect their truths too much to shy away from subjects and the way I talk about them, which tells the truth.

I worked in therapy for a long time to learn to be “real” in my life. I want to be “real” with others. I fought long and hard to become an authentic person; one who refuses to play “Let’s Pretend,” as in, “Let’s Pretend Nothing Bad Ever Happened in Our House,” a reference to the years of sexual abuse I endured at the hands of my stepfather and my mother’s refusal to deal with it when I, a 14 year old, told her what had been going on for 6 years. The “Let’s Pretend” game includes the ensuing decades of telling myself that I wasn’t an anxiety-plagued wreck who soothed myself with food. . . even though “soothing myself” equaled binges fueled by an electric compulsion. I could remember the start and end, but what happened in-between was a blur.
The ending of a binge was—and to this day—is—notable for the inevitable overwhelming tsunami of shame and self-hatred for “eating the way I do.”

I thought I had this beat. I really thought so. I lost about a hundred pounds when I was first in therapy—early in the first decade of the new millennium. But I’ve been stuck in a relapse for months now, and that relapse began nudging at me within about a year of finishing therapy.
Snail-like at first, it crept up on me, occasionally sinking its teeth in and hanging on like a stubbornly affixed tick, taking and taking while I acted as if regaining weight didn’t bother me much. If I didn’t mention it, or if I dressed in a certain way, I told myself that it wasn’t really noticeable.
I’ve been lying to myself about how bad it is. How much my body is struggling under the weight I’ve put back on it.
Binge Eating Disorder is a mind fuck. There’s just no other way to describe it.

In South Texas for the book festival, I, a person who was once so terrified of public speaking that I choked on my own saliva when I called into a country radio station to speak to the deejay on air, gave several talks for audiences of teenagers, their teachers, and school librarians. I’ve been at it a while—this public speaking thing—and I’ve been told by other authors who’ve been doing school visits for years that I’m pretty good at it.
When I’m presenting my program, I’m very honest about my connection to The Patience Trilogy (Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience), and to my other teen novel, Big Fat Disaster. The Patience Trilogy recounts the journey of a teen girl, Ashley, and essentially portrays the arc of recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). I wrote The Patience Trilogy over the span of several years as I worked with a clinical psychologist named Dr. Matt Jaremko. He taught me about authenticity; about living in what I call “The Light of Truth.”
Matt taught me to love the parts of myself that are fierce, and honest, and true. These qualities are reflected in my writing and in my close relationships.

The fictional CSA survivor Ashley’s experiences of recovery very much parallel my own, right down to her fictional therapist, Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. The inspiration for his character is Dr. Matt E. Jaremko. I recently completed writing a book with Dr. Jaremko: Sessions With Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD (releasing from Ayni Books sometime in mid-2018.) The intensive therapeutic relationship I had with Dr. Jaremko brought with it a sense of accountability, and that included what I put in my mouth and making a point to exercise. This feeling of being accountable to him on a weekly basis was never something we explicitly agreed upon; it came from inside of me.
Big Fat Disaster is the story of the very overweight Colby Denton, a binge-eating teenager whose life implodes when her so-called “perfect” family implodes. The disgust Colby’s mom feels for her daughter’s body type only multiplies when Colby turns to food to numb her emotions. If the disgust Colby’s mom feels for her daughter could be visualized as a steaming pile of cow shit, the disgust Colby feels for herself would be a 1-ton truck of that steaming stuff.
Like I said before, Binge Eating Disorder is a mind fuck.

I’m quite animated in my talks with teens, and that includes acting out a scene from Big Fat Disaster in which the morbidly obese main character, Colby, attempts to pull on way-too-small jeans. Think: what it looks like when someone pulls on panty hose that are either too small or the crotch stubbornly refuses to be elevated beyond mid-thigh level. I hike one leg up then the other, shimmy-shimmy-shimmy, arch back as if I’m trying to pull up the zipper, and even mime putting a coat hanger handle through the hole in the zipper and mention laying back on a bed to attempt to get that mother-effing zipper to agree to close over my stubborn gut. Haven’t actually stretched out on the floor to act that one out. Yet.
The girls in the audience—and I am including the adult women in that term—laugh and nod knowingly, while the boys’ eyes are huge, and it’s hard to tell if the grimaces on their faces are ones of trepidation or glee at watching a middle-aged woman contort herself into such shapes.
Then they all gasp in horror when I tell them that while Colby was doing her “jeans dance”—trying to pull on the only clothes her mom could afford after they lost everything—someone was filming Colby through her broken window blinds.
And the video ends up on Facebook.
And it goes viral.
And Colby wants to die.
These kids may not all have an understanding of Binge Eating Disorder, but they understand public humiliation and how greatly they fear it.

