“Whatever it is we’re afraid of, one thing holds true: that by the time the pain of not doing a thing gets worse than the fear of doing it, it can feel like we’re carrying around a giant tumor.” – Meredith Grey (or her writers)
Just watch the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the clip if you’ve never seen this episode. The sound is really quiet but its the best I could find.
I’m not sure what made me think of this episode of Grey’s Anatomy
earlier today yesterday but it happened and it inspired me to write about it. If you aren’t a Grey’s fan or haven’t seen this episode this woman comes in with a massive tumor on her abdomen. She hasn’t left her house in a year because of it. At one point in the episode George O’Malley asks her why she let it grow so big and the woman explains that she’s always feared the hospital so she put off going to the doctor. She only decided to seek medical attention when it became unavoidable.
The whole episode is basically about why we put things off and that it is because of fear that we don’t do things. When I think about weight loss, dieting, trying to change myself, etc I can completely relate to this idea. Before I lost 100lbs the first time I was afraid of the unknown, and feared all the work I would have to put into losing the weight. I was also afraid of failing. But that first time was mostly me forcing myself to stop being lazy. This time around has been a different ball of wax. In fact the past 7 years I think I’ve been like this woman, growing a “tumor” (the weight) and being so afraid of dealing with it that I simply avoided it until I couldn’t anymore.
Someone might say a tumor grows out of human control, and I was the one in control of the weight growing. The thing is throughout the past 7 years a lot of it felt out of control for me. I recall times of trying to diet and then on Friday after work feeling lonely or let down or some other negative emotion and I would go find food on auto pilot – literally the decision and execution of finding junk food would happen so quickly I only felt the guilt of breaking my diet after the food was ordered or was sitting in my car on the way home. Often times I would get a bag of chips, or cookies, or some other treat and plan to eat some of it in moderation and save the rest of it, but when I would try to put it away it would sit there calling my name, taunting me until I picked the bag back up and consumed the rest of whatever it was until I felt sick. There are a variety of foods that I have sworn to God I would never touch again if he would just make the sick, I totally overate, feeling go away. In those times I was just too afraid to face the bad feelings so I soothed myself with food.
Other times in the past 7 years I have been stuck in this cycle because of the stream of thoughts I have running about myself as a result of trying to make losing weight about someone else. The woman in the Grey’s episode had witnessed several family members enter the hospital and died while there, so she believed that if she went to the hospital the same would be true for her. And unfortunately it was true – she waited too long and died on the operating table. After dating Chris I believed that even being thinner didn’t make me worth loving. I believed that he proved that to me by not loving me and letting me go when I was trying so hard to be exactly what he wanted. He showed me that I had to be 135lbs and maintain that to be lovable or else I wasn’t. I struggled to believe that at 250lbs if I was laughing and having a good time with people that I was as worthy and lovable as my friends who were at least 100lbs less than me. I believed these things because I had experienced them. At one of my lower weights I recall Chris asking me how I ever thought I was pretty when I was at my heaviest, because I used to say I felt pretty when going out with friends or something. I was at a loss for how to answer it because I did feel pretty. Probably because I was only focused on my face and I like my face. And maybe I felt pretty relative to my size. But, regardless of how I felt pretty at the time, the fact that he asked me that sent the message that I clearly was not pretty then and I shouldn’t have thought that way about myself. So when I put the weight back on it was tremendously hard to have “pretty days”. I also started to interact with the world as if these things I believed about myself were true. Like the way the doctors react to the woman with the tumor; I believed all thin people talked about me and judged me like that every second of every day. I was unlovable if I was fat. I was not funny and enjoyable being overweight. That “pretty days” were only possible for thin people. And the world started to react to me that way. Not that people were more mean or insulting, but the world just didn’t care for me the way it felt in 2005 when I was thinner. Likely this was all a result of perception on my part. The story I told myself about my self worth felt true because I looked for validation of it in everything.
I would have moments of clarity where I could convince myself those things weren’t true, that I was worth fighting for, so I would fight. I would start a diet and within a week or two something would happen that lined up with my bad perception of myself and I would quit. I became less willing to try over time. I became resentful and frustrated and depressed. I still struggle with this. My story about my self worth that was influenced by Chris and adapted and developed by me has a way of creeping up on me. Sometimes I notice something I don’t like about myself in the mirror and I obsess about it for some time. Sometimes I look in the mirror and feel pretty and the voice inside of me tries to remind me that fat girls don’t get “pretty days”. I have to tell myself to shut up – quiet down and go away! That’s not true!! When I say something and everyone in the room doesn’t drop everything and come listen to every word coming out of my mouth it is not because I am overweight it is because they’re busy, or preoccupied, or something else – but its not about me.
I’m still at a point where my weight loss isn’t noticeable to anyone but myself and I fear something coming along and knocking me off this ride and failing. And I initially feel comfort in thinking that people then wouldn’t know I failed, that I hadn’t done what I set out to do and it would be fine. I could just stay overweight and no one would know I want something different for myself. But then I remember that I’m writing this blog. That I’ve told everyone I know that I’m making this effort, that quitting now would mean that I have to own it and tell people. And that is not something I want to do. And ultimately giving up is not something I want to do either.
The Grey’s Anatomy episode ends with Meredith saying, “We have to make our own mistakes. We have to learn our own lessons. We have to sweep todays possibility under tomorrows rug until we can’t anymore. Until we finally understand for ourselves what Benjamin Franklin meant. That knowing is better than wondering. That waking is better than sleeping. And that even the biggest failure, even the worst most intractable mistake beats the hell out of never trying.”
The pain of being so overweight has far exceeded the pain of facing my weight and self worth issues. It has been time to face all of this for a long time. And I am left with a giant tumor – the pain, the regret, the missed opportunities and experiences. But I won’t live in fear anymore. I will continue to try. Every day. I don’t want to wonder anymore about who Megan is as a healthier and happier person. I don’t want to long for her anymore. I want to work my ass off to become her and maintain her.