Have you ever thought about how the way we describe ourselves, even to ourselves, affects how we feel about and perceive ourselves?
One way I’ve been thinking about this lately is when we use “I am…” versus “I feel…” and “I have…”
One way attaches a feeling, judgment, and even a diagnosis to encompass our identity which almost sets up a permanence in our self-perception and maybe how others perceive us. For example, saying, “I’m so dumb” when we make a mistake or “I’m a worrier” when we struggle with anxiety.
Another way is a description and observation. It could describe a chronic, permanent condition in your life, but if you say, for example, “I feel depressed” or “I have diabetes,” it feels more like we are describing just a small part of the wholeness of ourselves, like, “I have blue eyes and brown hair.” It solely describes us without trying to tell our whole story. In regards to chronic health issues or disabilities, it can put a responsibility on us that we don’t deserve and don’t need to bear beyond managing them with self-care.
This isn’t a “you aren’t fat, you have fat” type of thing or me trying to politicize how we describe ourselves. I AM tall. I AM fat. I AM white. I AM a cis-het woman. But that’s not my whole story. I have chronic physical and mental health issues, but they don’t identify me, just name how my body responds to my DNA and environment. I have privileges, but they don’t define me and they aren’t something to feel ashamed of. My identity is not wholly wrapped up in nature or nurture. You get what I’m saying, I hope.
It is about expanding, not diminishing, ourselves. Not narrowing ourselves down to a few words. Seeing what happens to us and how we perceive it is important. Attaching our identities to temporary experiences like making a mistake or permanent conditions like chronic mental or physical health or something traumatic that happened to us growing up limits us and can invoke unnecessary shame. Narrows our story.
It is totally okay to acknowledge the experiences we’ve had. To share what we feel and experience. I’m not trying to diminish that or silence anyone. Telling others what we feel, have, deal with, and are healing from is part of the human experience. All of our feelings and perceptions are valid and happen for a reason.
A few weeks ago, on my way home from a weekend at my mom’s, I decided to skip the 30 seconds it would take for my apartment complex’s entrance gate to open and go through the exit gate. Chewy, my dog, had to pee and had whined about it for 50 miles, it was 12:30a, and I was tired. All I could think about was “I hope no one tries to come out as I go in.” It was as I pulled over the tire strips that I realized what I’d done and why you don’t enter that exit gate.
“Oh, fuuuuck” came out of my mouth as air began gushing out of my front left tire. I couldn’t believe I’d forgotten, the first time in the nearly two years we’ve lived here. How could I be so stupid? I chastised myself.
But I had been thinking about the topic Rosie wrote about in the prompt at the. Bottom of this post, so when I walked into the house with Chewy, I looked at John and said, “I did something really stupid and I need your help.”
Calling running over the spike “stupid” is still a little shame-inducing, but separating my actions and my identity in the moment helped me realize it was a temporary experience, a mistake and lesson learned. I was tired and ready to get Chewy and me out of the car and I made a mistake. Shit happens, ya know? And thankfully John is a kind and compassionate husband. He and I immediately started making jokes about what happened while he put the spare on, and the next day, he took my car to Walmart and bought me a new tire. Crisis averted, gratefulness and relief felt, lesson learned.
It is so easy to allow shame, trauma, health issues, and abuse to reduce who we are and cloud our judgment and perception of ourselves. We can’t control a whole lot in life (but I struggle with control issues; I’m not a “control freak”), but we can decide how to perceive ourselves and how to live our lives.
One exception (but not the only one) in this I am vs. I have/feel/do idea I’m writing about here is when we want to label ourselves by things we do but feel like we can’t because we haven’t won public accolade for it. If you write, you’re a writer even if you never get your words published. If you sing, you’re a singer even if you never sing outside of your shower. Dancer, if you dance. Hiker, if you hike. Runner, if you run. This is where participation awards totally count. If you want it and do it – or sometimes not do it because creativity is vulnerable even with us as our only audience – you are it.
This is all just a little newborn idea in my head so I’d love to hear what others think. I like the idea of holding thoughts at an arm’s length and observing them, not immediately absorbing them. Being curious about them. Curiosity is how we keep ourselves open to what life has to offer and helps us expand and grow. Shame and judgment are the opposites of curiosity, creativity, and vulnerability.
Like Brené Brown says, while paraphrasing Teddy Roosevelt’s grand speech, if you are brave with your life, if you live in the arena, you are going to get your ass kicked.
Don’t be an extra foot in your ribs and face in that arena. Use those feelings instead to pull yourself back up to persevere. There’s a lot of beautiful life to be lived in between those ass kickings.
Today: I want you to continue to shift your energy away from judgment to curiosity. When you feel inclined to judge yourself, shift your words. No longer condemn your choices or reality. Instead, I want you to gently ask, what information is this experience giving me? And prepare yourself to powerfully move forward with that information as a guide.
This has been one hell of a week. No, make that, month.
For many reasons, one being comparing my health to others’, it has been hard for me to say, I have a chronic illness.
Actually, I have several.
I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism at 16, PCOS at 20, gastritis at 31, and endometriosis at 31.