I follow this shocking plot twist with something like this:
I know the jeans dance looks funny. I want you to think about this: when you came into this room to take your seats, and you saw me for the first time, you  made a judgment.  Right or wrong, positive or negative, fair or not, you judged me based on what I look like.
  We all do that: judge each other based on what we look like.
  I told you when I introduced you to Big Fat Disaster that the book was about a Fat Girl.  But it’s not. Big Fat Disaster is about TRUTH, and who we really are. When I set out to write Big Fat Disaster, I wanted to explore WHO we are under our skin. What is our worth? I wanted to figure that out, because at one time I was a lot smaller than I am now.
I had lost 100 pounds, and I began gaining it back, and I was trying to figure out WHY, after all the time I spent in therapy learning to NOT hate myself; to NOT have that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t worthy of love, that just because I regained some weight, I was NOW having those negative thoughts about myself again.

  What. Is. Our. Worth? What and who are we under our skins?

So I make this speech about all of us being worthy of love and acceptance and value, and I give the impression that even though I’m a “big girl” again, I’m okay with it. And then I see photos of myself from this very same presentation and THOSE THOUGHTS: those self-hating “Oh my God I didn’t realize I was that big again” THOUGHTS are screaming loudly in my head and
I.
Feel.
So.
Inauthentic.

Because in that moment, I have a real hard time hearing self-affirming words inside my head. Because in that moment,  hypercritical, hypocritical venom is drowning them out.

But that’s not the moment I made the decision I have made: to have gastric sleeve surgery.
The moment I made that decision, which I’ve been mulling for a long time, could have been when my hips hurt so badly just walking through the airport that I was limping. And limping. And limping. They hurt when I walk down the hall at school, and they hurt when I lay in bed at night, and I’m tired of my hips hurting, and I know why they hurt, and I need to do something to take care of myself so I can live the life I want to live. I am inspired by the success my eldest daughter has had with gastric sleeve surgery: her transformation and improvement in her health is nothing short of miraculous, and the decision my middle daughter made to pursue the same.

Aside from the above motivations, this decisive moment also has to do with months of my husband shoving me awake—multiple times—when I stop breathing in my sleep. The sleep apnea that I had years ago—then no longer had, once I lost weight—until I hit some sort of weight threshold—is back.
I want to do something for myself to radically support my determination to break this cycle.

I’m making a face as I make a point during a presentation…but let’s just pretend I’m giving The Biggest Liar the stink-eye, shall we?

I call this website “The Biggest Liar” because that’s what Binge Eating Disorder is, to me. It’s The Biggest Liar. When I am lost in a relapse, I am the The Biggest Liar to myself, because I pretend that what I’m doing is not a big deal…or I disconnect completely and pop back into my life when the shame seeps into my awareness.

I am writing out this journey—as I am wont to do—as a way of holding myself accountable and being authentic.

As I wrap up writing this, it’s October 18: four days after I began recording my thoughts on an American Eagle flight early the morning of the 15th. I’ve written and rewritten this to say what I’ve said here in a way I can look at it and say, “Now I’m being real. This is who I am. This is the person I found long ago, when I learned how to live without numbing what hurt or felt anxious to me, with foods I had learned were triggers. Somewhere along the line, The Biggest Liar convinced me that it wasn’t so bad, and I could eat like other people, and getting heavy was just part of getting older, or that the meds I take for my chronic migraines were the cause…of course it wasn’t 3 or 5 or 7 or 10 vanilla Oreo cookies…or was it more?
Yeah, I won’t lie.
It was more.

A few more things: I’m utilizing Leora Fulvio’s Reclaiming Your Life from Binge Eating—both her book and workbook—for writing prompts, as well as a couple of other books I’ll list under the “Books I Mention Here” tab. That’s where the majority of blog posts will come from, in addition to observations on this journey.
I honestly don’t care if anyone reads this but me. I’m putting this here to document the journey that I began today by consulting with Dr. Malladi, a bariatric surgeon in Dallas, and scheduling four months’ worth of appointments (and that’s just the start) that will lead up to the surgery, which I am hoping to have mid-March, 2018.
If anyone else is reading this and you are also on this journey, welcome.

 

It begins, and so do “hope bubbles.”

