Addiction

My whys


I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I joined WW (formerly Weight Watchers) mid-September this year. I have a laundry list (Why “laundry”? Wouldn’t “shopping” make more sense? I think so, too). Correction, shopping list of whys. Not the least of which is Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome, a rare disorder of the ankle, similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Here’s the complete list:
Family – I have two adult children (32 & 25), three grandchildren (4,3, & 1), and a nearly 10 year old on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum and who experiences ADHD.

Physical Health – Fibromyalgia, Hypothyroidism, Type 2 Diabetes, Sleep Apnea, High Cholesterol, and Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome.

Mental Health – Bipolar 2 Disorder, PTSD, Depression, Binge Eating Disorder.

Because I’m worthy of self-love and self-care.

I’ve spent nearly five years of hard work to reach this point. I had been a toxic person in a toxic relationship. I had severely broken relationships with my two adult children. I was so overwhelmed and depressed I was barely functional. I was so consumed with self-loathing that I hid from the world, making myself sicker and sicker, consuming all the food and media I could numb out on.

Now, I’m working on staying centered in the here and now, continuing to heal, grow, and build relationships with my children, engaging with the world and people around me, and learning how to treat myself with the care, compassion, and love I have and want to have for each person I encounter.

It’s past time for me to become the best version of myself.

This is the 3rd post of 30 for

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Crazy

You’re not crazy. You’re pain is not a pathology. Your pain makes sense…You’re a human being with unmet needs.
Now This Op-Ed video about depression

Crazy.

“She’s just crazy. I’m done.”

“That’s just crazy talk.”

“How crazy is that?”

“What are you, crazy?”

Crazy.

How often do we throw that word around? We use it as a throwaway label for people and situations we don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to try and understand. It’s mostly a word which people who consider themselves as “normal” use to explain away and dismiss the abnormal.

Guess what? It’s ableism.

What is Ableism? According to The Urban Dictionary, “Ableism is the discrimination or prejudice against people who have disabilities. Ableism can take the form of ideas and assumptions, stereotypes, attitudes and practices, physical barriers in the environment, or larger scale oppression. It is oftentimes unintentional and most people are completely unaware of the impact of their words or actions.”

This definition isn’t only about physical disabilities, it also counts for those experiencing mental health issues due to atypical brain structure and neurochemistry.

Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
PTSD
Anxiety disorders
Addiction
Compulsive Behavior disorders
ADHD
Asperger’s
Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)

These are but a few examples of things which people with non-neurotypical brains and brain chemistry experience.

Crazy

It is a word which holds a strong stigma. The thought of being “crazy” often causes people not to seek help for symptoms and behaviors which make them feel mentally and emotionally out of control. They don’t want to be labeled as “crazy.” WE don’t want to be labeled and dismissed as being “crazy.” We don’t want to be treated as defective or dismissed because having atypical brains makes us “less than.”

I say “WE” because I have a Bipolar brain which has been affected by ongoing and varied trauma experiences. Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Type 2, and PTSD. Around the same time, my youngest child was educationally identified as having “High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Recently she received the official diagnosis of Autism AND ADHD.

These things cause us to think, react, and act differently than those who have neurotypical brains. We aren’t “crazy,” we aren’t disabled. We are neurodiverse and differently abled.

The thing about the word, “crazy” is that it’s such an inherent part of our American vernacular that even those of us who have been affected and marginalized by the term frequently use it ourselves.

I’m not going to “go off the deep end” (another phrase often used instead of “crazy”) and call out everyone, every time I hear the word used. However, I will start with myself and maybe those closest to me. I haven’t figured out what to say instead, but, I’m working on it. I’ll keep you posted.

Maybe you’ll think about it the next time you hear or use the word.

In case you’re wondering, the August Scrawls Day 3 word is “atypical.”

Keep Moving: When you’re going through hell

This journey toward health encompasses so many things in my life. Basically, it’s connected to everything – my emotions, relationships, mental health, life circumstances… It’s all tied together. Especially when I’m falling apart.

