July 21, 2011

It All Ends

I started blogging last August for a few reasons.

One, to try and find a community where I could be held accountable. I knew a lot of people who perpetually talked about the weight they would like to lose - but at rock bottom, I needed to find "action" people. People who knew what it was like to have such a huge task ahead of them, who understood the struggles, and who might be able to offer advice and support. I found that community here, and I honestly credit blogging for so much of my weight loss success.

And two, to serve as a kind of diary where I would chronicle my journey to lose 210 pounds. As much as I wanted readers to encourage my efforts and offer advice, I've never written for an audience. I've always maintained that even if no one ever read what I had to say again, I'd still keep writing. The act of expressing myself is just as therapeutic as hearing what people have to say on the topics. This has been my salvation, my safe place where I have been able to work through my emotional issues as I learn to eat well and stay active and even simply exist in a body I've never known as an adult.

The problem with diaries, though, is that when displayed on a public forum, you're completely exposed. I have always written openly and completely honestly, and I felt safe in doing so. As my inner circle has become aware of my writing, though, I have started to lose my feeling of security and comfort - though my openness has not wained.

In writing about myself and my issues with food and weight, I've often mentioned friends and family members. When I write about these people, I am not actually writing about people themselves, but my relationships with them. Selfish as it may seem to say, this blog is all about me. This space isn't meant to be a tabloid exposé of family issues, but a documentary of how I've dealt with my problems as I attempt to get healthier.

It has been tremendously comforting to know that I'm not the only person who feels the way I do sometimes. To know that other people know what it's like to use food as a weapon to self-harm. To know that the sometimes negative connection between food and family isn't exclusive to me and my family. I wish I could talk directly to my family about these issues, but it's hard to discuss these heavy issues with the people involved and walk away with unbiased advice.

I finally figured out the last piece of the puzzle to why I started binge eating again. There was job stress, financial worry, and boy anxiety. And now, just like when I was 12, my parents' relationship is dissolving. For a while now, I have maintained that my weight loss journey is like going through puberty again. I have a new body that I'm learning how to use. I'm growing and changing emotionally. And now, I've reverted back to my preteen coping mechanism of wanting to feel the pain of being full in order to distract myself. It's all come full circle.

I'm not accusing any one person of wrongdoing - no one person is "to blame" for my binge eating problem. My family, as a cause, is indirect - again, it isn't about the people themselves, but about my perception of the relationships. I love my mother and father endlessly, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't profoundly hurt by their divorce. The birth of my binge eating problem had nothing to do with my parents as people but everything to do with my own need to find a coping mechanism; as a 12, 13 year old kid, I wasn't thinking about anything other than how to make the hurt go away. No one is more or less guilty.

I have as many issues with my father as I do with my mother. I have binged because of my relationship with him the same way I have because of my relationship with her. The difference between the two of them, though, is a level of tact, I think. My dad and I fight, keep a distance for a while, and then resolve things. He does a lot of things that anger and frustrate me, but his attacks are rarely personal. My mom, on the other hand, seems to take advantage of vulnerabilities - for example, knowing that I already feel tremendously guilty about my disordered family relationship, she closes an email with "whether you believe it or not, this is another part of my life that is killing me."

Since my mother's visit in April, I've hit a rough patch and struggled with both motivation and controlling my binges. Worth noting, though, is that the week of her visit was also when I heard that my university contract wasn't being renewed. I'd still be struggling even if she hadn't visited, it's just that having her around made certain trigger foods accessible and just got the ball rolling a little faster. If my father had been around that week, or Jill, or anyone else, I'd be labeling their visit as the start of my current struggle.

When my mom was out here, we talked about my weight loss and I mentioned blogging as one of my sources of support. She seemed so proud of me for finding a community, and told me to keep writing my feelings, no matter what people thought. She even cited an interview with one of her favorite authors, who said that the people who truly love you will support you and understand, no matter what you write. It felt wonderful to know I had both on- and offline support, but the comfort was short-lived, as the silence between us began as soon as she returned home and, without my knowing, she started reading my blog. In spite of the advice she had offered, she took my writings very personally. And instead of using these words as a catalyst for conversation, she maintained radio silence for three months.

