Sitting with Anxiety

Patsy asked me to do something yesterday that felt very odd, at first. Patsy is my therapist and I like her a lot, and I was telling her yesterday that I am in a bad place right now. I can’t sleep. I’ve lost motivation. I’m moving quickly toward a bout with depression, and of course I’ve done all I’m supposed to do. I’m working out three to four days a week. I’m taking my pills. I’m eating well. I’m taking walks. I’m trying to write. I have no “real” worries right now. My husband is employed. My son is doing well. But for some reason, I can’t get it together. My anxiety is peaking. Patsy asked me about my anxiety. Why is it bothering you now? She wanted to know. She started talking about my anxiety as it wasn’t a part of me, but rather a separate entity that was preying on me. It felt weird.

Next she asked me to close my eyes and envision the anxiety. What did it look like? What did it sound like? What, most importantly, did it want from me? Of course this was all over Zoom. We still aren’t meeting face to face because Coronavirus, so it wasn’t working as she liked. She instead told me to find a quiet place later and do this activity. Write it down if I needed to. Try to figure out what the anxiety needs. Open a line of communication. It sounded a bit bizarre, but I trust Patsy. Moreover, as soon as she said that looking at your anxiety as a separate entity can sometimes help, without even thinking much about it, this image popped into my head. Like she was still talking about this process. About EMDR, trauma patients, etc, and I was already envisioning the way my anxiety looks, acts, feels, reacts to my questioning.

So later I did what Patsy suggested. I drew a picture of an office chair. Fun and funky. Bright colors and a nifty pattern. I then closed my eyes and envisioned that I asked the Anxiety to come and sit with me. And well, he did.

He’s not very pretty, is he? He’s a he. Of course he is. I can’t really describe him. I tried to describe him to Jerimiah, and the best I could come up with is that he is a blob of chaos. Very dark. Bright eyes. So there he is. He doesn’t have a name, he doesn’t deserve one. He’s just Anxiety, and he’s a real asshole.

Turns out he feeds on worry, uncertainty, and chaos. He gropes me. Attacks me. Latches on to me when things seem to be going okay on the outside. He relies on lies. He relies on uncertainty to get me down. He’s very good at what he does. He is swift. He’s always around waiting to be fed.

I’m sure there is more to this exercise, and once I can get back into the office with Patsy I’ll ask her to walk me through it, but this is as far as I got today. I’m not sure I want to venture further in without her. But I did want to share with you all, because the biggest take away I got from this was that Anxiety comes and goes, but does not define me. He is mean. He is hurtful. He causes chaos, but he is not me. I am not him. And I guess I’ll keep fighting him, probably forever, but at least now I know who I am fighting.

I hope you all know who is with you and against you, today. What is with you, what is against you.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

Lessons in Therapy

I’ve had several people reach out to me over the last couple of weeks to ask questions about therapy, so many that I thought it warranted a blog post. I think there are people out there who are really suffering from anxiety and depression right now and they don’t know who to turn to. Some people want to ask questions about mental health, but never would because of the stigma associated with it. This stigma is generations old, y’all and familial. Which is to say that it runs rampant through entire families for years and years. Both the mental health issues and the stigma surrounding help. Parents, grandparents, many who would benefit themselves from therapy and medications, talking shit, if you will, on people who get mental health help, creating a horrendous environment for family members who actually wish they could seek help, but are afraid to because of what their family members will say. This stresses out the people who are already in need of help, thus creating a cycle. Parents saying to their grown children: “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, I did it when I was your age and look at me!” Yeah. Look. At. Them. I know so many people who are “secretly” in therapy that it’s pure craziness. We need to talk openly about this. People need to be informed. People want to be informed. So, let me inform you the best way I can, with a story.

The day I walked into Patsy’s office I was nervous and sweaty. I was immediately wondering if she would see that I was nervous and sweaty, which made me more nervous and sweaty. I’d already done my “intake” paperwork before I showed up at the office. They emailed it to me the week before, I printed it out at home, filled it out, scanned it, then emailed it back. “Intake” is just a scary word that means they have all your information. Name, address, phone number, medical history, health insurance info, emergency contact, etc. All the normal new doctor bullshit. The problem is when people hear “intake” in relation to mental health, they think they are about to get committed to some scary psych ward that they watched a documentary on, and ghosts are going to chase them around in the haunted hospital. Or more likely, they they think they must have something REALLY wrong with them if they are doing an “intake” form. Nope. In fact, I think some offices don’t even call it that anymore. It’s all just called “Evaluation” which is what my office calls it, but some old school places still call it “intake,” so that is something to be aware of. The word here literally means, “Process of taking something in.” This situation being your therapist’s office taking in information about you as a new patient. That’s it. That’s all. Calm your tits.

