April 22, 2012

Final decision

One of my Ragnar teammates, Katie, has been sharing little getting-to-know-you blog posts about all our teammates. Yesterday, the post about me went live. And reading it, and all the lovely comments, was ... difficult.

To be honest, I've been having a really difficult time with this whole Ragnar experience - with getting excited, with being a supportive and encouraging teammate, with hearing people use words that terrify me like "success story." It's really hard to parade around as one of a dozen healthy people who've saved their lives by becoming runners when I feel like a giant fraud and a failure.

Picture a girl.

She's lonely and has low self-confidence. She's deeply depressed, and at times has very dark and morbid thoughts. She binge eats several times a week, trying to numb the pain of her situation. And she spends hours upon hours watching movies or sitting at her computer playing games, because she has no energy (physical or emotional) to leave her apartment. Her work piles up around her, there are stacks of dishes left dirty in the sink, and laundry remains in piles on her bedroom floor. She showers infrequently, rarely brushes her hair - she can't be bothered to care about anything, let alone her physical appearance.

That girl was me in summer 2010, right before I started to get healthy.

But to tell the whole truth, it also describes me now. I may not weigh 345 pounds, but I'm in exactly the same mindset and mental condition that I was back then. Admitting this fills me with a variety of emotions. Embarrassed, ashamed, weak. But in a way, I also feel strong for saying it. For admitting it aloud, but also, for actually realizing it myself.

I used to love blogging. I loved going to the gym, and running, and eating well. I loved losing weight. I loved how all of it made me feel: like a survivor. I was once killing myself slowly with obesity and compulsive eating issues, but not anymore. I had tough days, but on the whole, I wanted to get out there and live, to truly enjoy the life I had been hiding from for so long.

I'm alive now. But I'm not living.

Since getting my Fall contract offer on Wednesday, I've barely slept - four or five hours a night, and never more than an hour at a time. My eating has been awful, and my body aches from punishing myself with extra-long bike rides to try and counteract the binges. I've cried, sobbed, wept, at least eight times a day. I've made phone call after phone call, trying to get advice and wisdom from the most important people in my life.

Some said to stay: it's the "adult thing to do," they said. The responsible thing. Stay where you have a definite job offer. Stay where the money is good. My mother's solution was to stay but seek therapy; I agree with the idea, in part, though it presents its own set of challenges ... namely, there's only one counselor/therapist in this town - his name is Justin, and we're not on speaking terms. There are a few other small cities an hour's drive in any direction, but with my lack of transportation, it's really a tough situation to be in.

Others said to leave: it's not going to be easy to get back, and it's going to mean a lot of sacrifices. You may never find a job that pays this well again. But ultimately, you need to do what is best for your body and mind, not your bank account. You've worked too hard, you've come too far. You've already pulled yourself back from the edge once. You get one life - make it count.

With the people I've been fully honest with, the choice is simple: you can't stay in California, it's killing you. You already spent so many years inside on the couch, sad and aching. Don't waste another day.

One of my biggest issues with making this decision is a fear of disappointing my family. They are proud of my academic and career accomplishments, and I don't want them to see me as anything less than the success I've tried to project. It's easy, then, to understand why they say to stay: because I've neglected to tell them so much about my experience here. It doesn't seem so bad when you only see the tip of the iceberg ... but there's an awful lot under the surface.

I say that I love my job, but it's not entirely true. I love teaching, but this university and this town just aren't a right fit for me. The worst I'll admit to is an occasional "tough day," when honestly, a lot of my dark thoughts have slowly crept back - not daily, and not to a point where I'd consider acting on them. But they're there, and that scares me. And I haven't told them the depth of my food issues since moving here: about the binges, about the real struggles I've been having with staying focused on my health. I've been hiding behind a false success, saying I've been maintaining within a few pounds. Maintaining weight is one thing. Doing it in a healthy way is another. And taking sleeping pills at 3 in the afternoon to stop yourself from overeating isn't healthy. Neither is taking laxatives, or ignoring my body cues and biking long distances because I don't deserve to rest, I have to work off this binge. Food and exercise weren't things I used to punish myself in Chicago, they were things I worked with in order to improve my health because I loved my life and wanted to live it fully. Here, though, they're just another source of anxiety.

