I was excited to go to a new park that I have never been to with my boyfriend. I haven’t really gotten out of the house much in the last six months. Chalk it up to both mental health and laziness. Take your pick. I grabbed my new black tennis shoes, but not the lace up kind, the kind you’re supposed to easily slip your feet in and out of. So I reached down to put on my sock. I had to simultaneously hold my leg over the other in order to keep it from sliding back to the floor. I did this on each side and when I sat up I was so out of breath. I felt like taking a break and I hadn’t even put on my shoes yet. Next, I take these supposedly easy shoes and try to slide my right foot in, but the top elastic part just keeps bunching up and I can’t reach over directly to help shimmy it on. I get so frustrated that I’m cursing. My boyfriend kindly asks if he can help. He meant well, but it was more embarrassing to have him watch me struggle to put on my own shoes than to allow him to help me put them on. They never did get on my feet. I wore crocs. It’s all I wear these days to avoid the above scenario.
I just turned 35. My facebook memories post reminded me of the day I turned 30. I leaned over my cake, with a crown on my head, my smile was fierce, and I blew out my candles. I’m not sure what I wished for, but damn did I look happy. And healthy.
This picture was taken before my mental health diagnosis. Sometimes I wonder if I would be better off now if I never knew I had Bipolar. I had been dealing with it myself for my whole adult life (and late teens if you really want to know). Not knowing allowed me to fully enjoy the “highs”. I never second guessed my happiness, never wondered if it was because I was getting manic. Now, when joy creeps into my life for more than a millisecond, I stop and have to take inventory. Is this true joy, or just a bipolar joyride. I have talked a lot about my mental health, and I’m not here to talk about that today, but I can’t talk about myself, or this, in silo from everything else.
I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. The first time I binged on food I was just 11 years old. I wrote about it in one of my journals recently, so I will share it here. This is just an isolated incident, with a realization of my own coping mechanisms.
It was my eleventh birthday, and my sister’s ninth. Our birthdays are exactly two years and a day apart. Dad decided to take us shopping at the Mall in Oceanside. We packed into the seat of his tiny blue Toyota Tacoma and headed out. My sister and I were excited, as we didn’t get to go shopping very often.
We pulled into the mall parking lot, and went inside into Mervyns and shopped. Dad waited around, letting us browse the clothing, touching each piece carefully to examine whether we wanted to try it on or not. He was patient with us and our indecisiveness. After much deliberation, we each settled on an outfit, and Dad helped us check out. My sister and I had our bags draped across our forearms as we proudly walked out to the mall parking, following Dad to the truck.
Dad went to where the truck was supposed to be. He knew he had parked it there. He began to panic, pacing back and forth in the middle of the crowded parking lot. He called the police to report the truck stolen. The police arrived to take the report, and Grandma came to pick us up.
A shot of Jack Daniels. It was the first thing Dad did when we walked through the front door. I hadn’t even gotten my shoes off yet.
There were many more shots to follow, until he was stumbling and slurring his words. I was sitting at the kitchen table working on my homework when he looked at me and said, “I saw you look at your Uncle in the parking lot.”
I was confused, “What dad? My uncle wasn’t there”.
Dad, “Yes he was. I saw you. You knew he was going to steal my truck. You set me up didn’t you? You think I’m stupid?”
My heart started racing. I immediately felt guilty, but I had done nothing wrong, had I? My Uncle wasn’t there. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I start to get angry, but retreat. There’s no point in defending myself. He is right, and I am wrong.
“You’re going to end up just like them. You manipulative b****. I know you helped them. I should tell the cops you helped them.” He was talking in circles. Saying the same thing over and over, with just minor variations. I went to my room where I turned on the radio and laid in my bed. The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner this is over.
The patient Dad inside Mervyns was replaced by the paranoid, mean dad. Exacerbated by alcohol. Whatever good had happened was overshadowed by the words spewed to me. I was a manipulative b****. I was just like Mom. That means Mom is a manipulative b****. Always compared to the woman who he blamed all the terrible things in his life on. If it was her fault, it was also my fault. There was no distinction in his eyes. I felt guilty, and anxious. Angry and scared. But, I would sleep and wake up as if nothing had happened. It was the only way to escape.
To this day, I still sleep for escape. Isolate. It is the only place that I feel safe and secure. Outside of my isolation I am vulnerable, too exposed, too available for target. Anyone is fair game. If my dad could do that to me, then anyone could. So the moment I feel threatened, I retreat. I still haven’t figured how to get away from that part of myself. It is as much a part of me as my left hand. So I embrace it. And the loneliness that comes with it. But there is shame in my isolation. Guilt for not doing something I should be, or could be, or want to be. So I isolate, and I eat. Binge eating during isolation is my master escape plan for anything. It allows me to feel numb, to feel nothing except the weight of a bloated stomach and acid running all through my esophagus and throat. Binge. Isolate. Isolate. Binge. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, and man does it taste good. Tastes like sweet escape. In the moment. Until later, when I realized my damage. Then all of those familiar feelings, guilt, shame, anger with myself for what I did. I no longer purge like I did as a teen and young adult. I just eat. And eat. And over the course of the last five years, I have gained one hundred and forty five pounds. How could anyone love someone who is as disgusting as me? And I would continue to believe that. I do continue to believe that.
You would think that knowing the problem would solve it. But it doesn’t. I have lost and gained weight over and over again, only this time I can’t tie my damn shoes, or shave my damn legs. I get redness and irritation under my belly fat and in between my breasts and my torso. And for the love of God, I can’t find any decent clothes at Goodwill. Doesn’t anyone else obese donate clothes? Thank God I have an ileostomy and no longer shit out of the asshole I don’t have anymore because I wouldn’t be able to reach it if I could. (TMI.. Also another story. You can read about it here: Grief, Gratitude and Grace: On Chronic Illness – One Flawsome Momma
80% diet, 20% exercise. But you know what my counselor told me? Socialization. Making friends. Creating bonds with people. Yes, the 80/20 rule still applies. But if isolation leads to binge eating then I have got to figure out a way to not isolate. I suck at making friends. “Hello, I am traumatized and bipolar, wanna be friends?” Yeah, didn’t think so. I have to start with, “Hello, I’m Jackie. Want to have lunch sometime?”. Then I have to follow through with the plan. Then I have to get dressed and put on makeup and make small talk because apparently the small talk is what helps to develop friendships. I have only had a handful of good friends, best friends, in my life. And I’m not sure how they developed or how they ended. It was just there one minute and gone the next. (okay, years not minutes).
So here I am. A grown woman, with a career, a daughter, a boyfriend and I’m trying to make friends. I’ve joined a support group for people with Bipolar, I have signed up for a few failed “meet ups” via the app, I’ve tried bumble for friends but that didn’t get me very far, and now I’m signing up for a bowling league.
It’s not about the scale anymore. It’s about being able to tie my shoes, shave my legs, walk more than an eighth of a mile without feeling like I’m going to die, oh – and smaller boobs because when I lay flat these MFs want to strangle me. It’s about eating foods that help my inflammation from my rheumatoid arthritis.
PS. Sex is much more fun when you’re pliable.
So, One Flawsome Momma is on a journey. You can tag along if you’d like, or you can just say, “ew, gross” and move the fuck on. I don’t have room for negativity anymore.
Happy 35th Birthday to Me.
-One Flawsome Momma