Last week I received a letter from one of my readers.
Dear Jen, I am coming to you for some major support right now. I know it may seem really unimportant and lame, but it's weighing on me right now. When I had my first weird symptom in the summer I gained 10 pounds. They say I am retaining fluid. As of this week I gained another 10 pounds. I got on the scale this morning and it read 150. Just a number I know, but full blown panic has set in. I was 129 pounds this time last year.
So many things come up for me. I can't stand my body. I don't want to be seen or wear clothes. I feel right now like I AM MY BODY. I feel ashamed that I teach yoga and I am this big. I feel sad that I can't lose weight and be the way outside that I feel on the inside. I know this conversation feels so dumb. Our friend’s baby just died, my son has PWS, a man just got swallowed up in a sinkhole in Florida, and yet I can't stand the sight of myself. That is sad. How do I get past this? I am soul searching.
I am reading books, writing, doing all the spiritual journey I can find. How can I learn to love myself at any weight? I feel ashamed right now, of my body and how I feel about myself. I have never shared this with but a few people before. I truly need support right now. I am on a journey to be a spiritual being and I AM STUCK! I need your help.
Unimportant and lame. That’s what you think you know, but what we think we know is usually miniscule compared to what we don’t know.
What you don’t know is more important.
You think that this feeling of being ashamed is petty and silly, possibly even irrelevant. That compared to some of the troubles in the world (so many troubles! So much sadness and death and dying and potholes!) that this, this stupid little thing isn’t even worth a thought. You can’t quantify sadness or grief or upset. You can’t say this is worse just because it is a more obvious "worse."
Although we try and do that all the time. I should be more grateful because the guy who lives next door to me is in a wheelchair. Comparing our problems or lack of problems and making ourselves wrong for feeling what we are feeling is a recipe for misery.
How do I know? I spent many years of my life telling myself I had no reason to be depressed and yet, there I was at three in the afternoon, in bed with the covers over my head.
What you don’t know is this: you are not stuck.
A stuck thing couldn’t write this email asking for help. What you don’t know is this: your sharing this will help others be able to process, because guess how many of us feel this way?
I don't know the exact number but it is a lot.
I have some questions for you, though. You say you want to be the way outside that you feel on the inside? How do you feel on the inside? It seems to me, based on this email that you feel sort of shitty so the first thing is ABTTT. As I said in another of my writings: Always Be Telling The Truth. I think perhaps the real issue is on the inside. Not the outside.
I get it, I do. I have struggled with severe anorexia and body dysmorphia and all the rest. I still do at times. I sit writing and feel my belly hanging over my waistline and think, how do I call myself a yogi, let alone a yoga teacher?
I am a fraud. I am a fatass. Then I start writing and I get out of my own way. When I actually get up and away from the compter and do my own yoga practice or walk or whatever it may be, I feel even better. Even though my belly/waistline ratio is exactly the same, I somehow feel lighter and more grounded.
I believe it’s called endorphins. We need them and as much as I prefer sitting (gasp!) and writing or reading, I must get off my ass and move. Not for any reason except that it keeps me feeling what I want to be feeling on the inside. And that is alive.
The other thing? It does matter. How we look often indicates how we feel and how we feel is important even though life often tries to tell us differently. By life I mean our family, peers, Facebook.
The catch is this: most of the time we can’t see ourselves clearly. We think we look fat or ugly or bad or this or that, and again, I must point out two things: (1) what you don’t know (or can’t see) is greater than what you know, and (2) ABTTT. Always be tellin’ the truth.
Are you telling the truth to yourself? Oftentimes we don’t want to admit that we look good or feel good because that would be admitting our happiness and we don’t deserve to be happy, do we?
Can I get a Hell Yes? Hell yes, you deserve to be happy.
We all do.
A few more things I’d like to point out since you asked: Can you give yourself some time away from the scale? I have written a lot about the fact that I can’t get on the scale still. That’s my own personal demon that I intend to face but what I am wondering is how much getting on the scale and seeing the numbers keeps you feeling stuck?
I am not suggesting you live in denial but rather that you give yourself some space from it so you can appreciate how you look without getting made wrong by some awful numbers.
How do I get past this? Listen, you don’t. You are in it. You may be in it for the rest of your life.
I know it still comes up for me more than I care to admit. You have to learn how to be with it and waltz with it and eventually own it. It’s owning you now. It has your attention and your focus and you can’t really get anything done until you come to terms with the fact that you are letting this dominate your life.
I have no idea but I know why I let it dominate my life. I spent at least 15 years being bitch slapped by an eating disorder and self hatred until I took it by the balls and said I own you now.
You absolutely have to get crass with it and tell it who is who. You think you know. What you don’t know is this: it will listen to you eventually. You must do the work though.
It sounds like you are with your writing and reading and asking for help. You just have to tell it who’s boss. You have to admit you don’t know what you don’t know and start from there. You have to admit that you deserve to be happy. (We all do!) You have to ABTTT.
And then you have to do what may be the easiest or hardest part depending on your personality. Exercise, stay away from the scale, get out of your own head (bad bad neighborhood) and my own personal favorite, stop looking in the mirror so much. You may not do that but I do and it’s like falling down the rabbit hole and landing in a shitstorm of disapproval.
Asking for help is just about the best thing any of us can do. Most people don’t know this secret (so please pass it on if you would). What we think we know is usually miniscule compared to what we really don’t know at all and what we don’t know is how the world will open up and show us that we are held.
So when you say I am on a journey to be a spiritual being and I AM STUCK! I need your help I’d like to point out that the help has been granted. It’s right here. And here. And there.
Oh, and one more thing: you are already a spiritual being. You may have just forgotten. It happens to the best of us. You made it. You’ve arrived.