My dark passenger is like a trapped coal miner, always tapping; always letting me know it’s in there, still alive. Dexter
I have been asked to write about my turning point. That time back when I was 90 pounds heavier. What changed for me and how did I move forward. I have to admit that just thinking back to that very dark time puts a knot in my throat and moisture in my eyes.
Following are excerpts from the few journal entries that I have from that time. It is clear that I wanted to change, I just needed to figure out how.
I think about all of the loss in my life that led me to this place, and it seems staggering. So much so, that when contemplated, I can barely sit still with the mental imagery. Loss, shame, anger, humiliation, deep dark shameful, never see the light of day, humiliation. The heaviness of it all is so much that I fear I will crumble beneath the burden. You know I read all those slogans that feel like just so much happy horseshit…. “Success is just getting up one more time than you fall down….” “The only person I need to be better than is the person I am today”. The inspirational mottos are endless and they all strike my ears as just so much “blah blah blah”. I try to believe it, but right now it all just feels like horseshit. I fear that I will lose myself in this pain. I fear that I may not be able to get back up again. Everything that I thought I was has been stripped from me. I don’t know who I am or what to believe. Lost… I am completely and totally lost….
I have always found it to be therapeutic to put my thoughts into writing, yet at this subject, I balk. So, I feel that I must look deeper inside to discover my reticence to begin this journey. For I have discovered that for me, when my thoughts make their way to the written page, it is a journey… a journey of self discovery… a journey to push myself to be better than I am… a journey to discover my truth. You may think that truth is an easy thing to get at. Something is either true or it is not. However, I have found that as a defense mechanism, I excel at hiding myself and my awareness from the truth.
I was watching some mindless telly the other night, and Tony Robbins was on trying to change somebody’s life…. And he left the show with a parting tidbit of wisdom…. He said, “The first thing you gotta do is to tell yourself the truth.” OMG! So simple. And yet, I find myself going to elaborate lengths to avoid doing just exactly that. Why is it that I don’t want to look at my truth?
My truth is that I have been avoiding exercise and stuffing my face for the last six months until I have become dangerously overweight. I’m an athlete. I’m a mountain climber. I’m a cyclist. I’m a triathlete. I’ve walked from Canada to Mexico on the Pacific Crest Trail (which has been accomplished by fewer people than the number of dolts who have summitted Mt. Everest). How the hell did this happen? And more importantly, what am I going to do about it?
First of all… I need to get the excuses out of the way.
I have a lot of excuses.
Not there yet…
Later in 2010:
The battle of the bulge is still consuming me to some degree. I occasionally have the feeling that I can glimpse the solution or the resolution to this issue out of the corner of my eye, and then just as quickly as that feeling has come to me, it is gone. No matter how hard I strive to see what is lurking there in the shadows, it eludes me and taunts me with its presence.
My Granny watches Oprah almost daily, and of course, when the queen of eating disorders is touting “THE SOLUTION”, it got my attention. I sat and dutifully watched her talk with the author of “Women, Food, and God”, hopeful that yet another witch doctor might provide a miraculous cure to this obsession. I didn’t get the miracle from the hour long television broadcast, so I got on line and with a few clicks of my mouse, the book and another by the same author were ordered and on their way to my post office box.
I wish that I could say this book was a revelation to me and that all my issues with food have been miraculously resolved, but as I lay on my bed thumbing hungrily through the pages of Women Food and God, pausing only to wipe the Frito grease off of my fingers as I turned the pages, it is not without some realization of the irony of my situation….. That I am stuffing my face with Frito Corn Chips at the same time that I am reading a book that will allegedly cure me of my long term lust for the little devils.
Her premise is that diets don’t work and restricting only makes you obsess about the object of your restrictions even more. I don’t disagree with this theology; however, there appears to be more to the story. She further muses that there are two patterns that eating addictions take… the restrictors and the permitters. This definitately hits a resonance deep inside of my bruised psyche. I was a chubby kid, and the only way that I over came that and became a fit and trim adult was to severely restrict. Restrict, restrict, restrict. The entire period of time (and it was years) that I was restricting… I knew that this fat girl was lurking inside, just waiting for an opportunity to get out.
And now, I find myself nearing menopause, trying to heal from devastating emotional wounds caused by men in my life, or caused by me…. Who really knows how that all works? Are all men angry, or do I just MAKE all men angry? A question that if pondered too deeply might just send me over the proverbial edge. And…. I am no longer restricting. I am definitely permitting. And…. After 20 years of obsessive exercise bulimia…. I am no longer physically active. It is like a defiance of sorts… Like I am raising my middle finger at my decades long obsession with fitness. See what it got me? A long series of superficial assholes who only wanted to use and abuse my body. Take that you jackasses….. how do ya like the fat girl now? Keep your distance boys. The fat girl is here to stay. Shit.
Fat insulates me from life. I do not participate; therefore, I do not get hurt, betrayed, disappointed, or worse. I am sitting on the sidelines of my social life; trying to tell myself that I don’t want or need it. I cannot make myself attend social events where I might see people from my past… who will take one look at the 90 pounds I have added to my five foot four inch frame and think holy fuck she totally let herself go. Because they are right. I did totally let myself go. I quit fighting…. I quit trying…. I quit caring. No human interactions means no pain. I am buffered and insulated from the hurts of social interaction by my self made prison. Handle with care…. Contents fragile…. Wrapped in layer after layer after layer of bubble wrap….. hmmmm….
