For the past several months, I’ve been listening to a podcast called Suicide Buddies. It’s about two comedians who research and discuss famous suicides. And they tell a lot of suicide jokes.
It’s crude. It’s not PC. But that’s my kind of humor. And I listen mostly for the great rapport between the two hosts of the podcast. Those guys just crack me up and that in itself can lighten my mood when it goes dark. The podcast is definitely not for everyone and I can see how it can be triggering for some. But they don’t make fun of suicidal people or suicide itself and certainly don’t try to trivialize it. One of their aims is to destigmatize suicide and talk about it in an open, honest, and funny way.
I think it’s safe to say most people have had suicidal thoughts in the past. But no one wants to talk about it. It’s the same reason why people don’t want to go to therapy or even discuss their problems with friends or family. They don’t want to seem crazy. No one wants to feel weird or be shunned for their innermost maladies. That’s understandable. But I’ve just never been that way.
I’ve been pretty open about my suicidal thoughts. Well, maybe suicidal is too severe of a word. I think about dying a lot. I think about being dead. A lot. There’s hardly a week that goes by that I don’t think about having my head bashed in by a heavy object or being riddled with bullets until I’m just a smear on the floor. When I stand back and look at the mess I’ve made of my life, and the mess I’ve made of relationships, I think it would just be easier to be obliterated. But as far as actively taking my life, I haven’t thought much about it. My parents co-signed on my student loans so I’d hate to leave them 50 grand in debt. So for all those who are concerned, don’t be. Not yet anyway. I’ve still got a few years of payment left.
I’ve talked with a few friends and acquaintances about their brushes with suicide. I get it. I empathize. And we talk about it. And I hope they feel better afterward, for being heard and for not being judged. Because I’ve been there too. And I’ve wished someone would have been there to listen to me. So I try to be the listener. I always try to be the listener.
And I make my own jokes about it. I don’t try to hide it or deny it. I think in some ways, it’s just a part of me. There’s a darkness there that has been with me for so long it’s like it’s own limb now. I almost feel like I can’t go about my life without at least addressing it to others. ‘Cause I know they can see it, like a giant lump in my throat.
And I hope my own talk of suicide and wanting to be dead doesn’t get others down but helps them to face their own thoughts of death and dying. That having these thoughts may not be normal or all that healthy but it does happen and it’s doesn’t mean you’re crazy and it’s probably more common than any of us think. But we’ll never know the full scope because no one wants to talk about it. But talking about it could be just what some people need to lessen the severity of their struggle. At least momentarily.
Back to the podcast, the hosts have talked about their fight with mental illness, the years of therapy, medication, and other methods to quell their suicidal tendencies. And through all of that, they still struggle to this day. For the most part, they are better. They still slip up. They relapse. And they are far from cured. But they feel they have a better grasp on it than they used to have and that in itself can feel like a monumental victory. And they aren’t the only ones who continue to struggle. I’ve read about celebrities with access to anything they’d ever need to achieve mental improvement. And some of them have had tremendous success. Some have had moderate. And some haven’t seen much success at all.
And it makes me wonder if these people have access to the best resources and still can’t shake their depression, how am I supposed to get better with nothing more than my diary and a bag of Doritos?
It all feels pretty hopeless a lot of the time. There are degrees of depression. Certain kinds can be treated in certain ways. And maybe some can’t be treated at all. And it’s not always this Lifetime movie madness of staying in bed for weeks at a time or constant crying. Sometimes it’s more subtle. It’s the kind of depression that digs deep and lives inside your bones. It doesn’t disturb your daily functions. It just settles in and lets you know it’s there to stay. It’s like a continuous buzzing in your ear, a lash in your eye, a punch in the face at every step. It’s not an outward curse. It suffocates invisibly.
