I love the song Demons. It really explains how we push people away so they don’t see/get infected by our weaknesses, and also expresses the plaintiveness of realizing that your demons in their dark way do give you your identity.
It’s all about learning to deal with the shadow.
One of the aspects of my shadow is perfectionism. Another is food addiction.
I have suffered a lot, since I can’t remember when, believing that I NEEDED to be perfect. In order to be happy. In order to be loved. In order to deserve anything.
I believed I needed to do everything 99.9% right, and if I didn’t have 100% of what was in my control on lockdown, I was irreparably headed for trouble and not deserving of anything.
Something of a compliment to this was my inability to own my gifts. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be better than other people at things, or to be singularly blessed in the circumstances of my birth. I thought anything I didn’t earn through suffering was just potenial that I was more or less wasting since I wasn’t perfect, wasn’t maximizing every moment and developing every possible competency.
What started as humbly realizing the fact that I wasn’t a better person than my kindergarten peers because reading and school came easy for me morphed into believing I had to prove myself by becoming expert at something in which I had no innate skill, basketball, and that I had to be at my ideal weight, because otherwise my life would be suboptimal and there was no one to blame but myself.
So much needless suffering.
Like most people, I eventually played to my strengths and quit basketball. I also stopped trying so hard at my weight, and remained healthy if “suboptimal.” Weight remained a fixation, but I couldn’t see myself counting every calorie for the rest of my life. What’s more, when I was healthy more or less effortlessly for the first time in my life but “could stand to lose a few pounds,” according to some people, I had a giant mirror in my short term apartment and convinced myself I was fat. Or that I wasn’t good enough, because look at that girl who is in my classes and has all the same resposibilities and predisposition to gain weight (or so I though) but she was radiantly at her optimal weight. What’s more, she kept up with Weight Watchers, which I had long abandoned since I’d driven myself crazy rying to be perfect at it for years and eeventually feeling like the effort wasn’t worth it.
Well, I turned to my old demon of food addiction as I felt like an imposter in grad school, realizing I was competent even as I broke the mold of what I thought a business student should eb like. I depressed myself, going over every decision I’d ever meade and everything I’d ever done until the air I breathed was just self-abhorrent. I decided I could either make the most of things and finish business school, or fail worse, so I stayed. I felt like I could either do my homework, or restrain myself from eating junk, so I chose to eat junk.
More than a couple of pounds later, here I am.
My efforts to get back to a healthy weight have sometimes felt like one step forward two steps back though I paradoxically thought it would just fall off effortlessly once I was out of school, or once I found a job, or once I chilled out. I got into a rhythm of going to the gym, lifting weights, doing zumba, but continued to overeat, thinking that by now I was so huge that even a small difference would get me back to my normal. It didn’t, and I continued to gain weight/muscle.
Some serious magical thinking.
Now I’m almost a week of 95% without white flour or sugar, two weeks without diet Coke, and I FINALLY FEEL IN CONTROL OF MYSELF IN FRONT OF FOOD. This is big stuff for me. I finally feel like I have my willpower back and I am the strong person I was when I lost my childhood obesity.
I’ve been doing Crossfit, which has taught me that I was doing pretty much everything wrong when I was exercising on my own, cna’t do half the exercises, including a push up, and still feel great, because every time I go I push myself as far as I can go. The self esteem boost is incredible. I am learning and growing every day. I am PROUD of myself.
This is really good stuff.
So when I found myself at the food court, and some part of my tried to make excuses to go to the food court and get a wrap (white flour), and I didn’t even wwant to follow that, it was a huge moment for me. Like, I chose to do the right thing by myself and protect my integrity.
I finally realize that being healthy, mentally and physically, is going to be a lifelong endeavor. I realize the pitfalls that got me into a food coma and literally depressed me, making me not enjoy a good chunk of the past year.
We can’t be happy all the time, but at least we can stop making ourselves sad. Especially for bullshit reasons.
So the tradeoff between health and anything else, whether it’s school or work or anything, is totally false. Health helps you do whatever you do better, and enjoy yourself doing it.
Cookies did not make me happy. Crossfit does.