I woke up yesterday and dreaded the thought of getting out of bed. My sink is full of dishes, there's a pile of student work to be graded, and unless I call my family or friends, I'm not going to interact with anyone today. My legs ached from a 20 mile bike ride the day before, plus 12 the day before that, and 17 the day before that, and 19 the day before that, and so on, and so on.

I sat at my desk and made four lists: pros and cons for staying in California, pros and cons for moving back to Chicago - with sub- and counter-arguments for each point. I made a detailed financial plan for both situations. And in the end, the choice was really clear.

There will be a lot of challenges with getting back to Chicago, lots of logistics to be worked out. Numerically, there are far more pros for staying in California. But in terms of weight, the California cons are far heavier. And I'm not willing to sacrifice another day of my life being unhappy with where I am and what I am doing with my life.

I'm moving back to Chicago, final decision, end of discussion.

Moving to California was a mistake, without a doubt. But as the saying goes, mistakes aren't always regrets. I've learned a lot about myself here, about what I value most in life, about what is most important to me, about the nature of addiction and the process of recovery. And that, I am grateful for. But, as is the case with all mistakes, we have to learn from them and move on.

I'm ready to move on, to move forward. And for me, that means moving back. I'm ready to start living again. This has been a revelatory year, and I have come to understand that living meagerly in a place you love with people who make you happy is preferable to a life that is not being truly lived at all.


55 comments:

The Paris Chronicles said...

I'm sure you feel great relief at having arrived at a final decision and it sounds like that decision was reached after thorough research. I work for the same university as you do and I know the crisis situation we are in and I'm familiar with the particular nature of your campus.

That said, I'm sure the teaching you provided the students was exceptionally good and I thank you personally for keeping the flame of French language learning alive at a time our department budgets are being cut to zero. I hope you will continue with your teaching back in Chicago in a college which is a better fit for you.

Weight Wars said...

I'm so pleased you made a decision. It's obviously really tough to admit things didn't work out. I understand that more than you know. But never regret anything because you tried and it was what you wanted at that moment in time.

Chicago sounds like an amazing city, it obviously puts you in a healthy mindset physically and mentally so it's a good place for you to be.

lots of love to you xx

NAN said...

Mary, as the mother of three adult children and one around your age, my advice would have been to stick it out for the year and you did just that. Chicago might not be the place you dream about and remember but it has to be a better choice for you than you are feeling now. As for the job, I am sure you knew it might be difficult finding work with your career choice so you can accept something different and keep looking. My younger daughter is not happy with her job but she is engaged and hopes to relocate soon- I just tell her to hang in a bit longer and I believe that is what you might have to do when you relocate. Good luck!

timothy said...

i'm there now sweetie i moved to delaware 6 years ago and i have always hated it, but my life as it was in fl no longer exists so going back is not an option. i'm TRYING to make the best of it and it is getting better but better you make that big change again now cause at almost 44 it takes a lot more to just do it, glad you know where you are mentally/spiritully trust in yourself and you cant go wrong! xoxoxoxoxoxoxo

katstamps65 said...

Glad you have made the right decision, for you, keep your mind and soul at peace, the money will come. Good luck!

Eva Allen said...

Good morning! I found you blog through Runs for cookies! I can identify with you on a lot of that. I too have those days still where I sit and play games, avoid social situations, let the cleaning pile up etc... It's etting better since starting my weight loss journey, but it's certainly still there, sitting just under the surface.

I commend you for doing something for you. Your family will accept your decision and forget about it. You need to do what's healthy, not what's the adult thing to do. Often times the adult thing is the unhealthy way! You need to get back to Chicago and kick that funk in the butt! If that's what you need to finish this success story, then do it!

The only permission you need in this is yours, the rest will follow.