And until you’ve been there, you’ll never understand. It’s easy to scoff at suicide, to say it’s selfish or a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hate that phrase. It comes from an assumption that depression doesn’t lodge into your lungs and doesn’t stay with you for months, years, decades. But it does. It’s often unyielding. But until you’ve reached that point of complete hopelessness, looking at your life and seeing a landscape of agony as far as your pained mind can imagine, to feel as though death is the only relief to all the pain that courses through you each day, you’ll never understand.
But it would be helpful to try, to not be so quick to condemn but to make an effort to empathize and offer help in the form of listening or just being there as an anchor when everything feels like it’s spiraling out of control.
Again, it differs. It’s a bad day. A horrible week. A tumultuous year. It’s a cranky minute, a desolate week, a half hour of agony. It’s self-harm, crying fits, bad moods, desires to die, cravings for food or sex, binge-watching television and screaming at a loved one. It’s about releasing, pushing the pain out however necessary to feel better. Sometimes it’s about actively killing yourself. And sometimes it’s not about wanting to die but just not wanting to be alive anymore. It could be so easy, like a light switch. How can that not be tempting to some?
I’ve just never seen the harm in talking about self-harm. Sure, it’s not the best topic to bring up at a baby shower or wedding reception but between close friends and family, I think it’s beneficial, might even bring each other closer. It helps for the one listening to get a grasp of what you’re going through and provide a new perspective on your journey. Who knows, they might have been there once too. Might even be there now. It might help for them to know they don’t have to go through it alone. That they don’t have to leave. That they can stick around for a bit longer and talk it out.
Heartbreaks and bellyaches seem to be the name of the game as of late. But why shouldn’t it be? One always leads to the other.
I had my usual year-end binge in December and said I would do better in January. Don’t I always? Don’t we always? But the funny thing about making plans is every time I say I’m going to do better, I usually end up doing worse. It’s the conscious effort, the deliberate decisions that derail me every time. It seems I always do my best when I don’t think too hard about it.
After helping myself to Christmas leftovers, Valentine’s Day came around and I had to allow myself some candy. And by some, I mean 3 boxes of post V-Day clearance candy that I ate in as many days. I also had two new donut shops open up and Taco Bell has these new amazing nacho fries and I discovered a new coffee shop in the town I work in. I’ve also had various co-workers who wanted me to join them for a dinner out and how can I refuse the chance to go to a restaurant? It’s been a whirlwind of grease and cheese, fried chicken and Cheetos, ice cream cones and creamy parmesan noodles.
I’ve been progressively bingeing more and more and it’s getting so out of control that it scares me.
These new food discoveries and opportunities are just convenient excuses to eat, to soak up all my melancholia with a slice of fried bread. But my face is getting fuller and my pants are getting tighter, all following the familiar formula of sadness leading to overeating. My mother criticizes everything I do so I get fast food. My dad only talks to me when he’s drunk so I eat 20 snacks a day. My boss at work drives me crazy so I ignore my packed Lean Cuisine and grab a burger and fries for lunch. I’m bored on my hour-long drive home so I eat a bag of chips to occupy myself so I won’t sleepily swerve off the road. I’m lonely as hell so I treat myself to two desserts after dinner.
I try to walk a straight and narrow path and these people come along and throw me off course. They’re demeaning or dismissive, dramatic or deteriorating and sometimes I think they’re determined to throw their drama onto me. And I have to eat in order to balance myself out again. It’s the only way I know how.
But I also know it’s not the best way. I look at myself and see the changes, the way in which my lack of support system and sour opinion of myself are bloating my body, branching out into every aspect of my life, making work harder, making family more frustrating, and isolating me from the fun times I used to care about.
My tears are like the tide, coming and going and I have no control over the contents of the ocean or how they sway to and from the sand. All I can seem to do is sit back and watch and respond accordingly. I don’t have a choice, just a spectator to the mouthfuls of agony, awash in a fog that hovers over everything and steals all the scenery from me.
There’s always an instinct to eat. But it’s not predatory. It’s compensatory.
Food is my comfort, confidant, and companion. Any time things get tough, it’s the first thing I think about. And things are always tough.
