My biggest hurdle where weight is concerned used to be the pitiful amount I had lost, compared to the vast amount I still had left to lose. I mentioned this last week, and how I have begun to look at my goals in manageable chunks.
To most people, losing a full stone seems like quite a lot. If, say, you were only two stone overweight, that loss would be very obvious. You would also be able to think ‘I’m half way there’, and that thought would spur you on. When you’re eleven stone overweight however, you don’t physically appear any different with the loss of just one stone. Nobody notices, because the dent it has made is too small. You think ‘TEN TO GO’, not ‘half way there’, and the fact you still have so much to lose makes the task seem just as insurmountable as it was when you had eleven. It is very easy to get stuck in this mentality. You’ve lost fifteen whole pounds, but in the grand scheme of things, what is that? There are 154 pounds in eleven stone.
I’ve managed to lose 15, whoopdifrickin do.
This is, however, a very negative mindset. Pick up a bag of sugar and feel the weight of it. A 1KG bag of sugar is roughly two pounds. Imagine lugging seven or eight of those bags home with your from the supermarket. Even just carrying them—without the aid of a trolley or basket—from the till to your car. That’s a lot of sugar. That is the amount of weight I’m no longer having to carry, everywhere I go. So yes, it’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it is still a lot.
When I consider the fact I have ten stone to go, it occurs to me that this is, quite literally, half my body weight. By the time I get down to goal, I will have lost the equivalent of a whole other person. If this isn’t a metaphor for my recovery, I don’t know what is.
I often feel like my bipolar has transformed me into a different person, both physically and mentally. The girl I saw on the street in Chester, the one that sparked The Great Epiphany, looked exactly like me. The ‘me’ I see inside my head. The ‘me’ I think of myself as being. When I look in the mirror, I see a total stranger, and this has been the case for several years. It is not only the weight gain. It is not just the fact that, in the throws of one of my worst episodes a few years ago, I cut my hair (previously very long, blonde, and my favourite thing about myself), so short it had to be shaved at the back, and has only just started to look like ‘my’ hair again. These things are disturbing to me, but they are only external changes. The worst change I see, is the look in my eyes. They are the eyes of a person I do not know and worse still do not like, staring at me from within what I have come to accept is now my body, a body in itself strange and alien.
I catch brief glimpses of my former self occasionally. Last year, one of my oldest and best friends (who happens to be a photographer) did a photo shoot for me when I needed some promotional images for my novel (at that point on the verge of being self-published, something which was put on hold when an agent showed interest). I love those pictures, because she was able to capture, be it through her own skill, or the fact that I was actually, briefly, happy at the time, a glimpse of my ‘real’ self. The photographs of me earlier this year, at the zoo with my niece, have a similar effect on me. I look at them, and I can recognise myself staring back, despite the fact I’m overweight.
I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened, in the last four or five years, when I’ve looked in the mirror.
I have become a stranger to myself and, aside from the different aspects of my personality that emerge, depending upon which way the pendulum of bipolar is currently swinging, this is the most difficult thing for me to accept about my disorder; the fact that it appears to have completely changed who I am.
I cling to those photographs, because they show me that it hasn’t changed who I am, it’s simply taken over the steering wheel for a while. I look into the eyes in that picture and I can see ‘me’. For that day (right) I was, however briefly, myself again. I’m not ‘gone’. If I can get back in control of that steering wheel, I can get back to being myself, and somehow I feel if I can do that, the swings in mood will be easier to handle. If I’m dealing with them as myself, and not this stranger I’ve become, I’ll know better how to handle what comes and how to deal with each situation and difficulty as it arises.
The problem I have is that I’m unsure exactly how to go about this. If I know one thing, it is that I’ll never be the same as I was when I was eighteen, no matter how much weight I lose. That, however, isn’t the point. I don’t want to regress, I want to regain the feeling that I know who I am, what I am doing, what I am capable of doing and, I suppose most importantly, regain my confidence. Between the depressive phases I have suffered and the cataclysmic mistakes I have made during my manic periods, I have lost all confidence in myself. My weight also has a lot to do with this, as I feel I am both unattractive and perpetually judged for being so large. It is virtually impossible to find something to wear that I actually like; I can’t even dress like myself most of the time. I think it’s important, however, to note that, while my personal journey requires me to lose all this extra weight, all this extra baggage, that is not the case for everyone.
