Charting life's circuitous path


Is it A, B, or C?

I was never a very good multiple choice test taker.  Invariably, I’d be the  first to finish, last to turn in, and always the one with the most switched answers.  I could never understand the optimism that others felt since for me, it was a battle against my own confidence.  Give me a fill in the blank, write out your answer test any day!  At least the answer would be solely my own.  No need to debate on the other possibilities offered by someone smarter than me.

applesI wouldn’t go so far as to say that multiple choice tests set me up for a life of self doubt.  Being unable to decide between a cream horn and a danish at the pastry counter is probably a bit too much to ask of such a thing.  But it definitely served to strengthen the feeling that  over and over again any decision I made was fraught with (negative) possibilities.  There was only ONE right answer and more often than not I’d erase it after an agonizing chew of my pencil.  Giving me choices definitely didn’t make my life easier.

Being decisive, and especially when it comes to my own desires, is something I’m struggling with in my therapy sessions.  All my life I’ve been allowing others to make decisions for me.  Sure, I was there somewhere making the ultimate choice, but I wasn’t making me the key part in the process.  I realized that a lot of the decisions were based on what I thought would make others happy.  Even if I didn’t believe in the decision anymore, I was still making it based on expectations.  In a lot of ways, I was self-sacrificing my own wants and desires for what I thought others wanted and trying to derive happiness from their happiness.

It wasn’t sustainable.


I was failing to satisfy my own needs and therefore becoming more and more bitter, and more and more unhappy.

So I’m in the process of changing my outlook on the decisions “I’ve” made in the past and making new ones that are in sync with who I am right now.  If those needs change, then my decisions change and I don’t beat myself up about it.  Apparently the key to this is to focus on me, what makes me happy and then acting on those beliefs.  Even at the pastry counter. 🙂

This isn’t easy.  It’s downright scary and it’s as hard as breaking through concrete with a small hammer.  I’m making baby steps towards this new assertiveness with decisions at restaurants, stores and other “low risk” situations.  So far, I’ve felt more empowered after each decision.  I always feel like I’m going to “fail” in some way if I get it “wrong”, but after each successive “success”, I’ve come to realize that life isn’t always about failing and winning.

It’s about building and creating.


Picking “the one”

hopeOne night I found myself resurrecting my old Twitter account from its four year self-induced coma.  I really wanted to like Twitter, but I promptly abandoned it after I realized that it was reinforcing the horrible dullness of my life and that was perhaps why I was being followed by hyper-successful people who couldn’t wait to “share” their success with me.  Personally, if I was successful, I wouldn’t have time to be on Twitter bugging people about my success because I’d be too busy kicking up sand on the beaches of Maui.

The old tweets surprised me.  Apparently one day was a“win!” because I had tea and cookies and another involved silly conversations I overheard during class.  This was a me that felt it necessary to announce my everyday life like it was all wonderful.  There were even happy posts about sunshine of all things!

I had gone back to my account with the intention of disabling the annoying “look what others have tweeted” emails that kept coming into my inbox.  I didn’t care about any of those people (all of whom were celebrities)  and it just reminded me of another failed social media outlet.  While other people have 100s of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter, I had mostly relatives and a few friends from High School who had as much to do with my current life as the sunshine and happiness tweets.

Recently, I’ve started seeing a therapist. I can’t say if this relationship is made in heaven yet or not – she’s okay to talk to, but I’m not sure if she’s great on advice.  I know, we’ve only had two sessions so I should give her time, but really, when your therapist gives you a list of common Cognitive Behaviors depressed people make and tells you to “make them positive”, well, you either want to run away as quickly as possible or sink down into the couch with defeat.

The year of the horse has been a turning point for me.  It quickly became the year of the mule.  I was cranky, I was weepy, I was everything a happy person wasn’t and I realized that I had been painting this drab picture for quite some time. Years, actually. Stroke by stroke.

Lately, my posts weren’t quite so optimistic and hopeful.  My exercise routines, once so loved and the highlight of my day, were becoming dull and painful.  My work was becoming a chore I wished I could escape even before my day started.  Everything was setting me on edge and everything was making me near weepy.  I wasn’t totally tipping into full-blown depression (I still woke early and got my jobs down), but I was feeling off-kilter.  So off that I scared even myself into finally taking the plunge and looking up a psychologist.

Calling a therapist isn’t easy. It’s acceptance of what you are, of what you’ve become. It’s a step out into the public about a potential mental illness.  Whereas those tragically diagnosed with cancer are called warriors and fighters with throngs of sign bearing supporters behind them, those with mental illnesses are usually ranked with criminals or doused with a good bit of fear and loathing.  You’re not seen as the strong fighter who will defeat the illness but as the unpredictable social outcast who is weak and can’t deal with their problems (“You only have to choose to be positive!”).  Being classified as “mentally ill” doesn’t make you a hero or a person to admire, even though those that deal with mental illness and live every day with it are all that and more.

I put the phone call off for days.  That didn’t compare to the time it took me to narrow down the list to “the one”.  It was like I was going on a date –  I scrutinized every aspect of the potential therapy partner.  I checked their backgrounds and, yes, even their pictures.  I looked for the “nice” face that said they’d love to listen to my problems and not the face that looked like they’d sign you up for their upcoming award-winning “Be a Success” seminar.  Are faces really all that important? No.  But something inside me was scared.