I’ve gained quite a bit of weight again. Since getting this new job, I sit on my butt for 8 hours a day. And since my depression has gotten worse, all I want to do is eat to not think about how detrimental every day is. If I fill up my stomach, there won’t be any room for misery, right?
Yeaaaaah. It doesn’t work like that at all. But it doesn’t keep me from trying my darndest.
My pants are getting harder to button and the skin on the side of my stomach is irritated from consistently rubbing up against my too-tight-t-shirts. And this discomfort is directing me right to the Doritos. It’s all I can think about most days.
“Will lunch time ever get here fast enough?”
“What will I have for dinner?”
“If I go to bed early, I can have breakfast sooner.”
“Well, the next meal isn’t for about an hour or two. I can’t hold out that long! Let me have a snack.”
And I eat and while I’m eating, nothing can touch me. There is nothing wrong in the world and I am at peace. It’s that fragile, ephemeral contentment that creates the cravings, that evokes an addiction to that peace. Between feeling bad and feeling better, I’m going to choose to feel better. If I have to eat to get to that point, I will eat. And if I have to be physically uncomfortable to balance out my brain, it’s something I can accept.
Until I actually am physically uncomfortable. Then that brings me back around to feeling bad about myself again. It’s a seesaw of wanting and withdrawals, of addictions and adipose tissue.
Nothing has ever made me feel better than food. When I go out to dinner with someone, I’m more excited about the cuisine than the company. When I get fast food at the end of the week, it’s my favorite thing ever. It’s a treat for making it through another crappy week. My excitement is embarrassing. When the fast food employee hands me that brown paper bag and the scents fill my nose, I’m in heaven. I’m actually happy. And it’s just really sick that empty calories and liters of grease can make me feel something no one ever has.
There’s never been a pill or person, prayer or position that has brought me that kind of peace.
It’s an obsession. It’s a constant calorie count, a war between my stomach and my sensitivities. It’s the back and forth between food and feelings, of losing weight and gaining it right back, of feeling frustrated with the world and ultimately, with myself, because I cannot control my compulsions. I push down the guilt until it bubbles up in an overwhelming sense of self-hatred. And what better way to get rid of that hatred than to eat?
Thinking about food all the time is exhausting. And I just know if I didn’t have food taking up the entirety of my mind, I could focus on other things. My head is trapped, strapped down by the schedule of eating, planning meals and waiting to taste happiness again.
I studied the menu carefully. My eyes darted all over the brochure to take in all the options. My pupils dilated. My mouth salivated. Half-chubbed, I began to narrow down my options. Orange chicken or General Tso’s? Spring or egg roll? Wonton soup or egg drop soup? Heck, let’s have it all!
I sat in the break room at work with a fellow employee. She was an older lady with pancake makeup and helmet hair. She perused the local newspaper and munched on dollar store potato chips.
I asked her if she had been and she said she hadn’t but that her son had and he enjoyed it. I told her I wasn’t sure what to get and she told me to get a little of everything. While that was the plan, I jokingly told her I didn’t need all that food.
“Yeah, it does look like you’ve gained some weight.” While I knew she wasn’t being rude, it did hurt a bit. But she wasn’t wrong. I have gained a good bit of weight back since losing 50lbs last year.
“Well, I have food problems,” I told her.
“We all do,” she said as she sat there with her eyeliner weighing more than she did. I was worried to look directly at her out of fear that the breath from my words might blow her over. The lady is skinny is what I’m trying to say. Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have food issues. But hers certainly aren’t as apparent as mine.
Despite her innocent yet paper cut-like comment, I did end up getting a sample of several things. And as I took the bags (plural!!) of food out of the restaurant, I was both giddy and a little sad that I had been looking forward to this moment all week. I wasn’t excited over seeing an old friend or catching up with a new acquaintance. I didn’t even ask anyone to eat the food with me. I wanted to go home and eat it all by myself.
And so I did.
The food was pretty good. There was a lot so I had enough to last me two meals. And it also gave me an upset stomach both times.
