Category Archives: fear

My Biggest Triggers – The Truth About Bullies

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Random picture of my cat for no particular reason.

I am going to begin today’s post with ad admission. Over the last two years, I regained 58 pounds. This is not something I’m very proud of or happy about. My binge eating returned and I went through a very busy and stressful two years. Bottom line, I was not paying attention to my health and weight the way I should.

The good news is, I have taken corrective action. I am seeing a doctor to help me get my weight loss back on track, and I am seeing a therapist to help me develop the necessary skills to deal with the crazy, eating disordered part of my brain. As a result, as of two weeks ago, I am down 10 pounds.  I see the doctor again this week where I will be weighed. I think I lost some more. I noticed my leggings felt looser this week. Not just one pair, but all of them. I am not weighing myself at home, though. I have a tendency to weigh myself every day, and every teeny movement of the scale makes me crazy. I am either delighted that I’m down a pound or two, or depressed because there was no discernible movement or a slight one pound regain. It helps me more to look at the bigger picture and get weighed less often.

This brings me to today’s topic. Triggers.

For me, my triggers are the events, emotions, etc. that cause me to lose control and find solace in food. In my case, that food is usually salty, crunch, and starchy. Sometimes, but not often, sugary foods will do. Cheetos are my standby. If I’m eating Cheetos, chances are there is something in my life that is causing me undo stress and causing me to feel out of control.

My two biggest triggers are yelling, and when people are saying negative, untrue things about me behind my back to the people I love and respect.

How Gossip Affects Me:

When people talk about me behind my back, that really cuts me to the quick. It hurts because someone thinks badly enough about me to gossip. And it hurts because I fear their words will affect how others see me.

In my head, I know that any true friend, and anyone who really knows me wouldn’t allow someone else’s thoughtless or mean words change their opinion of me. And anyone who does allow gossip to color how they see me, is not really a friend.

Maybe that is what truly hurts because in the past, I have had people I thought were my friends turn on me solely due to the untrue, or misrepresented words of another person. I start to think that someone I trusted and thought of as a friend really thought badly of me all along. I question my judgment. I question my own internal sense of self. And I begin to question if there really is something wrong with me. In short, it breaks my heart.

How Yelling Affects Me:

I cannot stand yelling. I never could. It is one thing to have a disagreement with someone, even if that sometimes gets loud. That’s different from what I mean.

Yelling, or screaming is irrational. Usually the screamer is using that tactic as a way to silence the person they are yelling at and to establish dominance. There is no talking to a screamer. There is no way to rationally discuss anything with a screamer. And there is no way to resolve a problem with a screamer. They are right, you are wrong, and they will use their physical and psychic power to shut you down.

I push back hard on screamers.

I recently had a guy I know vaguely scream at me about something. He screamed at me at the top of his lungs in a crowded room.

I did not even what he was screaming about. I just looked at him and calmly said, “I do not have a husband, and my father is dead. No man screams at me. You are no one to me. What gives you the right to think you can talk to me that way?”

I stood up for myself. I did not let him bully me. I walked away. Sounds strong right?

The truth is, I fretted about this incident for a very long time. I was shaking and very angry. I was emotionally distraught. How dare he? Who does he think he is? Why would he think it is OK to do that to me? This event happened nearly a year ago and I still bring it up. That is how much of an impact it made.

Recently, I became aware of a situation where someone has been bullying a person I love using these two tactics. Screaming irrationally, and gossiping about me. Why I was brought into the situation, I’ll never know, but there you have it. This situation has really made me kind of crazy. I did not even hear the yelling, but just knowing that it was going on started the wheels in the crazy, food addicted part of my brain cycling out of control.

It has taken every ounce of self-control inside me to stay focused. I have waffled between anger, sadness, frustration, rage, and feelings of worthlessness, and powerlessness.

It is true that I have no power over what this person says or does. I also have no control over the impact their words have not he people I love. But that does not make their words true, their behavior right, or me powerless.

Realizing that truth has taken me a long time. Too long.

The truth is, screaming and gossiping are forms of control and intimidation used by bullies. And that’s all people who use these tactic are…bullies.

Maybe the reason screamers and gossipers affect me so badly is because I was bullied as a child. That bullying had a lasting impact on how I see myself. It was only well into my adulthood that I accepted the truth…that when someone bullies you, there is something wrong with them. Not you.

Knowing that intellectually is one thing. Really accepting it in your heart and soul is another.

