Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Falling off the Wagon

This is an uncomfortable post to write. Up until now I've talked a lot about PAST struggles and PAST challenges and OTHER PEOPLE"S pain. It feels pretty safe to say "I used to be a disaster, and look how far i've come". The last couple weeks have been rough. Messy and ugly in more ways than i can describe.  Now that i've had some time to reflect on it, I can give some thoughts about what went wrong and how I (and hopefully you) can gain wisdom and understanding form that about the nature of mental and emotional health.

First you have to know that last week I fell off the wagon, HARD. Not a graceful fall, but an ugly crying, skinned knees, gash in my head kind of fall. What wagon, you may ask? The
Happy,Healthy wagon.  I found myself in such a negative, dark, hopeless place that I couldn't see my way out. I've written pretty openly about how I USED to be really sad and I USED to be hopeless and I USED to be full of shame. And last week, I found out that those things are there, lurking under the surface, waiting to rear their ugly head if I get lazy.

It all started with weight loss. I committed to a super strict no-carb, no-sugar, no-fat eating plan to shed a few pounds. Food is something I have used for years to cope with the little stresses of every day life, and I eliminated that coping mechanism. Strike #1. As part of the low calorie eating plan, I had to refrain from exercise. Strike #2. Then I read a book by Brenee Brown called "Gifts of Imperfection" and experienced a sort of breakdown/awakening about all the shame I have been trying to run from for so many years. It was so much to process emotionally. Strike #3. Add to that a traveling husband, a bout of family food poisoning, a total lack of structure and schedule, and you have a perfect storm. A storm of negativity that shed massive amounts of wind and rain and sleet on our family and left some emotional wreckage in its wake.

In the midst of this storm, it looked like nothing good existed in my world. I felt hopeless and alone and like a failure at life. And because that pain was too much to hold onto, I tried to transfer it to other people. Suddenly my kids were lazy (never mind the vomiting-suck it up!), my husband was unsupportive (also vomiting, in a  hotel room 1000 miles away), I was ugly (again, illness is not attractive), I was in terrible shape (30 days of no exercise), the yard was a mess (it's fall; leaves are messy), and the list goes on and on. It seems totally ridiculous now, but at the time, ti FELT so real and so reasonable and so final. Perhaps you've been there. I was grumpy and critical and complaining and sad. I was nothing like the person I have chosen to be. I was a disaster mentally, emotionally, and physically.

For a moment, I felt fear that I was losing it. All the traction I had gained over years of recovery had fallen apart and someone would haul me into a professional;s office who would prescribe something to change me and make me into something "acceptable" and "stable".  But what I needed was not a drug. What I needed was perspective, space to think, and some solid coping skills. At some point, I reached out to my sister who has know me long enough to know I needed a stern talking to which she promptly delivered. And then she sent me flowers. Those flowers gave me a ray of hope. And then I decided that some fresh air would do me good, so I went into my back yard. And then i decided that if I went for a walk, it would be even better, so I did. And then I realized I hadn't taken my supplements in about 4 days, so I took them. And then I remembered that I hadn't been using my oils, so I opened the bottle and took a deep breath, and felt the clouds begin to part. And then I was back. One tiny choice at a time, and I was back.

I am so grateful for this experience because of what it taught me. I am not invincible. I am not broken, but i must be vigilant. I cannot be lazy or half-hearted about my own physical and mental health. If I am to be the woman I want to be and the wife and mother I choose to be, I have to take care of ME. I have to be gentle with myself. I cannot attempt to do more than I am able. I must exercise every single day. I must take my supplements every single day. I must choose to see the positive every single day. I have to respect the stability and security that comes from the daily routines that others may call rigid or extreme. I have a deep respect for the ability they give me to live a drug free, authentic existence. Please have the courage to fight for your own health every single day, one moment, one drop, one choice at a time.  And if you fall off the wagon, its okay, just get back on;)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

When Self Love Makes You Fat

I have joined/spearheaded/committed to 3 fitness challenges in the last year. I'm a pretty disciplined person so I thought it would be easy. I don't have a HUGE weight problem and I don't have an deep rooted emotional issues (yeah, right) so it will be simple. Just be conscious of your food choices and listen to what your body is telling you. The first fitness challenge began a month before I dropped my firstborn off at the MTC (missionary Training Center) for a 2 year church service mission. I had been doing really well in spite of family gatherings and holiday treats. I drove him to Provo, UT and dropped him off at the curb for a super fast goodbye.

As soon as I got back in the car, without my boy, I could not stifle an uncontrollable stream of hysterical sobs. It was far more painful than I had anticipated letting him go.  I sat with the pain for a few minutes, allowing myself the luxury of these ugly, violent sobs, and then I thought "enough is enough", and I reached for some chocolate.  And that was the end of my discipline. I made a conscious choice to stifle my pain with food.

I've been much more aware since that day of when I am using food to suffocate and emotion. I've even become attuned to which foods are most effective at silencing which emotions. Sadness? cookie please. Stressed? Salt and Vinegar chips. Angry? Boneless Buffalo Wings. And it works, though I've been trying to do it less and less. So now its been a year, and I feel like I have this negative emotional eating under control, and i'm really ready to shed these 20 pounds before they get too comfortable on my hips. I began a pretty strict eating plan about a week ago and its going really well. I'm dropping pounds just like I expected to, but something bizarre is happening. I'm experiencing all of these random emotions rearing their ugly heads from my past. In an effort to understand these feelings, I turned to a book I've been meaning to read for a few years.

In this book I found a concept that hugely impacted me-Brene' does a beautiful job of defining love.

"Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them-we can only love others as much as we love ourselves."

Self-love is the limiting factor in how much love we have to offer other people! 

And she continues: "Practicing self love means learning how to...treat ourselves with respect, and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves"

As I contemplated this, I felt like I do a pretty good job of practicing self-love. I do nice things for myself all the time. I stop in at Sees candy when I'm at the Apple store.  I treat myself to a hot cocoa at Starbucks on a chilly day. I meet my friends for lunch a couple times per month. I experiment with new recipes I love on Sundays. you see the pattern that I saw? All of the self love I practice involves FOOD! All of it! And this had led me to an interesting question: 

How do you practice self love that doesn't make you fat?

It seems like I've loved myself right into this place of feeling unhealthy and dissatisfied with my appearance...which is not love....but if self-love is the way to find love....and I usually love myself with do I get out of this cycle?

I've been brainstorming for the past 24 hours and I've come up with some good ideas, but i'd love to hear your thoughts on ways you "treat yourself" without using food.

Here are some of my ideas so far:

Take a walk
Get a pedicure
Use some yummy lotion
Charming Charlie's
Read a book you don't HAVE to
Sit in the back yard
Essential Oils 
Watch a movie

What are your ideas? Leave a comment and when I get 10, I'll do a drawing for a free oil!

**And Beware if you are embarking on a weight loss journey-every pound of fat you lose releases a repressed emotion that you need to have a plan to deal with when it rears its ugly head...preferably one that doesn't involve chocolate.