I don’t have this problem when I’m dieting. I eat greasy fried foods and always end up with angry bowels and a broken heart. And yet I keep falling into this cycle of pleasing and punishing myself. Pizza today and involuntary purging tomorrow! You’d think the threat of wicked hot sting ring would be enough to keep me away from the waffle fries. It’s not.
I don’t understand how I can do so well and suddenly completely lose all focus and drive. I wonder if it’s because I try too hard to do well. I count every calorie, record every exercise and then push myself to do better each time. Eat a little less, move a little more, and completely obsess over it. That leads to burnout which leads to burritos. My weight loss program has not been designed for longevity.
It’s really about balance. I know that. Eat well most of the time. Have a cheat day every once in a while. Go hard with the workouts and maybe have an occasional easy day. It’s not about deprivation but diversity. It’s about changing it up, having a slice of pizza when I really want it and then walking an extra mile or two the next time I hit my walking trail. It’s about skipping a workout but then having to skip dessert. It’s about checks and balances. It’s about enjoying good (bad) food responsibly.
But how do I find that balance? When I’m in my hardcore diet mode, it’s hard for me to have a cheat day because I think I’m ruining all my progress. Logically, I know I’m not. But I suppose my body/food issues are not logical. Maybe the answers cannot be found in logic. Or maybe logic is the answer to my lunacy.
What’s it gonna take to simmer down and lay off the Lays? Do I need to meditate, get my chakras aligned, or practice some positivity? How can I get in the right frame of mind to reward myself without reprimanding myself? How can I take the tension out of calisthenics? It seems I know what I need to do. And it’s really easy to sit down and write out a plan that is healthy in a physical and emotional sense. But it all falls apart when I try to put it into practice. Its when the irrational fears take over. It’s when I become this unforgiving tyrant. I can’t make any mistakes. I can’t flub up. I can’t work out hard enough. And even if I’m losing weight, it’s not a healthy attitude.
I know what I need to do. And I know how I need to think and treat myself. I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. In my history of histrionics and shrinking hemlines, mental health has never looked good on my menu. But with my constant stop-and-start shrinking, it might be worth taking a second glance.
My grandmother’s health has been declining over the past few years. It’s been in small stages. She’s fallen. She’s developed arthritis. She’s become forgetful. She can’t start sentences without stopping to correct herself. She’s become slovenly. She’s frequently light-headed and has intense, reoccurring bouts of shoulder pain. My mother takes her to the doctor to soothe the aches and check on the pains. These trips used to be infrequent but with each day, there seems to be a new ailment that needs to be mended and monitored, so now the ventures are commonplace.
And now my grandmother has skin cancer. Specifically, Merkel Cell Carcinoma, a particularly rare and aggressive form of cancer that is not playing around.
It started when my mother noticed a growth on my grandmother’s nose. They went to the doctor to get it checked out. There was a series of appointments and a biopsy. That’s when they got the cancer diagnosis. They were referred to another doctor. Between doctor visits, the growth grew in size and severity. Like I said, this cancer doesn’t joke. It spreads fast.
It was decided by her doctor that the cancer had to be cut out. There was a possibility it could even spread to her lymph nodes. I worried because her surgery was scheduled about two weeks after her latest appointment. What if the cancer got worse in the mean time?
Surgery day came and while I was at work, Mom texted me with updates. The cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes but the doctor did take a large chunk out of my grandmother’s nose.
Afterward, they spoke with a plastic surgeon who offered some not-so-great options for reconstructive surgery, including pulling her forehead skin down or pulling her cheek over and using the tissue to fill in the gap in her nose. These methods would mean multiple surgeries, all of which would require my grandmother to go under anesthesia again, and at her age, it doesn’t seem like a good idea.
It’s especially not a good idea because not only has my grandmother lost her nose but she’s essentially losing her mind as well. My mom told me she suspected my grandmother is suffering from mild dementia. I could have told her that. I’ve noticed it for years now. I don’t know if my mom has only started noticing it due to being around my grandmother so much due to the multiple doctor visits or if she’s just been in denial and can no longer refute the obvious.
