Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Feel, don't feed, your feelings (Emotional Triggers)

The past few days I have felt sad. As usual, I look for external reasons. What day is it--is it an anniversary of someone's death? Where's my focus--have I been thinking about sad things? Do I have PMS? This particular time, I can't pinpoint a reason.

I don't like the cold and snow, but doesn't make me sad. The anniversary of my dad's death is coming up, but not for a week, and I don't usually feel melancholy so far in advance. I miss my girl and my best friend, but those feelings don't usually sideline me. I don't think I have PMS, since that makes me feel less sad and more as if an evil spirit has taken up residence in my body. It is just a non-specific malaise.

However, since I don't have a lot of coping skills, sadness (specified or not) leads to seeking comfort in food, which leads to an elevated number on the scale which leads to further sadness and feelings of defeat. It's a vicious cycle--or circle--I never know which one is correct, though both accurately describe this situation.

Since January, I have intently focused on winning the battle against food. Overcoming my dependence on it. Eating to live instead of living to eat. I say: I'm doing this for health and not to lose weight. And I kind of mean it. But gosh darn it, I wish that number on the scale would go down.

I have read books, listened to TED talks and am currently re-reading and participating in an online Bible study for Lysa TerKeurst's book Made to Crave. But, the same stupid number shows up on the scale every morning. Some days, it goes down a number or two, but it always goes back. One step forward one step back. One step back one step forward--this monotonous mambo is wearing me out.

I have prayed, given this to God, and laid this issue at the cross, more times than I can count. But in times of sadness, defeat, depression, I will not reach for the phone to call a human friend, I will instead reach for my faithful friend the sandwich. I will take comfort in the sweet goodness of a cookie rather than the reassuring words of my husband. While I try very hard to reach out and encourage others, I find it very difficult to reach outside my comfort zone when cookies are usually so much closer.When I feel empty and defeated, I will make a huge meal instead of calling a friend or going for a walk or praying.

Last week at church, there was a display of the most amazing cakes you have ever seen. I wanted a piece so bad. I started to take a piece, and my husband said, "Don't do it, baby." Initially, I was shocked--and a little angry--and turned with my mouth hanging open to see if he had lost his mind. "It will taste good now, but you'll be mad at yourself." Darn that man I love. He was right, and I didn't eat a whole piece. I did, however, have a bite and it was delicious and wonderful and everything I had hoped it would be. AND that one little bite was enough.

I think that's the hardest part of beating this addiction. The "one is too many; one more isn't enough" mentality. Unlike cigarettes or alcohol, you can't just quit food cold turkey. We have to eat. But like other substances, I have used innately harmless sweets in an unhealthy way. I have tried to fill voids that no amount of peanut butter could fill. I have had long conversations with trail mix instead of God or even a friend.

In counseling school, the therapist/professor asked, "What would happen if you let yourself feel the sadness?" I would cry and feel sad, but I've been there before, and I know that I would stop crying eventually.

Overcoming emotional eating is a process like anything else. There are ups and downs. Victories and defeats. And right now, I feel pretty defeated. I feel a lot like I might never overcome this. I feel alone and empty, and maybe a cookie would make me feel better in this moment, but that is not true. So today, I'm going to focus on feeling my feelings instead of feeding them.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

25 years

Today is February 5th. I hate today. I've hated it for 25 years. Five years and one week longer than my daughter has been alive. I have lived so many lives in those 25 years. All of them mine but all of them different. I've been angry, jealous, bitter, sad, in love, loved, depressed, hopeless, hopeful, dreamy, flighty, stupid, and happy.

Today, like every February 5th since 1989, I will relive that awful morning. Hearing my mom's voice. Knowing something was wrong. The huge pit in my stomach. I wonder why, but I don't dwell on it. I remember his smile, his smirk, his strong arms hugging me so tight I thought he'd break my ribs. I will cry but just a little bit.

When my brother died, my life took a sharp turn. I was no longer loved, cherished, I felt alone. Nothing could go wrong when he was here. But now, everything could go wrong. And lots of stuff did. And then stuff went right. And then wrong. And more right. Hills and valleys.

Brene Brown talks about foreboding joy--the fearful sense that joy is fleeting. Something bad will happen. Don't get too comfortable being happy because it won't last. That's how I lived a lot of my life. Brad asked me, "Why do you always go to the worst case scenario?" Because the worst case scenario had played out in my life. A couple times. I wanted to be prepared.

But preparing for the worst doesn't stop it.

Instead of preparing, I've learned to heal, love, and let myself be happy without waiting for the bottom to drop out.

After my brother died, I heard him called lots of things. A junkie, a drug dealer, a liar, a thief. But to me, he was amazing. What a gift that I could carry that person who loved me wholeheartedly around forever, letting his memory fill in the broken places in my heart. Maybe if he'd lived longer, I would have been forced to see him as some of those other things.

I try to be real, honest, and transparent, but there are people who don't like me. I spent a good part of my life doing cartwheels, saying the right thing, doing the right thing, but always for the wrong reasons. If people would just see me, love me, understand me, then...I don't know what. Then it would be okay? What would be okay? Life? I would be safe? I wouldn't be alone? I don't know.

Looking back at 25 years of changes, I realize I like who I've become. I don't always like the number on the scale or the color of my hair or the waddle under my chin (seriously, I really dislike that freaking waddle), but that's not the point.

Today, I worry less about what people think of me and more about how I treat them. I don't care if people judge me, but I try not to judge them. I don't need to tell everyone my story, but I sure love to hear theirs. I don't need people to think I'm a good person; I want them to know they can count on me. I don't memorize scriptures to preach to people; I help them feel Jesus' love in how I treat them.

Twenty-five years later, I still think my brother hung the moon and rocked the world, and I will love him forever.