As some have noted from reading my other posts this month, my plate is full.

There are many moments on many days when I feel the full weight of it all. All I want to do is eat my anger, fear, frustration, resentment, uncertainty, and a myriad of other emotions triggered by the situations and circumstances of my life.

Numbing myself with food has been my pattern since adolescence.

After years of chaotic living and trauma, my mother’s undiagnosed, unacknowledged mental illness took her life via suicide. I was 12 years old and under her brother’s guardianship.

I was dissociated from my emotions by then and didn’t realize or acknowledge the effects it had on me. There was no discussion, no Memorial Service, and no grief counseling.

Just. Move. On.

I disappeared into books…and eating even more than I’d already been overeating.

Fast forward nearly 37 years later and here I am. Working hard to get healthy in the midst of trigger after trigger for eating my feelings.

I have been doing a phenomenal job, if I do say so myself, of staying conscious and present of my eating. Using the app to keep a record of my food and staying with the recommended guidelines has felt good, but also made me make better choices, because I didn’t want to see bad ones.

Last night I lost the battle.

True confession: Two Wendy’s chicken tenders w/honey mustard, small fry, & “small” coke.

Emotions: frustration, anger

Outcome: feeling bloated & sick

😑

The win that I’m taking away from this is that I caught myself almost immediately and didn’t shove the rest of the food into my face. I faced my feelings. Most importantly, I’m being honest with myself…and you.

I’m continuing to advance. I’m going to keep moving.


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An open letter from a fat woman

Dear Everyone (including fellow fat people),

I realized something yesterday. I don’t enjoy being asked if I’ve lost weight or gotten smaller. This question is usually asked by those who are slender, generally healthy-looking, and physically fit. However, others who are also overweight will ask the same question. Often this question is accompanied by facial expressions and asked in a tone of voice which indicate the person is issuing a compliment and an encouragement. For those who are aware of the mental/emotional health issues I deal with, this question is followed up with, “You look happy, like you’re doing good/better.” It occurred to me that I feel neither encouraged or complimented most of the time. In fact, part of me feels frustrated and defeated, less than.

I had two people who I know love me and care about my well-being ask me at two different times yesterday if I had lost weight. Last weekend a third person asked the same and two weekends ago, someone asked me if I had gotten smaller. Four different people over a two-week period of time, all of whom hadn’t seen me in a month or more, asked me if I had lost weight. Each time, I felt obligated to say, “Thank you.” However, because I’m almost compulsively honest, I followed that up with, “No, I think I got smaller but then got bigger again,” because I know how the mental health disorders I experience have manifested in the past three months, as stressors in my life have multiplied, almost exponentially, and that I’ve been abusing myself with food. I know how my body feels, how clothing feels on my body, and how body has changed shape again in response to the binge eating and unhealthy food choices I’ve been struggling with.

Why not just accept the compliment and keep the rest to myself? It’s dishonest. I feel like I need to be truthful with myself and with others. If I were to say, “Thank you,” and move on, then, part of me would believe the lie that I’m doing better than I am and that the issues I’m having around food aren’t “that serious” or of concern. In the world of addiction and recovery, that’s part of the slippery slope of denial and it’s dangerous on many levels: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For me, being fat is an outward sign of my food addiction and binge eating disorder. It is a sign that the depression aspect of the Bipolar II Disorder and the anxiety part of the PTSD are in more control than my rational self and spiritual being. If I accept the compliment and move on, then, I experience a sense of shame about these things, because I’m keeping them hidden from people I care about and who I know care about me. They need to know that I’m not okay. I’m not doing better, and that I still need them to be aware that I need them to see the truth that I’m not well and need their continued awareness that I’m still at risk.