For the most part, they aren’t debilitating. A friend of mine says she has a daughter and works more hours than I do and I’m more exhausted than she is. I know she doesn’t mean anything by it, it’s just a general observation, but my brain twists it into, Maybe I’m just lazy, maybe it’s not that I am tired.
The past couple of weeks – really, the past several months – have disproved that, but I don’t think I truly realized it until my OB-GYN did bloodwork to test my thyroid hormones and he saw how off everything was. I thought maybe I was just lazy or maybe being sedentary was the problem, but I had no energy and was more depressed because I had no energy.
Even though I’ve dealt with chronic exhaustion since my teens due to all of the above, specifically the hypothyroidism, the biggest battle with my health has been my digestive system. I have had IBS pretty much since birth. At one point, in infancy, I was so constipated the doctor thought I might have Hirschsprung’s Disease where you’re missing nerve cells along the end of the bowel and the bowels can’t move like they should. (But then when the doctor tried to physically examine my rectum, I pooped all over him, haha.)
I spent, oh, probably about the first 30 years of my life chronically constipated, no matter what I did. Then around the time I was diagnosed with gastritis and endometriosis, the tables flipped and I have found myself running to the bathroom more times that I care to admit.
Endometriosis seems to be running the show with my body here lately. I really wish more was known about the disease and it wasn’t just as advertised as “heavy periods with pain and pain during sex,” narrowing it down to a wholly female reproductive system issue.
Endometriosis really is a whole body disease. Sure, I have horrible cramps, pain during sex, and sometimes heavy periods, though not as heavy as they were before going on birth control nearly 8 years ago. However, my digestive issues are worsened by it, I have headaches that seem to be getting more painful every month, my whole abdomen becomes inflamed and tender, and if I have any pain in my gut, it triggers the endometriosis in my pelvic area to flare up and I ache from my upper abdomen to my knees. I think it exacerbates my gastritis and IBS because they’re worse close to and during my period, and like I said above, I am so fucking tired all the time.
It is extremely difficult not to be frustrated with my body. I feel like everything I eat is wrong because it goes right through me, makes my upper abdomen ache, gives me reflux, or all of the above. I am often afraid to go anywhere because I’m worried I will have to go to the bathroom and won’t be near one. John gets so annoyed when he wants to go somewhere and I’m like, “Give me another 30 minutes to see if I need to go to the bathroom before we leave.” This has kept us from going on walks or going hiking several times. And sometimes, the stomach cramps are so bad when I have to go that I have nearly passed out in the middle of the grocery store. And guess what, when my stomach cramps like that, the endometriosis around my uterus and ovaries is like, hey, we want to join the cramps party too and I am so wiped out by it all that I have to lie down.
I have been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks and realized I have spent most of my life angry and disappointed with my body because of my struggles to lose weight and keep it off (more so than most people since I have such hormone imbalances between my thyroid and sex hormones), my at-times crippling anxiety and always overthinking brain, not having a very conventionally “feminine” body shape, and my chronic GI issues.
I look at myself in the mirror and I don’t look like anything is physically wrong with me. I can walk, talk, eat, drink, breathe, swim, move, think, speak, smell, hear just fine. I think I often feel a lot of shame for this too because I think about the real privileges I have and how often I overlook them.
It is hard for me to rest because I still equate resting with laziness thanks to my dad who used “lazy” like a dirty word when my brothers and I just wanted to spend our Saturdays watching TV and lying on the couch. I feel like a useless dead weight and burden if I am not doing something active. Being unemployed twice for more than a month over the past 2 years really drove these feelings home, and it stung more when John said staying on the couch in my pajamas all day while looking for jobs online made me less attractive to him because “it looked like I had given up on myself.”
Self care feels really difficult when you feel so angry, resentful, and disappointed with your body, but this is where self-care is more than just bubble baths or ice cream or reading a good book.
Self-care, especially when you have chronic health issues, means being empathetic towards yourself.
This does not come easy for me because self-compassion is still such a struggle for me. So I think, How do I react when others tell me their bodies hurt or don’t work like they want them to?
Take my mom, for example, who struggles with debilitating, chronic neck and back pain and neuropathy in her hips, lower back, and legs. When she tells me she has days where all she can do is sob and her pain medication has run out or it’s not even touching the pain, I say, “Oh Mama, I’m so sorry you’re hurting.” Then I listen to her express her frustrations with her body, doctors, the way the government is handling the opioid “crisis” and bunching those with legitimate pain issues like my mom in with people who abuse pain medication, and etc. I don’t know exactly how she feels and I can’t do anything to take the pain away, but I listen and I ask how I can help in other ways, like cooking, washing the dishes, taking her dogs outside to potty, getting her something to drink, taking out the trash, etc.
How do I treat myself when my stomach is upset, I’m cramping horribly, my head hurts, or I’m so tired I can’t function? My stupid stomach ruins everything for me. I can’t go anywhere. I can’t eat anything. I can’t even drink a freaking margarita. My body hates me so much. Why can’t I eat and drink like a normal person? Why do I worry so much? Why can’t I just stop thinking and worrying about stupid shit for like 5 minutes?
Since I believe – even though I don’t yet practice it – empathy is a huge part of self-care with chronic illness, these are some steps I am putting into place for myself, especially when I feel my worst:
VALIDATE MY FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS – ALL OF THEM – EVEN IF THEY DO SEEM RIDICULOUS. They are still my brain trying to process life so they still matter, no matter what.
