Redundancy scares me. I feel like if I get into a pattern of routine, then I’m predictable and once predictable, people then figure me out. Not that I avoid being figured out, but I feel that if I’m predictable, too predictable, people can use that against me.
My mom is a person of routine. Has had the same job that has started at the time on the same day of the week for the last 10+ years. Lived in the same neighborhood for nearly the same amount of time. They have a security system set up at their home. One day, someone broke into a truck at their neighbors home so they asked if I could come over and check out the camera system. Watching the security footage over the week I watched my mom each morning walk around the yard in the dark, go out to her vehicle, fumble with her keys at her truck door, and sit in her vehicle to heat it up. Every. Single. Day. At the same time. I confronted her about this. “Mom! Change up your routine! You can’t go out there every day at the same time and not pay attention to what you’re doing! Have your keys ready! Don’t sit in your vehicle. Stop walking around in the yard.” Here I am sounding like the parent. She laughs me off, feeling secure in her routine. “That’s the fucking problem,” I scoff.
Perhaps this is the issue in my own life. I don’t spare change. I use up every moment it comes into my life. I seek it. I don’t settle. I don’t stick to one thing. My attention span is so short that even it has issues staying focused. I change the furniture in my home around just to see a change. Work experience? Fahgettaboudit! I’ve got a resume as long as my leg. Never been fired but I can say that I’ve stayed and then left because of boredom. Growing up with this “free spirit”, as I call it now, was not easy. Mom was pretty hard on me for not having a routine. Wake up, work, pay bills, come home. Repeat. For the rest of your life. My heart races with anxiety just thinking about that type of restriction. I’m not judging those that need routine. For some, it’s very important to their everyday lives. It helps to keep them focused and on track.
Even if my mother doesn’t understand my freestyle of living, what’s important is that I feel the freedom of living it – and I do. I often look at her and wonder if she feels free. I feel like she is locked in her life of routine. Every day another day like the other. I’ve asked her about it and she laughs, shrugs and says she’s fine with it, but is that because she has done it for so long that’s it’s familiar and easy and change would scare her? She doesn’t even know. That’s robotic to me. I DO NOT want to be that confined in life. Maybe I need to spare some change for my mother.
Have you ever had a large meal and after eating it, your stomach protruded and literally hurt from fullness? Did that fullness make you feel so uncomfortable that you couldn’t sit still, you couldn’t lay down, you couldn’t move without feeling miserable and you wouldn’t dare think about putting another bite of food in your mouth. I, too, have felt that sort of fullness but if I wait 2-5 minutes I know I will want more. Especially if the food was pleasing to my senses!
Food gives me satisfaction. It’s the one constant in my life I have all the control over yet no control over at all. Stripping me of that control and having to tell myself I can’t eat this or that just because I have no limits is heart-wrenching to me. I become furious just thinking about driving past the Dairy Queen during the summer and having to see the skinny families standing in line with their skinny kids and their skinny dogs in their skinny cars eating their fat ice creams and chubby parfaits. I just gained 15 pounds writing that. I’m food sensitive. I swear to it. My youngest daughter is 5 foot nothing and 98 pounds. When she got her first tattoo, she asked to hold my hand. Her petite and tiny hand attempting to squeeze my ginormous hand was comical and sad in the same breath. She’s always talking to me about how the double size zeros are too loose. God bless her. The child eats and her body refuses to gain an ounce. Just inhaling the smells of food cause me to gain.
But alas, I have no shame. I’m not a closet eater. I give no real care. I will merrily and happily eat as much as I want in front of whoever I want. If I want to down an entire pie without sharing, I will do so. This could be my curse or blessing. I hate fighting with myself over what I should eat and what I shouldn’t eat because God forbid I eat an apple on Tuesday at 3 pm after consuming caffeine but not before a kale smoothie because Keto enzymes in the blood flood are bad. Seriously, someone punch me in the face. It’s no joke hard work eating healthy. I don’t feel as comforted with “healthier food”. Don’t get me wrong, healthy food makes me feel good in the long run. But the immediate results I get from sugar and the taste from certain fats from fried food is where I find comfort, safety, warmth, and relaxation. I can take out 6 king-sized candy bars in one sitting (evening). And I’m sure the count could be higher, this is just as much as I purchased. It’s impossible to tell myself, “Stop. Listen to your body.” or “How about an apple?” or “Try water.” There’s no way in hell I’m NOT going to allow myself to enjoy this. This is MINE. I’m becoming agitated now just thinking about. So I eat it – bypass everything I feel – and enjoy every single slow moment with the sweet morsel of magic.