The silence between us was broken this week with a series of emails and blog comments, most of which left me feeling completely broken and worthless. My goal with this weight loss journey has been not only losing my physical self, but gaining a long-overdue sense of self-confidence and pride. For the first time, I've chosen to put myself and my health first, because if I didn't, I'd still be 345 pounds. The messages I've received from her this week have made me feel just as valueless as that sad fat girl on the couch, helpless and incapable.

There were accusations of obsession - saying that I am "too much about this weight thing, and not enough about life beyond races and scales and what [I] can and can't eat." And worst of all, there were charges that I'm a terrible sister, that I'm not only inattentive but flat out ignoring them because of the current issues between my mother and father. Strangers know that's the furthest thing from the truth. Why can't my own mother see it? I love my sisters and brother more than anything in the world. If anything happened to any of them, I'd be devastated beyond belief.

The funny thing is, I haven't been ignoring my siblings. I've kept regular contact with Lisa. I've sent dozens of unreturned messages to Katie (so I am certainly not to blame for any silence there). And it's impossible to reach Dan, a ten-year-old whose access to the phone and computer is limited. I know that I'm doing the best that I can in every aspect of my life - in looking for a job, in trying to get healthy, in being a good and loving daughter/sister/friend. And my efforts aren't futile or unnoticed.

I set a summer goal of making peace with my mother, and I think that for now, agreeing to disagree is the closest we'll get. After telling her how lousy the emails made me feel, my sister Lisa had the best advice to offer on the subject:

In my original letter to her after she left, I told my mother that I love her and all my family members very much, but right now I am unwaivering in my need to put myself and my health first. Right now, that means an impasse. It isn't ideal, but for me, it's some sort of resolution, and with that comes a little bit of comfort.


Jillian said...

First of all--when I first read the title of your blog, I was terrified that you were leaving. Whew, glad that's not the case.

Second of all--for whatever it's worth, i do think you're extremely brave. I remember being so envious when you sent that letter to your mother. I was jealous that you were in a place mentally where you could address your mutual problems instead of using food (or anything, really) as a deflection of your emotions.

Third, blogging is tricky. I hope to god that no one in my family ever finds mine, because I probably sound like a malicious bitch who hates them all. You have much more tact in your blog than I do, but when you were writing all those original things, I'm sure your primary concern wasn't making sure that you didn't sound inflammatory. Your blog is YOUR place for you to sort out YOUR issues. You can't help how anyone else feels about it, especially when you haven't been particularly vicious in your descriptions.

I got an email from an email listing the other day. It said this "Some, Jillian, are better loved from a distance. For awhile, anyway. And that's okay. ". Go ahead and insert your own name there, obviously, but I guess it's something to mull over, at least.

Finally, and for whatever it's worth, you are anything but valueless. I don't know your friends or your family, but I'm willing to bet that you are extraordinarily important to them. I can, however, speak for the blogging community, and myself in particular. When I first started blogging, you were one of my first commenters. You took time to read my blog and encourage me when I was taking my first, shaking baby steps, and even now, as I am growing a bit more confident in myself, you still have suggestions for how to keep from falling flat on my face. I appreciate and value you and your openness and honesty. So while I'm sorry if your blog has caused strife in your family, I am so grateful that you are such a great part of the blogging community.

Cat said...

This is a beautiful and moving post and I know that things have a way of working themselves out. If your Mom reads this I'm sure she'll feel so proud of you.

Amanda said...

Wonderful post! Lisa is right, you are inspiring. You have to put your life and your health above everything because if you don't, who will? At the end of the day, you have to look out for you. Easier said then done, I know! :)

Christie Farrar said...

It's amazing how much people resist you changing when you are doing such a great thing for your self both mentally and physically Mary

Just keep doing what you are doing and hopefully things will work out for the best, whatever that best may be.

emily said...

mary, your words are honest and deliberate and you inspire me to do better and be better. you are changing who you are, and that is uncomfortable to others because you are no longer that "sad fat girl on the couch". you don't play that role anymore, so it causes them to question their own position in your hierarchy. you have made yourself the most important person in your life, which is what any well-adjusted grown-up would consider ideal. don't let it bring you down. thank you for being so unflinchingly real. life can get ugly sometimes, and relationships can get messy, but that doesn't mean we can't keep our heads up and smile pretty in spite of the pain and stress. you're my hero! :)

Unknown said...