Say to myself, I’m so sorry you feel this way, Amy. How can I help? What do you need?
Keep a food and mood log to help me see how what I eat affects my body physically and emotionally so I can make better choices for myself depending on what is going on. (This actually really helped me figure out this month that dairy is a huge trigger for stomach issues when my abdomen is inflamed and irritated due to endometriosis flare-ups.)
Focus more on what I can do instead of what I cannot to help me out of that negative thought pattern when I am struggling.
Thank my body for doing the best it can with what it’s got.
Rest when I need to rest.
Practice being gentler with myself and replacing my critical thoughts with more encouraging and kinder thoughts.
How do take care of yourself when you don’t feel good? In what ways can you express more empathy and grace towards yourself? I really need help in this department so I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Well, I didn’t go into writing about my need for better self-care with the intention of starting a series, but here we are.
And today, I am writing about my history (albeit a dysfunctional one) with intuitive eating.
“Intuitive Eating” has become quite a buzzword in the health community and on social media in the past several years as fat and body positivity circles have increased the awareness that diets don’t work and eating disorders are being seen in girls as young as 7 or 8 years old. It was a term first coined by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch back in the 1990s when they wrote the first edition of the book with the same title (note: not an affiliate link).
Intuitive eating involves trusting our bodies to tell us when we are hungry, how and when to eat, and when we are satisfied. Though the term “intuitive eating” has been hijacked and branded into another restrictive diet on social media, true intuitive eating has absolutely nothing to do with weight loss and everything to do with listening to and trusting our bodies.
The sad and hard truth of body trust is that many of us have been told from a very young age that we cannot trust our bodies, that we need someone else (i.e., parent, partner, doctor, etc.) to tell us what our bodies need. I think this is especially true for cis-women and anyone who has or has had a uterus, ovaries, and a vagina, as we see in the constant political battles over reproductive rights. Our society has told us from the very beginning that our bodies, sexuality, thoughts, behavior, and decisions cannot be trusted and need to be kept under lock and key, the key to that lock belonging to anyone else but us.
The constant monitoring of the female (whether cis or otherwise) form is a means of control in a patriarchal society and financial gain for the beauty and “wellness” industries.
I can remember being as young as 5 or 6 years old and being told I could not have dessert because I was getting fat even when I was maybe 10 pounds overweight as determined by my pediatrician. All I wanted was an ice cream cone or my Easter basket candy or a Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie. I watched over the years as my brothers were allowed to eat pretty much whatever they wanted, even when they were chubby, while my meals and body were constantly monitored and scrutinized, and where they were praised for being broad-shouldered and tall, I was made fun of and shamed.
Thus began my dysfunctional relationship with food and my body.
I know as deeply as my mom’s actions and words towards me hurt me, they were coming from her own pain, shame, and the same battles she faced in the same household – my maternal grandmother and great-grandparents and uncles – and her desperate desire to prevent me from experiencing what she experienced. But dysfunction breeds dysfunction if you just repeat the words and actions done to you.
I first learned about intuitive eating in the 1990s and even read the first edition of Evelyn and Elyse’s book back then. I mean, when you’ve been dieting since age 6 and you’re a voracious reader always looking for some way to improve yourself, you come across these things. Back then, it was still heavily steeped in diet talk because they were just learning and developing what intuitive eating meant and no one in healthcare or the media was ready to give any attention to anything that might lead to fewer buyers of all of the diet and “fitness” products.
I stumbled upon it again about 3 or 4 years ago when I first began following people like Jess Baker, Christy Harrison, Kelsey Miller, and other anti-diet bloggers, dietitians, and podcast hosts. At this point, I had kept off 50-60 pounds for about 10-12 years, but still felt like I was on shaky ground. I still tracked my food and exercise in MyFitnessPal nearly daily and was still absolutely terrified that if I ever stopped, I would regain all of the weight I’d lost and then some.
And then my fear came true.
I have felt like such a failure over the past 2 years now. And I am so exhausted from fighting with my body daily and trying to work through the noise in my head that tells me I am killing myself, I’ll get diabetes before long, probably die of a massive heart attack like my maternal grandmother, great-great grandmother, and great-great grandfather did, that John is probably disgusted by me, I’ll never be able to wear cute clothes again, how did I let this happen, all of the hard work I did is gone, etc.
I probably worry about dying every single day here lately, and I know so much of it is because it is so ingrained in me that being “obese” (or even “morbidly obese” by the bullshit BMI standards) means I will get diabetes, have a heart attack, and die by age 40 if not sooner.
I keep making half-assed attempts to log my food in MyFitnessPal again and weigh myself daily and all, but then I just stop because I get so angry at myself for knowing better and still buying into the diet mentality bullshit.
I am so tired of this.
I am tired of not trusting my body and my hunger and fullness levels. Tired of ignoring all of the ways my body talks to me like with my exhaustion and craving for sweets and when I turn to food when what I really need is to be heard and maybe hugged. Tired of feeling afraid to let go completely of my desperate desire to lose weight. Tired of still seeking a body that I am very likely never meant to have because my body is so set in how it wants to work and what it wants to weigh. I am tired of the shame in feeling like I’ve “ruined” or even “destroyed” my body when it actually works pretty fucking well every single day.