Do you ever over-explain yourself because you feel like people don’t get it or get you? It’s true, though. I see the look on some people’s faces and I think to myself, “This person doesn’t get it and if they do they are as blank as an unwritten check.” There are emotions in me I can’t explain and I’m afraid that if I try too, I’ll cause more question but if I don’t, people won’t understand me and I think it’s human nature to want to be understood, right? Then there’s the “real Tonia” that could give two thoughts on if you understood or not. Push. Pull. Who the fuck am I. That’s not really a question.
I’ve tried to think about why I feel this push/pull feeling and I believe it comes from my need to people-please. Right before I started my weight loss journey in 2015, I became the person I felt I truly was deep inside. The real Tonia. Then, I gained back my weight and I trapped her. I shut her up with a burger and milkshake because honesty she scares me a bit. I become afraid that she’s too outrageous, too straightforward, and most times too uncaring. I’ve shocked myself at some of the shit that comes out of that mouth on the fly – without apology. When that fight between the “real Tonia” and “fat Tonia” starts, exhaustion takes over and depression sets in and well, some of you know how that goes. I do believe that depression is the only consistent “thing” in my life.
The one thing I never want to do is to become so consistently inconsistent that I harm those I love the most and cause them to lose faith in me. That they would think what I say and do are excuses to avoid THEM. Now in my 40s, I’ve finally found people that are real and to jeopardize that would be heartbreaking. Perhaps the one consistency is that I continue to work on moving forward. That I find importance in continuing to work on my journey, working towards bettering myself, understanding my depression and simply being okay with being human.
On Friday, March 29th, 2019 I arrived at my first appointment for gastric bypass surgery after attending the seminar in December. I haven’t told but a handful of people that I was thinking about surgery for weight loss. I feel like surgery is the easy way out. In some ways it makes me feel like I’ve failed. The truth is, this is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make when it comes to my weight loss. This surgery is irreversible. It’s not a fix-all. People still gain weight after surgery and to be honest I’m scared as hell. If I can’t control what I eat RIGHT NOW how can I possibly control what I eat after surgery? But that’s the least of my worries on this day.
The doctor comes into the room and tosses my folder on the desk, “So why are you here today?” I stare at him. He’s caught me off guard. I know he wants to hear that I’m here because I want a better life and no longer want health issues and blah blah but doc – let’s be honest. In order to get there, I’ve got to lose weight. So I say, “To lose weight. To be healthy again.” He chuckles a bit and right away I know that’s not the answer he wants and personally, I don’t care. He quickly replies with the list of things he was looking for. I already know I don’t like him. He’s cocky. His voice is demeaning and degrading. He asks me if I sleep with a c-pap – I answer no. He asks if I have high blood pressure – I answer no. Heart attack, stroke – no. He asks if I have diabetes – I answer no but I am still using Metformin to keep it under control because I used to have Type 2. I want to scream, “DID YOU READ MY FILE?!” He asks which type of surgery I’m interested in. I pick up a large flip board with the names of the surgery because who the hell remembers “Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.” I explain this is the type of surgery I’d like and the reason why. He quickly shoots it down and tells me that with the way I carry my weight and because I’ve had several abdominal surgeries, the sleeve would be better. He leaves the room to grab the female nurse because he has to check my heart. I look over at Kristy with disgust and whisper, “I don’t like him.”
Later that evening I received an email showing the notes and wrap-up of our appointment. Under ‘Chief Complaint’ the doctor writes “Sleep apnea, hypertension, degenerative joint disease, urinary stress incontinence, chronic fatigue, exertional shortness of breath.” WHAT?! Who the hell? Whose complaints are THESE? We never discussed these because I don’t have them. What is degenerative joint disease and urinary stress incontinence?! Now I’m worried. This is the doctor that’s going to operate on me? For fuck’s sake doc. Some would excuse it as – he most likely wrote the wrong patient notes in. Well, if he can make that simple of a mistake, I sure as hell don’t want him snipping, cutting, and stitching things inside my body. So tell me, what’s up doc?