This compliment is also an unconscious form of fat-shaming. It sends the message that I’m more acceptable if my physical appearance fits into an idealized shape more like theirs. These same people wouldn’t express their concern for my mental or physical health by asking me outright, “Have you gained weight. Are you doing okay? Is there something going on?” That question doesn’t get asked because it’s considered rude to comment on someone’s obvious weight gain. Why is it rude? It’s rude because gaining weight is often accompanied by a sense of shame, a sense of failure, and we are conditioned to avoid pointing out people’s shameful things in public ways . . . unless we’re doing an intervention, we’re assholes, or we’re talking about celebrities and other public figures.

Complimenting a fat person for losing weight sends the message that you believe they are less acceptable when they look more fat and that looking less fat makes them more acceptable. It reinforces the belief that no one wants to see a fat body, therefore, as long as I’m fat, no one wants to see me, because they won’t see me, they’ll just see my fatness.

In some ways, being fat and trying to lose weight is like being poor and trying to get rich. Society sends the message that being fat isn’t acceptable. You can exercise it away, you can eat it away, you can choose whether to be fat or to be thin. To some degree, those are true statements. Society sends the message that being poor isn’t acceptable. Get a job. Get an education. Get a career. Save money. Set a budget and stick to it. These things are also true, in certain ways. Yet, none of these things acknowledge very real barriers and systemic forces which exist and make those things more than challenging for people experiencing obesity or poverty.

Root causes of obesity go beyond eating too much of the wrong food and being physically inactive. I can’t tell you how many thin people I know who eat junk food all day long and live primarily sedentary lives. As a matter of fact, I lived with one for 18 years. There are genetics, mental health issues, ingrained generational patterns of lifestyle, physical health conditions, financial capacity, and life obligations which all factor into whether a person is fat or not.

Root causes of poverty are equally complex. I know people who work multiple jobs, don’t spend their money unwisely, shop with thrift, and work to save their pennies, but who remain poor. It takes money to make money. In order for someone to get an education that, MIGHT, lead to a good paying position, on a high earning career track, there has to be enough money to pay for the right education, often at the “right” educational institution. There has to be enough money to keep the bills and basic necessities, such as housing and food, stable. There has to be enough money to pay for the supplemental educational tools. In order to save money, the student repayment debt, as well as the costs of housing, food, transportation, clothing, and health insurance cannot meet or exceed net earned income. There has to be enough time and peace to allow for homework to be focused on and done well.

The correlation between poverty and obesity is also a real thing. If you experience poverty, then your ability to afford the healthiest foods is compromised. Your access to those foods is compromised if you are reliant on public transportation because you can’t afford a vehicle. The time you have available to prepare home cooked meals is limited. If you live in poverty, you typically are either living with a lot of other people in a small space or may not have a home at all, so buying in bulk and storing food is not possible. If you are a parent of young children, living in poverty, you can’t afford to pay for childcare while you go exercise. Being able to afford a gym membership is out of the question and the money required in order to pay for supportive footwear for walking, jogging, or running is needed to pay a bill or buy school clothes for the kids.

I experience poverty, as well as mental and physical health issues which are all interconnected with the fact that I am morbidly obese. I’m working on all of those things and I have a lot of things going on in my life which demand my time and attention. I don’t enjoy being fat. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally painful. I don’t enjoy being poor. It’s also a painful experience. I am doing what I can, as I can, to work on both of those things, but, I don’t know that I will ever be able to do enough to change either of those conditions in order to be acceptable enough.

So, please remember, complimenting someone who may look like they have lost weight, but you may not know if they’ve been working to do so, is not necessarily a compliment. Even then, compliment something other than their loss of fatness. Compliment their clothes. Acknowledge that they are exuding a sense of self-satisfaction and happiness. Or just tell them how happy you are to see them and spend time with them, without commenting on their appearance at all.

Sincerely,
A Fat Woman

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

Life update and seeking a sense of safety

It’s hard to believe it’s only 15 days into 2014. I feel as if it’s already been three months, so much has happened in such a short period of time. I feel a need to decompress. This means it’s time to just write about the stuff that’s been going on for me in my life.