The Dreaded High School Reunion

What a scary thought, right?  A High School Reunion?  Where you voluntarily get together with the group of people who single-handedly tormented you and made the supposed best years of your life the period of time you’ve spent the rest of your life overcoming.

They were our best friends and worst enemies.

Sophomore hs

Sophomore hs

Why would any sane person do this to themselves?

I know we have all dreamed that we would one day have some kind of Romy & Michelle moment, where we go to our reunion, show our tormentors they have not destroyed us, that we have embraced our inner freak, succeed in life beyond our wildest dreams, (and theirs), leaving them in the dust.  Our true friends will cheer and celebrate us and everyone will know we turned out the better for it.

I particularly like what Romy says at minute 1:52 of this video.

The truth is, however, that for many of us, our lives are quite ordinary and uneventful.  For many years, I was ashamed of what my life had become.  I was not successful in my professional life.  I’m not rich.  I was horribly overweight and sick.  I never married and I do not have kids.  I felt as if I was a complete and total failure.

But that was the before Colleen.

OK, some things have not changed.  I’m not rich.  I’m still not married.  And I still have no kids.

But my whole outlook on my life has changed.

I changed my job.  Still, not a high-powered, high-paying career, but I am enjoying it.  I have lost 127 pounds, and although I’m 46 pounds heavier than I was in high school, I feel great about myself.

The truth is, I have “friended” some of my old high school friends on Facebook, and many of them have been following my blog and my story of change.  They have been some of my biggest cheerleaders and supporters over this last year and a half.  I really would like to see them.  Hug them.  Thank them.

So, when one of my friends started bemoaning that our class never has reunions, or that only the popular kids get invited to the reunions we may have had over the years, I was the one who suggested that we have an alternate “anti-reunion.” Let the popular kids have their little private get together of the select few while the rest of us meet up for drinks or whatever and just have fun.

People jumped on the idea.  I know.  What on earth was I thinking?

Now there is a get together planned for the weekend before Christmas, and I am going.

Of course, I am going to buy a fantastic outfit, get my hair done, and make sure that I look absolutely fabulous.  Still, I cannot wait to see my old friends and see how their lives turned out.  As for the rest of it, who really cares?

Living For Myself

illusionSometimes it is hard to tell when you are living according to your own dreams or when you’re living for your own dreams.  For years, I allowed the opinions of others to be more important than my own.  What other people thought of me was more important than what I thought of myself.  This was an enormous mistake.

Of course other people are always going to try to impose their will and expect you to live according to their expectations.  I was a shy and insecure child, who turned into an insecure teenager.  I had low self-esteem and I always looked to others to for approval.  I also had a habit of surrounding myself with people who needed to put other people down to make themselves feel more important.  So, myself esteem was really in the toilet.

Living like this almost destroyed me.  I weighed 315 pounds at my heaviest and my body was really suffering the effects of long-term morbid obesity.

Fortunately, I realized my life was going in the wrong direction.  I cut out of my life the people whose vision of who I am did not match up with who I thought I was.  I stopped associating with and seeking the approval of anyone who had to try to make me feel bad to make themselves feel superior.  I started befriending people who treated me with the respect I deserve.

In some cases, the end of a friendship was mutual.  In other cases, I was not able to cut a person out completely, either because they are married to  a friend or family member, or closely connected with one of my groups of friends.  The difference between now and before, I know who I am and how I feel about myself.  I can keep their negativity in perspective and give their opinions no consideration whatsoever.  In short, I do not listen to them or allow them to affect my own self image.  What they think of me or how they treat me says more about them than me, in my opinion.

None of this was easy.  It is never easy to end long-time friendships, or distance yourself from people you care about.  I learned that I had to care about myself more and that if they cared about me at all, they would have to learn to accept the new me on my terms.  Some of them, I’m happy to say did. Others did not.  Those friendships have either gone by the way side, or I only associate with them on special occasions.

Once I made the decision to care about my own opinion over the opinion of others, I was able to make choices that helped me improve my life.  I feel and look better than I have in years.  I am happy.  And for the most part, I feel I am making better choices.  I’m not all the way there yet.   But when I look back at where I’ve been and realize how far I’ve come, I know I can get there.

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Letting Go

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When you make big changes in your life with the intent of making improvements, you have to be willing to let go.  You have to let go of the bad behaviors that are holding you back.  Let go of people in your life who have a negative impact.  Let go of old ideas you have about yourself that hold you back.  You have to do all of this so that you can let in all of the new things that will enter your life once the changes have begun to take effect.