Let me repeat, for all the other former and current fatties like me in the audience who never in a million years would think a child who weight 200 lbs by fourth grade would say something so crazy:
Cookes did not make me happy. Crossfit does.
And the point isn’t Crossfit, although I think it’s amazing. The point is that it was in the thick of the struggle, pushing myself to the limit, realizing I had limits and couldn’t do it perfectly but gave it my gosh darn best, that I found my inner peace.
It wasn’t in making excuses for myself, feeling sad for no reason, and trying to find comfort in cookies.
No amount of self indulgence will give you self esteem. A cookie now and then won’t hurt, but depending on cookies for your happiness is as bad as alcoholism.
So many people judge Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a junkie who broke the law and made a deal with the devil and deserved his fate, but-
Haven’t we all?
Who am I to judge? I have the same reprobate inside me, the one who says, have a FastBreak candy bar on your way home, your life is so tough, you indulge yourself so rarely, it won’t hurt, just this once, you deserve it, you need it, this is what you need to finish your homework. If you refuse this candy bar, there’s no way you will have the willpower left to do what you need to do, please everybody, and continue to be a good girl. Just have a candy bar, everybody does it.
There is a time for rest and a time for action, but action heals too. Action wins the battle. And we need to keep on fighting.
That is how we find our peace and redemption.
Get away from me, Satan.
And why did we turn to sugar, heroin, anorexia- whatever sordid control mechanism that made us think we could hold back the universe?
What was so wrong, so broken inside that we seriously thought that giving in to an urge would give us release?
What was bothering us so bad in the first place?
I believed in my own inedequacy. And so I became inadequate.
Every time I called myself weak, I became weaker. Every time I expected less from myself, I fell further from grace.
When you look for the bad in mankind, you find it. The same is so true of ourselves.
And to delude ourselves into not seeing it when it rears its ugly head, that is nihilistic stupidity.
Now, gaining some weight might not seem like a mortal sin. I guess it technically isn’t. But I failed grievously in my own eyes, and instead of finding strength in God in the terror and mystery and uncertainty of the universe, I chose food.
And instead of building myself up and respecting the life I was given and my dreams for it, I despaired.
I think despair is a real sin.
The goal of this post is not to feel bad about myself or hate myself. The goal is just to figure out where it went wrong so it can never happen again- repentence
The goal is healing.
Most of the monsters in our closet are their of our own making. Will I die alone? Will I ever get a job? Will I be able to move out of my parents’ house? Those are fears that we feed.
And the anger, which has a touch of righteousness but so quickly turns to despair, says, What the fuck is wrong with the world? I dind’t do anything wrong. Why are all the crooks in power? Why can’t life be like it was for the old people when the economy didn’t suck?
But those questions sap our strength too, if asked too long and without action.
And the truth is, even in the midst of despair, I was doing it. I was on my way. It just didn’t feel like it at the time. And now, the scale still hasn’t budged but I am amending my ways, and I have been for a long time, though I’ve taken some giant leaps in the past few weeks.
It’s hard to just chill until things work out. To keep up the fight no matter how it seems it’s going. But this is what we are called to do.
The only way out is through.
When going through hell, the best thing is to keep going- Churchill
And so I wish you the best in all of your darkness and despair. I adjur you to vanquish your demons with a holy sign and send all your sorrows away. Face them, and let yourself be transformed by the encounter. See the devil in the mirror and conquer it.
The shadow isn’t all bad, Jung would say. But the shadow I’m talking about is the black pit of despair, the abyss within ourselves where instead of staring in awe of the mystery of life, we give way to fear. That is how we become the skeleton in the closet, follow the road paved with good intentions, and decide to live in misery rather than light simply for lack of courage.
Take heart, get up, and keep going.
Whether you see it or feel it or not, believe in goodness and you will find it.
Let go of your fears, your addictions, your obessions, and walk in the light of the living God, who is inscutable and mysterious but ever present for the souls with the confidence to believe in him.
A world without faith is Hell. The same world, with faith, is transformed to the construction fo the kingdom of Heaven.
Repent, for the day of the Lord is at hand. We may not see armageddon brimstone falling from the skies, but we can and must find our way through the darkness in our own souls. Knowing that without that darkness, we couldn’t be saved.