Intuitive eating feels like such a foreign concept for me because I don’t think I was ever allowed to eat intuitively, not even as a young child. I was forced to clean my plate, even threatened with a spanking if I didn’t (though finishing my plate has hardly ever been a problem for me).
I was told I could not have the sweets I wanted, so I learned how to sneak them. I got really good at muffling the sound of the cellophane housing an oatmeal creme pie by pressing it against my leg as I shuffled into the bathroom to damn near swallow it whole.
I overate as a big “fuck you” to my parents, grandmother, great-grandparents, and uncles who always had some critical comment about how and what I ate.
When I went to college, it turned into a food free-for-all because no one was there to tell me no. Too bad the shame didn’t stay back in Montgomery too when I moved to Mobile because this food freedom turned into a vicious binge then shame and self-loathing cycle until I was finally as fat as my family had been calling me my entire life.
I still moralize food and congratulate myself on the days I eat “well,” meaning within a certain calorie range or something along those lines. When this happens, I sabotage myself out of anger towards myself for still patting myself on the back for following the dieting mentality that has plagued me my whole life.
But like many of my dysfunctional habits – like being codependent and controlling – binge eating served a purpose in my teens and college years. I didn’t yet know how to process all of the trauma I was experiencing at the time and didn’t yet know that my being an empath and highly sensitive was a good, healthy thing, so I used food as a coping technique.
And now, at 36, I am in some ways thankful for that food but also really fucking confused with how to implement intuitive eating for myself.
Sometimes I have moments of clarity, like realizing I really like to eat egg sandwiches for dinner even when I have the makings for a salad or some kind of meat and veggies dinner. Sometimes self-care is making and eating an egg sandwich because I am too tired to stand at the stove and cook anything that is going to take any longer and I just need something easy and somewhat healthy to feed my body with. Or I understand now that with my thyroid being out of whack again over the past year and the exhaustion it, PCOS, and endometriosis bring, I will crave sugar for some kind of burst of energy. And on the backside of that, being insulin resistant means my body will struggle to process that sugar I am consuming for energy and my hunger levels will go haywire.
But maybe that’s how it works. My brain thinks it’s all just supposed to click into place like the clarity and resolve that always comes in the first few days or weeks of a new diet.
I don’t want to approach intuitive eating with the diet mentality. I want to approach it with my desire to have a healthy relationship with my body. Just as I am still learning to trust John in our marriage because of my fears of repeating the dysfunction I was raised in, I know trusting my body will take time. I’m just not the most patient person, haha.
In my desire to practice better self-care, I have deleted the MyFitnessPal and Happy Scale apps off of my devices. I can’t say I will stop weighing myself completely, but I am weaning myself off of the scale. I have unfollowed all of the keto and weight loss Instagram accounts I’d been following in the hopes of having an “amazing” before and after transformation picture where I’m suddenly lean and talking about how I can finally be me and have the life I’ve held myself back from for so long. (EYE ROLL emoji here.) Instead, I am following intuitive eating, body positive, and health at every size accounts.
Yesterday, I had this thought that I need to feed myself how I wish I’d been fed as a child. Without the rules, shaming, and criticism. Some of my weight gain has been because I decided to stop restricting myself from eating ice cream and found myself eating it for dinner 2 or 3 nights a week. Now, I have it maybe once or twice a month because I’m finally starting to trust that it is never off-limits. I know if I had a little girl, I would want to treat her how I didn’t get treated, so maybe I need to treat myself like that little girl? It sounds very psychobabble, but maybe the key to being kinder to myself and more accepting and trusting of my body is to treat myself like I would treat my daughter.
This post isn’t meant to solve anything but to share that I understand how important feeding my body what it needs regardless of its nutritional or caloric value but also share why that is still so hard for me right now.
Self-care is not a familiar practice for me because I was raised to believe that I’m supposed to put others first, so it would make sense that this also means acknowledging, listening to, respecting, and trusting my own body would be difficult.
This post will also not be the last time I talk about my journey with intuitive eating, and I definitely won’t ever have it all “figured out.”
I started this blog to work through all of the stories I’ve told myself my entire life in order to either end the stories or change the plot. My story about my body is a lifelong one but it can be a better one. My brothers and I talk about how we learned what not to do in all of the dysfunction we grew up in. I have applied that in my marriage and finances and my constant striving to know myself better and help myself heal and become stronger and healthier.
I want to do this with my relationship with my body too. It feels like the final frontier which I guess it is because it is the relationship that will be with me until I take my final breath.
What do intuitive eating mean to you? Have you ever had a troubled relationship with food and your body? How do you handle the constant barrage of messages on how you should eat, exercise, look, and weight?
My words for 2019 were originally going to be “Focus” and “Finish.” The thought behind this was this was going to be the year I focused on things like my debt and health and finished the bad habits that got me in debt and have been detrimental to my health.
But those are impossible, black and white, all or nothing goals, and that kind of thinking is the most detrimental of all and allows no grace or room for failure and growth.
Grace and room for growth are what I’ve starved myself from most my entire life and why life feels too hard to live most of the time.