“Poverty. That’s why.” That’s the answer I get from my therapist when I ask “Why is it so hard to get off of “the system” and why are my children struggling?”
She continues to tell me that because my parents grew up in poverty, I then grew up in poverty which in turn, my children grew up in poverty so the likelihood of my children’s children growing up in poverty is very high. “So what, doc? You’re saying that we are just all another statistic?” For whatever reason that angers me to my core. Don’t categorize me and my family! Don’t tell me that my kids will never have anything better in life besides POVERTY!” I leave therapy that day angry and agitated mostly because I know she’s right.
When I get home I start my research. What comes with poverty? How does it affect families? I don’t know why I bothered with research when I already knew my answers. I guess I was looking for validation. According to http://www.debt.org, poverty starts with those that are less educated and less healthy than those not living in poverty. When they say “less educated” I know this is more than just about a college degree. Those that are more educated on healthy food choices, physical fitness choices, financial choices, ect., are more knowledgeable on how to better their lives in each of those areas whereas those with less education in regards to those choices have more difficulty making those decisions. Lastly, according to Gallup, (an American analytics and advisory company), with poverty also comes depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. So the next time you are standing in line at the grocery store next to an obese mother with 3 obese children watching the cashier ring up their chips, dip, and soda while she runs her food stamp card, this is most likely lack of education with added depression and health issues and not laziness.
So how do I fix this? I guess I start with exactly what I’m doing right now. Educating myself. Research. Read. Learn. Then pass it along to my children by leadership. They are at an age now that giving them verbal information is like talking to a dead horse. I must live the life myself and hope that they see it and follow. If I can dysfunctionally damage them, I can most certainly educate the dysfunction, right?
My daddy, (step-dad since I was 4 years old), has been a 2 pack-a-day smoker for 55 years. On March 13th of 2019 he had a heart attack. He was rushed into procedure where they put 2 stints into his heart. Technology is amazing now. He was in and out by the following day. While in the hospital he wore a nicotine patch and said he felt great and didn’t crave a cigarette. As soon as he left the hospital, he tore the patch off and smoked. The next day, he wore a patch that I had purchased but tore it off later and continued to smoke. He then said, “those patches are giving me headaches. I don’t like them”, as he walked out for another cigarette. I looked at my mom and said, “it’s in his head, you know. All that is in those patches is the same thing that’s in his cigarettes! I can’t believe he can’t just quit! I’ve been a smoker and I’ve never had a problem quitting.” My blood father passed away 3 years ago after a quadruple bypass on his heart. While they were lifting him up in the bed to adjust him, his heart failed and he died. He was a smoker who quit but a severe diabetic who refused to give up soda and bad eating habits.
So I went home that evening angry and frustrated. How dare he be so selfish! How dare he shorten his time from us. How dare he expect US to take away from OUR lives to take care of him in his final days because he CHOOSES to smoke and not help himself. Prior to his heart attack he was diagnosed with acute COPD! What more do you need to change?! How dare he! Then…….I stopped.
How many doctor’s appointments have I been to where the doctor faced me and warned me that if I didn’t stop my bad eating habits, I was going to die? High blood pressure, diabetes and nerve damage in both feet didn’t stop me. It wasn’t enough that I had children at home who depended on me. My oldest daughter, bless her beautiful soul, had to tie my shoes because I couldn’t bend over. Who the fuck am I to lecture dad about addiction? Of course it was easy for me to stop smoking. I wasn’t addicted to smoking. I’m addicted to food! There are not enough warning labels or words that could convince me that consuming “orange” mac and cheese is unhealthy. Secretly I know it but the taste. The taste FEELS good. I’m sure that’s how dad feels when he smokes. His security is in that cigarette. It’s safety, it’s familiar, it FEELS good. I have no idea how to help him but what I do want to do is love him and not lecture him because I don’t know how long I have with him and I sure as hell don’t want my last memories to be miserable. I don’t want my last memories to be of me on his ass every day about smoking. I’ve always said – I’d rather die with a burger in my hand and 500 pounds than someone telling me what I CANNOT do with my own life. Addiction is the devil.