I don’t really know if I am just needing time to cocoon and heal and emerge transformed, or if I am truly checking out of the human race. I don’t seem to miss the interactions too much…. Or perhaps I am just lying to myself (no doubt). Now I don’t want to interact, because I know that people will be thinking the same evil negative thoughts about me that my inner voice has been brutalizing my psyche with….. you’re disgusting…. It is sickening…. Fat, ugly, disgusting, gross, what the fuck happened to you?
Well, that is enough fatty bashing for one day…..
In reading these excerpts from my dark days, it is so clear that I had given up control of my life to my dark passenger. Let me clarify, my “dark passenger” (although I stole the moniker from the TV Series “Dexter) has nothing to do with homicidal urges. Rather, my dark passenger is that voice in my head that tells me I’m no good; that voice that tells me I’m not worth it and I should just give up. My dark passenger is shame.
For me, the first step in squashing that all consuming negativity was to step out into the light of day and face my truth. I’ve heard it said many times before, and I totally believe “you cannot change what you do not acknowledge”. It was not the myriad of self help and diet books that I devoured while searching for the magical pill and antidote to my self imposed prison. While there were definitely points to ponder in each, I did not find the healing nor the magical elixir in any of them rather, it was the willingness to face the truth.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32
I don’t know if it was the seed planted by the Tony Robbins broadcast that inspired me to face my truth, or if I finally just got weary of not fully living my life, but there came a point in time, where the pain of hiding from the world became greater than the comfort of my self imposed isolation. I had the epiphany that I really did not want to die, and more importantly, I did not want to die alone. I wanted my life back. I wanted my friends back. I wanted me back. Really, at this point in my journey, I did not know if I could find my way. What I did know, was that if I was never willing to face my truth, if I was never willing to change how I was living my life, then NOTHING about my life would change.
Firm resolve, an iron gaze, I resolutely stomped into the bathroom. I peeled off every speck of my clothing, and stood looking at my overweight nude body in the mirror. It was bad. I was so ashamed. I cried. I didn’t think I could go any further, and I crumpled to the floor, a sobbing blithering mess. Tears can be very cathartic, and once I was done feeling sorry for myself, I picked myself up off the floor and stepped onto the bathroom scales. As I watched the numbers and dash marks on the dial spin and groan beneath my massive girth, I nearly passed out when the little gauge stopped, wheezing and groaning, at two hundred and seventeen pounds. Ouch. Holy crap, I could be on the Biggest Loser… I’m that fat.
I wish I could say that my transformative journey began immediately after I stepped off the scale, but that would be a lie. My dark passenger, yes folks, shame, enveloped me within its blackness. I wanted out, I beat at the shell of darkness with my fists, angry at myself, angry at God, angry at the world, and yet I stayed firmly in the dark still hiding, changing nothing.
And then it came… a single point of light penetrating the darkness. One of my dear friends reached down into my self imposed pit and offered me her hand. Finally ready to shed my dark passenger, she listened patiently, while I verbally vomited all of the pent up shame that had been holding me hostage. She had invited me to go on a week long backpacking adventure with her. I admitted to her where I was physically and told her that I would have to lose at least forty pounds before I could even contemplate having the physical ability to walk over one hundred miles while carrying a backpack. She told me that I was one of the strongest women that she knew, and that she believed I could do this. While hers was not the first hand that reached out to me, it was the first one that stayed there, constant and steady through my litany of excuses. She was my beacon shining through the darkness…. that single point of light became my goal.
Lose 40 pounds in four months, and I did it. There was no magic cure, there was no ignoring diet and becoming a “permitter” or following whatever psycho-babble tincture of the month was being offered. It was about getting honest with myself and staying honest with myself. A strict diet and exercise. I do not believe that obesity can be cured by making “little changes”. If you are like I was and think that you can change your life by dropping a cupcake or a soda each day, then just like me…. you are probably lying to yourself. If you have been following me here, then you know that forty pounds was just the beginning for me. It gave me hope. When I wanted to quit, it gave me a reason to keep going. I have seen so many people gain and lose the same 20, 30, and even 40 pounds or more. I felt that this was my last chance; my last hope. I had to figure out a way to make this work and make it work for good, and yes, for me, it really does all boil down to diet and exercise. I am here today, 90 pounds lighter than that girl who was sobbing on the bathroom floor, finally willing to see the truth. I am still human. I am still susceptible to my “dark passenger”, but today, I am fighting the fight. Today, I will not give up.
It was not my intention to write about this time in my life. Over the past week that I have been working on this entry, I have been filled with emotion as I have re-lived the pain of hitting my bottom. This is my story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. My dark passenger is still with me, but now, it mostly just gasps for air as I try to propel myself to greater and greater athletic heights. To those gurus who say it is not about the weight, well, maybe not, but it is a great place to start.
My greatest hope in exposing myself to the world, is that perhaps someone will see my outstretched hand, grasp a strong hold, and allow me to be their single point of light.