Good luck! Find me at phoenixblaise.blogspot.com if you ever need to chat. Take care! Eva

Charlotte said...

Hi Mary,
I read your blog daily, I answer infrequently but this one entry moved me to write.
You are very brave. To face the reality that this situation is not working for you and to decide to move even though nothing is sure.
(parce que c'est plus simple pour moi, je continue en français ...)
La seule chose que je te dirais c'est de ne pas voir ton expérience en Californie comme une erreur. Tu as fait un choix l'an dernier basé pour toutes sortes de raisons et ce choix après plusieurs mois ne te plait plus. Il ne faut pas se blâmer.
Et cette année, tu fais un autre choix. Tu sais maintenant que l'argent et la stabilité d'emploi ne sont pas suffisants pour te rendre heureuse.
Alors je te souhaite bonne chance dans ce nouveau défi. Comme les autres, j'ai hâte de lire la suite des choses.;-)

Charlotte said...

You are very brave for coming to terms with the fact that this situation is not working for you...
(je continue en français c'est plus facile pour moi)
Mais il ne faut pas voir ton expérience en Californie comme une erreur. Tu as pris une décision l'an dernier et après avoir vécu plusieurs mois là-bas, tu décides que cela ne te convient plus et que tu n'es pas bien. Il ne faut pas se blâmer...
Maintenant, tu sais que l'argent et la stabilité d'emploi ne sont pas des facteurs suffisants à te rendre heureuse. Donc, c'est le temps de passer à autre chose.
Alors je te dis, félicitations de faire un choix si brave, mais qui , j'en suis sûre t'apportera plus de joie et de paix d'esprit.
Bon courage!

Dawn said...

I think this has been a really tough decision but at the point in your post where you have decided and you are going back, you sound at your happiest, and at peace.
People who love us only really want us to be happy and if success comes at the price of happiness, they don't want it for us anyway. Good luck in your new plan, I wish you every happiness

Krista said...

That was really admiral of you to be so honest,Mary. It's hard to admit when you're struggling like that because even though people tell you its okay, you know they don't really know what you're going through - they don't really know how bad it can get. I can relate to the healthy mind set thing, and its something I'm sure I'll be working on for a long time.

Glad you finally came to a decision with your move. Sounds like you made a smart one. Hang in there and good luck.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

I am SO happy for you. Crying here because I know how you feel, the desparate pull to be where your heart is. I left school 3 semesters shy of graduation because I couldn't bear saying goodbye to my bf (now husband) one more time. I swore I would transfer to a school on LI, just to appease my parents, but I never did. Charlie didn't want me to leave if I would ever regret it, so I told him I wouldn't. I didn't then. Now I know how disappointed my mom is. Dad doesn't say anything, but I know he feels the same. But it worked out. I'm married 16 years and have 2 great kids. Maybe I'll finally go back and finish. I don't even know what I would study. All I know is I wouldn't trade what I have now for a degree on my wall. You must feel like a huge cloud has been lifted. I can't wait to hear more about it!

Miss S. said...

Sometimes change is scarey-but when your happiness hangs in the balance I think all you can do is jump. BTW-loved Katie's post about you! =)

anewertammy said...

Mary, I'm glad you were able to come to a decision. You've given it due consideration. I wish you all the best and hope you find the comfort and happiness that you once had in Chicago upon your return.

gymnauseous said...

You're awesome. Never doubt that, okay? It takes a lot of courage to take a risk (moving to CA), and even more to say it didn't work and move onto the next thing. Better things will come.

sheila said...

good for you... now the scramble begins to find work in Chicago

Claire said...

It sounds like it is just the right decision for you. I am excited and happy for you as you make these next steps on your journey. Here is to enjoying crisp fall days in Chicago!

Katie L. said...

Just found your blog today through Runsforcookies. Your post spoke to me in a profound way just now. I am struggling with moving on in my own life, not wanting to disappoint my family or friends by moving on with my life. If you can do it, so can i. And we can both make our lives healthier because WE are important.
It is my dream to move to Chicago one day - who knows maybe we will see each other there?
I look forward to reading the rest of your blog and following you on your journey!

