Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Digging deep

I have often said that this process is far less a physical one than one about emotional healing.  There are many reasons that we come to programs like Optifast, but success here is not for the faint of heart nor the person that needs to lose just twenty pounds.  You choose such a program, with it's medical supervision and strict guidelines, because you have serious weight to lose.  I believe very strongly that someone that has a lot of weight to lose has more going on down deep inside than just a pure love of food.  I know plenty of slim, fit people who absolutely love food but they know when to stop.  They have one doughnut, perhaps two, but certainly not the whole box.  There is a big difference!  So I knew that when I took on this adventure, there would be issues to work through to prevent me from using food inappropriately in the future.  That being said, I am grateful that this emotional work comes in stages, otherwise it might be a little bit too much to handle.

Last night in my Optifast class, I got this vision of a worker taking out his tools, turning the light on his hard hat and getting ready to do the biggest dig of his life.  Our counselor talked about the idea of family roles.  In a dysfunctional family, which many of us come from, we take on certain roles to help us cope.  The idea of a dysfunctional family is one many people experience in different ways.  It could include abuse, an overbearing parent, co-dependency with an alcoholic, ragers and so much more.  In my own situation, it was an abusive parent on one side with rage issues and a parent who struggled with their own weight issues on the other.  Now, I need to preface this by saying I love both my parents.  They are divorced from each other now, and have their own issues to work through, but it is not my intention to rake them over the coals by saying they were bad people.  That's not true by any stretch of the imagination.  They both did the best they could.  My father is the salt of the earth and I respect him greatly.  My mother has been through a lot in her life and tries the absolute best she can to love me and my brother the best way she knows how.  However, the purpose of this blog is for me to work through my own stuff as I lose weight and heal, walking into whatever the future provides for me.  I do not wish to hurt anybody with anything I say here.  I just needed to preface the rest of this blog post by saying that first.

Now, back to the class discussion about family roles.  We discussed the various roles people take on and were asked if we identified with any of these.  They include:

  • Family Hero/Responsible One
    • Strengths:  Successful, organized, leadership skills, decisive, initiator, self disciplined, goal oriented
    • Deficits:  Perfectionist, difficulty listening, inability to follow, inability to relax, lack of spontaneity, inflexible, unwilling to ask for help, high fear of mistakes, inability to play, severe need to be in control
  • Placater/People Pleaser
    • Strengths:  Caring/compassionate, empathic, good listener, sensitive to others, gives well, nice smile
    • Deficits:  Inability to receive, denies personal needs, high tolerance for inappropriate behavior, strong fear of anger or conflict, false guilt, anxious, highly fearful, hypervigilant
  • Scapegoat/Acting Out One
    • Strengths:  Creative, less denial/greater honesty, sense of humor, close to own feelings, ability to lead (just leads in wrong direction)
    • Deficits:  Inappropriate expression of anger, inability to follow direction, self-destructive, intrusive, irresponsible, social problems at young ages, underachiever, defiant/rebel
  • Lost Child/Adjuster
    • Strengths:  Independent, flexibility, ability to follow, easy going attitude, quiet
    • Deficits:  Unable to initiate, withdraws, blends in quietly into the background, fearful of making decisions, lack of direction, ignored/forgotten, follows without questioning, difficulty perceiving choices and options
  • Mascot
    • Strengths:  Sense of humor, flexible, able to relieve stress and pain
    • Deficits:  Attention seeker, distracting, immature, difficulty focusing, poor decision making ability

The issue here is not that we identify with the strengths of any of the roles since they are positive, but if we have more deficits than anything else.  So our counselor asked if anyone identified with any one group in particular right away.  I raised my hand, saying yes, I was the Lost Child.  He asked me why I think that was and I said, "There was abuse."  I have shared that fact with the group before, although it was before the new people joined us about five weeks ago.  This is not something I keep secret in my life because it is the secrets we try to hide that will kill us.  As the saying goes, you're only as sick as your secrets.

As I described the reasons why I identified with this role, I was immediately brought back to my childhood.  I was hit as a child from my earliest memories until my parents divorced.  When I say hit, I mean beaten.  It wasn't all the time and it wasn't every day, but my mother chose me to lash out against.  It was never my brother and it never was when my father was around (he was often gone because he was in the military at the time).  In fact, I never told my father much about this until later in life and, even then, I only told him a little bit because I knew it would kill him.  I was always his little girl and he would have done anything under his power to protect me.  He did know a little when my brother and I were removed from the home while he was on a WestPac, though, because it was partially of what led to my parents divorce.

When I was a child, I was always seen as the "good" one, the obedient one.  I wore pretty little dresses, always had a smile on my face and did everything I was supposed to do.  Here are a couple of pictures of me during that time.

As you can see, I was already having weight issues.  Look at the picture right above ... that was my 6th birthday party.  I was a big girl for six years old.  The description of the Lost Child's deficits were right on - I withdrew, I tried to quietly blend into the background, sometimes I was ignored, I did whatever my mother told me to do and I couldn't see that I had a choice to tell somebody anything about what was going on.  There were good times in my life during those ages, but far more worse days.  I'm 40 years old now and I still remember those feelings, as if they were yesterday.  If you are reading this and wondering how I could have a relationship with my mother today, know that it has taken a lot of work and forgiveness.  We had a period of twelve years in which we were not a part of each others' lives.  God was doing work in both of us, leading us to reunite, forgiving the past and moving forward in a more loving and honest relationship today.

I am not that little girl any longer.  I do not accept ill treatment from anyone.  However, there are emotions that I still hang onto for some reason.  For example, I was often told I was fat and ugly.  To this day, whenever anyone says I look pretty or beautiful, I wonder why they are saying that to me.  Is it because they are trying to be nice or want something from me?  It's really hard for me to accept the compliments, but I do work hard and try my best to do so.  I also try to understand what they see in me that I do not.  I have so many people in my life, either those I know in person or who I have met online, that have given me some lovely compliments as I have been losing weight.  No one is twisting their arm to do so.  Yet, I find it hard to see what they do.  Perhaps it is those years of being told I was fat and ugly that have been cemented into my head that helps me not trust as easily as maybe other people do.  I don't have to overthink it, though.  I don't live in the past these days, so I need to also know that I don't need to live in the past in terms of not liking myself or feeling like I don't deserve good things.  My ex-boyfriend really hurt me when our relationship ended in September and I think the sting is still there to some degree.  Yet, those are his issues, not mine.  My life is better without him in it and I need to keep reminding myself of that.  The next person who comes into my life should get the best of me and that's what I'm working on right now.


Big Heart said...

This post brought tears to my eyes. To make it through all the bad things that happened to you and to come through as this beautiful person, who still loves the people who did things to you. You are strong and beautiful Kathy, and you smell good, too! :D There is no doubt you will make it through your journey. May it continue to bring you more peace and happiness.

Kathy said...

Thanks for such a sweet reply. And OMG did the "you smell good, too" comment made me laugh right out loud. There's something I didn't expect to hear, especially when we were exercising!!

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