Today–well, yesterday–I’m awake and compelled to write, so here goes–I began the process of scheduling the series of “have-to’s” to qualify for gastric sleeve surgery.
First, a sleep study–I must prove to Aetna that I have sleep apnea, because that is the only one of the 4 “comorbidities” I possess that compels them to agree to pay for gastric sleeve. The surgeon’s office has to send them orders in order to schedule it. That’s the way most of the appointments work, and I have to say, Dr. Malladi’s office has got it goin’ on in that department–24 hours after I met with her, her staff is already working to help me meet these requirements. Same thing with the the gastroenterologist to schedule an Upper GI “Swallow Study”, and her office also contacted my primary care physician’s office to get a copy of my latest EKG. Luckily, I can have these things done locally.
I also scheduled a required fitness test. I predict the results to be dubious at best.
I used to do an hour a day on the treadmill, with it slanted to be UPHILL all the way. I did 5K races in Dallas- and loved it. I had an elliptical, too, and my body was strong and I could feel my muscles and I loved it SO MUCH.
Then my feet let me know, “Hey, there. We’re not into this, and just to show you HOW much we are not into this, we’re going to develop problems that will leave you essentially crippled until you, at a later date, have surgery on us that will leave you unable to run.”

I was in pain, and I became depressed, and I turned to my drug of choice: food.

Over time, my feet have healed enough that I can take my dogs for a walk. I can even wear non-athletic shoes now, for at least limited spurts of time. This is something I couldn’t do before.
I still have other issues–like intractable migraines triggered by exertion–that preclude really enthusiastic gettin’ after it like I used to, but I have hope. Know why?
I met a lady at Dr. Malladi’s office who was 7 weeks post-surgery. She told me that she used to take 23 medications, and now she takes just 3, AND that she used to have migraines, and she DOES NOT HAVE THEM ANY MORE. It made me think: I’ve had headaches all my life, but they did not become AWFUL until I gained a lot of weight in the last few years.
Maybe that can happen for me, too. Maybe I can be freed from the medication I take 3 times a day that also causes carb cravings. I’ve also had 2 Botox treatments for migraine. I’m waiting for the latest treatment to kick in. It’s worrying me a little that after 10 days, I’m still getting pretty severe headaches. That wasn’t the case with the first treatment.

Also, I keep thinking about the 3 huge tubs of my smaller clothes that I have in the corner of my bedroom. I’ve refused to get rid of them, all this time. They range from sizes 6 – 14, and I suppose I could look at them as representing a progression of relapse, or, perhaps, I can think of them differently once I can get into them again. Oh- one more thing about Aetna’s requirements: I CANNOT GAIN ANY WEIGHT from the day I met with the surgeon & weighed in. Once a month I’ll get weighed in at the hospital’s nutritionist.

At any rate, I have

When I Made Up My Mind (Reproduced from page of the same name)

10.15.17          When I made up my mind

I began writing this on an American Airlines flight from McAllen, Texas to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. I was returning from a book festival in South Texas. I write teen fiction and recently completed co-writing a creative nonfiction book for trauma survivors. My name is Beth Fehlbaum. My books are Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, Truth in Patience (The Patience Trilogy); Big Fat Disaster, and Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt.

I know what I want to write in this defining piece; I know that I began creating a website for this “project” last night in my hotel room; and I know that what I am writing is likely to become a book of some sort, whether it be an exercise in self-reflective navel-gazing—something I’ll write just to see if I can do it—or perhaps I will, as I am wont to do, work out my shit through teen characters.
Or at least try to.

Or, maybe, I want to live this journey publicly; to force myself into what I have lost in a very important way: authenticity.

That word: AUTHENTICITY, is, for lack of a better term, my calling card. Jennifer Brown, who wrote the wonderful book, Hate List, is one of my favorite authors. She once said, “Beth Fehlbaum writes without looking over her shoulder.” In other words, I strive to be “real” in my writing—to not shy away from hard truths, from using real-life language; from being bold—not for shock value—but because I know too well the hell so many kids endure, and even though it’s been a good 35 years-plus since the day I stood in our living room, pointed a shaky finger at my alcoholic narcissistic stepfather, and announced, “Since I was 8 years old, he’s been molesting me,” that kind of dysfunction still happens in too many homes. Every time I visit a school, at the end of each presentation, I usually have at least two kids come up to me, lean in, and whisper their truths to me. I also teach teens. I see. I hear. I am told their truths, too. I respect their truths too much to shy away from subjects and the way I talk about them, which tells the truth.

