January 12, 2015

Letting Myself Go

I was doing so well, back in February of last year, nearly a year ago.

I was working regularly, and back into a routine.

I was leaving work a little early to go hiking before it got dark, sometimes hiking after the sun set just so I could get it in.

I didn't want to let myself go. I wanted to be in shape and a healthy weight for me. And I was trying really hard.

But as the pressures of my new job started to get to me, a job which unraveled as quickly as it began, I gave into the many temptations of office life. One slice of pizza turned into an entire personal pizza all for me. Flavored seltzer water turned into beer at lunch. Healthy snacks turned into handfuls of M&Ms.

When that job ended, I was determined to keep up my fitness routine, particularly now that I had plenty of time to devote to hiking and swimming during daylight.

And then arrived the ultimate sabotage: I got rear-ended, giving me whiplash and a brain injury, exacerbating my preexisting fibromyalgia, sending me into physical therapy three times a week for three months, plus weekly visits with a talk therapist and nearly daily phone calls with an attorney. It was hard to find time to exercise. It was hard to get out of bed. It was hard to move at all.

Even as my physical condition improved, my head wasn't ready to get back into any physical activity that required thought, or choreography, or navigation.

I was stagnant because I needed to be. My focus was on getting better.

But all of these traumas – and dating someone new – brought on a significant amount of anxiety that I'd never experienced before, obliterating my appetite and twisting my stomach into knots. I lost ten pounds in a month. At the time, I attributed it to having a new boyfriend and being motivated to look good naked, and when it didn't work out between us and ended unceremoniously, I started letting myself go.

Sure, it was the start of the holiday season – first my birthday, then Halloween and pumpkin spice everything, then Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's Eve and rainy days and Mondays – but I deliberately let myself go, I decided to let myself go, because it became clear to me that my looks didn't matter. Even at my most beautiful, I would not be beautiful enough for LA. I clean up good, but not good enough.

So why bother stressing myself out over weight loss, hair removal, manicures, makeup, contacts, blowouts, fashion? I had enough to worry about: my own physical and mental health, my dwindling finances, my spiraling career, and more.

So I stopped worrying about how I looked. I stopped getting my hair done. I stopped wearing makeup. I cried so hard and so much, my tears ate away at the skin around my eyes, creating red sores and scaly patches. I wore the same pajama bottoms as pants every day. I ate whatever I wanted, and watched my body expand exponentially.

It didn't matter. I was letting myself go. I was letting myself fatten up like a Christmas goose. I was not just allowing it to happen, I was making it happen.

At least I could make something happen. I didn't seem to have control over anything else in my life.

And what a relief not to count Points or calories or fat or portion size. What a relief to say "I can" and "I will" rather than "I can't" or "I won't." What glorious comfort I received from chocolate and chips and pizza and pasta and calamari and cookie dough, when I needed it most.

But when it came down with it, I was inconsolable. I knew I was destroying myself, but I couldn't stop. I'd been here before, these familiar feelings of shame and loneliness and failure and addiction and obsession. We do strange things to survive. We do what we can, left to our own devices.

But there was an end in sight for me. At no time did I tell myself, "This is my life now." This stage of letting go, falling off the wagon, was always meant to be temporary. I just had to get through spending the holidays in LA alone, and then I could get back on track.

I knew it was a cliché, but I just couldn't wrap my head around depriving myself of these comforts until January 2.

And when the New Year came, I was ready to let everything else go, and take myself back. The benefits of hedonism have now been outweighed by the disgust I feel when I look in the mirror, the pain I feel when I wake up in the morning, and the time it takes to find something to wear that fits.

I haven't had a drop of alcohol since January 1 (11 days and counting), the longest I've gone dry since July 2012. I've been following Weight Watchers again. I've gotten back into hiking, and have gone back to the gym.

I'm the heaviest I've been since 2010. I'm very out of shape. And, for the timebeing, I'm very sore from the increased physical activity, after months of stagnation. I feel a little better, but I've got to be in it for the long haul. This isn't just a New Year's resolution. I have to take back my life, and find myself again, whether or not I'm working or dating someone.

I've gotten buried somewhere underneath all of these crises and circumstances, and it's time to dig myself out.

Related Posts:
Letting Go
That Which Weighs Me Down
Getting Back on Track
The End of Acting Out

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