2015 – Acupuncture. I hate needles but I’m told that it will work for weight loss and at this point in my life I’m desperate. I go for roughly 50 sessions and notice nothing so I quit. Then, my mother assists with hiring a nutritionist. Let me just say this – nutritionists are NOT cheap. The nutritionist, who I will refer to as Miss H, offered to come into my home and get rid of anything “bad” that I shouldn’t have. I laughed internally thinking that there was nothing really “bad” in my home because I was doing my best to eat right. No Oreos, no chips, no donuts – nothing. The day before coming over she prepared me by giving me a speech. “I’m going to throw things away or you have the option to donate them. Then, we will go shopping for good foods afterwards.” Why is she telling me this?
The next day, she arrives and my mother and I sit at the dining room table facing the kitchen as this tall, beautiful, lean woman opens my cupboard and grabs a can. “You see this?”, she says, “This is high in sugar. You can’t have this, but I have an alternative that you can have, so let’s get rid of it.” I can feel a slight tingle in the tips of my fingers. She grabs my loaf of wheat bread and I feel anxiety start to set in. No lady. Not wheat bread. That shit is fine. Step away from the wheat bread. “This. You cannot have this for certain! It has so many sugars and false ingredients. I have an alternative for you.” Into the garbage it goes. I had 2 pieces out of that loaf. TWO! Panic is starting. I feel dizzy. After going through every nook and cranny in my kitchen and unloading nearly everything in it, she heads to the refrigerator. I feel shaky and nervous and mom can see it. She bends over and leans in as she grabs items she stands back up to explain her findings and why I shouldn’t and cannot have these but how she has such a wonderful alternative. I feel like I need to throw up. I need to pull it together. I feel like my best friend is being ripped from me. My security is gone. I’m bare to the world. I don’t like this. I want to ask her to leave. I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to do this. I look at my mom with worry hoping she would catch on but she just flashes a smile at me. Jesus Christ. I can’t take this. She’s throwing away perfectly good food. My food. MINE! YOU’RE TAKING AWAY MY CONTROL!
Cupboards and refrigerator bare, we head to the Natural Foods store. We walk up and down every single aisle. I can’t hear her. My ears are pulsating. I’m ready to cry as I look at my mom, she’s so into what this lady is saying. Mom, tell me you’re not buying into this bullshit. But mom just nods and smiles at her. Fake. I see Miss H grab cheese from the shelf. Wait. Cheese? I can have that? Miss H answers, “Yes! This kind!” Shit. I said that outloud. We move onto bread. She grabs a loaf and hands it to me. She explains to me why this loaf is better than the loaf I had at home. I’m getting it now. She’s not taking away my foods – she’s replacing them! “Exactly!” she answers. Damn it. Said it outloud again. I’m starting to feel more in control. Maybe these new options weren’t so bad. We head to the register. Nearly $300 later mom and I are in my kitchen taste testing natural cheese, snack crackers, real meats, and bread! My tastebuds were in shock, my mind was racing with excitement and I felt good.
But then, everything started to crumble. I was losing my boyfriend of 10 years. My son was an addict and my children were giving up on me. What was happening to my life? I was trying to make a change for the good. I was trying to better myself so why were people giving up on me? How could things so drastically take a turn for the worse? So you want to give up on me? Fine. You won’t like what you see next.
I feel I’ve already taken too much “me” time and not enough “them” time. Let’s face it. I wasn’t the perfect role model to my kids when they were young during the crucial times in their lives when it was important to be a mother. I have no excuse but my therapist will tell you different. She will tell you that I struggled with my own depression and that my life was in shambles. “How could you possibly give three young children the quality of life that you wanted and desired when you were going through so much in your own life?” Really? I find that very selfish, doc. *sigh* So many regrets.