I worked in therapy for a long time to learn to be “real” in my life. I want to be “real” with others. I fought long and hard to become an authentic person; one who refuses to play “Let’s Pretend,” as in, “Let’s Pretend Nothing Bad Ever Happened in Our House,” a reference to the years of sexual abuse I endured at the hands of my stepfather and my mother’s refusal to deal with it when I, a 14 year old, told her what had been going on for 6 years. The “Let’s Pretend” game includes the ensuing decades of telling myself that I wasn’t an anxiety-plagued wreck who soothed myself with food. . . even though “soothing myself” equaled binges fueled by an electric compulsion. I could remember the start and end, but what happened in-between was a blur.
The ending of a binge was—and to this day—is—notable for the inevitable overwhelming tsunami of shame and self-hatred for “eating the way I do.”

I thought I had this beat. I really thought so. I lost about a hundred pounds when I was first in therapy—early in the first decade of the new millennium. But I’ve been stuck in a relapse for months now, and that relapse began nudging at me within about a year of finishing therapy.
Snail-like at first, it crept up on me, occasionally sinking its claws in and hanging on like a stubbornly affixed tick, taking and taking while I acted as if regaining weight didn’t bother me much. If I didn’t mention it, or if I dressed in a certain way, I told myself that it wasn’t really noticeable.
I’ve been lying to myself about how bad it is. How much my body is struggling under the weight I’ve put back on it.
Binge Eating Disorder is a mind fuck. There’s just no other way to describe it.

In South Texas for the book festival, I, a person who was once so terrified of public speaking that I choked on my own saliva when I called into a country radio station to speak to the deejay on air, gave several talks for audiences of teenagers, their teachers, and school librarians. I’ve been at it a while—this public speaking thing—and I’ve been told by other authors who’ve been doing school visits for years that I’m pretty good at it.
When I’m presenting my program, I’m very honest about my connection to The Patience Trilogy (Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience), and to my other teen novel, Big Fat Disaster. The Patience Trilogy recounts the journey of a teen girl, Ashley, and essentially portrays the arc of recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA). I wrote The Patience Trilogy over the span of several years as I worked with a clinical psychologist named Dr. Matt Jaremko. He taught me about authenticity; about living in what I call “The Light of Truth.”
Matt taught me to love the parts of myself that are fierce, and honest, and true. These qualities are reflected in my writing and in my close relationships.

The fictional CSA survivor Ashley’s experiences of recovery very much parallel my own, right down to her fictional therapist, Scott “Dr. Matt” Matthews. The inspiration for his character is Dr. Matt E. Jaremko. I recently completed writing a book with Dr. Jaremko: Sessions With Dr. Matt: Narratives of Hope and Resilience for Victims with PTSD (releasing from Ayni Books sometime in mid-2018.) The intensive therapeutic relationship I had with Dr. Jaremko brought with it a sense of accountability, and that included what I put in my mouth and making a point to exercise. This feeling of being accountable to him on a weekly basis was never something we explicitly agreed upon; it came from inside of me.          
Big Fat Disaster
is the story of the very overweight Colby Denton, a binge-eating teenager whose life implodes when her so-called “perfect” family implodes. The disgust Colby’s mom feels for her daughter’s body type only multiplies when Colby turns to food to numb her emotions. If the disgust Colby’s mom feels for her daughter could be visualized as a steaming pile of cow shit, the disgust Colby feels for herself would be a 1-ton truck of that steaming stuff.
Like I said before, Binge Eating Disorder is a mind fuck.

I’m quite animated in my talks with teens, and that includes acting out a scene from Big Fat Disaster in which the morbidly obese main character, Colby, attempts to pull on way-too-small jeans. Think: what it looks like when someone pulls on panty hose that are either too small or the crotch stubbornly refuses to be elevated beyond mid-thigh level. I hike one leg up then the other, shimmy-shimmy-shimmy, arch back as if I’m trying to pull up the zipper, and even mime putting a coat hanger handle through the hole in the zipper and mention laying back on a bed to attempt to get that mother-effing zipper to agree to close over my stubborn gut. Haven’t actually stretched out on the floor to act that one out. Yet.
The girls in the audience—and I am including the adult women in that term—laugh and nod knowingly, while the boys’ eyes are huge, and it’s hard to tell if the grimaces on their faces are ones of trepidation or glee at watching a middle-aged woman contort herself into such shapes.
Then they all gasp in horror when I tell them that while Colby was doing her “jeans dance”—trying to pull on the only clothes her mom could afford after they lost everything—someone was filming Colby through her broken window blinds.
And the video ends up on Facebook.
And it goes viral.
And Colby wants to die.
These kids may not all have an understanding of Binge Eating Disorder, but they understand public humiliation and how greatly they fear it.