My Gods, you are so strong.

I'm keeping you in my thoughts, since i know all to well how much mom issues hurt. Sounds like you are taking a very healthy approach to this.

Very proud of you my blog friend!

XOXO ~ Cyn

Anonymous said...

Where to begin and what to say? I am not exactly sure.

Obviously, not having all info I am going to speak in generalities.

You may have to ask your mom not to read your blog. Tell her it is yours and yours alone. A place where you can go, express feelings, vent and try to sort it all out. That her looking and deciding what it all means to her is not helpful to your relationship. For both of your sakes she should quit reading. Call it the first set of boundaries you set up for yourself and consider it a learning to keep your blog life separate from those who live in your life.

If your mom still reads it and harbors ill will or thoughts going forward, she can keep them to herself. Crossing the boundary is dishonorable to you. THEN You make the choice of allowing her to express those feelings and your considering them. If you do this then you are responsible for your life and feelings. THAT is ultimately where you want to get. It is a painful process. But necessary for strong mental health.

You decide what is a good relationship with your siblings. Examine it to see if your mom's complaint has merit and if it does not, then you set it aside. If it does, fix it. It has to always e about what you think? Your decisions, your mind. Once you stop allowing others to determine your happiness, sadness, decision making, then you gain confidence and become... you. You will make mistakes, but they will be yours to own.

Let your parents issues with one another be theirs. You can listen, but you are not their ref. They are adults. You can be there for your siblings.

Sometimes people are selfish and vindictive. Recognizing that their emotions and what comes pf it has not a jot to do with you will be key. You act lovingly in from a loving place Mary. You control YOU.

Meanwhile no using this as an excuse to gobble. Pick up, dust off, put a (maybe fake) smile on (until you can come up with a real one) and keep on the healthy path.


financecupcake said...

Wow, I'm really sorry to hear things are going that way between you and your mom. My mom is one of my biggest supporters, and I can't imagine where I'd be on my journey with her making negative, hurtful comments. My heart goes out to you. You are such a sweet, amazing, wonderful, beautiful, intelligent woman. If you didn't worry about the scale and races, you might not be here much longer to worry about the other stuff. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for investing in your health, future, and life. From reading your blog, I would say you have a healthy concern about weight, health, and fitness; you do not seem obsessed or consumed. Working out and cooking healthy foods are great hobbies (not to mention a way of life). I hope your relationship with your mom improves. It sounds like your mom is projecting her negative self-image on you and like she is jealous of the healthy changes you're making in your life. You are not the one ignoring your siblings or obsessed with food. Chin up, my amazing friend. :)

financecupcake said...

P.S. - I hope to god that 'It All Ends' does not mean your blog is ending.

MaryJo said...

Mary, I am so glad you started blogging and so happy that you continue. I hope you keep getting what you want to out of it. I wonder how old we'll be when we stop longing for our mom's approval, or at least understanding? I imagine your transformation is an adjustment for alot of people in your life - some just handle it differently than we'd hope.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry that you are going through this. To sit down and recognize what's going on in your life and affecting you is very healthy and a step in getting you focused and back on track. You are not for one minute being selfish. If you don't put yourself first, you will be worthless to all you come in contact with. You have to take care of yourself and love yourself before you can do that for others. You're doing great! Refocus and look to the future. Can you see it? :)

Hyla said...

My husband has started to notice that I have been selfish this year as well. That is a good thing, he is not upset but he has noticed it.

I NEED that. After catering to everyone elses needs to the last 10 years it feels so very good to focus on me and give myself what I need. And what I need is attention, damnnit!, from myself and others (encouragment)

Every thing you are doing is great and natural! Once you get where you need to be than you can start spreading the love more.