The past several months, basically since my last blog post in December, have been quite challenging.
There has been some good, like I have a new job that pays well and offers benefits I haven’t had in 3 years, and we have a new dog, a 5-year-old terrier mix named Chewy:
But there have been some challenges:
When I went for my annual exam back in December, my OB-GYN did bloodwork, which showed my thyroid was very underactive again, my triglycerides were high (though my overall cholesterol was great), and I am pre-diabetic.
The worse hypothyroidism is likely the reason for my intense and chronic exhaustion and weight gain/struggle to lose weight over the past year, along with the hair loss and scaly and dry skin and hair I’ve had.
My PCOS-related insulin resistance is leading to diabetes, and I have felt really betrayed by my own body while also beating myself up for not eating better foods and not exercising. Trying to get a grasp on IE when my insulin levels and blood sugar are all over the map and I am constantly exhausted and craving carbohydrates feels really hard too.
John and I had our worst fight ever in mid-January to the point I worried our marriage was over. In hindsight, it was a fight we needed to have because we both said a lot of things that needed to be said, but it felt so awful and scary in the midst of it.
My mom and I had a big fight at the end of December because she wants me to believe in God the way she does and I can’t and she won’t try to understand where I’m coming from and accused me of being defensive and combative when I tried to explain my feelings and it just reminded me so much of our past fights and how powerless I felt in them.
I also feel like I will never be able to talk to her about my struggles with Christianity, as I know she feels I will never understand her faith. I do understand how much it has saved and comforted her in her pain, and I am grateful she has that. It is the close-mindedness and political side that I can’t understand, that pains me and makes me feel like I can’t be totally open or safe in our relationship.
I started the year with $9200 in credit card debt and felt very frustrated all of January because the whole transition with my new job kept me from really paying anything off right off the bat.
The driver job I had for the week of the Super Bowl turned out way differently than as advertised, and I lost a week’s pay from it that I didn’t really recoup.
In the midst of all of this, I have had this little voice inside of me telling me, “Speak up for yourself. Stop just going along with everything. What do you want?“
In the fight John and I had, out of anger, he said, “If you just had more confidence, everything would be so much better.” He also said everything was going well and I just “had to fuck it all up.”
That little voice led me to tell John two things:
Just because things are going well for you in our marriage DOES NOT mean they are going well for me.
While I struggle with confidence in my body and how I look, I am very confident with who I am as a person. I know I am smart and strong and extremely capable and I am confident to show this to others which is one reason I beat out over 600 applicants for my current job. I know I am a good person and know I deserve to treated with kindness and respect.
I have allowed people to run me over for so much of my life. To tell me or shame me into what I believe, think, feel, and how to act. To cause me to shrink and shrivel myself down to nothing. I have allowed people to keep me from inhabiting my whole body, no matter what it looks like, and to convince me it is not and I am not good enough. I have allowed people to convince me that, like John said, I am always fucking everything up with my feelings and needs and words.
That voice telling me to speak up is a small one in a cacophony of a lifetime of self-criticism and self-loathing that demands that I stay small and quiet. But it is growing louder.
After two jobs, one for 6 years and another for 6 months, where I allowed abusive and demeaning behavior because I felt like I had to, just as I did growing up, I am finding myself thinking more of what I need in my new job and how to speak up for it. It’s still tough though. I still feel timid asking my new boss for things and telling her when I am overwhelmed and need help, especially because my tendency is to just suck it up.
My new boss seems to be a very genuine person and doesn’t try to be formal and definitely doesn’t micromanage. She says what she thinks, comes to work in flip-flops, khakis, and a polo shirt, and she believes in me. Said I was her first interview of the day and I set the bar for the rest of the day so high no one else could reach it, and she had to hire me as soon as she could.
But then again, after being burned twice, I have new boundaries when it comes to work.
I started to go with “Speak Up” as my words for 2019, but no, it is more than that.
In speaking up for myself, I am SHOWING UP for myself.
And that is what I need most, to show up for myself in all aspects of the words.
I am showing up for my health by rejoining the LA Fitness gym by my job so I can exercise after work. It is funny how we can feel too tired to exercise but it is by exercising often times that we gain more energy. I also want to feel more wholly inhabitative (is that a word?) of my body and exercise helps me do this.
I have also followed my doctor’s suggestion of increasing my Levothyroxine dosage to light a fire under my thyroid. I started the 175g dosage in mid-January and when he did follow-up bloodwork in mid-February, my thyroid hormones were already improving. It takes about 6-8 weeks to start feeling better, so I am trying to rest more/get more sleep overall and in the meantime.
I also got a much-needed haircut (and went back to my natural brunette color so I can grow out my roots without it being so obvious) to help with the health of my hair and the hair loss.
In addition, I started taking a multi-vitamin again.
I can recognize that my insulin resistance is causing my constant up and down with hunger and this is triggering all of my fears about gaining more weight, becoming diabetic, and that I need to restrict foods which will just lead to more disordered and likely binge eating. I have started looking into seeing a HAES nutritionist and maybe a therapist but I need to figure out if I can afford to pay for either since I’ve found neither that are covered under my insurance.