I follow this shocking plot twist with something like this:
I know the jeans dance looks funny. I want you to think about this: when you came into this room to take your seats, and you saw me for the first time, you  made a judgment.  Right or wrong, positive or negative, fair or not, you judged me based on what I look like.
  We all do that: judge each other based on what we look like.
  I told you when I introduced you to Big Fat Disaster that the book was about a Fat Girl.  But it’s not. Big Fat Disaster is about TRUTH, and who we really are. When I set out to write Big Fat Disaster, I wanted to explore WHO we are under our skin. What is our worth? I wanted to figure that out, because at one time I was a lot smaller than I am now.
I had lost 100 pounds, and I began gaining it back, and I was trying to figure out WHY, after all the time I spent in therapy learning to NOT hate myself; to NOT have that voice in my head telling me I wasn’t worthy of love, that just because I regained some weight, I was NOW having those negative thoughts about myself again.

  What. Is. Our. Worth? What and who are we under our skins?

So I make this speech about all of us being worthy of love and acceptance and value, and I give the impression that even though I’m a “big girl” again, I’m okay with it. And then I see photos of myself from this very same presentation and THOSE THOUGHTS: those self-hating “Oh my God I didn’t realize I was that big again” THOUGHTS are screaming loudly in my head and
I.
Feel.
So.
Inauthentic.

Because in that moment, I have a real hard time hearing self-affirming words inside my head because of the hypercritical venom that is drowning them out.

But that’s not the moment I made the decision I have made: to have gastric sleeve surgery.
The moment I made that decision, which I’ve been mulling for a long time, was when my hips hurt so badly just walking through the airport that I am limping. And limping. And limping. They hurt when I walk down the hall at school, and they hurt when I lay in bed at night, and I’m tired of my hips hurting, and I know why they hurt, and I need to do something to take care of myself so I can live the life I want to live. I am inspired by the success my eldest daughter has had with gastric sleeve surgery: her transformation and improvement in her health is nothing short of miraculous, and the decision my middle daughter made to pursue the same.

Aside from the above motivations, this decisive moment also has to do with months of my husband shoving me awake—multiple times—when I stop breathing in my sleep. The sleep apnea that I had years ago—then no longer had, once I lost weight—until I hit some sort of weight threshold—is back.
I want to do something for myself to radically support my determination to break this cycle.

I’m making a face as I make a point during a presentation…but let’s just pretend I’m giving The Biggest Liar the stink-eye, shall we?

I call this website “The Biggest Liar” because that’s what Binge Eating Disorder is, to me. It’s The Biggest Liar. I when I am lost in a relapse, I am the The Biggest Liar to myself, because I pretend that what I’m doing is not a big deal…or I disconnect completely and pop back into my life when the shame seeps into my awareness.

I am writing out this journey—as I am wont to do—as a way of holding myself accountable and being authentic.

As I wrap up writing this, it’s October 18: three days after I began recording my thoughts on an American Eagle flight early the morning of the 15th. I’ve written and rewritten this to say what I’ve said here in a way I can look at it and say, “Now I’m being real. This is who I am. This is the person I found long ago, when I learned how to live without numbing what hurt or felt anxious to me, with foods I had learned were triggers. Somewhere along the line, The Biggest Liar convinced me that it wasn’t so bad, and I could eat like other people, and getting heavy was just part of getting older, or that the meds I take for my chronic migraines were the cause…of course it wasn’t 3 or 5 or 7 or 10 vanilla Oreo cookies…or was it more?
Yeah, I won’t lie.
It was more.

A few more things: I’m utilizing Leora Fulvio’s Reclaiming Your Life from Binge Eating—both her book and workbook—for writing prompts, as well as a couple of other books I’ll list under the “Books I Mention Here” tab. That’s where the majority of blog posts will come from, in addition to observations on this journey.
I honestly don’t care if anyone reads this but me. I’m putting this here to document the journey that I began today by consulting with Dr. Malladi, a bariatric surgeon in Dallas, and scheduling four months’ worth of appointments (and that’s just the start) that will lead up to the surgery, which I am hoping to have mid-March, 2018.
If anyone else is reading this and you are also on this journey, welcome.