So I walked into this new office, which is already scary for someone like me, and I was met with a receptionist, which is normal. She spoke in a nice, calm tone (as I’m sure they are trained to do) and told me she had all my paperwork, and that I had a $30 co-pay per my insurance. She then took my card, processed the payment while I stood there awkwardly, and told me that I would be seeing the office’s therapist Patsy for my “evaluation.”

Remember, the first visit to ANY mental health office if going to start with an “evaluation” by a mental health professional. Chances are, if the office has a therapist and a psychiatrist, the therapist will do your evaluation to decide whether you can benefit with regular, old, run-of-the-mill therapy like she can provide, or if you need to see the psychiatrist. Keep in mind here that the psychiatrist is the M.D. The therapist usually just has an M.A. in therapy or something like that, which means she can’t prescribe you medication. But the psychiatrist can. But, that doesn’t mean you HAVE to see the psychiatrist. In my office there is also a mental health nurse practitioner who can prescribe medication under the direction of the psychiatrist. Stay with me.

I was seeing both Patsy my therapist, and Suzan my MHNP. BUT, and this is a big BUT, your primary care physician (your regular old MD doctor you go to when you have a cold) can also prescribe mental health medication. Which means your therapist can recommend medications or treatment plans that you can then take to your doctor and get filled, if your doctor is willing.

So can’t I just see my PCP for all this, Missy? Great question! Absolutely you can, BUT that’s all you’re gonna get from your PCP, medication (and sometimes more of that judgement we talked about earlier, because they just aren’t mental health professionals). You won’t get the therapy that is SO important. In fact, some PCPs won’t give you medication unless you are seeing a therapist, which is smart if you ask me. Trust, I did the PCP for mental health care for a decade, and then it occurred to me one day: When I have vagina issues I see a gynecologist. When I have stomach issues I see a gastroenterologist. If I’m having mental health problems why would I not see a mental health professional? Answer: That generational, familial stigma. You gotta get past that.

Truth Time! Patsy is the third therapist I have been to see. The third time I got up the nerve to talk to someone. But each time before I quit going within three months. Why, Missy? Because, and I can’t stress this enough, THERAPY IS HARD AS FUCK, Y’ALL. You think the first time you will feel better. Nah, you won’t. In fact, you feel even worse. You feel like shit and you start to wonder if the therapist is straight-up out to get you. Like they are a sick subgroup of people who just like to watch other people cry. That’s not the case. Well not usually. It’s just HARD AS FUCK the first few months. The most important thing I can say to you is to STICK WITH IT. Those first few months the therapist is trying to understand you. Trying to figure out what your main issues are. Diagnose you. And no, it isn’t all your Mom’s fault, though truth be told a lot of it is, so if you love your Mom and think she can’t do any wrong, it’s gonna be even harder to sit through this part. Because most of what we deal with as adults stems back to the environment we were raised in. And most of us had shit happen to us, that we can’t even relate to our life now, but trust, your therapist will pull it out of you and before you know it you will be all, “HOLY SHIT! That makes so much sense. This is why I react like that now.” Or “Ohhh, that’s why I hate the color purple.” Trust, you will get answers. But it will take time.

I told Patsy at my evaluation appointment, all about my other therapy experiences and what I did. At the end of the evaluation, which is just a long talk, she asked if I would be willing to work with her, and if so, would I be willing to stick with her for SIX MONTHS! Six months, you guys. I knew my track record. I knew how hard it was, but even so I said yes. And now it’s a year later and I actually fucking look forward to seeing her every few weeks. I smile when I see her (I secretly want to hug her, but I think that’s frowned up) and I already have a list of shit to talk to her about because I know she gets it and can help me. She always gets it. She always helps me. But it took awhile to get there.

The other thing I want to say is that the first therapist might not be your person. Same for the medications. We counted it up, and along with having been to three therapists, two PCPs, and a mental health nurse practitioner, I have been on 10 different medications. Not at the same time. I mean I’ve tried 10 different kinds over a decade and just now feel like I found a good fit. Some of them worked for years, don’t get me wrong, but then they’d stop working. Prozac. Wellbutrin. Zoloft. Yeah, been on them all. And they were all great, but got to the point with me that they weren’t doing their job. So it takes time. And patience. Lots of patience. (Side political note: It also takes money. Health insurance. So people who don’t have money and/or health insurance can’t do this. Is that what we want? A country where only people with money/health insurance can get help they need? Nah, I didn’t think so. Vote, assholes.) Sorry I called you assholes.

