Here’s how I handle emotional pain, primarily, and maybe a few of you can relate: I totally eat my feelings. I’ve been eating my feelings for the past two years. I was just about ready to start taking off the bit of extra weight / baggage I’d gained in early 2014 when we got the news: Mom has a brain tumour. It’s not good.
And I’ve been eating my feelings ever since.
Everyone has their coping mechanisms, and it can be great in the short term. But here’s what happens when you eat your feelings: those feelings aren’t processed. You’re just saving them for later, right along with the extra weight, or in the joints, or in the muscle. We do have an understanding of “sense memory” but what I’m talking about it the next level of sense memory. Body memory, maybe we’ll call it that.
Our bodies mark time, by the seasons, by the light, and by what we store in them. What we experience in them. What we hold on to, what we expel. We have theories about what happens when we ignore the bad stuff for years, stuff it down inside, pack it away under layers of tissue that help us feel insulated and safe. I think it comes out in illness, and injury. Like when I threw out my back shortly after my last visit with my mother.
The first time I experienced this emotional release coinciding with weight loss was after a breakup with my last boyfriend, just before figuring out “Wow, I’m gay. That explains a lot.” I’d been eating my feelings in that relationship for a few years, and I had become obese. It took me regular visits to a nutritionist nurse, weekly injections of vitamins and all my time and energy to take that weight off in the following year.
What I discovered during that year was that the weight was just the superficial thing. It wasn’t the REAL thing. The process of weight loss, the food diaries, the hours spend in planning and food prep, the hours spent fighting food cravings – that wasn’t the hardest part about losing that weight. The toughest part was ALL the emotional crap that surfaced with every lost pound.
I would lose five pounds and remember our last fight. The memory became an obsession and would pop back into my mind constantly throughout the day. Some moments, I was practically re-living it. I would lose another five pounds and remember the anxieties I had about money, his unemployment, his downward spiral. I was reliving our relationship in reverse, as I was peeling the layers of onion fat on my body.
Once I realized what was happening, I started to notice it more often. It wouldn’t be just weight loss that could trigger a stored emotion. Exercise did it too. I resisted exercise for years because a workout could trigger deep unhappiness, memories I thought I’d “let go of” or some random hurt feeling from my school years. It was so difficult to take off those fifty pounds, I was pretty careful not to let them creep on again. Ten pounds, okay. Twenty pounds, alright, time for some action.
In the past two years, I’ve put on fifty pounds… while biking 15 km / day.
So here I am, situated in our wonderful little house. All of our immediate needs are met. I have little to worry me about the future right now. No time bomb ticking for a loved one, no one knocking on our door or monitoring our laundry. It’s time to work on my body.
I can understand why people never do this, how extra weight becomes obesity and then morbid obesity. You need a safe place to deal with the emotions you’re trying to bury. When you’re overwhelmed, there isn’t the time or space to feel the crap out of your feelings as they’re happening – or possibly, there are just too many damn feelings to deal with all at once. If you’re like me, you ration your feelings. You save some for later. You eat some damn ice cream and do what needs doing!
Well, yeah. And here I am, finally in a place to deal with this fallout. I will. I have before, I know I can. But before I do, I had Melody Charlie, a wonderful and talented local photographer, take some photos with me at the beach. I LOVED working with her. She completely understood why I would use elementals like beach, sky, ocean, mountains in my website. I didn’t have to explain how the connection with nature reflects our connection with spirit. She got it. I have been a fan of her photos for years, and I was really happy to be working with her. She’s one of those rare photographers who manages to capture the heart or energy of the moment. I think it’s because she photographs with love. We’re planning another session with her dog, and I would like to get some done with Sweetie (because all of our couple photos are selfies, and it’s been eight years already!)
These photos were just for me, to show myself that yeah, this is where I am when I’m larger, when I’m holding on to a lot of things. I carry weight. But you know what? I carry it well. I am beautiful. It’s okay for me to be this size. I am okay with how my body handles adversity. It’s doing it’s job! I am grateful It’s wonderful that I can put stuff away for later, carry it with me, let it go when I’m safe, when I have time.
As well, spending a couple of hours with someone exclaiming about how beautiful you are is a great way to start off a self-care journey.
It began today. Kind of a rocky start. Since I no longer have a bike commute, I joined the local gym again – I love this place. Sauna, swimming pool, full weight room. The gym is a nice place to go be with people but not be expected to interact with them.
I decided to start by replicating my bike commute – I was gratified to discover that my stamina is right where I left it a few months ago. I’m still strong, I still have energy. It’s a great place to start. I used to hate cardio; this time, I returned from the gym feeling fantastic.
When I got home, I burst into tears. I flipping lost it. Tears, grief, I miss my Mom, I miss my cat, I miss my dog. I was so so sad. Just decimating grief. Sweetie held me and fed me peanut butter on toast. It helped.
It’s all heart chakra stuff. I’m releasing the stuff that’s on top, that’s in my heart.
Based on past experience, the beginning is the most difficult. The emotions and memories are the wildest, the most extreme.
The nutzoid part is the push-pull in my body. Of course it’s better, healthier for me to release this stuff, feel the shit out of my feelings. That’s what it’s about. But there’s a very worried part of my body that wants to cram all that crap back down – eat eat eat eat! I’ll have to do a crack-down food purge soon, and I’ll be leaning hard into my chocolate craving fix: one banana, a handful of raspberries, a ton of cocoa powder and topped up with almond milk. Barely any calories and I can convince my brain it’s a chocolate bar.
I think I’ll start using the Lose-It app on my ipod again. If anyone else would like to join me, we can be Lose-It buddies. The app lets you see / share what you’ve been eating, how you’ve been exercising, and you don’t have to share your weight if you’d prefer not to. I’ll share mine. You can find me using my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org
And hey, click on the image below if you want $25 off your next pet reading!