Carbie Girl said...

WOohoOO chicago!! Bravo for making your final decision Mary. Success is a feeling that you need to define for yourself, not to be based on a criterion of anyone elses definition. I do hope you find what you need to get to a happier place within though, regardless of your decision. Thoughts and prayers go out to you. I may be a bit biased but theres no place like chicago in my heart ;) lol

Jules said...

I don't comment often but I follow regularly.

This is by far the best post you have written in a long time...

I am proud of your decision, if that makes any difference...

I totally get making a decision for your health over work. I recently quit a good paying job, with great benefits, because it was detrimental to my health. I went into treatment for my binge eating last summer, and come to find out, the issues were much deeper than just the eating..no surprise.

I live in Cali but my family and friends are here...that's what makes it good (plus the sunshine)

But you said it best ...

living meagerly in a place you love with people who make you happy is preferable to a life that is not being truly lived at all

Best of luck...and Cali wasn't a mistake...it showed you first hand what is truly important..

you!

quirksandsmirks said...

I think it's great the you put yourself out there and gave California a try to begin with, and it's okay that it wasn't for you. Sounds like it was a tough choice, but your health is the most important factor here! Keep your chin up and know that we're all here for you!

Caroline said...

Comning out of hiding to say I love reading your blog! YOU are part of the reason I have started running. You are an amazing person and so much stronger then you give yourself credit for!
But I'm a city girl myself, so I can empathize with you on the cows and meadows are NOT happenin'thing! That and being so far from family would do me in too! Good luck on your move,I hope you find the peace you are looking for in going home.

Melinda Ott said...

I believe you are making the right decision. I was in your situation (but on the other coast--Boston, to be exact) and I was so unbelievably unhappy there. Finally, I realized that I had to move back to Oregon, even though I had a job in Boston and didn't have one in Oregon. It was my only choice.

Lyssayn said...

SO happy to have you as a Ragnar teammate... I wish I'd met you when you were in CT; we could have struggled and succeeded together!!

I really admire you for having the courage to change your life. "Stay where the money is good." There is truth to the saying, "Money can't buy happiness." Two steps forward, one step back...no, this sounds like all steps forward. You took the opportunity in CA because it sounded fantastic, and found that it wasn't for you. If you'd never taken it, though, you'd be wondering and self-doubting if you'd passed up a great opportunity.

As a wise woman ;) said to me a couple of weeks ago, "remember, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey." Your journey may have hit a few bumps, but it sounds like you've found the right path now. And while we can't help you move, your friends, teammates, and blog readers will certainly support you along the way!!

Kris said...

Ah, Mary. My heart is breaking for you. I started reading your blog a couple of months ago and I've read through your entire archives. I've wondered what happen with Justin, but I'm sure you'll share that if/when you want.

Making the big choices in life are never easy. I'm sorry this one has been so difficult though.

You have done fabulously with creating a healthy lifestlye for yourself and even though things have not been great lately; I have faith that once you resolve some of your personal turmoil that you'll once again be on a good track.

You need to realise that for most of us, our Weight Loss Heros aren't the ones who've done everything right from day one; but the ones who've experienced similar struggles to our own and have still come out on top.

You are brave, my friend. You are also wise. Hold on to those things and remember that strangers from near and far are sending you love and strength!

AmbyLand said...

Wow. I completely understand. I told my Dr almost exactly the same thing 2 weeks ago. I am reading Feeling Good by Dr David Burns. Its a book on cognitive therapy and it truly helps. It teaches you to change the way you think. You will never be a failure as long as you put one foot in front of the other.

Karla said...

In reading this post, I started to become concerned. I have read your blog and I have thought to myself.... "why is she not in Chicago.... Now!!!!!"

Everywhere you live has challenges, road blocks... Issues...

But if Chicago is where your heart is and you have given California a try and it didn't work ...

