January 13, 2017

Falling off

"You're falling off?" a co-worker said to me, as we walked into the office building this morning.

I didn't know what she meant, and in the moment between hearing it and asking for clarification, a million possibilities flooded my mind.

She can tell, I know it.

She can tell I'm struggling.

Falling off the wagon.

Having a really, really lousy week.

I'm wearing jeans and a tee shirt today, not terribly professional but I've spent the week slung between exhaustion and depression, neither of which helps the other, and I've avoided household chores in favor of early bedtimes as much as possible. This is what I'm wearing today because this is what was clean, and what feels comfortable after a few days of complete indiscretion as far as my eating goes.

I tried remembering mantras, I tried keeping my goals in mind. But, like I explained to my dad last night on the phone - in these depressed moments, I don't care about anything other than right now. I can't just go to the gym, because I've got my son at home with me. I can't just have a drink to take the edge off, because I've got an anxiety since the separation/divorce that as soon as I have a drink, there will be an emergency and I won't be able to drive or process the information properly. It's illogical - I've never been much of a drinker, I wouldn't plan on being deeply intoxicated. But I'm scared of even just one drink alone these days, so it's easier to stay sober. (Perhaps, also, I've got a deep concern about what one drink could lead to, knowing my addictive tendencies.)

It's perplexing to a lot of people how someone could lose a significant amount of weight and regain most, all, or more even. Those people wondering might not understand the significant difference between the general discomfort of a few pounds to lose, and the larger issues that cause other people to be in the position to need to lose significant amounts of weight to begin with. With my own experience, and those of people I've talked to, it's not about the food. It's never about the food. It's about trauma - small or significant - and needing to find a way to cope with it. Some people choose drugs. Some choose alcohol. Especially when the traumas are rooted in childhood, some people choose food.

I'm an eater.

I eat because it feels like love, it reminds me of joy, even though the feelings are fleeting. I eat because it's something that gets me the high feeling without the cost or consequence of drugs or alcohol. Once upon a time, I used to get that joy from running - but that's also out of the picture right now, in a cyclical problem I'm struggling to get out of. Right after the separation too, I went for a little run, then had a major panic attack worrying that if I got injured, I'd be in terrible trouble. With no partner, no family, and no close friends in our town, an injury that kept me from driving would be rather serious. So for a few weeks after he left, we stayed home a lot - and not just home, but inside. I didn't wrap my son in bubble wrap, but I probably would have, if I'd had any on hand.

Eventually, we got back outside. Eventually, I started walked, and I've lightly jogged a few times since then. But I still have so much of that anxiety. And right now, in the week after my ex-husband retreated to the midwest, I am feeling back in that post-separation mood.

He stayed too long, he stayed too close. And I didn't have enough recovery time between his visit and the start of my new semester, which is difficult and challenging even without having him around over the break when I needed to rest after my fall courses and prepare for my spring ones.

Every time he visits, I fall back into this depressed funk and remember exactly why I was so eager to leave him. And after he leaves, I'm always upset with myself for not immediately snapping out of it - like, he's gone, so get it together, girl.

But every time he leaves, it's like the first time. Like the Big Leave. And I feel that anxiety again: I'm alone here. I have no help here. I am overwhelmed with no end in sight. I don't get a break from this. I am anxious 24/7 with no one to share the burden or even to cry to.

I need - need, need, need - I need to be gentle to myself. I'm good at recognizing patterns in my life and my behaviors, and I think recognizing that the struggle of his visits doesn't instantly end with his departure is a pretty significant breakthrough for me. It'll help me in the future, so I can set up a system for recovery that anticipates these feelings and my responses to them. For this week, I am taking a few more deep breaths, do my best today, weigh myself in the morning, and start a fresh new week from there.

Deep breath, and I looked at my co-worker. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Falling off ... I mean, you look like you've lost a bit of weight! It's falling off."

Not recently, but yes. And again, soon.