There are many times they had to fend for themselves. They played by themselves. They learned by themselves. They ate by themselves. I worked tremendously and I think that was my way of checking out so that I didn’t have to deal with the crying, yelling and screaming daily. I didn’t have to deal with their wants and needs by myself everyday. I didn’t have to solve fights and disagreements. So of course, they only had each other. So for me to take time for myself today is leaving them to fend for themselves “again” and this leaves me with painful guilt. Literally I feel a heavy and painful jolt in my chest and stomach. Anger at myself heats up my face and wells up in my cheeks and ears. It then shoots towards my eyes and a sudden burst of warmth runs down my face.
I remember a few years ago we had just left a counselors office. All four of us. We took an elevator down because we thought it was a really cool elevator. It was one of those old ones that have the wrought iron looking gates on the front that squeal really loud when you open and close them. The entire elevator was open so as you move you can see everything around you. This also means there are gaps and holes that allow ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to fall through. When we reached the bottom and as I stepped off the elevator my keys slipped from my hand and fell between the gap to the floor below which was empty and looked like it may have been under construction. It was maybe 3 or 4 feet down so not very far but far enough that I couldn’t get down there myself. I didn’t have to say anything. All three of the kids scrambled to worked together and fast. They could see the keys and each one worked together to get them. One held the gate while the other went to retrieve. It took a minute to figure out because it wasn’t as simple as just moving the gate. They had to go in from the side and then determine who was going to go in, who was the smallest to fit and then how they were going to get that person back up. I remember watching them and thinking – “Wow. It’s incredible that just one hour ago they were fighting with one another but now, when comes to having to make a plan or having a job to do, they seem to come together quickly and get it solved.” Any other parent would have been proud and then moved on from the experience. Don’t get me wrong – I was proud. Very proud. But I haven’t forgotten that day because I felt awful. I knew that they worked well together in that way because they had learned from an early age how to survive on their own. They have only ever had each other. Sadness punched me in the gut.
They are all adults in their twenties now and I feel that guilt and regret more so now than ever. I watch them struggle with life. My oldest seems to do okay for the most part although she doesn’t seem to have a sense of direction. My son. Oh, my son. As I type this he is currently sitting in County Detention aka jail. I won’t get into that much here right now but I will say this – I have the guilt. I am guilty of not providing an example. My heart absolutely aches but I put money on his books and try my best to be sure his car is paid for each month and that he knows he is loved. I’m not even sure how to do that right. My youngest, she does well in life but suffers a debilitating anxiety no doubt brought on by a childhood of trauma and chaos.
I’m not sure how to shake how I feel. I just know I feel it. You can’t just tell someone to get over it and *POOF* it’s gone. You can’t tell someone they did the best they could and now suddenly they are healed. I have to be able to believe it. No one lived my life with my children but me and them so to have someone say “you did the best you could” is not enough for me. Did I? Did I really? I’m not so sure. I’m a shining example of damaged dysfunction which has been cast upon my children at no fault of their own and all I want to do is make it better.
It’s the revolving door. The viciousness of hell. I feel like the hamster on the wheel that just keeps going around and around and if I dare stop I’m going to flip and break something.
I remember where I went wrong. It was a bowl of almond Hershey kisses that sat on a bedside table. I hadn’t had chocolate in nearly a year and to pop one of those in my mouth – well, there was no going back after that. I love chocolate. I have a relationship with chocolate that should be illegal. I eat it until I feel sick and then I wait until that feeling goes away and eat more. Hard chocolate, soft chocolate, creamy chocolate, dark chocolate. I do not discriminate when it comes to my love of it.
They say not to leave sweets in your home because it causes you to overeat and want more. I laugh. I will go out in a storm to get it. I will leave in the middle of the night. You have no idea the lengths I will go to to get the food I want. All it takes to trigger that want is for a commercial to flash across the screen or for someone to mention it and I can’t stop thinking of it. It consumes me until I’m anxious. Until the cuticles around my nails are gone. Until I’m so irritated that everyone around me can’t stand the sight of me. Until I’ve finally broken and gone to the store or fast food restaurant.
So I tell myself – tomorrow. Start over tomorrow. Monday. Next Month. Truth is, if I continue this lifestyle, I may not have tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come. Is that enough to change? Is that enough to stop the revolving door? I thought so.