Whew. I’m tired writing this, and I’m sure you’re tired in reading it, so let’s stop here. But let me say this: If you have any questions or concerns, or just want to talk to someone about how to even start this process, I’m here for you. Yes, even my complete strangers who just Googled “Ligers” and got to this post. I’m making one of my tags “Ligers” for this reason. I will help you. You can comment on this post. We can get you into therapy. Into someone who can help you around your area. In fact, I’m going to share some links at the bottom of the page to help you if you need it.

Listen, I need you to take care of yourself, okay? It’s important. We need you. Yes you! Your family needs you. Your friends need you. Your community needs you. And if you let what you think is just “a bout of the blues” linger, I promise it won’t get better alone. Trust me. I know. I’ve been there. There are people who want to help you. No judgement. Let me help you find them.

Stay safe and sane, y’all.

M.

American Psychological Association – How to Find a Good Therapist

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Mental Health America – Text MHA to 741741

There are currently online support groups for dealing with Covid-19 stress and trauma. Check out this place that are offering their services 70% off (I don’t know much about them, but I did go to their website and see their offer. So it might be worth checking out if you need to.) This is just one example. Google “Online mental health support groups.”

Sketching

Gratitude journaling came up in therapy the other day. I brought it up. I sort of hedged my bets that she might suggest something like that for me, considering I write. I said something like, “I need a way to work on the anxiety and stress of the day-to-day stuff,” and before I could even stop myself I said the word “gratitude,” then I winced. Patsy didn’t skip a beat, “Journaling, gratitude journaling, isn’t for everyone.” My problem, I explained, is that I am horrible at stream of conscious stuff because I am constantly editing. Not for grammar (as you can see) rather I’m always looking for how I fucked up the writing in some way (again, not grammar) therefore I can never let myself relax enough to just say whatever is top of mind, and then hope I make my way toward the gratitude. Then this here blog came up.

Just last week I explained to a friend that my blog isn’t my “real” writing. My “real” writing is much worse. So count yourselves lucky! My real writing takes AGES to actually accomplish, and puts me in such a tizzy most of the time that I can’t actually sit down to get the words out. This here blog, I explained to my friend and later to my therapist, is like if I were an artist (I wish) and this was my sketchbook.

You know how you always see really cool, artsy people walking around with little sketchpads? In my mind I’m that person. Except it’s my laptop, or my iPhone (yes, I blog from my phone), and whenever something strikes my fancy I jot it down here. That’s why this blog is a hot mess. That’s why the only things you can clearly gleam from my blog are my dislike of our president and the fact that there are no low-carb Cheeto options. Le sigh.

Why am I telling you this? Why do I tell you half the shit I do? To get it off my chest. To put it out there in this private/public sphere and hope that one of you will be all, “Oh yeah, that makes sense, Missy. I like you. You’re alright.” Also to say that maybe what you need to help you relieve stress or anxiety is something you do every day too? Because when I really think about it, this blog helps me with both my stress and my anxiety. It helps me get out what I need to get out, without the feeling that I will be judged or ridiculed for it. I mean this is my blog after all, and it houses my most ridiculous sketches.

So try it out today. Try out gratitude journaling if you haven’t. There is a lot out there about it, and how to get started. Or try knitting. Or try writing. Start a blog! It’s fun. Or make silly YouTube videos, or cook something amazing, use what you know and love to make yourself feel better. I’ll be over here in my corner dreaming about watercolors and oil on canvas. Sketching my day, my fears, and most likely naked, French women. Hey, we all have our thing…

M.

New Year’s Resolution

I was back to see Patsy today (for the new people hiding in the back, Patsy is my awesome therapist). She was either booked solid, or away the whole month of December so I had A LOT to talk to her about. There was the pretty low spot I found myself in right after Thanksgiving. There was a whole month of guilt trips from family about coming home for Christmas, there was even the “Toaster” story that I had been saving up for her because I knew how she would react (jaw drop, head shake, a “What the actual hell?”) Oh man, it was good. But before I went back for my hour of emotional torment, I noticed an interesting thing in the waiting room. Lots of people I don’t normally see on my biweekly Tuesday or Thursday morning vists. Like, mainly mature, white men. I was sort of surprised. The five or so minutes I waited I also heard the office staff book three or four evaluations, which made me very happy because mental health is very important and I get the sense, over the last few years, more and more people have realized that.

I know what you are thinking. It’s probably the same thing I thought as I sat there watching people uncomfortably fill out paperwork in the first week of January, maybe they made this a New Year’s resolution? Maybe so. Hopefully. But who cares?! Listen, I know the general feeling nowadays, particularly from my generation, toward setting a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s call it, umm, jaded. And I gotta be honest, I just don’t get it.