This past Tuesday, I went back to the ENT for my post-op checkup. He removed my bandages and said I was a fast healer. He handed me a mirror and I tried to look at the damage but I couldn’t actually see anything. I hadn’t shaved since the surgery so my beard was covering up a good portion of the incision. But the fact that I couldn’t see a jagged, raised scar was good. It didn’t even bruise like it did during my last procedure.
After he cut away my bandages, he opened the door and raised his hand for a goodbye shake. Slightly annoyed, I told him I had a few questions. I had waited for an hour to speak with him so I didn’t want to be ushered out after 7 minutes. I asked him what caused these cysts and he informed me it’s a birth defect that I’ve had all my life. They just don’t typically form noticeable, protruding lumps until between the ages of 19-30. He also informed me that he took out a part of my hyoid bone, which is where the cysts can stem from. So between the excision and my age, the chances of it coming back are unlikely. Thank goodness.
I asked about various scar treatments and if the numbness under my chin was normal. He told me it was ’cause he had to cut a flap open underneath my jaw to get to the cyst. “You’ll start to feel some itching when the nerves reform.” Yuck. My mind raced with all the questions I wanted to ask him but his presence towering over me caused all those questions to fly right out of my incision.
“Well, I guess that is all,” I said.
“Just give us a call if you think of anything else,” he said with a handshake and then that was it.
I went back to work the next day. I’d gone back to work that previous Saturday but I really shouldn’t have. I felt terrible with a mixture of antibiotics and lethargy coursing through me. It still hurt to talk and my voice was reminiscent of someone who’d been smoking for the past 50 years. But I needed the money so I went in. But I felt much better during this shift. It didn’t hurt as much to talk and my voice had almost returned to normal. I’d also taken my last antibiotic the day before so I’d hoped the majority of it was making its way out of my system.
During my shift, I passed by a familiar customer. I greeted him and he asked me if I’d been on vacation.
“Not quite,” I said. “I had surgery and I spent last week in bed recovering. So, I guess it was a vacation of sorts.”
“Ah, well we missed you,” he said, referring to him and his wife. That was really nice to hear. In fact, he acted like he was more glad to see me than some of my coworkers were. It just reminded me that sometimes we don’t always feel like we are noticed or appreciated but there are people out there who do see, who do recognize, and who do feel it when you’re missing.
After my shift was over, I wanted some kind of milkshake or other creamy confection to soothe my throat. I went to a fast food place and thought, “Well, while I’m here, might as well grab a little dinner.” ‘Cause I’m logical like that. Actually, my reasoning made sense to me. I hadn’t eaten for about 4 days while laid up in bed with what felt like a butcher knife in my windpipe so I figured a couple of grease-coated calories wouldn’t kill me. I wasn’t sure what I wanted so I just stared at the menu and listed off things to the cashier that I thought sounded good.
“I’m gonna just combo all this up for you so it’ll be cheaper,” she said. Another nice thing. It was small and maybe she’s supposed to do that kind of thing but I took it as a kind gesture from a girl just tryin’ to help a brotha out.
And I needed all the help I could get ’cause I had to pay for the surgery. Even with insurance, I had to pay a large chunk out of pocket to meet my deductible. When the lady at the front counter at the doctor’s office asked me if I wanted to pay a little bit on it along with my co-pay, I told her I wanted to go ahead and take care of the whole thing.
“All of it?” she asked with wide eyes.
I’m fortunate I had the funds to pay for the whole thing. And it isn’t going to break me to part with the money. I’m struggling, for sure, but I recognize and am grateful for the fact that I do have some in savings and was able to take care of it without it being a huge burden on me. I’m terrible with money and one day it’ll all come crashing down on me but over the past few years, I have at least tried to be more conscientious of my spending and my bank account. And I think I’ve done better. It’s still a process because spending, much like eating, is how I soothe myself.