Letting go is not easy.  It is easy to stay the same and do the same thing everyday.  Change is scary.  Even good changes can be scary.  The known pain and sorrow is easier to deal with than the unknown whether it is good or bad.  The problem is, this is no way to live.  If you’re not willing to make changes to your life, things will only stay the same or continue to decline.

Changing your own behavior, stopping the bad, starting the good is key.  For me, the change took a long time.  There was a lot of fear, pain, and anguish in letting go many of my bad choices.  I didn’t start the process on October 24, 2012.  I started the process a long, long time before that.

I spent nearly one year prior to my surgery planning and preparing for the surgery, but I would argue that the change began before then as well.

I am not certain I can pinpoint an exact moment in which I had an epiphany thinking, “Gee, I need to change my life!  I think I’ll start today!”  Nor  can I pinpoint what precipitated my finally taking action, but I would say it was more a slow build than a bright shining moment of clarity.

I knew I my morbid obesity would eventually kill me.

I knew my high blood pressure was out of control.

I knew I was borderline diabetic and would most likely one day cross the line and become an actual diabetic.

I knew I could not walk very far or very much.

I knew I had asthma and could not breathe well.

I knew my family and loved ones worried about me daily.

I knew I was unhappy with the status quo.

Making changes required a lot of letting go and it took me a long time to do that.  I had to let go of many bad behaviors.  I let go of my gaming addiction.  I let go of many of my bad food habits.  I let go of my many fears that kept me unable to from doing what was necessary to become healthier.

I’m not sure how I found the strength or inner fortitude to finally let go other than to say my will to live was stronger than my fear of change.  It did not all happens at once, but it happened.

I cannot say that all of my problems went away with this change.  Far from it.  I still struggle every day against my inner demons.  I still struggle against the urge to over eat.  I still struggle with my ability to avoid my problems instead of facing them.  I have made a lot of progress, yes.  But I know the journey is not complete.

It may never be complete.  I may have to work against my own fears for the rest of my life.  The difference is I now know that I can beat them and the rewards are well worth the battle.

Stress, Traveling, And Diet Plans

During times of stress, staying on any diet plan can be very difficult, especially someone who has to stay on a tight schedule such as a bariatric patient.  This week has been difficult for me.

First, I have to say that the people here do not eat.  Well, they do, but not frequently enough.  My mom will eat breakfast, maybe.  I made her eggs on Sunday around 830am.  Then at noon, she didn’t understand why I needed a snack.  My schedule is pretty tight.  I am supposed to have breakfast, protein snack, lunch protein snack, dinner.  I feel like I eat all of the time, and I guess I kind of do.  My body is now trained on this schedule.

At noon when I hadn’t eaten yet, I made my way into the kitchen and started rummaging for appropriate protein snacks, of which my mother has none.  Yes, I know.  I should have been better prepared.  I did try to think ahead and bring my own protein snacks, but I left it on the kitchen counter back in Arlington.  Good thinking, right.

My mom can have breakfast and then not eat again until dinner.  I’m not supposed to do that.  I do not eat a lot for each meal, so I have to eat frequently, plus take vitamins.  I know if I skip meals, forget my vitamins, or wait too long between meals, I feel it.  Not hunger pains so much as the other signs of not eating, irritability, dizziness, etc.  I had to explain this to my family and let them know that while they do not have to eat frequently, I do.

I feel a lot of pressure about this, I have to admit.  Most of it is stress that I am creating myself.  I am worried that every time I eat, they will think I am going back to my old ways and I so want them to see me as doing well.  I’m not saying that I do not occasionally struggle with food, addiction, beating myself up for falling off the wagon sometimes.  I just am doing a lot better and I would like for my family to know that.

Of course traveling, dealing with a death in the family, nursing my mom through surgery, looking through old paperwork to make sure she has what she needs to arrange the funeral, get her survivor benefits from social security, make sure she has everything she needs as far as her insurance paperwork, etc adds to the stress levels.

This has definitely been a very trying week, but it is almost over and I will be back home and back on schedule soon.  Granted, I know I will have to come up here several more times to help my mom out, but things will be much easier, I hope.

If I Didn’t Know Any Better…

I’d think I had PMS.  I haven’t had PMS since the last time I bitched on this blog back in March about my periods, or mostly lack thereof.

I had a pretty crummy day today.  I thought that it started out pretty good.  I had an odd dream this am that left me feeling somewhat hopeful about a particular situation.  But as the day wore on and the more I thought about it, the more I accepted that it was just a dream and was more a reflection of my own wishes and not really a predictor of my desired outcome.  That brought me down a bit, but I can live with that.