I am showing up for my financial health by taking a proactive stance with the money I make and how I spend it. I have a spreadsheet with probably 10 tabs detailing how much I make and how I make it (regular job, selling stuff, side gigs like the Super Bowl gig) and how I spend it.
My two main goals for this year are to pay off my credit card and save at least $2K. Since January 1st, I have paid off $960 of credit card debt and will probably end the month at over $1000 paid off because I get paid weekly now instead of bi-weekly. I have also saved up $400 in the past 6 weeks or so.
I will get two paychecks from my Super Bowl gig, one for regular hourly pay which I got in the mail last Saturday and one for the 20% gratuity of each job which I will get in the mail a month from now. Both checks are going straight to my credit card debt. Any money I get outside of my paycheck like from rebate apps I use goes straight to savings. Same with money I make selling stuff online, like over $100 from selling clothes, a purse, and shoes on Poshmark.
I also spoke up and asked John for his credit card to pay for Missy’s mouth infection surgery this week (4th one since July 2017, sadly, and no idea yet why it keeps happening) when I picked her up after work. I’m glad he paid for it because the $815 her oral surgery cost was more than I had in the bank and would’ve wiped out all the progress I’ve made on my credit card debt payoff.
Like many Americans, we learned we owe money to the IRS on our taxes this year thanks to the new tax bill. Because John was smart and maxed out his IRA contribution last year, we owe a lot less than we would have. He paid the $994 tax bill since he has the money from working so much overtime and paying off all of his own debt, and he wants me to focus on paying off my debt this year. We are getting $886 back from the state of Georgia, which is massive and more than we’ve ever gotten back before. He said I could use that towards my debt too, which I will be. I am very thankful for John’s help in this.
It is hard for me to say no to myself just as it is for me to say it to those closest to me. I still want to shop online when I’m bored or sad. I still get tired of eating a sandwich every day at work and want to go to Chick-Fil-A or something.
I am also so incredibly impatient. I know just like with weight gain, the debt accumulation didn’t happen overnight. And in the same way, I won’t pay it off overnight either. Even slow progress is progress, and I am trying to focus more on the present and what I can do now instead of thinking so far ahead.
Showing up for myself allows for me to acknowledge and validate where and who I am in my life. It helps me see me. I so often want to feel seen by others, like John and my parents, but I neglect to really see myself. It allows me to recognize failure is not the end but a re-route to a new road in my journey. I can stop myself in the middle of catastrophizing I am prone to doing and say, Hey! Shit happens, okay? How can you learn from this? What can you do differently?
I was not taught to explore and be curious growing up. I was taught to be rigid and small-minded and always on alert. To rest was being lazy and worthless. To think outside the box or question anything was being disrespectful or ridiculous and isolating. To feel and ask for anything was being burdensome and shameful.
June is the only person who really showed up for me growing up, and even she had her limits when it came to emotions, affection, communication, and needs, and the environment we lived in together was an endlessly volatile battleground where to be vulnerable could damn near kill you or make you wish you were dead.
I am so grateful for that now small voice that whispers to me to speak up for myself and cheers me on when I do. I don’t know where it came from, but I am thankful it is there now. This year, I want to encourage that voice to grow louder and for me to trust and follow its directions.
This is not a year for more rigidity and self-defeat, self-doubt, self-loathing, and allowing myself to be trampled under the expectations and opinions of me, and needs of others.
What do I want?
Who do I want to be?
How can I think, behave, and live differently?
How can I fully live in this body I have as it is?
How can I finally see myself exactly as I am and stop sending myself the same hateful messages sent to me growing up and still all around me in our society?
How can I have a job I like that doesn’t become toxic?
How can the money I earn finally become mine?
How can I focus on each day alone as it happens and stop getting ahead of myself?
How can I do my part to have a healthy marriage with John?
By showing up for myself.
I know by proclaiming these words this year, God/the Universe will throw lots of opportunities for me to prove I am on my team, but I have known for a long time that conflict creates growth and fosters healing. I just pray for some grace and courage to be packed in with those opportunities.
Last night, as I drifted off to sleep, I prayed, Please, God, surprise me this week.
But let it be good surprises. I feel like I have to put that disclaimer there because I don’t trust that you won’t allow something awful to happen to teach me persistence or patience or growth or some shit.
Yes, God, I obviously have trust issues with you but can you blame me? Being raised in a church that told me to welcome conflict, that you allow sorrow and pain in order to bring me closer to and make me dependent on you? Asking you for things makes me feel like I need to duck under some protective cover, like the other shoe is going to drop right on my head.
Let’s work on this trust thing maybe? Show me you allow good things too, please. Like maybe I get a call back about a job? Or I don’t catch John’s awful cold even as he snores and coughs all over me (unintentionally?) in his sleep? Something?
Pause, as I think of all the other people who need something good to happen to them this week. Families who lost their beloved to murders by the police or our government at the Mexican border or to drugs or PTSD or suicide or a million other things.
Maybe let us all have some good surprises this week because let me tell you, God, things have been kinda shitty everywhere lately if you haven’t noticed (and too many times it feels like you don’t notice or don’t care, honestly). Okay? Can this happen, please?
I then fell asleep.