Move!!!

Yeah for you!!!!

I am so happy you decided to go back
(((((((hugs)))))))

Caron said...

I did not read the other comments so I am possibly repeating what someone else has said. I read your post as a Mom would read it. In the back of my mind were the same thoughts I had when my daughter gave up a job that would have paid enough "extra" to pay her rent. She chose instead to take on an internship in writing, which is her first love, but it continued to pay the same low salary with two hours added to her daily schedule. It was the right choice for her and I'm proud of her.

I so wish you had something to replace the job you are giving up but I'm also proud of you for considering all the pros and cons and making a firm decision. God bless you in this move. :)

Centauri said...

What a wonderful blog! I'm so very happy for you! You have made a decision based on fullfilling your own happiness. I truly believe we have to be responsible for our own happiness. Hello Chicago! I wish you much happiness & success in life! :-)

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing this Mary.

I'm glad you've come to this decision. Life it too short to stay put because of a job, money or fear.

I, too, battle that type of depression - I know the struggle. I'm sooo happy that you're in-tune enough to be able to identify the obstacles and brave enough to take the steps to get to a better situation.

Erin said...

So happy for you! Sometimes in life we make decisions based on others' perception of us. Good for you for making a decision based on how YOU feel!

I am currently working full-time at a job that serves no purpose, requires me to sit and cold-call all day long, causes me to snack all day, and makes me feel miserable! I've been working there simply to pay the bills. How relieved was I when they told me I would not be returning after my three week long internship?! Super relieved. I justified staying there because of the money, but it was making me miserable, so I knew it would be coming to an end soon. I am an avid believer that all bad things come to an end if you want them to.

I wish you the best of luck in Chicago, although you won't need it!

Brenda said...

No mistakes... just learning experiences.

Lynn said...

OMG I held my breath through the whole blog, hoping you made the decision to go back to Chicago. It is obviously where you belong.

CarolineCalcote said...

I'm glad you made a decision. I have faith in you!

Sarah said...

I am so glad you ended this blog with the decision to move back to Chicago. You will definitely be much happier there, and it is more important to be happy (and healthy) and possibly struggle to make as money as you do in CA than it is to stay in CA where you're financially secure.

We have the same height/starting weight, and I do (did) the same things - binging while watching movies and sitting on the computer because it's comforting and safe. I've been exercising and eating better, and I canceled my Netflix. I hope I can lose as much weight as you have.

Sarah said...

P.S. Welcome home. :) I live just a couple hours away from Chicago, and I spend lots of weekends there. I even lived there for a summer because it's always been a dream of mine to live/work there. Unfortunately, I had to return to Michigan, but I plan to move back someday. My boyfriend is a HUGE Cubs fan and really wants to live there too. So yeah... welcome home. :)

Bluezy said...

Si vous ne suivez pas votes couer, votre ame sera malade French is a passionate language...it is good you are following your passion. Liberez votre ame, Marie!

Diane Hutchings said...

Thank you so much for your honesty-it is refreshing. Good luck back in Chicago!

Shannon said...

Doing what's best for yourself isn't always easy, but it's always right, I think. I hope now that you've come to a decision things will start falling into place for you. Good luck!

Amy said...

I'm sure when you finally said "I am moving back to Chicago" it was a moment where you just felt this clarity and immediately knew it was the right decision.

I did the same thing when I decided I was moving home this summer.

LynnieG said...

Congratulations Mary on your thoughtful decision. I wish you peace and happiness. Here's to you finding work in the Chicago area - don't forget to check out Milwaukee,Madison and other Southern Wisconsin cities - lots of colleges/universities and close to Chicago!

Sarah said...

Looks like you've made a great decision. And you have then support of everyone here :D

In the end, happiness is more important than money!

Jordan said...

I remember the feeling of being somewhere that I knew was bad for my health. I stayed in small-town South Carolina for almost 3 years, but ended up quitting a job and moving with nothing to go to, just to get away. Same as you, I'd say that the move to SC was a mistake. But looking back, I learned SO much - about myself, about the world outside the big city, about how to make friends in a new place. I'm a better person for having gone through that time. You are not alone.

