Friday, October 21, 2016

Recognizing the Foolishness of My Resentment of My Weight

Last Thursday night, I found myself dragging two filthy garbage cans down to the curb in complete darkness, a chore which fell between cleaning the dishes and putting the kids to bed. As the plastic wheels of the two cans rattled against the gravel, I thought to myself, "My god, my life is beautiful." I was filled with a sense of contentment.

This is not normal for me, or at least it hasn't been normal for the last several months. Well, years, maybe. As recently as a few weeks ago, I was blogging about my struggle with my depression. I have learned, through years of therapy, to compartmentalize a deep-set sense of self-loathing and utter despair that pervades my thinking. I am able to find moments where I have a sense of a joy, and I can go to work, smile, socialize, keep my space and myself clean, laugh, have fun. But in the moments when my world is quiet and I am alone with my thoughts, I hate myself. I recite all my failures; I think of everything I'll never be able to do; I hate my behavior, my appearance, and my world. It's been, admittedly, a little worse lately. Between getting home from work and cooking dinner for the kids, I've had more than one night where I've momentarily collapsed on the floor crying, hating everything about myself. I'll give myself five minutes of self-loathing, and then climb back to my feet to turn the oven on and cut up vegetables. Again, this isn't new. Before I began this adventure in home-ownership with a family of five, I would get home from the gym at night, microwave my dinner, and lay on the couch thinking of how god-awful my world was.I've had times where I couldn't stop crying. I've had times where I've been hospitalized.

So believe me when I say that having a moment where I actually relished in how happy I am feels a little weird. And it wasn't an isolated incident. for the past couple weeks, more and more often I've found myself filled with a sense of joy, contentment, satisfaction, and even, most alien of all, self-love. I still have times when I struggle with a sense of depression and anxiety, but lately it's felt more like something I can work around, an exception rather than the rule. I'm really not sure what's caused this shift in my mood, but if I ever figure it out I will certainly share.

For now, I'm just going to talk about something that I have never wanted to talk about before: my perception of my weight. Whenever I hate myself, I hate how much I weigh. It's not only a part of my mantra, it's the very focus of my self-loathing. when I'm berating myself, I am a fat, lazy, ugly, worthless, shitty, fucking failure. There are moments in my life where I will say, "Well, you did well at work, but you're still fat." or "Yeah you've been good to kids, and that's great, because you're nothing but a fat ugly waste and taking care of those kids is the only good thing you have going for you." There are never moments when I think to myself, "You look attractive, but you still suck." The night before our housewarming party a few months ago, I told my boyfriend, almost in tears, that I wished we could just cancel the whole thing because I had gained 5 pounds over the summer, and I didn't want anyone to see me because they'd think I was a failure. After that party, I put myself on a diet where, for three weeks, I ate less than 1,200 Calories per day. I literally did not lose an ounce of weight the entire time, but my depression sky-rocketed. Sadly, in my broken depressed brain, there is only one thing that gives me value, and that is my appearance. All of my other achievements mean nothing to my depression. The only thing that matters is my body, which I perceive as being unattractive due to the fact that I am overweight. If I had to break it down, here is how my depression ranks priorities:
Obviously this is inaccurate. The saddest thing is that I know this is inaccurate. If I had a friend tell me that her brain was telling her she sucked because she was overweight, I would probably flood her with sincere compliments about her appearance and tell her that her brain was wrong. I know that my brain is wrong, too. But it torments me. It bangs on the door when I try to make it go away. It screams for me to let it in.

A few weeks ago, after my disaster of a diet, I finally made a very radical decision, one that has been very difficult and very painful. I decided to be my own friend, and tell myself that my brain is wrong, and that the graph above is total myth. At the end of the day, my weight is not important at all. Literally not at all. My physical health is important, which is why I strive to eat a healthy diet every day (with the occasional cheat) while performing a mix of cardiovascular and strength-based activities throughout the week, but my actual weight is such a small aspect of my health that it's dangerous for me to even consider it. Last spring I took a health class which explored every possible way to determine whether someone's weight was in the normal, overweight, or obese zones, and then in conclusion it noted that overweight individuals statistically live longer than those in the normal range. So, depression brain, let me tell you, my weight barely matters at all. It does not even reflect on my longevity. This is what matters:

At the beginning of the month, I decided that I am not going near my scale. I am not going to measure my waist. I am not going to place any value on my weight. I am going to be a good friend to myself and know that I am so much more than that. I'm healthy, mentally and physically. I'm taking care of the wonderful family that lives with me, and I'm taking care of myself. That's what counts. My life is beautiful.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Syria Is Giving Me an Existential Crisis

Ok, at some point I'm going to call this what it is and make a new blog, just not today.

To put it out there, in all honesty, I have not been doing that well lately. I was hoping that as things at my job calmed down and I returned to a regular 40-hour work week, I could focus more on my mental and physical health - eating better, working out more, socializing with friends and family. I was quite sure that without the stress of work, my life would be better. Unfortunately, it seems that in actuality, without the stress work, I have nothing to distract myself from my, maybe not "crippling," but certainly "problematic" hatred for my entire existence and desire to curl up into a weeping ball of dejected sadness on the floor and never go outside or speak to anyone ever again. I could blame this thing (which I believe some people call Clinical Depression) on a number of things, such as (in order of likelihood)
  1. A chemical imbalance in my brain which has been repeatedly diagnosed as requiring therapeutic and medical treatment
  2. A struggle with the loss of two family members within 15 days of each other and failure to take the adequate time to cope with those losses
  3. Changes in temperature, reduced exposure sunlight, excessive allergens, etc
  4. Uncertainty in the midst of a major of election which may or may not have a direct impact on my life and which will certainly have an impact on the nation and the world
  5. Fucking Syria.
If you're not following what's happening in Syria, don't worry, AJ Willingham of CNN has everything you need to feel guilty as shit about that. If you're not a fan of following links, the short version is that a lot of innocent people are dying, and they've been dying for 5 years now, and the situation is truly deplorable.