Another two weeks later and I was having my first session where I spilled everything that had been bothering me like I was a loose diary with pages fluttering out of my mouth.  I felt bad for the therapist because even as I went out the door I was thinking of more things to tell her.  It was like a tap had been turned on and it gushed out of me in one big wet mess.  The second session felt slightly more controlled, but again, more and more stuff came to mind.  Where had I kept it all before?  I know I hadn’t thought of most of it in years and if you’d have asked me yesterday if it bothered me, I’d have said “nah, I’ve gotten over it”.  Apparently not.

So as I sat there in front of my old Twitter account I wondered what kind of tweet I’d do today.  My fingers itched and I tapped out my first tweet in 4 years.  It was raw, unfiltered and exactly what my blood pressure needed to release some of the tension that had been steadily building up in me like “Old Faithful” lately.  Sometimes just talking things out moves us closer to feeling more safe in our own skin.

By the way, if anyone wants to put together a sign-bearing crowd of supporters for me, I’ll put on my cape. 😉 We all need a little support now and then, no matter our situation.


Weighty Doppelganger

I want to talk about weight.  Losing it, in particular, and the weird doppelganger that suddenly shows up to threaten the party.cb34518a7075ca198c7837033c23f19b

Over the last two years, I’ve been able to lose about 20 pounds and keep it off.  After my high cholesterol scare (and with me only in my early 30s), I hopped onto the FIT bandwagon and I’ve been dancing to the beat every day.  And I mean every day.  I exercise in some form every single day with maybe a day off here and there during the course of a month.  I rotate my exercises to match my moods and how my body feels so I might bike one day, run another or do weight lifting in between.  I love how I feel after I do a routine – more energetic, empowered, and beautiful.

Am I dancing for joy?

Sometimes.  There are days where I’m very happy with my weight and with my body.  I like how I fit my clothes, I like how my body feels when I walk, and I like how much more healthier I am than before (my doctor is pretty happy about this, too).  I feel good about how much taller I stand (partly due to the yoga and partly due to a greater sense of confidence) and how much control I’ve been able to exert over my eating habits.  Overall, yeah, I’m dancing to my own beat and I’m loving it.  🙂

Except those times in-between.  The times when my evil inner self decides to pull the plug on my happy music and throw the boombox out the window with an evil cackle. It’s like I suddenly acquire a Double me that is my old me – the more depressed, shy and undervalued weighty me.  This me isn’t happy.  This me wants to eat and eat and eat.  This me hates many parts of my body and hates the way she looks.  For some reason, this me wants me to go back to how I was, even though I fully recognize that I’m happier how I AM now than how I was then.

During those times, I’m right back in the dark place I used to be when I weighed 20 pounds more.  In fact, in some bizarre way, I feel even worse.  If I let my double talk me into it, I’ll binge.  I’ve done it over the last year where a plate of free cookies or free cupcakes will be sitting on a table at work or at a party and I JUST CAN’T STOP.  Even though with every bite I hate what I’m doing and with every bite I realize that this isn’t even as good as my crazed scarfing indicates.  I want to stop and I know I’ll feel worse later, but my hand shoots out and I grab another and another as if my hand recognizes that my brain will take control and it needs to get as much as it can.

I know, I sound a bit like I need some serious help.  😦

841b343cdbcec75351918913e41caf3fThese moments are getting a bit better – they don’t happen quite so often because once they do, I feel so weepy horrible that I use that awful experience as a shield for when I feel like binging again.  Do I want to feel that way again?  NO.  So I recall how it felt and breathe and move on. (Sometimes it actually works.) The odd thing is, when I was my old self, I never experienced that loss of control.  Sure, I felt generally bad, but I didn’t feel like the world was ending when I would eat a large, unhealthy snack or dinner. It wasn’t until I lost the weight that my inner self started to split into two – the new me and the old me.

And that’s something that doesn’t get talked about very much.  I follow a lot of fitness blogs and while they talk about struggles and triumphs, I don’t hear a lot about the doppelganger that can suddenly materialize when you’re feeling insecure.  I don’t hear about that other self who wants to sabotage everything they’ve worked for and drag them back into the dark place full of hatred and no music.

I’ve just recently finished a book called The Undervalued Self by Elaine Aron where she talks about such a double that she calls the protector-persecutor.  This protector-persecutor makes you feel bad about yourself to protect you for imaginary bad things.  It made me realize that perhaps my own double is like the protector-persecutor in that they are trying to make me feel bad about myself so that I am saved the “disappointment” of feeling bad later when I gain weight (even if I never gain weight, the self wants to protect itself from the imaginary inevitability).  She suggests some serious therapy that’s outlined in the book on how to deal with such a thing, which is daunting (and apparently my feeling that it is daunting is all part of the protector persecutor’s plan to keep me as is – scary?  Confusing?  Definitely!).

At the moment I’m taking it day by day and trying to remind myself of all of the positives before I let my negative self take too much control.  I tell myself that just yesterday I loved how I felt walking down the hall at work and that in 12 hours I surely couldn’t have changed so radically to warrant such self-hatred.

I try.

I don’t always succeed, but sometimes the music just drowns it all out. 🙂