I’ve been a little stressed lately. Ok, a lot stressed. But while the atypical shenanigans afoot in my life lately might be making my head spin like the Tasmanian devil, you’d likely only notice this if you looked very, very closely—and only when I didn’t know you were looking. While I might be fairly well known for having a penchant for the dramatic in some (read: many) situations and will fight ferociously for the well being of those I love (or hell, who I barely know if I detect the faint whiff of injustice in the air), I tend to hold my emotions pretty close the vest when something is bothering me. This has always been my M.O. according to the people who raised me. My father tells me that even as a very young child trying to get me to divulge what may or may not be bothering me was a lot like performing dental work on an unwilling patient, like say a raccoon. With rabies.
There is, however, one relatively reliable barometer of my mental status at any given time. If you want to know if I’ve got a lot on my plate, then just look to see how much I’ve got on my plate.
I admire those people who, when the going gets tough, fall squarely into the “tough get going” category. When there’s a crisis to be tackled at work or in the life of someone I love, I am totally one of them. But in my own life, when the going gets tough—the tough go to Long John Silvers. Or at least they did last night.
I didn’t set out to engage in fried fish therapy, mind you. In between drop off and pick up duties I actually intended to stop for a few things at the store and then hit the gym. Instead I wolfed down up a #7 seafood lovers platter with a side of clams and then took a nap (which is pretty much the same thing, right?). I could tell you that I felt bad about it at the time, but it would be a lie. Despite the fact that I’m not really even a fan of Long John Silvers (seriously, I think they should cut out the middle man and just replace all their dining room seating with toilets), every bite I took of that meal had exactly the effect I desired, each mouthful dulled the rising panic within me and left me calm and sleepy and tired enough to forget about everything that drove me to eat it in the first place. It was a familiar feeling.
Looking back over my life and at how my weight has fluctuated through the years, it’s not terribly difficult to see a pattern emerge. When harmony reigns, the balance in my life is reflected in my eating patterns and my resolve is strong and sure. But when that balance is thrown off kilter, the ground feels less sure beneath my feet and I find myself stumbling around trying to regain my footing while old habits seep out of the cracks in the foundation that seemed so strong just moments ago. I find myself reaching for food and the comfort it brings, the hazy calm that settles over me with each bite, with each swallow, with each sigh of relief that comes when the gaping hole inside of me has been filled up for the moment. Never mind that it won’t last, or that the low that follows will spin me farther into despair. All that matters right then is that temporary comfort is better than the alternative.
When the fog lifts, it occurs to me that the first step to restoring balance in my life is often taking control of my weight, and restoring my power over food usually snowballs into giving me the energy to deal with the things that threw off my balance in the first place. When I look back to see what lessons I can take with me for the next time things go haywire, it frustrates me because the line between cause and effect is blurry. Balance equals control, chaos upsets control, loss of control makes chaos worse, rock bottom chaos leads to regaining control, control facilitates balance (lather, rinse, repeat). The chicken versus eggishness of it all makes my head hurt.
So when I woke up at 5 AM with a headache, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Neither was that familiar feeling of self loathing it brought with it. I spent some time kicking myself for what I’d done, mentally listing and re-listing my sins and calculating the damage, thinking about how long it had been since I’d done something like that. As I lay there in the dark I asked myself if this was as low as I needed to go, if I was ready to be in control again. Turns out I was. So I got up, brushed my teeth, put on my sweatpants and went to the gym.
I feel good. The darkness is lifting, and what I couldn’t face last night doesn’t seem as scary today. I feel in control, like I’m ready to find balance again.
Been a long time...
1 week ago