Emotional Battles

There are a lot of battles going on in the world today.  Religious battles, political battles, legal battles.  Battles that involve nasty words and media campaigns.  Battles that involve border disputes.  Battles that are violent and bloody with innocent lives lost.  Battles stuck in the court system with no reasonable outcome in site.  But today, I want to talk about emotional battles.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about Patterns of Behavior.  I talked about some of my struggles, and how I go about getting to the bottom of what is really bothering me.  Last week, I talked about buzz words and how they can spark strong emotions, and strong desires to Pay It Forward and make a difference. In case you can’t really see the obvious here, I’ll just say it simply – I’ve been fighting some emotional battles lately, and trying to figure out just where these feelings are really coming from.  While I didn’t sit down and actually journal it all out, I did spend some time in focused thinking about what exactly was going on.  Pondering, searching for the answer – or at least the identity of what I was feeling.  Usually, once I figure it out, I can find a way to work through it all.  Yesterday it finally became clear….like an obnoxious flashing neon sign… and me saying “why didn’t I see this before?!?!?!”


Ugh…face palm moment – truly.  When I finally figured it out, I texted Chel as I often do…and when she asked “Guilt???” I emailed her a list:

I feel guilty about spending money on a new tattoo
I feel guilty about not spending the money on bills
I feel guilty about not taking any time for ME.
I feel guilty about taking time for me.
I feel guilty about not cleaning the house, doing the laundry.
I feel guilty about not spending time at the winery
I feel guilty about spending too much time at the winery.
I feel guilty about not eating right.
I feel guilty about wasting food when I do rotations and leftovers don’t get eaten
I feel guilty for doing things that make me happy.
I feel guilty about not doing “enough”
I feel guilty for stuffing my face with comfort food.
I feel guilty for being a bad daughter.
Her response…”OMG Its almost like I wrote it….ugh…the question is how to let go of the guilt, especially the contradictory ones?”  And that’s why I love Chel…we totally get each other! So back to the focused thinking I went.  Dissecting why I was feeling guilty, and what I might be able to do about it.  I had a conversation with Google about it too…and learned that often guilt is grounded in feelings of inadequacy and shame.  Yup, yup, and yup.  Long standing issues with me, and ones I have to tackle from time to time.  Also pair it up with acts of selfishness for good measure.  Sheesh…I’m a mess!
Ok…so picking apart my list…the main themes are money, time, and taking care of myself.
Money:  there is never quite enough, but gentle reminders to myself to live within my means, stick to reasonable budgets, and make do with what you have.  Take care of mandatory bills, keep food on the table, and if you want something not normally in the budget – save for it.
Time:  that one is harder, as you can’t make more time exist.  But make lists, prioritize what needs to be done, and sometimes it’s ok to say NO.
Taking care of myself:  the hardest battle of all…but can be manageable if I prioritize and say NO sometimes.    The trick here is to find the balance, and not induce more guilt, inadequacy, or shame.
Apparently, I need to be more assertive.  Make my own needs known if they are valid.  I have to take care of my own well being.
I need to not measure myself against others, and especially I need to not chastise myself for accomplishing less than – or more than whomever it is I’m comparing myself to.
And I need to just let stuff go.  I’m one woman, capable of doing the work of one woman.  I can’t MAKE time, but I can manage and prioritize my time.  I need to not feel guilty when I make a choice to take care of myself.  I need to ensure that I am well and whole and at my best in order to be of service to others.
As I’ve mentioned before, in the past few months I’ve walked a path to more thoroughly explore and engage my faith.  I’ve made a commitment to go back to church and have some wonderful women (and men) in my life and in the congregation that have embraced me with loving open arms.  In this journey I’ve spent quite a bit of time with my nose in my Bible searching for inspiration and contemplating what I find.  I’ve also returned to an active practice of prayer.  Not just asking for guidance in my times of greatest need, but in counting my blessings and praising what is good and right in my world.  God doesn’t just want to hear what I need help with, he wants to celebrate my joys too.  Through this process I am learning that through open dialogue I can embrace a more peace filled life.  While I used to only talk to myself, and ask myself for answers to my questions – now I ask and listen to what God might have to say about things.  Knowing I don’t have to fight this battle alone…well, that leads to a sense of comfort and protection I haven’t felt in a long time.
So, on Friday I’ll be spending some time with one of my dearest friends and doing what at first felt like a very selfish thing and induced some guilt.  I am scheduled to get my next tattoo.  This tattoo will symbolize my MRKH journey and how it’s wrapped itself around my life as a whole – and it will also serve as a reminder of all that I’ve been through and the Courage, Strength, and Faith that I’ve found.  Stay tuned for pictures of course – and probably some whining about pain and itching and lack of quality sleep.  😉