But overall, my recovery and transition back to work was nice. I encountered some kind people and I just want to recognize that because it doesn’t happen often that I have something good to say about my surroundings.
Here’s hoping those goiters are gone for good!
I came down with a sore throat about two weeks ago. It was the worst sore throat I’ve had since I can remember. It was hard to swallow, which made eating nearly impossible. Not only did I not want to eat because of the pain, I also had no appetite so not eating didn’t bother me.
But now that I’m feeling better, eating isn’t painful, and my appetite is coming back. But I don’t want it to.
I lost about 6 pounds in 2 weeks. It might not seem like a lot but I’ve been dieting and exercising since January and I usually only lose about 4 pounds every 2 weeks. But I lost those 6 pounds by not eating or exercising. I just slept in bed the whole time. Easiest 6 pounds I ever lost. And while I understand it was probably mostly water weight and muscle, when I finally went back to work and got dressed and could go down another notch on my belt, it felt satisfying.
It was nice not to worry about food for a change, not to have to count calories or wonder how long I’d have to exercise to burn off what I’d just eaten. It was all about my warm sheets, no sleep, and spitting up saliva all night. It was a pleasant trade-off.
The sickness helped me break through the 30lb mark. I’m now down 33lbs since January. While I’m happy with my progress, I wish I had a bit more of a healthier attitude about it all.
That’s not to say I’ve been unhealthy. In fact, this latest bout of weight loss has been, in my opinion, one of the healthiest ways I’ve done it. I have a set number of calories I can have each day and I stick with it. I work out 4-5 days a week, usually a low impact exercise that lasts 30-45 minutes. I still have sweets occasionally. I’ve even had a bit of fast food here and there, as long as it fits into my allotted calories. I don’t feel deprived. I don’t feel I’ve pushed my body to the extreme as far as physical exercise. I’m taking things slow and steady. I’m trying to be sensible and not restrict myself to the point of madness. And so far I think I’ve done a good job.
But this sickness has reminded me that I still desire quick fixes, that I’m not entirely resistant to a weight loss shortcut, no matter how unsustainable. I wanted to keep my restricted diet. I wanted to see how far I could go on a can of chicken noodle soup and a bowl of mashed potatoes, which had basically been my diet over the past 2 weeks. But it was just a thought. I didn’t go through with it, partly because I am tired of chicken noodle soup and partly because I know it’s not healthy. I knew I needed the strength to help me fight this sickness and 500 calories a day wouldn’t help with that. But the thoughts were still there.
On the other end of the spectrum, being sick also reminded me I’m not above overindulging at times. Because I hadn’t eaten very much for several days, when my throat starting feeling better, I overindulged in a few foods. I reasoned that I had a few extra calories I could consume due to my lack of eating in the days prior. And really, it makes sense. I’ve been trying to create balance in my diet. If I eat too much one day, I try to scale it back the next. I even try to do that from meal to meal. Big breakfast? Small dinner. And vice versa. But as much as I enjoyed those extra helpings, I felt guilty.
Despite over 2 months of developing solid eating habits and consistently exercising, it only took 2 weeks to get out of that routine and I’m already dreading getting back into it. I’m still not feeling that great so working out is not on my to-do list right now. But I’m trying to stick to my calories, so at least I have that going for me.
I just feel bad that I have to put so much thought into these types of things. Sneaking in an extra slice of pizza or feeling I can allow myself another cup of ice cream always leads to disaster. Anytime I loosen the reigns, I end up losing control. It takes such an incredible amount of concentration to stay on track and a lot of the time it’s exhausting. And so when I stop exercising or don’t think about calorie counting, it feels good, freeing. But each and every time that happens, I gain all the weight back. So while it sucks, it’s necessary to keep up with what I’m eating and how many times I exercise. The sickness was a break of sorts, but now I’m ready to get back into my old routine. The hard part is gonna be actually doing it.
Last Wednesday, I was minding my own business when I felt a sore throat come on. This was odd because I usually wake up with it. But I actually felt it happen in real time. I wasn’t too concerned because I’ve had minor throat irritation before but it usually went away by the next day. But this one didn’t. The next two days passed by and I took some over the counter medication to try to nip it in the bud before it became too bad.