On New Year’s Day, I was alone again the way I had been on Christmas Day. I also wound up being under attack from the toxic texting that tends to happen when Keith is on his roller coaster of emotions from the way things have gone and his feelings about the choices and decisions I have made regarding our relationship and us living together. It’s hard for him to see and understand that although I still love him and that I do recognize and understand he has made efforts to grow and change, the reality is for me and for our daughter at least, the way things were between the two of us, was dysfunctional and having negative impacts on our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health.

I do not place fault or blame solely on him, his anger, or the critical atmosphere which he grew up internalizing. It’s only half the story. The other half of the story is my depression and my seeming inability to develop, maintin, and grow in self-esteem and doing the things I need to do for my self-care when I am in relationship with him in the midst of the tension, conflict, anger, and criticism. I have a complete lack of self-will and self-determination to do anything other than to enable him in his anger and emotional dysfunction and that depth of codependency is mine and much like the impact of an alcoholic who cannot function and drink at the same time, to the point that he sacrifices all else in life, in my codependent state and relationship with Keith, I have sacrificed everything on the altar of his dysfunction. I am powerless over it when we are living together, which is something that others in our lives cannot understand, accept, condone, or approve of because it means they are not treated well by either Keith or myself and has caused them harm, whether we intended harm or not.

Hand in hand with the codependency is my habitual self-harm behavior using food. Both the codependency and the food have been ways for me to distract, detract, numb out, and avoid dealing with the unresolved emotional and psychological traumas I’ve experienced in my life. Things which I have accepted in my life and thought accepting was enough to deal with them. However, true acceptance doesn’t happen if there are false beliefs attached to the acceptance. So, the acceptance of the childhood abuse, neglect, and abandonment which led to three years of domestic violence abuse by my son’s father in my late adolescence, all was predicated on the false belief that I was responsible in one way or another for any and all of those things or that I somehow deserved or that I wasn’t worthy of having experienced anything other than what I had.

Monday of this week my son showed up unexpectedly and unannounced. After having spent the previous week sick with the flu and having just come from being in the home with Keith during his weekend time with Luna because I was too sick to go anywhere else and it was his time to be in this space with Luna, there had been some predictable negative interactions and I was feeling raw and emotionally vulnerable. So, I really wasn’t prepared to interact with my son, especially since the last communication from him toward me was to announce on Facebook in response to a comment I’d made on his sister’s status update that I had given up my right to have an opinion or some such thing then unfriend me a little over a month ago, after the precipitating incident that caused LaLa and her SpiritLove to move out and me to leave three days later. I just really didn’t know how emotionally and psychologically safe we would be with each other once I opened the door and allowed him to come inside. But, I love him and I’m committed to being able to have a relationship with him, so I took the risk and opened the door anyway. I’m glad I did.

He shared with me something that another family member of ours, my younger cousin who is about 2-3 years older than he is, had told him. She’d let him know that when she was growing up and going through the things she was experiencing, I had been her safe person and given her a safe place to come to in her childhood when she didn’t have any other place to go to and feel a sense of safety. It was the first time he’d ever encountered anyone having that kind of perspective on me and the kind of person I have been. It was certainly not the way he has experienced me in his life and not like anything he remembers from his childhood. Apparently, it made him consider me in a different light and he was able to come to the realization that I attempted to give him and his sister safety and be a safe person for them as much as I ever had attempted it for our cousin. It was such a relief to hear him tell me that.

It also triggered more grief and realization inside of myself because I now understand that I never had a safe person or a safe place while growing up and I have carried that lack of safety with me the entirety of my adult life. Even when I am in safe places with safe people, I do not experience a sense of safety. I think that sense of safety is that sense of homecoming I’ve only ever experienced with one other human being and I think that lack of sense of safety is one of my biggest barriers in my relationship with God, myself, and others.