Patterns of Behavior

Self-destructive behavior usually is trigger or caused by something subconscious – and until you can identify the cause, it’s difficult to stall, stop and even correct the behavior.  Often we don’t even realize we are into the pattern until reality slaps us in the face.  We are so busy living that we don’t stop and recognize that something pretty significant is going on.

I’ve done lots of therapy over the years.  I’m not crazy in the clinical sense, but sometimes my life is pretty crazy and I need that objective view to help me deal with “stuff”.  Sometimes the “stuff” is anger, or grief, or fear, or confusion, or anxiety – but it doesn’t always manifest in some nice neat little labeled box.  So figuring out what the predominate emotion is can be a challenge.  And even when the emotion is identified, finding the cause or trigger is even more troublesome.   One of the best things I learned through therapy is that sometimes you have to unpack layer by layer before you can figure out what is really bothering you.  For me, journaling is the best way to accomplish this task.  And even more specifically, I’ve found that (for me) using an interview technique really opens things up.  Much of what you see and read here on my blog are things that I’ve journaled about over the years, and so I thought to myself, maybe it would be helpful for you as readers to see the process in action.  What is to follow is likely to be pretty raw and ragged, but with any luck…I’ll find some preliminary answers.  Here goes!

Q:  So what seems to be going on?

A:  I’m not sure really…but I seem to have lost my focus and motivation.

Q: on what specifically?

A:  Everything, but we’ll start with the eating healthy and weight loss

Q:  So what were you doing and how was it working?

A:  I was doing JUDDD, calorie cycling, intermittent fasting – whatever you want to call it.  I was doing well, was in my sweet spot as far as my target maintenance range, feeling good.  I was tracking my food daily and starting to ease up on strict weekend rotations, easing my way into maintenance.

Q:  That sounds like the perfect storm – target range, easing up…your work is done so let’s just stop what we know works and kick back…

A:  Right?!?!!?!?  I knew it would be tricky…but I was busy and had all kinds of interruptions and reasons why I needed to make exceptions.

Q:  Excuses…just excuses.

A:  Of course.  There’s always something…and always something on the horizon…So I did my usual thing of “I’ll get back to it when this is over…next week after this passes” And I just let myself be dictated by my circumstances, instead of exerting some control.

Q: Now we’re getting somewhere…so let’s go back…when did the control start slipping…what was going on?

A: Well the semester started, so things started to get busier and more projects going on.  And the weather started to turn more fall like.  So that meant being hungry for/craving more comfort food type things.  Less light stir fry and grilled this or that…more creamy, saucy, soupy things…more bread.  But also those things taste good emotionally…soothe my weary soul.

Hmm…there’s more here…now that I really think about it.

My parents sold their house.

Even before that…I started going to church again.

Q:  ok…so let’s talk about this a minute.  You have 3 big things going on…

  1. Work getting busier, semester getting ready to start
  2. Parents selling the house, potentially digging up all kinds of things
  3. You started going to church again.

Let’s pick that apart one by one.  Obviously any of those could be emotional landmines on their own, with many other issues, but combined…it’s a great big issue with the only clear solution…stuff your face, right?

