It was 2005 and I was on FMLA and attending the half-day program at the psychiatric hospital the first time a therapist told me to write a letter to my mother. Every therapist I’ve seen since then has suggested the same thing but I could never do it. Finally, on Friday, I wrote that letter. It was hard, really hard. But I realized that I had such a mental block that the reason I couldn’t write before is because I had no idea how I really felt. My mother was safely on her pedestal in my mind and a negative thought was not allowed. I felt guilty, I think, over how I had treated her for a few years and I didn’t understand why I had been that way. I chose to only remember the time when we had a good relationship which was, unfortunately, only the last 6 months of her life. Now, I realize I rebelled and treated her badly because it was the only way I could get her attention and I so desperately wanted her attention that I preferred to be punished than ignored. The truth is she was a wonderful woman, strong and beautiful. But she was human and she had her faults like the rest of us. She did the best she could. And now I can forgive her.
I have been holding on to so much pain that I haven’t left room for anything else.
It occurred to me this morning finally that the reason I have such a problem with my father now is because it’s the exact same thing I’ve been struggling with my whole life. I wrote about my mom but not really in any detail. I’m not sure yet how much I want to put out here. The short story is that I craved her attention my whole life but she was busy with my sister. My grandmother was in the picture and she was a good substitute for my mother in the early years but not so much as we both grew older and further apart. I never felt like my mom was there for me until my grandmother died. It was only six months later that my mom died. Suddenly my father became the stubborn, selfish child in the relationship because he just fell apart. He and my sister have become codependent. He repeatedly chooses her over me and he says it’s because she has a son and I have no children. I don’t resent my nephew but I do resent my father and my sister. I feel like I’ve been pushed aside my whole life. And sure, I could fight back, I could stand up and say I’m deserving too. Except, well, am I? I truly have no evidence of that. And furthermore, I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted. It just seems the places I’m wanted are few and far between. So, yes, I am finally understanding why my self-esteem is in the toilet. I know logically that it does not necessarily belong there but I simply don’t know how to salvage it right now.
Last Tuesday was my father’s 75th birthday. It was a milestone and I feel sorry that I couldn’t be a part of it. I imagine him feeling sorry for himself because his niece may have called but no one else would have taken notice. My sister doesn’t even buy cards. I thought about mailing him a card but I couldn’t decide so I put it off until it was too late. I know his birthday is difficult for him because it was also his anniversary with my mother. And yet, maybe it’s healthy that I didn’t put his needs before mine. It’s been six months since we’ve spoken. He sent a couple short letters and I replied but he’s quit. He hasn’t even called my husband in at least a month. I guess he’s let go now. I’m sad that he’s let go and yet I don’t miss him. I realize that I probably don’t miss him because we had such a poor relationship anyway. It’s less stressful not to hear from him. I guess a part of me had hoped that he would miss me though.
I wanted to write before today but I just had so much going on in my head that I couldn’t make sense of it. I had an appointment with my psychologist this morning and it was tough but it was great. It’s only been four sessions with this new one and I can tell we are going to make so much progress. Her approach is so much better suited to me! We talked about the things in my last post. She doesn’t know about the blog but she encourages me to journal. Those (things from my last post) were still the primary things on my mind and I was getting stuck. She helped me make more realizations and connections and start processing it. I was looking at my childhood and my grief (for my mother) as two separate things. Today we put them together. Accepting the past for what it was and feeling everything both negative and positive are essential to moving on and to grieving. They are part of the process. Putting my mother on a pedestal and refusing to have a negative thought about her prevented me from feeling anything but loss. Just because there were some negative things does not mean she was a bad mother. It does not mean that I did not love and respect her. It means she was human. And I am starting to understand a lot of the things she did and the way she treated me. It wasn’t always right, but none of us ever is all of the time.
We then connected how I feel about my childhood directly to how I feel about myself today and the struggles I face. Whoa! It seems so obvious now but I was clueless. And, as my therapist says, it will be a long hard road, but I can turn things around. I can still heal and change my future.