Jen said...

OH my gosh! I don't know you story really. I knew you were in CA and I knew you use to live in Chicago. But I just started following you and I guess I haven't read the store or pieced it together. I was a year out of college when I got a job offer in Belgium. A friend (that I went to college with) had been there working for the same company for a year. I flew over for the "interview" which was really just me looking around and getting a feel for it to decide if I wanted the job. I agreed. I was suppose to be there a year. I hated it. I lasted 2 months. I was isolated. I had no friends. I'd go home after work and my phone would never ring. My "friend" was of no help. I remember being in the grocery store and I said "where is the bread?" He said "find it yourself like I had to do when I moved here". What a friend! I'm not sorry I tried it. There are times I'm sorry I didn't last the full year. But I know I did what was right for me at the time. At another time in my life I probably would have lasted a year and I would have enjoyed the experience. But I was a mid-west girl from a small town, just out of college and I guess I was homesick. Though I've never defined that term. The whole time I was reading this post the decision was crystal clear to me. I'm glad you decided to move back! I'm in IL too! But I'm down near St Louis. :)

domwillrunforbeer said...

Most people would be too scared to do what you did so you should be proud of the fact that you tried a new experience by moving to CA. Here's to moving on (and back to) in Chicago!

michelle said...

*hugs* glad you were able to come to a decision and save your sanity

kickinitwithkim.com said...

I just started following your blog. Your story is extremely inspiring. I hope you find peace in your decision along with tons of happiness! :)

Ashley said...

I'm really very sorry to read about all of the hard times you've been having, but I'm extremely happy to read that you are moving back to the place that you love. I thought that you were so brave to move to California, and I think that you still are. But it's so much more courageous to see that things aren't working and make another change to go back to how things were no matter how others feel about your decision. Your happiness and sanity are THE MOST important things and it's a relief that you can see that. I wish you well wishes as you prepare to move back to Chicago <3

Angela said...

Wow! Reading this moved me to tears. Thank you for this incredibly brave and honest post. I think it will help a lot of people who are at crossroads themselves.

That girl said...

JUST started reading today and from what I read so far - GOOD CHOICE. You come before what your family thinks about you. Chicago is huge, with your skills I am sure you will find a job there. Do it. I look forward to reading as you move and settle in. I am moving also. Out of my ex boyfriend condo in to my own place after a disastrous heart break. We can do it together. Moving time!!!

Renee said...

A. I still dont think you are a "fraud" or "failure" whatever negative things you think of yourself.

B. I know you made the correct decision and it will all work out. It will.

C. I cant wait to keep reading the next chapter! Its going to be good!!"

lam said...

Another infrequent commenter here, moved to comment because of your honesty and bravery... Seriously, this entry was awesome!

The fact that you have the guts to share this deeply personal and difficult info in this way is just a testament to how far you've come. Facing addiction has a lot to do with honesty, and really seeing yourself, which you've totally done.

Oh how I wish we could chat over coffee sometime- I think we'd have a lot in common to talk about! All I can say is good luck, and trust your instincts; you deserve to be happy, and owe it to yourself to make that happen.

Good luck!

Hyla said...

" living meagerly in a place you love with people who make you happy is preferable to a life that is not being truly lived at all."


YES. ABSOLUTELY 100% YES.

Weight Watcher Wannabe said...

:)

Sarah said...

I also found your blog through Kate's Runs For Cookies blog... and this week, I have read your entire blog - start to finish.

I am at the beginning of my journey, and STRUGGLING.

Thank you for sharing your story and being so candid - you have inspired me this week more than you can ever know.

And the bonus is that I live in Chicago, and would love to meet you one day!

Tammy said...

I'm glad that you have decided to move back to Chicago. You NEED and DESERVE to be happy. I think you're awesome for being able to make that decision. I have such a hard time with decisions.