Then I was very busy at work and at one point became a little overwhelmed.

I was rained on during both the commute into work and home.

I had to take my work laptop back to the office today.  My back was killing me from carrying it around.

I left my debit card at home and could not pay for my coffee this am.  That was embarrassing.  Fortunately, I took my lunch to work and my fare card for the metro was fully charged, so I was good.

I came home and I was totally deflated and just wanted to cry.

Normally, this kind of day would have been enough to trigger a binge attack for me, and it did.  Fortunately, I did not succumb.  I almost did.  I gathered up change out of my change jar and I went down to the market in my building.  Now, the market in my building is a dangerous place for a food addict, and my apartment is immediately above the store.  They have chips, eggs and bacon, more chips, sodas, beer, wine, frozen foods, frozen pizzas, cookies, crackers, candy bars…all the junk food you could want.  And I used to shop there a lot.

I stood there with my fistful of quarters looking around the store, and I couldn’t do it.  I could not buy the horrible junk food I was craving.  I really wanted chips or pretzels, but I couldn’t make myself buy them.

Instead, I bought a box of saltines and some spaghetti sauce.  I then made 5 saltines mini pizzas for dinner, and yes, that is a bariatric-approved meal.  It was actually recommended to me in the diet plan provided by the surgeon’s office.  The tomato sauce counts as a vegetable and the cheese as protein.  The saltines are really just filler food.  I also had a side of string cheese to make sure I had enough protein.

I’m still feeling kind of blah today, but at least I know I’m not totally helpless against the binge monster.  I fought it off today.  That makes me feel hopeful that I will be able to fight it off again in the future.

Old Habits Die Hard

Sometimes, living with change is hard.  I have had a great run with the changes that I have made in my life.  I am very happy with how I look, how I feel, and the weight that I have lost.  Sometimes, though it is really hard to to keep old behaviors at bay.

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One of my World of Warcraft characters.

Recently, I have been fighting the urge to game.  Omg I loved World of Warcraft when I was heavy into the gaming scene.  I have been thinking about WoW a lot recently.  I loved the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.  That’s when I played the most and was at the top of my game, so to speak.  I did every raid, every pvp (player vs. player) battleground.  I was the second ranked alliance restoration shaman (healer) on my realm.  My guild was the second alliance guild to down the Lich King (end game raid boss).  I had several twinks (low-level, overly geared characters made just for pvp).  I was on the game day and night, sick or well.    I was obsessed.

My obsessive problems were not limited to gaming either.  I think my gaming addiction was simply one of my addictions.  Obviously, my other addiction was food.

The gastric by-pass certainly helped me control my food addiction.  And managing one addiction helped me let go of another.

I am worried though.  When I start thinking about gaming, I wonder if I am starting to fall back on my old ways.

One of my gamer friends from the WoW days now plays Guild Wars 2.  I did go out and buy the game back in January.  I created a character and played a bit.  Sometimes, when this friend contacts me, I would log on and run through the game with him a bit.  But playing GW2 made me realize that I really have no desire to game.  Thus, I think my character is still level 5 and probably still standing in the middle of the field where I left her.

Last night he sent me messages on Skype trying to get me to log on.  I was tempted.  I miss my gamer friends.  We had fun together running around killing imaginary crap or instigating world pvp battles.  The problem is, this particular friend just does not get what it is I have been through trying to manage all of my addictions.  I haven’t really take the time to explain it to him, but he does have access to my blog and could read it, but doesn’t.  Not that I don’t think he would understand, I think that he would.  I am just afraid that I would fall back into the same trap and end up right back where I was.

I think that is one of my biggest fears since the surgery, backsliding.  I have worked so hard to get where I am and I still have a little way to go before I reach my goal weight.  I am so happy with the changes that I have made.  I feel good.  I look better than I have in years.  But I’m terrified of ending up right back where I was.

It is possible to regain all of the weight lost even after a gastric by-pass surgery as extreme as mine.  I would hate to go through all of this pain, expense, suffering, and sacrifice just to regain the weight and be just as sick as before.  I think that is why I just cannot bring myself to jump back into the gaming world.  I am afraid that if I start gaming again, the whole new life I have built for myself will collapse.

Maybe one day, I will be able to play video games and have them  be a part of the healthy new lifestyle I have created for myself, but not yet.  The pain of the past is still too close and the fear of failure to too near.