I did have one nice surprise today (Monday): I’ve been dreading going to Walmart to pick up my birth control because this year, it has cost me $400 every three months. United Healthcare also sent me a letter this month saying they will no longer cover this birth control I have taken for the past 7 years to keep my PCOS and endometriosis symptoms at bay and my periods regular.
I am going to see my OBGYN on December 13th for my annual visit so I will have to ask him to write me a new prescription.
But I finally decided to go to Walmart because I can’t go without my birth control between tomorrow and December 13th. I wanted to cry at adding an additional $400 of debt to my credit card but I had no other choice and knew I’d be reimbursed in the next month or so.
Well, somehow, it wound up only being $91 this time and it just dawned on me this is because we finally met our deductible for the year, like just now dawned on me, haha. I thought maybe they’d only given me a month’s worth but nope, all 3 months were there.
It still went on my credit card but it wasn’t as painful as it would’ve been so thanks, God.
Nice surprise #1.
On Day 10 of Rosie Molinary’s book Beautiful You, she writes about having her students look at their positive memories and what they appreciate about themselves. She does this to help them see how body image is played out in our culture and our own paradigms.
The writing prompt is as follows:
Today: Answer these questions in your “Beautiful You” journal. What do you appreciate most about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness that moment? If so, who was there and how did he, she, or they react?
What do I appreciate most about myself?
I would say my self-awareness and willingness to see myself as honestly and open-mindedly as possible and grow and change where I need to. This is so hard sometimes, maybe most of the time, because there is a lot I need to learn and embrace and grow from, but I always know I will be better for it.
When John and I do these painfully long walks and I’m tired, my legs ache, I’m starving, and it’s a long way back and I just want to sit down, I think, Amy, the only way you’re going to get home is to walk back and the sooner you start, the sooner you will be home.
I think that is a pretty good analogy of how I look at my life and myself. Growth and change are exhausting and the “other side” and whatever better, stronger version of me exists there feel so far away, but the only way I am going to get there is to face my bullshit head on, and the sooner I do this, the sooner I will evolve and become a better person for myself and everyone around me.
What am I most confident about?
While my faith in God and Christianity goes through a deconstruction and rebuilding phase, one thing remains in all I learned growing up:
There is a purpose for every season in our lives and some good will come out of all the bad.
I know this comes off as trite at times and I also acknowledge the privilege I can speak this from, but seriously, Mr. Rogers said it, “Look for the helpers.” The good is out there. Even in the darkest shit, something good happens even if we don’t always live to see it, even if it’s not in our lifetime.
I am a better, stronger, smarter, funnier, kinder, more empathetic and compassionate person for all the dysfunction and abuse I have lived through. Do I wish none of it happened to me? Yes. Would I go back and change anything? No. (Well, maybe one thing but overall, no.)
There is still good. I can be good, I can do good because I know how much it hurts when hurt people hurt people. I am a hurt person and I have hurt others from this hurt.
We are all individual stories in a epic collection of stories, and there is gold even in the darkness.
What is my first positive memory of myself? Was anyone there to witness that moment? If so, who was there and how did he/she/they react?
My first memory is being 3 years old and at the movie theater with my grandmother June who took me to see the Rainbow Brite movie. I was obsessed with Rainbow Brite. I don’t really remember a reaction from June then though.
I guess the first really positive memory of myself has to be in second grade. My teacher Mrs. Taylor adored me and I adored her. She loved to tell me and my parents how smart and sweet she thought I was and what a great speller I was.
She was so encouraging at a time I felt very ignored and neglected by my parents. It was just Adam and me then (Mama was pregnant with Ben). Adam was already the favored child and I was always getting yelled at for acting out because I was jealous of this and already felt like a burden and problem.
I remember my dad saying to me in front of Mrs. Taylor, “Why are you so good here and so bad at home?”
She saw what they didn’t and maybe couldn’t at the time, I guess.
Years later, she found me on Facebook and messaged me. She said I was always one of her favorite students and she thought of me often and always remembered me as her sweet, smart student. I told her she was my favorite teacher throughout school and it was her confidence in me at such a young age that helped me make it to where I am today.
You can read all of my other posts from Rosie Molinary’s Beautiful Youhere.
Day 4’s Question: In your “Beautiful You” journal, answer these questions completely. How has body image impacted your daily life and outlook? What have been your challenges and triumphs with body image over time? What have you denied and allowed yourself because of your perception of your appearance? How has your personality changed because of your sense of your appearance? What have you gained or lost because of your body image?
Over the summer, my mom and brother Caleb came to visit John and me on their way to and from DC to visit my brother Adam. After they left, John and I were talking about my mom and he said, “You are your mom’s twin…in the face. You just happen to have your dad’s build.”
Story of my life.
My mom is petite. About 5’5″ with a body I am afraid to squeeze when I hug her because she feels so bony and fragile. No matter what she weighs, she always has such sharply jutting collarbones, something I equated with femininity sometime in my youth but I’m not sure where or why. I have her blue eyes, chubby cheeks, thin lips, and tiny nose. We sound alike on the phone. I even catch myself laughing like her. I have bony fingers, thin wrists, thin ankles, small breasts, a flat butt, thick calves (she is where I got my awesome softball skills from), and bony feet just like her as well.
