Come As You Are

I’ve been struggling. That’s the truth of it. I’ve been doing some soul searching, lately, to figure out the reasons I’ve been eating too much lately. As I’ve said before, my weight is a reflection of my mental health, and I’ve allowed myself to regain weight yet again. While some up and down is normal as I approach maintenance, losing control is not.

My first inclination is to beat myself up and punish myself, which is more of a symptom than the root cause; I’ve opted, instead, to accept myself where I am, right now, and work forward. Making myself feel even worse usually results in just stirring up anger and resentment over why I can’t have a normal body, and then it goes straight to hell. That’s a warning sign, and it’s happened far too often in my life for me to simply ignore it.

Instead, I’m working on setting aside self-judgment in an effort to resolve the issues that caused weight gain in the first place. It’s not “hey, you’re eating too much of the wrong things, dummy!” as much as why I’ve chosen to medicate with food. This blog is my space not only to be transparent about my processes but to also talk it through a bit. As I work through this, you can expect there will be more blogs addressed to this as I move forward.

One of the things I recently and slowly realized, once the smoke cleared enough to understand, is that my mother’s mental health had declined far more than I was willing to recognize when she still lived. Although Covid triggered a rapid decline and pushed her off a dementia cliff, refusing all that supports us in life, I also suspect she had reached a point where she simply no longer wanted to live. The quality of her life had gone down markedly over the last few years of her life, and I, the one closest to her, didn’t want to see that. And it’s really amazing how much we can talk ourselves out of something that’s probably obvious to anyone else.

Emotionally, I’m still carrying a lot of guilt, no matter how much I know, logically, that I couldn’t have changed much about her situation — and I certainly can’t, now. I have continually questioned whether I did the best I could for her with what I knew at the time. I have felt anguish over judging myself as selfish because I didn’t give her more of myself in her final months and years, even though I know that caregivers can’t give when the tank runs dry. But mostly, I felt bad over knowing my mother’s eventual death was not a peaceful one, and I firmly believe all living things deserve peace in their final days.

My own definition, and no one else’s

I don’t know what the answer is, yet; I’m examining my own mind in this process of grief so that I can heal. I do know that the answer is not self-punishment.

The health issues my mother faced were the challenges of age; loss of hearing, of sight. Her world shrank to a pinpoint. I can well imagine the anguish she endured; unable to hear much, the nonstop auditory hallucinations that were her unusual form of tinnitus (she heard nonstop repeating musical tones, to a point where she could tap out the tune on a keyboard; she even named the song “Ode to a Dying Snowman”), losing her sight, in pain with ankles and legs swelling, difficulty hanging on to words and thoughts, unable to completely communicate or fully remember what she meant to do. None of these things were within her power to change.

And there’s the difference. While I can understand the personal hell she lived nearing the end of her life, I still have the choice to change. I’ve already proven that to myself, but it’s a constant process of reinforcing that ability to control my world. I was able to help my mother because I’m in possession of my faculties in ways she was not. I can hear, see, move without pain or falling (…mostly, I admit, as I recall that dislocated finger from last spring), think, and reason. And I firmly believe, all emotions aside, that it’s my responsibility to do exactly that.

I know as I continue with this process of letting go and moving on that I will still deal with the occasional hiccups life throws at me, as well as the revelations that make me question, but my goals have remained the same for the last eight years. Becoming stronger and healthier means doing the hard work to face these sorts of challenges so I don’t go back to a point where I’ve lost all that I’ve learned. It’s one thing to face what my mother did at nearly 89 years old; it’s quite another to willingly choose to handicap myself by losing control of what I’ve worked so hard to master.

I don’t remember her for what she was in those final days, although I know she’s finally at peace. I remember her, instead, for who she was before those dark days shrank her world. How will I be remembered? That’s still in my power, and I would do well to remember that, for however many years I have left on this earth to make my mark and consider my life a job well done. I am still defining myself by my own abilities and no one else’s opinion.

In one week, I turn 60. I’ll have a cupcake and a fun weekend. The occasional feast is okay as long as I’m not feasting nonstop and for the wrong reasons; food doesn’t solve anything. It’s meant to nourish the body, not stifle the pain of emotions. All the food in the world will not push me back in time to make different decisions. I can choose, for myself, to move forward with purpose.

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