“I have a new problem,” I told my therapist, “I started out counting calories, but I didn’t lose weight and then I decided to eat as little as possible, and then I ended up hating myself for every bite I take, and now I can hardly eat.”
I just feel too big.
My therapist began to combat my thinking with logic. but of course I already know it’s not logical to hate myself for eating, and I know I wouldn’t accept it if any of my friends hated themselves for eating, and none of the people I care about think i’m gross for being this weight.
But the feelings are still there.
I told him so.
He sat back and thought. “Maybe it isn’t about food,” he said, “maybe it’s just more of that self loathing and holding yourself to an impossibly high standard.”
Maybe it is. Maybe it always is.
And I told him how my mom always ‘refused to praise mediocrity”, and how seldom I felt like I was good enough. I told him about the lectures, sometimes hours long, my dad berating me for some infraction, what a disappointment i was. Sometimes with a spanking, sometimes without. I’d have rather had the spanking.
I wrote that in a paper once, in grade school when i was supposed to write about my family. Mom was amused and dad seemed mildly upset that THAT was the thing I wrote about him.
“Did he change, after that?” my therapist asked me.
I smiled sadly, “No.”
My mom, who didn’t praise mediocrity, never met her own standards either. She was always too fat in her mind. I remember dad trying to convince her to buy clothes, but she was always hoping to lose weight, never wanted to spend money on herself at whatever size she was.
I wonder if she thought she didn’t deserve it, like I look at a piece of chocolate and think “I can’t eat this, I need to lose weight.”
But what I really mean is “I don’t deserve it.” “I’m not worth it.”
I feel like I am worth punishing by not eating.
Or if I suggest an outing, and it rains, I punish myself by berating myself for a bad suggestion, as though I should have known exactly when the rain would come. I’m not worth consideration. I absorb all the negative because I feel I don’t deserve kindness.
What will it take for me to treat myself like a person, to believe I am worth care and love?
I feel, in many ways, worthless, and I have shrunk into myself, trying to take up as little space as possible. Don’t be noticed, don’t cause a fuss.
And while I know I’m not worthless, it’s still an old, old habit I have, to feel worthless.
And getting rid of the habit is going to be some hard work – constant reminding myself of truth, that it’s good to eat, that I am worth feeding, that I am worth loving.
Eventually my brain will be retrained and my feelings will change. I’m worth that.
(this poem, Shrinking Women, by Lily Myers, showed me the sad parts of myself.)
I learned to absorb
I took lessons from our mother in creating space around myself
I learned to read the knots in her forehead while the guys went out for oysters
and I never meant to replicate her, but
spend enough time sitting across from someone and you pick up their habits
that’s why women in my family have been shrinking for decades.