My dad is broad. Tall though shorter than his oldest and youngest brothers. I think I have his smile. Definitely have his giant forehead, broad shoulders, big feet, and big belly. My dad says I remind him so much of my Cherokee great-grandmother who was nearly six feet tall like me, about the same weight, had broad shoulders like me, and who took no crap from anyone. He says I walk and carry myself just like her and I am tough like her.
My size was always up for jokes growing up. It was always about how I should be auditioning to play college football in the summer instead of swimming at my uncle’s house, how my feet were so big they needed license plates, how no man would want a big woman like me (though another uncle always quipped, “Big girls need love too”).
I was a late bloomer. I started growing in eight grade and topped out at 5’10” in tenth grade. While I inherited my dad’s frame, I did not inherit his mother or sister’s large breasts or curves. I got the small set from my mom. Both of my parents are proportionate in shape and so am I. All of my female friends started their periods around age 11 or 12. I read Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret over and over again and chanted, “I must increase my bust” while also praying for my period to start so I could stop feeling so left behind.
I started a month before my 14th birthday and then about soon as it started, it disappeared as my thyroid went haywire and my hormones followed suit.
I needed something to make me feel feminine. My brother Adam and I are 22 months apart in age (I’m the oldest) so we were both raised pretty much as boys. I had my Barbies and loved Rainbow Brite and such, but our parents dressed us in similar t-shirts and jeans and I learned and played sports right alongside Adam.
I hoped puberty would give me something. I watched other girls become curvy in their hips, thighs, and breasts and little in their waists and envied all of the attention from boys this got them. Meanwhile, I grew taller, gained all of my weight in my belly, and my shoulders grew broader.
The jokes from my parents basically calling me a man didn’t help. I felt self-conscious about everything and completely disassociated from body, especially in high school when I actually became fat instead of being told I was and thinking I was up until then.
When hypothyroidism and PCOS took my period from me and I was told PCOS caused my testosterone levels to be higher, I sunk even lower.
I know now that femininity is subjective, but back then, I felt like I had somehow failed as a woman. Even now, the only acceptable size in plus size fashion is the same in “normal” size fashion: large breasts, slim waist, round hips, big ass, thick thighs. Curvy. Hourglass-shaped. Plus size fashion has gotten better, but I still wind up with shirts that dip too low and pants that are too tight in the waist and baggy in the butt, hips, and thighs.
I often thought maybe if I just lost weight and got really “in shape,” I would finally “look like a woman.” I could finally have a “nice figure.” Sometimes, I still think that even though I know better.
I don’t see myself as sexy. I am still amazed when John wants to have sex with the lights on so he can look at me. I still make jokes about how I’m the Hulk and have “Hulk hands” (because my hands are strong and I sometimes break things). I am forever lamenting about how I have “the gut of a middle aged man.”
I do have things about my body that I love now that used to make me feel so uncomfortable. I love being tall and naturally strong and I think my broad shoulders are my best physical feature.
I love to wear dresses and love my long hair (still not mermaid length yet but it’s getting there, haha) and when a dress fits me well (aka doesn’t make me look super pregnant), I consider myself pretty.
Because I didn’t feel attractive and feminine growing up, I worked on my personality instead to be liked. I developed a sense of humor that is still pretty much on par with a 15-year-old boy’s and talked sports (something I always loved to watch and play), and became one of the boys. I was always “like a sister” or “one of the boys” or “the only girl friend I’ve had who isn’t my girlfriend” to the guys I liked. I think this made me much more approachable, friendlier, and down-to-earth as an adult, but I think it can also keep people from taking me, my feelings, and my friendship seriously at times. This also got me trapped in pseudo relationships with boys I liked in high school and college which devastated me when I realized I would be nothing more than a consolation prize to them.
I’ve held back from wearing certain outfits (cute lingerie is definitely harder to find for a big belly and small boobs) or being sexual and flirtatious (even though I am a high libido, very sexual person) or taking dance classes (like pole dancing) because of how my body looks. I’ve thought about doing boudoir pics for myself and as a present to John, but I keep thinking I need to lose weight first, at least enough that my belly doesn’t stick out so far past my boobs.
But overall, I just kind of exist in this body. It is what it is.
I just check out at this point.
Checking out isn’t the answer either, but being in my body and feeling the disappointment it doesn’t look like it’s “supposed to” is hard. I know those expectations aren’t real or healthy or concrete, but it is hard to look at those expectations and not feel let down. And not just the anorexic look, but the curvy in all the right places look that is the only “acceptable” shape in women over a size 12.
I feel pretty overall confident in myself as a person. I like my personality a lot. My body image though? I am stuck between a rock and a hard place because it is hard for me to take care of my body without weight loss in mind because it is still so ingrained in me that a thinner body is a more feminine body even though I see amazingly gorgeous women and femmes in all shapes and sizes all the time. This seeps into my marriage, how I dress, and how I carry and talk to and about myself.
I can’t keep checking out but checking in still brings me a lot of pain, resentment, shame, and heartache. I only really notice my body when I want to begin another desperate attempt to make it smaller and then when I fail to do that, I go back to ignoring it which also means ignoring hunger, satisfaction, and fullness sensations as well as ignoring my feelings by eating over them.