I hate being overweight. I hate the way it makes me look, I hate the way it makes me feel, I hate the fact I can’t walk my dog properly, or run like I used to do on a very regular basis. I hate the fact that my knees and ankles click alarmingly, and painfully, whenever I walk up or down stairs, and I hate the fact that I struggle to cook properly, because it means standing up for so long, causing me excruciating back pain. This, in large part, is what stopped me properly cooking for so long, and relying so much on ready meals and junk food, which only worsened my weight problem. I am worried about diabetes, heart troubles and, if I’m 100% honest, I do not feel there is even the slightest chance of me ever finding a healthy, happy relationship, while I am overweight. On the latter point, I really must stress that this is not because I believe overweight people are un-lovable. Rather, it is because I have learned from past relationship mistakes, and I know now that I need to be comfortable with myself, before I can make sensible decisions regarding romantic involvements. My last relationship was a train wreck from start to finish, for one reason, and one reason only: I picked the wrong man. This was mainly because I really didn’t believe I deserved anyone better, and that was down to confidence.
I was only five stone overweight at that point, not ten, so you can see how this is a problem.
This, however, is just me. There are a lot of people who don’t feel this way about their weight. They don’t tie their self confidence and self worth directly to the number on the scales. They don’t feel as if they are judged by their outward appearance, and they don’t feel completely incapable of any kind of face to face social interaction because of their size. I genuinely applaud these people, I wish I was so enlightened, however after a lifetime of food and weight related issues, I have come to accept that, where my confidence is concerned, this is THE BIG ONE. By which I mean, this is the one big thing that, if resolved, will allow me to build my confidence back up and feel like a real person again, instead of just a ridiculously large shell, harbouring the desiccated remains of what was once a person.
So, I aim to continue in my efforts, no matter how long it takes, no matter how difficult it is, no matter if I find, after losing eight stone that I hit a really rough patch and put four back on again. I no longer see this as a task to accomplish and check off a list, but rather as a lifelong effort, much like my efforts to manage my bipolar; there is no ‘cure’ for either, they are both simply things that you need to accept, and learn to manage as best you can. For me, managing my weight means first getting it down to a healthy level, a level at which I might feel more like myself again.
On Tuesday morning I hopped on the scales and was utterly delighted to find I’d lost just over five pounds since my weigh in on Saturday. I was, quite literally ecstatic. I had gone from a total weight loss of fifteen pounds, to twenty. TWENTY WHOLE POUNDS. That’s one stone and six pounds, only one pound away from a full stone and a half. I was no longer thinking ‘Ten to Go’, I was thinking ‘Nine and a Half to Go’, and I was feeling very much like I could achieve that goal: I’d managed one and a half in five weeks, nine and a half should only take another thirty or so weeks … that’s not even a full year! Right?
As you can see from my daintily painted toenails (no, I did not do them myself, it’s a while since I’ve been able to reach them myself), I have slid back up to where I was last week, plus a little extra. When I saw this was this case this morning, I was in tears. Then I took a few deep breaths and tried to remember The Great Epiphany. I tried to remember that it was going to be something that was up and down, rather than constantly down. Then I thought about the week I’d had and realised that, yes, it has been a very stressful week since Tuesday (the last time I was on the scales and, really, the last time I logged into My Fitness Pal and kept track of what I was eating). I’ve started a new group therapy on a Tuesday which I am not liking at all. It threw me a little last week, the first meeting, this week it threw me a lot. Then my Pop had a fall, and while it wasn’t a bad fall this is a very bad trigger for me as it was a fall that caused all the problems my Nanny had which ultimately led to her death.
When I am stressed I eat. I know this. This has nothing to do with being bipolar, nothing to do with my medication, this is simply a fact. If I feel stress, I often reach for something to eat because, like many people, I find it soothing. I don’t even realise I’m doing it until after the fact.
So, this week was a wright off in terms of weight loss, however I did reach an important conclusion regarding my new group therapy: it is having the opposite to the desired effect. It is making me feel horrendous. Having discussed this with my sister (a clinical psychologist) I have decided to ask for one on one therapy. My sister was actually astonished that I was having this form of therapy (Cognitive Analytic Therapy a.k.a. CAT), in a group; she couldn’t understand how the model could possibly work, as it is very personal and involves extensive mapping of your own experiences. Next week I’m seeing my psychologist on my own and shall be talking to her about this.
I am however, quite pleased, despite all of this. I’m determined to get myself back on the diet wagon, and step on those scales again next week to see they have moved in a downwards direction – it doesn’t have to be a huge leap of five pounds, or even two, so long as it’s moving, and in the right direction, I am happy.
My Fitness Pal comes with a ‘ticker’, which keeps you updated on how much you have lost, and how much you have left to reach your goal. My butterfly is currently enduring a rather unpleasant thunderstorm; I’m not worried though, because soon she’ll be closer to the sunshine, and I always deal with things better when the sun is shining.