It didn’t get any better. My throat became so sore it was hard to swallow or even move my head around. I also lost my voice.
I reported to work like normal since I didn’t have many paid vacation/sick days left and I certainly didn’t want to waste them unless it was absolutely necessary. I only had a few days of work and then three days off, so I thought I’d be able to make it through and then take my days off to recover.
I made it through but things continued to get worse. I developed a nasty cough and a runny nose. I felt dizzy. I made an appointment to see a doctor. But that meant I actually had to get out of bed, get dressed, and go out in public. That thought usually pains me even when I’m not feeling like crap so it was exceptionally difficult that day.
Not only did I feel (and look) terrible but I saw a lot of old acquaintances while out. The nurse at the counter of the doctor’s office is the mother of my high school classmate.
While I was in the waiting room, one of my high school teacher’s walked in. My former teachers usually don’t recognize me so I kept my head down and she never seemed to notice. Even when the nurse called my name to be seen, my teacher didn’t turn her head in recognition.
And when the doctor came in to see me, he commented that he hadn’t seen me in about 5 years.
“I see on my notes here the last time you came to see me that you were studying animation,” he said. “Whatever happened to that?”
The dreaded question.
I had to explain that nothing ever happened to that, that I no longer felt passionate about animation, and that I had “retired” from drawing.
“What are you doing now?” he asked.
“Working retail,” I said. My already small voice had faded even more.
It’s always embarrassing to have to explain how my big dreams of being an animator fell through. And I always worry if people think I’m padding the truth, like I actually failed or dropped out. No, I graduated. I was just too much of a coward to do anything with my degree.
And when I went to get my prescription filled at the drugstore, I saw my former co-worker there. Hadn’t seen him in ten years. He asked what I was up to and I explained, in the same sad, small voice, that I was working in retail.
It doesn’t help that I’m also fat now. These people who haven’t seen me in such a long time now see me as overweight, balding, and working a crummy job folding shirts for pennies. The years haven’t been good to Bran. More like, Bran hasn’t been good to Bran.
I graduated from college about five years ago and that’s an ample amount of time to run into a lot of old friends and past acquaintances, to explain to each and every one of them of my shortcomings and failures. And it has sucked each time. And each time I have to explain that I’m basically doing nothing with my life, I feel that fire of shame in my chest. But over the years, the pool of former friends has dried up and I’ve had to explain myself less and less. But even after all these years, there are a few stragglers that still show up in my life and I have to bust out the explanations one more time and feel the fire again. I hate it and it’s just another reminder of my pointless existence. As if I needed a reminder.
It’s all perception. I know I’m harder on myself than anyone else is. I’m sure the doctor and the co-worker probably didn’t think twice about my life update. Sure, I’ve gained some weight since they saw me last. Sure, I’m not in the best occupation right now. But does that make me beneath them? Of course not. And did they think that? I’m sure they didn’t. But the paranoid part of my brain felt like they did look down on me. I always have this suspicion that everyone thinks I’m trash and I hate having to confirm it every time I see them.
One of the annoying things about living in a small town is it feels like I’m always on top of everyone else. Or, more specifically, it feels like everyone else is always on top of me. It’s suffocating. There’s no privacy or anonymity. Everyone knows me and my business. I just wish I could have sneaked in and out of the doctor’s office and slipped in and out of the drugstore, ninja-style, and then nose-dived into the safety of my bed, and cuddled up to the comfort of my penicillin and pillows.
When I was in my early 20’s, I had just become accustomed to my new body and my new, healthy lifestyle. I was around 50 pounds thinner, active, with a positive outlook on my future.
I remember walking past the candy aisle in the grocery store and telling myself, with confidence, “I have no desire to eat any of this. And I can’t imagine I ever will.”
I often think back to that moment. What happened to change my mind and my resolve?
Well, a lot of things.