For whatever reason, I have always loved Syria. Ten years ago, I had it on my bucket list to visit one day; it just seemed like a cool place. I remember when the Syrian conflict started. Every day at work, I would finish my morning routine, get all my deliverables out, and then google "Syria" and binge read the articles that popped up. I was filled with hope as I read about the protests. I was horrified when the death toll began to rise, but eagerly read the reports of world leaders coming together, agreeing that the situation must end. I signed petitions. I donated money. I sat there at my desk, my eyes glued to the monitor, just waiting for the moment when the world would stand up and affirm that never has there been a more clear-cut case of need for international intervention. We had made mistakes in the past, but this is where we would do things right, and the brave men and women of Syria would wake up to a new dawn of freedom and justice, and the world would be a better place. And then I would get to go play tourist in Damascus. I read as one international group after another decided they could not intervene. I read as the acts of war became more heinous, as the death toll rose higher and higher. I looked at the bloodied corpses of the children.

And at some point I finally gave up. One morning, I finished my work and I opened up Google, and I just couldn't bring myself to read any more articles. I think the death toll was somewhere around 4,000 at the time. It seemed so high. I just couldn't face it any more. I let Syria fade from my life, and focused on other things. Over the years I would come back to it, briefly  re-energizing my obsession, but at the end of the day, the story is always the same: innocent people are dying; no one is able to save them. Assad has an ugly, weak-chin face that makes me want to hurt and publicly humiliate him. 

With this new election season and Russian's decision to assist Assad in bombing his own people back to the stone age, it looks like Syria is once again taking up some news space, so last week I started googling "Syria" to see what comes up these days. It's been a great time to catch up on the latest Syria gossip. On top of murder of almost hundred innocent children in one night and the destruction of aid convoys, the other big news this week was that U.S. cancelled peace talks with Russia, I believe essentially because Secretary of State John Kerry realized that the "talks" would consist of him speaking of the need for cooperation while his Russian counterpart Sergey V. Lavrov flew a little replica airplane over his paperwork making little sound effects such as the buzz of the engine, the whistling of a armament dropping through the air, and of course the "Begh-WERGGGHHHH" of the explosive impact on the home of another innocent Syrian family.

The cancellation of the peace talks has led to... "not-peace talks" (my phrase) as Kerry told a group of Syrians he lost the argument for use force against Assad, and Russia, taking a page from Donald Trump's book of political engagement, posted a tweet that more-than-hinted but less-than-overtly-stated they will bomb US planes should we elect to use force as Kerry recommended. Meanwhile the U.N. has declared Aleppo to be under siege and has issued multiple statements condemning the bombings, accusing Russia of killing aid workers, and calling Assad names. It isn't fair to say no one is actually doing anything. The UN and several other organizations are attempting to get food, water, and medical care into the city of Aleppo while getting the critically wounded out; they're just having a lot of trouble because of the continued bombings and obliterated infrastructure. International leaders are attempting to utilize diplomacy to find some sort of resolution to the conflict; they're just having a lot of trouble getting Syria and Russia to stop murdering people long enough to talk. Military, state, and intelligence officials within the U.S. are attempting to convince Obama that small scale war is a good idea, they're just having trouble predicting the future in order to guarantee that military action against Assad will not result in World War III. Oh, and Assad is trying to boost tourism in Aleppo with a rip-off of the Game of Thrones music.

And when you consider all these things - the State Department, the UN, the US president, the anti-aircraft weaponry, the blood-thirsty dictator who watches HBO, the superpower with one finger on the nuclear codes and the other on a twitter account, it's very easy to forget that each of the 470,000 people who have a died was, in fact, a person. That right now, at this very moment, there is a woman in Syria lying on the floor, sobbing over the loss of her child. She doesn't know how she's going to move on. She doesn't know what kind of god would do this, would give her such beautiful treasure and then rip it away from her. She remembers holding him in her arms  for the first time, she remembers the smell of his hair, she remembers hugging him good-bye before he left for school. It's easy to fall under the illusion that the people of Syria are so shell-shocked that they cannot mourn; it's easy to ignore the fact that the hundreds of thousands of people trapped in the Hell that is Aleppo, the millions trapped in Syria, once had lives very similar to our own; it's easy to pretend that Syria was always war-torn, and that the people somehow are not suffering nearly as much as you or I would in the same circumstances. We delude ourselves into the thinking that while we might be devastated by the loss of our homes, our jobs, our safety, or our children, over there, that sort of thing happens all the time. They must be used to it by now.

But as we conclude another week of international leaders wringing their hands over a difficult moral conundrum, and one superpower begging another to fucking quit it already, I'm left feeling empty and depressed. Because all I can do is read about it in the news. There's nothing I can do for the millions suffering in Syria.