It’s been nearly six months since I wound up hospitalized for stomach issues, resulting in December’s surgery. It was my little wake up call where the universe told me I needed to get my act together. While I’m motivated, I’ve had somewhat halting progress.
Fear reigns supreme.
There’s been a lot of psychological excavation, uncovering layers of issues and rather unpleasant feelings. It’s easier to stuff them, both literally with food and figuratively. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs and I don’t mess around. Food was my crutch. When I didn’t want to feel something, I ate. It was easier to say the rejection was because of my size versus the reality.
If there’s a flicker of hope there, it’s the fact that I had the courage to start making changes. Most of them are small and barely noticeable, but in the grand scheme of things, they are the ones that will have a lasting impact. In order to see a big change on the outside, I had to conquer my inner demons once and for all. I’ve battled them for 45 years without much success.
It sounds so clichéd, but I really had to learn to love myself. I’m not ashamed to admit that I see a therapist, because there shouldn’t be any shame in it. I needed to expand my toolbox and Mary Ellen has been an expert tool smith. She tasked me with three things I have to do daily: take a selfie, write 10 things I’m grateful for and 5 things I love about myself. In the beginning, this was incredibly awkward. I had no issue with the gratitude list-in fact I’ve been doing that for years. It was the other work.
I’m part of an online community of women started by my friend and fellow writer, Brittany Gibbons. This group of fellow travelers have humored me with being the repository of my daily #selfesteemselfies. Quite honestly, I didn’t take this therapy homework seriously at first, but over time, I’ve begun to see not only its importance but it’s magic. My first few were obviously faked smiles and heavily filtered and photo shopped, but as time has gone on over the last almost 6 months, I can see a change. It’s not only physical (hey look cheekbones!) but in my soul too. The smiles don’t look forced as much. I can see a little sparkle in my eyes where I looked flat before. I’m starting to recognize the face looking back at me.
I know it’s hard to believe that someone could put on nearly 70 pounds and not even realize it. However, that’s exactly what happened to me. I’m not making excuses for it, but when you’re numbing out, anything is within the realm of possibility. Sure, I knew I was getting bigger since my clothes no longer fit, but part of me was so disconnected that it didn’t register. By doing these daily selfies, I started reconnecting with myself. It also serves as a visual record to undoing the damage.
By far, the most challenging task has been the I love you list. My first dozen were superficial-my hair, my clothes, nail polish. Over time though, I’m starting to list deeper things. Yesterday’s included
I love about me:
- Putting my self care as a priority, because I need to put on my oxygen mask first. I can’t be a caregiver to others if I’m not caring for myself.
- Signing up to read at Friday’s poetry slam and sharing my work
- Having water and veggies instead of the chips and soda that will plug my soul hole temporarily
- Saying no to something that would make someone else’s life easier but would not be what I wanted to do and it would have a negative impact on mine
- Refraining from yelling because I said the same thing 1000 times and no one listens until mom loses it. Only I didn’t this time
It’s not an overnight sensation and there are still down days. I still have moments of weakness when I give into my cravings. I still beat myself up verbally. Yet, there is a change happening. I’m more elated and less defeated. I’m speaking up more, and not allowing others to steal my joy. I’m limiting my contact and exposure to toxicity. Who would have thought a few lists and pictures could do what years of therapy had not?