A few years later, I gained all the weight back. And then I lost it all again. And then I gained it all back again.
When I think back to that moment in the grocery store, there is a numbness, an inability to face the fact that I damaged my body and my spirit over and over again. Nearly 10 years later and I’m still struggling with the same issues. And the same side effects that are so embarrassingly visible.
For a few fleeting moments, I wonder what it would have been like to have simply kept the weight off. Instead of being miserable and uncomfortable in clothes and out of them, I could be fine with my body today. I could have finally stopped fixating on what was going to fit and how many calories were going to be in my next meal. Without the distractions, I could have focused on my art and put my mind to better use. But the sugar has deteriorated my mind. The depression and the endless stacks of pizzas have deteriorated my metabolism and my ability to care about my decline.
After that day in the candy aisle, I wasted the rest of my twenties by falling into an endless cycle of weight loss and weight gain, of depression and determination. Of failure slapping me in the face over and over again. Of feeling helpless and confident and hopeless and salvageable. Of dying. Of living. Of being in between.
I am not a happy person. I never have been. My everyday existence is filled with anxiety and fear. But I do not deal. I ignore what scares and angers me until it is no longer at the forefront of my frustrations. They never go away fully but they are gently prodded to the recesses of my mind while other trivial trials take over. And I ignore by eating. Instead of tackling my fears, I feed them.
My kitchen is in ruins.
My mother decided she wanted to redo our entire kitchen so last week, she had a business come and take out the cabinets, counters, sink, and dishwasher. We still have our fridge and stove but that’s it. Never one to be without coffee, Mom set up the coffee maker and microwave in the dining room. Every time I go for a cup, I feel like I’m in a hotel room. And I feel like I’m camping when plating my food on foam plates and eating with plastic utensils.
Mom estimated it will be like this for another week or so since the company is still building the replacement cabinets and need to put down new floor covering. Mom’s also started painting the kitchen so it smells like plastic and fumes.
All the cutlery and other dishes are stacked in the living room, which makes it hard to move around in there. Things are piled on the dining room table and in the corners. It makes the room a little bit smaller. It feels like my world is closing in.
We’ve been eating out a lot. It’s just easier. The problem is I was going to start dieting around this time. I told myself I would get back on track once I went back to the retail job and stayed there for about a month to get back into the swing of things.
I gained a lot of weight, all the weight I lost in 2012 specifically, while I was at the finance job. I was stressed and food soothes me. But I knew once I went up two pant sizes I needed to get myself under control.
But I don’t even want to.
I enjoy greasy fast food. I know it’s horrible for me and the calorie count is absurd but I don’t care. I’m still stressed because the retail job is slowly tanking. Our hours continue to get cut more each week and we are in the midst of a serious shoplifting problem. With the hours being scaled back, we are understaffed. There are entire departments that are not covered, which allows shoplifters to literally go in, take what they want, and leave completely undetected.
I honestly felt okay about the job when I went back. It was never my intention to stay there forever but I was okay with not trying to find a new job right away. I thought I’d work there while I focused on publishing my book and then once that was done, I could focus on a job search. But at this point, I should probably be looking now. I just hate looking. It’s so discouraging to go through all the classifieds and online job postings and not find anything interesting or attainable.
I feel like a smoker who knows the habit is bad but enjoys smoking and doesn’t want to quit. Every time I bite into a double cheeseburger, I know it’s going to make it harder to button up my pants but I’m all about that instant gratification and future consequences be damned.
I’m stressed about work and I’m stressed about my book and I’m stressed about not fitting into my clothes anymore and I don’t have the money to buy new ones and I’ve also been struggling with other stuff like being lonely and disconnected from society. It’s a lot to try to deal with so I eat to help me not deal with it.
I hope to one day get myself together again. I just don’t know what that will take. I’ve been on this journey so many times before and it’s both exhausting and exuberant. But each time, there’s a little less joy and a little bit more concern, wondering when I’ll slip again. Because I always do. Even when I bounce back, I always do.