A:  Right…when in doubt…eat bread.  I have a feeling that we won’t be able to fully tackle all 3 of them succinctly…but they all three feed into why I’ve turned to stuffing my face and eating my way right back up and out of “safe maintenance level”.  When I got on the scale this morning to face the music and see what kind of damage my mindless emotional eating had done, I knew I need to take back some control.  So I made the decision to get back to tracking calories, and to see if with sheer grit and determination I could pull off a real DD today.  I’ve got my coffee for now, will drink water all afternoon – tea if I get chilled – and I packed a diet root beer for this afternoon.  I won’t eat anything until dinner, and will plan on a protein and veggie filled dinner – and NO WINE.  Willpower will get me through the day.

Let’s work on #1 for today…work schedule, busy projects and how my schedule in general has been upended, and has affected my eating patterns.

Q:  That sounds like a reasonable plan.  You’ve done many, many, many of these DDs, so the routine should offer you some comfort if nothing else.  Some return to normalcy and predictability…which ties in nicely to your request to focus on #1 and your schedule and its many interruptions.  So what are some of the highlights you’ve had to deal with in the last couple of months?  And how do those specifically relate to food choices?

A:  Ok…so in August…A couple of Saturday craft shows, so those make for extra tired and long weeks.  When I’m tired, I’m more apt to eat convenience foods, and want things that are fast and readily available.  Cheese and crackers, portable snacks, and easy fast dinners.  Not taking the time to prep good meals, and skipping salads and veggies and such in exchange for protein and carbs for fuel to just keep going.

Also in August, I started attending church regularly.  I’ll not go into the whys of that, but simply introduce the fact that following church every Sunday is treats in the fellowship hall.  Cakes, cookies, breads, etc.  Add in the fact that church can fuel some strong emotions, and you can see how this might lead to some emotional eating and justification of it.

Q:  Ah yes…ok…September?

A:  Another Saturday craft show – with chicken and joe-joes on the way home.  Busy September work schedule – interviews, meetings, planning for upcoming seminars and PEAB meetings and such.  Add in the fact that my father in law came up for a visit and well…things just got crazy.  He was here for 2 weeks, and part of that time he was sick.  So I was cooking only things that he would eat, and making plans and adjustments with him in mind.  It stresses me out to have company for that long, and so that more or less started the end of rotations and the start of indulging in wine every night as a “stress management tool”.  <eye roll>  I know it’s destructive, but it’s how I could manage.

I also did a much needed, but long single day road trip.  Road food – jerky, pretzels, 2 lunches, chicken and joe-joes on the road…you get the picture.  By then, the busy schedule and lack of privacy at home had me indulging in lots of things I had no business eating or buying…I was just trying to cope and cover my emotions in a layer of comfort food.

I think I was starting to recognize that things were out of control…but I wasn’t ready to sit down and really “deal” with any of it, and I knew I still had some crazy stuff on my calendar coming up…so the delaying tactic worked its way in as well.  After I get through this…as soon as I come back from…It’s pretty much my standard MO.  Take care of everyone and everything else…I’ll deal with ME when I have more time.

Q:  Yes, this is a well-established pattern for you.  Putting others needs above your own, to the point of self-destruction.  But you are wrestling back control now, yes?

A:  That’s my plan.  Tracking calories and back into solid JUDDD rotations.  But I also know that I need to unravel some of other stuff rattling around in my head.  I know that I need to deal with the emotional issues that make me turn to food in the first place.

I know I need to unpack the box surrounding my parents move and how I really feel about all of it.  And I know I need to process my feelings in and around my decision to go back to church and what that has stirred up.  It’s all tied together, and I need to unravel it all.  But not today.


That’s it for today.  I hope that my personal Q&A session will help show how I approach digging deeper into stuff that bugs me, but how it also guides me to a deeper understanding of my own behavior, in the hopes that I can find real change.  I think that many people see only the surface issues, and don’t take the time to figure out exactly what it is that drives their behavior.