We are learning to be the best we need to be for ourselves. And once we have acquired that knowledge we can move onto the next step, whatever that may be.

Wendy said...

I must confess something first....I never, NEVER comment on blogs.

You truly inspire me; I am in awe of what you have accomplished and stunned by your talent.

So I just had to tell you I thought this piece of advice my boss gave me (and continues to give me regularly) might help you. If you can imagine it being said in a 67 yr old slooooooow Tennessee drawl, even better: "There are two energies in this world - Love and Fear. If you're not operatin' outta one, you're operatin' outta the other." Sometimes all you can do is love someone - for you, not for them.

It sounds a little out there, but when you think about what motivates most people to do the crazy nonsense they do, it can usually be traced to their fears. And once you know they're fearful, it makes it easier to love them and free yourself from the weight of the worry.

I hope that helps... And please don't go away! I just found your blog and so look forward to reading it every day. :-)

marisol said...

Like Jillian I thought too you were leaving. I am glad you are not because you are a great source of motivation for me & all your readers and I care about what happens to you even if I only know you through the internet.

Families can be the best thing in life but also can hurt us the most. I had a toxic relationship with my father & a lot of the times I used food & alcohol to deal with it. To not bore you with the details, I stopped speaking to him 10 years ago & it's a decision that I don't regret. It wasn't an easy decision to make but I needed to do what was right for me at the time. I think we all need to be a bit selfish in regards to reach our goals and aspirations. You've worked so hard and have some so far that you can't let anything stop you right now even if it is a close relationship.

I write my blog for me and only a few of my close family members and friends know about it. When I write something that is personal, I often wonder if it's too personal. But they make the choice to read it and if they judge me on it, that is on them. I am not forcing them to read it.

timothy said...

i so understand your angst. i love my sister but i do NOT like her at all. she's manipulative and judgemental. a master guilt layer and speaks out of both sides of her mouth to distract me so she can get a clear shot at my back with the knife. (not kidding unfortunately) i keep my contact to a bare minimum and she knows nothing of the contact i have with my neices (the youngest doesn't have a phone and limited email contact) so i feel you on all of this. stick to your guns and do what you need to do for you. we're born into a family but we don't have to keep negative stuff in our lives. bright blessings xoxoxoxoxo

Amy said...

Sorry I've been so MIA - I saw this yesterday and wanted to wait to read it when I had some time to set aside.

Family is so tough - you're blood and you're attached in so many ways, but when things are hard and complicated there is no escaping it, and all you can do is sort it out. Family is so important, but you're so right to focus on you right now because as you have mentioned time and time again you have a family history of obesity and because your family leads a very different lifestyle than you'd like to lead you have to distance yourself, that doesn't change how you feel. You've also said time and time again how much you wish you could influence them to make the same healthy choices.

I completely understand how hard it is to have your mom reading your blog without saying much, but at the same time you're baring it all out there. My mom reads my blog everyday but rarely comments on posts to me - When she makes the odd comment it always catches me off guard, especially if it's a particularly emotional piece.

Keep strong - you're on the right track, and I'd call it focus not obsession ;)

Unknown said...

I have been reading a lot of posts lately from bloggers about setting boundaries for themselves. In one way, this is something that I know is helping me to stay focused on my health. By recently setting some very hardcore boundaries lately on someone I love very dearly, I ended up having to end the relationship. It has caused a major upheaval in my life, and is something that I wish I could write about in my blog but I think it would make things worse. Still, when I am asked if I want to reignite the friendship, my first thought was, 'I'd rather be lonely than miserable.' And it's true. Sometimes we don't see how negatively affected we are by the words and actions of others until we put a stop to it. It can be brutally painful, but if we wait for others to catch up and get with the program, we're impending our own ability to grow and that is simply not healthy. You will survive this and you are doing the right thing for YOU, because you are the most important person in your life.

Unknown said...

I remember when you were doing the postcard exchange. Can you do something like this with your brother? If your mom/dad could read (since it's a postcard) it before giving it to him, then your mom would know that you aren't saying anything, and it would let your little brother know that you are thinking about him.

My son is 10 and I know that he loves to get "real" mail.