One pound. That’s all it takes to unhinge a man. One pound and I fall deeper into the hazy obscurity of self-loathing that caused the one pound in the first place. Have you ever noticed how harshly we judge ourselves? Sometimes the tiniest flaw, the smallest misstep or the most outwardly insignificant mistake can become the seed of personal obsession and cause for a disproportionate amount of self-flagellation.
I don’t want to lose anyone at this point, but prepare yourself for a bit of spiritual reference.
One lesson I found particularly hard to learn was that God can and will forgive us, even when we cannot forgive ourselves. Consequently, if God can forgive me for my mistakes, shouldn’t I forgive myself? I mean, who am I to question?
I Cannot Rescue the Drowning, So I Eat
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I had a bad week. Actually, that’s not true. I had a really great week! My wife and daughter were out of town, and I spent time with my son, got a ton of chores done around the house and spent lots of time doing projects outside. I was still losing weight and getting plenty of exercise.
The problem came over the weekend. You see, I have someone very close in my life who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may know someone with this condition. When this person has an episode, they shut down completely, which leaves me trying to maintain a two-part relationship by doing both parts.
It’s like being rescue swimmer; the person drowning is the biggest threat to your life.
Somehow, when this person starts to go under, I have to swim out, grab them by the arms, keep them from pulling me under, and then swim hard enough for two people until we reach the shore. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a brother, sister, spouse, co-worker or a close personal friend. When you have a relationship and care about someone, you can’t just watch them drown.
So, now the tough part. The part I often can’t forgive myself for. The part that triggers my need to eat and drink for comfort. The ugly truth is sometimes I just can’t do it. I swim halfway and I’m just too tired. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep my own head above water. In the worst times, when things are too overwhelming, when I feel like only one of us can make it – sometimes I want it to be me.
I may get mad and yell at this person. I may verbally attack or just withdraw from them for a few days, but I don’t swim out to help. I just feel like I can’t save them and myself at the same time, and I am riddled with guilt about it.
I think this may be akin to “survivor’s guilt.” You know, “Why did I make it and this person didn’t?” It consumes me. Is there really anything more terrible than watching someone you care about sink and being powerless to stop it? I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this that can relate. It could be a close friend struggling with addiction or a child that is making destructive decisions or a family member that foments a needless feud.
And so, in the midst of this person’s PTSD episode, I eat. After I stop at the local Chinese take-out and pick up wonton soup and broccoli in spicy sauce, I also re-introduced myself to the people at the liquor store and buy some vodka. Then, I head home, make giant martinis and eat my Chinese food. Later that night, after my third martini, all bets were off, and I hit the fridge, cupboard, closet and what may have been candy left from last Halloween.
Guilt About Weakness and Bad Choices
Why do I eat? That’s really the million dollar question. I feel powerless and guilty. Maybe food is a great way to take control of something when the rest of life is beyond our control. Maybe it’s a dash of being passively suicidal – like smoking, drinking, driving without your seat belt or pulling the tags off a mattress. With the exception of that last one, I know they are all dangerous. Do I not care what happens to me because I am so powerless and guilty? Maybe it’s as simple as I need to feel good to forget about feeling so bad.
To make this vicious cycle even more vicious, I can clearly accept responsibility. It would be easy to say, “I eat and drink because I care about someone I can’t help.”
But that isn’t really the truth. The truth is that I make a choice to do what I do. When I am hopeless and guilty, I could turn to God, try to talk to someone else about it, or even start an activity or distraction to take my mind off things until the moment passes. Instead I choose to overeat and drink. As a result, I am TWICE as disappointed in myself. I cannot help my friend, so I feel powerless and guilty. I overeat and drink alcohol. Then I feel guilty about being so weak and making a bad choice!
All I Can Do Is Keep Moving Forward
This brings us to the weigh in this week. I gained one pound. Is it a lot? No. Is it enough to start the second cycle of guilt and self loathing? You bet.
I have never really hated being fat. I look at me and I just see me. It hasn’t bothered me that I am bigger than most. In fact, people that know me would say I have embraced it.
What I hate, I mean really loathe, is being weak. I am a fighter and a survivor. I have accomplished great things, but somehow I cannot save everyone that I love from pain. I cannot seem to exert my will over food. I cannot seem to forgive myself for the things I cannot do on my own.
I have no answers on this one. All I can do is keep moving forward. I try to focus on the times I do actually rescue someone – those times when I am strong enough to swim for two or three, to fight off a great white shark with an Elmo keychain and to still make it to shore.
I can focus on the fact that my lower back doesn’t hurt when I go grocery shopping anymore. My pants fit better. I have more energy. I am able to spend more time with my family because I am alert and able to walk around. And while I may not be able to save everyone all of time, at least getting healthier will mean I will be around LONGER to score the occasional win.
I apologize for being more serious this week and promise to double up on the fun next week. But in the spirit of our serious blog today, I leave you with this:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
Just tuning in to our guest blog series with Mercy Weight Management client Eric Buwala? Click to read about his weightloss journey from the start. Live in or near Canton, Ohio, and looking for a medically monitored weight-loss program? Contact us about our OPTIFAST options. Image credit