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A note to begin: This blog is probably going to turn very personal, so if you are just interested on updates on mom, feel free to ignore/unsubscribe. I need a space for my own thoughts, and this seems as good a place as any.

I saw my counselor again today…I think it’s my third time seeing her? The first time, I kind of spewed my life at her, a kind of hour-long diarrhea of the mouth situation. I’d been thinking about seeing someone to work through some issues for a while, and I guess losing mom tipped the balance for me. But there’s a lot more that I need to work through than just my grief. That definitely came out during our first chat…or, rather, my first monologue.

The second time I saw her, we talked about mom and how I felt about the situation. My dad and I had just gotten back from the beach, so we talked about how sad that was. I cried the whole time again. I always cry when I’m talking about emotional issues (or when I’m extremely frustrated, which is not very helpful in high-stress situations). I think my fee is going to go to replacing all the tissues I’ve used. She’s been encouraging me to make space for my grief. I haven’t made it back to the meditation cushion, but I have been walking outside a lot more, and I think that’s a good place for me to be.

So this third time, I went in with a goal not to cry. I’ve been feeling good about the grief lately and haven’t been crying as much on my own. I’ve gotten a lot of my focus back at work, which is a relief. I’d very much like to be good at my job. It was frustrating to not be able to focus on anything. We also had a lot of fires to put out last week, so that helped.

I haven’t been doing well with eating still, though. I’m an emotional eater. It’s what I do. I’ve been eating back all the weight I’ve lost over the past six months, and I’m sick of it. People say they can’t tell, but I feel disgusting. I can literally feel the additional weight. I’d already made the decision to go back to eating just plain foods once I return from Thanksgiving vacation this weekend. (I never eat terribly over Thanksgiving because there’s not much food I can actually eat where we go, but it would be even harder to try to start restricting when I’m out of town and don’t have access to Whole Foods, etc.)

This session today started out fine. I was talking about how I’m doing better and how we’re preparing for the holidays. I know it’s going to be very sad. Dad has not been very excited about decorating for Christmas, but it is going to be twice as sad if we don’t, so I’m kind of pushing for it. (I’m also hoping to ask mom’s best friend if she’d like to help…if you’re reading this, do you want to help? 😉 I’ll let you know when we’re planning on doing stuff. Dad said it would either be the weekend after or two weekends after this weekend. But I’ll follow up!) The counselor suggested a compromise. We’ll see how it goes. He’s getting a tree, though. I’m putting my foot down on that one.

Then we started moving away from grief and into my eating, which honestly is something I’d very much like to work on. I always thought it was kind of a joke that psychiatrists always blame things on your parents, but it might actually be what they do. Or maybe everything is our parents’ fault? It’s impossible to be a perfect parent. I honestly think mine did an awesome job. But, of course, there are lingering issues.

For several years now, I’ve blamed my obsession on weight on my parents. They made it an obsession back when I wasn’t even aware it was a problem. All the “you don’t have to eat everything on your plate” comments, all the trips to the doctors to find out why I was so fat, all of the school lunches that consisted of a SlimFast bar and an apple…all that good stuff. I know in my head and in my heart that they just wanted the best for me. They wanted me to be healthy and happy, and they knew that being overweight would make that difficult. I’m sure they wanted to know what they were doing (or not doing) to contribute to the problem so they could help me. But the end result was that I got the idea that for them to love me, I had to be pretty, and to be pretty, I had to be thin. Thus the obsession. All of this, I figured out on my own before I even saw the counselor.

What came out today, though, was something much deeper. After a long conversation, the realization emerged that I live my life to make my parents proud. The counselor pointed out that all of my goals (lose weight, be a good student, have a good marriage, get a good career) are my parents’ goals. Not that they’re bad goals, but that “there’s still a little girl inside of [me] seeking approval.” She pointed out that this is a nod to a low self-esteem.

“I know that,” says I, “but how do I gain self-esteem?”

“You’re in the right place,” says she.

And then a further realization dawns on me: “If I am constantly seeking my mother’s approval and trying to make her proud, and now she is gone…then what?” Ah, yes, the emotional eating. Not as a result of me losing my mother, but of me losing the capability to make her proud. What’s the point in all this work to be thin if she can’t be here to validate it?

And then yet another realization: “So what is this relationship, then? Aren’t I just going to put you in that role? Won’t you then become the person I’m trying to please?”

Yes, she says, that happens all the time, and it’s good that we’re aware and talking about it.

Nice.

Then later in the evening, there I am in the gym, when I really, really, really don’t want to be. And the first thing I do is run up to the trainer and say, “I signed up for a half-marathon in March!” because, I suppose, I want him to be proud of me. Again, nice. The realization that I’m spending my whole life trying to earn validation from those I hold in high esteem. It’s totally true.

The counselor pointed out that when I live to please others and the external situation shifts (like losing mom), it creates the instability that leads me to do things like binge eat. When I live for my own self worth and my own esteem, it’s much more stable because external situations are just that: external.

No one said this journey would be easy, but these realizations require a complete reevaluation and reconstruction of my entire being and the way I view the world. It requires a new way of eating, a new way of thinking, a new way of being. I have to spend time seriously considering what makes me happy and what makes me feel like a person of worth. Making my parents proud isn’t enough. I have to find a way to make myself proud.

Although…if I can figure out a way to make this work, it does open a lot of doors. I get to do what I want. Even if my goals are the same as the goals my parents set for me when I was young, it will be different if I strive for them on my own terms, not just to make them proud. And if my goals turn out to be different, then that’s okay. I have the right to follow my own dreams.

I do still have the lingering fear of being a disappointment. Maybe that comes from spending several years as a disappointment and never wanting to be there again.

 

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