So this was meant to be a weight loss blog. And it still is, really! My problem has always been that I binge eat and emotionally eat to stuff my feelings down. Part of the problem is I couldn’t deal with the feelings but a large part of that was that I didn’t understand what I was feeling. It was like walking under a waterfall and having no idea where the water was coming from. Now I know. Look up! So I will. I will look up to heaven and I will look up to God and I will face the truth so that I can heal. And someday I will realize that I’m no longer under the waterfall. And throughout this process, dealing with my feelings will allow me to quit the compulsive eating altogether. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen. In the meantime, I will try to feed my body the best I can and take care of it.
I recently finished reading a book my therapist loaned me called “When Food is Love” by Geneen Roth. The description from Amazon.com says “In this moving and intimate book, Geneen Roth…shows how dieting and emotional eating often become a substitute for intimacy. Drawing on her own painful personal experiences, as well as the candid stories of those she has helped in her seminars, Roth examines the crucial issues that surround emotional eating: need for control, dependency on melodrama, desire for what is forbidden, and the belief that one wrong move can mean catastrophe. She shows why many people overeat in an attempt to satisfy their emotional hunger, and why weight loss frequently just uncovers a new set of problems. But her welcome message is that change is possible. This book will help readers break destructive, self-perpetuating patterns and learn to satisfy all the hungers—physical and emotional—that make us human.”
I struggled a lot with the book because she bases this behavior on our past however I didhave a pretty good childhood and there was never any abuse. My therapist however believes that the behavior can also be learned from our parents or be from more subtle issues and that helped me to move on with the book. I can see the progression of my weight gain over the course of my life. As a child it was slow. We were brought up on horrible foods – everything came from a box or a can. The only emotional issue I dealt with prior to the teen years was that I was always competing for attention with my twin sister. I still feel like she received most of the attention and I have a reason for why although I’m not sure it’s a reason and that I’m not just making excuses for my parents. Then there were the rebellious years and I actually ate less from 15-18, probably due to getting attention from other activities, mostly negative attention as I stayed in trouble. I have never in my life thought of myself as the attention seeking type so this was a major realization. At 19-20, I lose my cousin, my aunt, my grandmother and my mother while my first marriage fails and I have an abortion. I was overwhelmed and I simply shut down. In the 10-11 years since then I have gained an average of 10 lbs per year. Over 100 lbs.
I didn’t struggle with mental illness until 2004 when I was diagnosed with depression. Since then, there’s been anxiety, bipolar, and talk of borderline personality disorder. I find it interesting that my weight gain did not speed up at this point. Before this point I lived as if I didn’t have a care in the world. In 1 year I managed to go from having it all to nothing. Literally nothing as my boyfriend at the time managed to get me an old chevy blazer, I had to go back to school and take a student loan to pay $290 a month for an apartment and get food stamps to feed myself. Maybe it did speed up and I just don’t remember well enough to see a difference. Actually, that’s probably very likely. My memory is shot.
Basically, I need to do 2 really big things. I need to deal with the feelings I have about my childhood. (And I have a particularly hard time with that because when my mother died I put her on a pedestal and have refused to even think a negative thought about her since.) I also need to grieve the losses I suffered that I never grieved for after I shut down in 2001.
I have to do these things in order to fix my life in the present. I will probably do a lot of writing here (so much for making this a less negative space!). A lot probably won’t make sense but I’ll do my best. I would like to be able to look back in the future and understand this myself.
I feel a little bad about not posting for nearly a week but not very. I’m feeling incredibly anti-social lately. Even Facebook is getting on my last nerve (or maybe it’s just the stupidity everyone posts there). With a 17 year old bellowing about how jealous she is all her friends are pregnant or have a baby (I want to shake some sense into her) and a friend who has always been anti-commitment and anti-children suddenly wanting both after a first date with a new woman, it’s like the world has gone mad. I’m realizing more and more that I’m on my own. I don’t always think that’s a bad thing, especially with all the crazy out there, but it sucks to not really be able to talk to anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my husband, but I only see him on weekends and he just doesn’t understand so much of this. I’m trying to learn to be my own best friend but I guess that takes time.
I know what I should do and I know what I need to do. I know how to do it even. My biggest problem right now is making myself follow through on the things I WANT to do. What’s the problem? I have the best of intentions. I want to succeed. I’m obviously in my own way. This is one barrier I am simply stumped on how to get past right now. And I’m going to keep this super short today because I’m really tired of everything here being so negative.