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Posts Tagged ‘shame’

Since lockdown began, I have lost and gained the same seven pounds. Well, I cannot be absolutely certain that it is the SAME seven pounds. Let’s just say they’re not far away from my body at any given time. I am walking every day. I am stretching, eating mostly good food, and spending time outside most every day.

I have tried changing what/when/how I eat. No difference.

I’ve tried intermittent fasting. No difference.

I have tried two different “eating plans”. No difference.

If I read or hear one more time that I need more “willpower” someone will get hurt.

The reality of the situation is this: I am an addict. I have very poor impulse control. I cannot eat one cookie or one potato chip. I eat them all. Maybe not in one setting, but most often. So I try not to keep junk food at home. The cravings get awful.

I have made the conscious decision not to drink alcohol. I used to love drinking alcohol. Like, REALLY enjoy drinking. And, like junk food, if I opened a bottle of wine I would drink all of it. Sometimes I’d open a second bottle. I’d buy a growler of beer. Then I’d drink most, if not all of it in short order. Then I decided I didn’t need to do this to myself…so I stopped.

When I was recovering from surgery at the beginning of the year, I was offered a glass of wine. I agreed. It tasted awful and it wasn’t the wine, it was me. I went out for dinner and ordered a beer. And again, it tasted awful. Ick. So I made the decision to stop drinking, aside from communion.

I’ve not craved alcohol since. Yay!

Before lockdown, I had significantly lessened the amount of sugar/stevia/aspartame that I consumed. I would have a small treat every now and then. I was on the way to kicking the sugar habit. And was really proud of myself.

Then lockdown happened. My grocery bills started increasing because I was determined to eat healthy foods; fresh foods. No processed food. No junk. Excellent plan, not fully realised.

The problem with being a food addict is that you cannot abstain from food. You will never hear at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting: “Hello, my name is Andrea and I’m an addict. It’s been 45 days since my last bite of food.” Food is a very social part of who we are and what we do. If we don’t eat, we die. It will take a long, harrowing time, but we will die.

Eating is a central part to the sacrament of the Eucharist. We gather to share together in the body and blood of Christ. Not literally the body and blood, but a small, round wafer and a sip of red wine. Or a cube of gluten-free bread and a Jesus-jigger of grape juice.

I say often, of the Church, that we gather at the table; either the Lord’s table or the kitchen table. Except right now we can’t. We are unable to gather in our buildings and share these expressions of sacrament and commitment, because it simply isn’t safe to do so.

In the grand scheme of things, being addicted to food isn’t the worst thing, right? Wrong. You can eat yourself to death. You can damage your body, mind and soul from eating the “wrong kinds” of food and abusing food. Many people laugh when I tell them I’m a food addict. Because it does sound funny. How can you be addicted to something that is meant to fuel your body? Impulse control…or lack thereof.

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and we were chatting about how I’m struggling with the food addiction. Food carries a tremendous amount of shame for me. I have difficulty eating in front of other people. When I go out to eat, which I haven’t done in a long time, I carefully manage how much I eat.

I am capable of eating mindfully, and when I do, I feel great. Yet when I am under stress I “fog eat” when I sit down to eat something and before I know it the bowl is empty, the container is empty and I have no recollection of refilling the bowl or emptying the container.

Almost immediately I feel profound shame for my lack of control. Why am I so weak and powerless to food? When I keep junk out of my house I’ll be fine for a few days to a week, and then I’ll start craving and it will be horrendous. I can’t function until I tend to the craving. I try all the tricks; drinking water, counting to 10, breathing deeply, having something as a substitute. But none of these tricks work, especially when I’m craving mashed potatoes or cheezies or chocolate cake.

Mashed potatoes are comfort food to me. I make really good mashed potatoes. And I can portion control them, most of the time. But when it comes to potato chips and sweets, I will crave and eat them until they are gone. I’ll make a list and stick to it at the grocery store. I’ll be really disciplined, I’ll be really “good” and then I find myself waiting in line…and the craving begins…just a small bag of chips. You’ve been good. Oh go on, get the big bag, you’ll have a serving and put them away. You can do it.

Except I can’t.

No matter how well I justify “earning” the treat, I cannot stop until they are gone. Not all at once, but within a 24 hour period I will continue to go back to that treat until they are all gone. More shame and self-disgust.

My friend told me, in the grand scheme of things, that overeating, at this point in time, is not necessarily a terrible thing. Yes, it’s self-soothing. Yes, it’s not ideal. But we are living in a time of heightened stress. We are living in a time which is unprecedented for most of us.

I’ve decided to keep a food journal. Not to judge myself, not to punish myself, but to see if I can find a pattern to the cravings and overeating.

So, to that seven pounds that I keep losing and gaining, I say this: “it’s been a slice. How about you go away and stay away? I have no further need of you.”

If only it were that easy…

Wish me luck. Imma need it.

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Today is the 31st of January, Bell Let’s Talk Day.  As someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, I am absolutely aware of the dangers of isolation.  I am aware of the shame that accompanies the struggles in getting out of bed, forcing yourself to get dressed, plaster on a smile and pretend that everything is okay.  Then, at the first available opportunity dashing home, closing the curtains, turning off the lights and rocking in the silence.

I’m grateful that I’ve not had many of these days lately, but there have been some.  And they frighten me because I’m never sure when they will pass.  If I’m completely honest, when I’m going through them I’m not sure THAT they will pass.  But as the sun rises tomorrow, the new day dawns, with time these feelings pass.

It’s been a very hectic few weeks with multiple deaths in the congregation and the community.  Since the beginning of January there have been 5 deaths.  Last week I presided funerals on Monday and Friday.  This Saturday I will preside two funerals in one day, which is highly unusual, but in this case, absolutely necessary.

Next weekend I’m on stage as part of the Vagina Monologues.  I’m excited and terrified at standing on stage in a local venue and baring my soul for strangers.  I play the role of a transgender woman who discovers she’s different at a young age.  The monologue contains humour, rage, and at times poignant moments.  It will be a challenge, but at the same time I’m excited to have this opportunity.  It will take me places I have never been before and while I do have deep-seated anxiety about forgetting my lines or somehow letting down the other cast members, I know I can do this.  I know I will make this happen.  There will be friends in the audience who will be there to support me.  And it will be amazing.

Behind my left ear I have a tattoo.  It is of an infinity symbol with a semi-colon over the cross in the infinity symbol.  I see it every time I look in a mirror and it has generated some wonderful conversations.  Recently, at a funeral reception someone noticed it and asked what it was about.  I told them: the infinity symbol reminds me that I will struggle with mental health issues for the rest of my life; and the semi-colon tells me that my story is not yet over.  She looked up at said “I’d never have guessed you have anxiety and depression.  You look so pulled together and confident.”  I smiled and thanked her for the compliment.

Yes, I could have corrected her about the fear I feel.  But I decided to accept her compliment with grace.

On this day I wanted to jot down a few meanderings on what Mental Health Awareness means to me.  It means standing up and telling your story; without shame or fear.  It means asking people to share their stories.  It means being a person with whom others can share without judgment or criticism.  You will never hear me say “Snap out of it”.  Because I’ve had that said to me, and it’s not helpful.

I am an advocate for many things…and the biggest thing I advocate with Mental Health Awareness is that we are not alone.  We are not ashamed.  We are warriors.

So, let’s talk…

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