What is so wrong with taking a clean, fresh start on a day that literally gives us a clean, fresh start? Maybe I don’t get it because I am a grade A, low-life, procrastinator who has said, “Oh, I’ll just do it on Monday” before. Because Monday is a clean, fresh day. Monday hasn’t been tampered with like Saturday has. Monday has so much potential. Monday will be better.

This got me thinking about the day I was baptized. I was baptized as an adult. I was 30 years old in fact, and it was after a particularly difficult point in my life and I needed direction. And faith. And cleansed. Looking back I should have made a therapist appointment instead of a sitting in a pool of my own filth in a white gown, but you live, you learn. The point is, I felt cleansed. I felt fresh. I felt like I could start over. So I did.

That’s what the new year does for some people. It allows them to shake off the negative shit they endured the year before. It allows them to start over. No one is trying to reinvent themselves from December 31st to January 1st, but they are trying to change their mindset. And what is so wrong with that? Why the jokes about gyms getting hit hard this time of year? Why belittle people for taking a difficult step? Maybe it makes you feel better, and if so may I recommend you get yourself a Patsy?

Because you posting on Facebook how you aren’t “dumb enough to make a resolution” isn’t helping your third cousin, once removed who is battling mental illness make that eval call. It isn’t helping your aunt who has decided 2020 is a year of change and she’s going to join Silver Sneakers. Your jaded opinions on New Year’s Resolutions aren’t helping anyone, unless to serve a few laughs, or help you commiserate with all the other haters. And again, I can give you Patsy’s number. You’ll love her, she’s great.

Here’s all I’m asking, and I’m asking it nicely the first time around: Can you spare a little more kindness? Can you think for an extra second before you share a meme about how the gym is crowded, or the health food store is crowded, or the therapist office is crowded this time of year? Because there are some of us out there who just need a definitive line. A point of no return. A cleanse, before we can take a leap. And yeah, maybe it won’t stick. Maybe by the first week of February my therapist’s office will be empty again, but maybe it won’t. There’s always that.

I didn’t set a resolution this year because I didn’t have a clear one to set, but maybe next Monday I will have one. Until then, I’m hopeful for all of you who did! This is your year!

M.

Every Day, On Occasion

I was religious once. More of a question than an answer. More of a desperate attempt, than a genuine plan. That’s how it is sometimes though. When you’re not sure if you will ever see someone you love again, you tend to become religious. It isn’t the only time, but it’s a time. Every day I wonder if I messed up. If I made the wrong decision. To believe. Not to believe.

Every day I make a conscious decision to stay awake. Every afternoon I start to slip a little. I get drowsy, usually from lack of sleep the night before, and I have to decide if I should just curl up on the couch with a book, or I push through. Plan dinner, do some laundry, make a to-do list for when I will feel like doing more. I usually push through.

I feel guilt over something every day. Some situation, some action or reaction I had. It’s part of the cycle of shame. Of not being in control. I read it in a book. A book about adults who grew up with parents with addictive behaviors. We seek control, and when we don’t have it we blame ourselves. We blame ourselves a lot, for situations out of our power. It’s a cycle.

On occasion I wonder if my husband loves me like he said he does. I wonder it even as he is saying he loves me, or showing me in some way. He has never given me a reason to think any different. Never hurt me in a profound way. I just wonder if he loves me like he says he does. Because on occasion I wonder if I love people the way I think I do, because on occasion I wonder if what I feel is love. Or something else altogether.

On occasion I look into a mirror and feel a strange sense of detachment from my body and my emotions. My therapist says it happens. She says it’s a symptom of trauma. Depersonalization. Profound detachment. It goes by several names. It’s an odd feeling. The feeling of not belonging in your own skin. The feeling of watching your body continue to buzz, but your brain turn off. On occasion I avoid mirrors all together.

I worry about my child. Every day. Every day at some point I stop and wonder what he is doing at school at that moment. If he ate all his lunch. If someone was mean to him. If he was mean to himself. Every day I worry that he got enough sleep the night before. I listen to his breathing while we sit on the couch together. I ensure that he isn’t coming down with anything. I worry that I am messing him up. That he doesn’t have the life I planned for him. That I am disappointing him in some way, some irreversible way.

On occasion I wonder when the other shoe will drop. When this life I am living will end. When the rug will be pulled out from under me. I envision a fiery crash. A break-in. A gunshot. I assume I’ll be taken down in a blaze of some kind, an accident maybe, but a tragedy no less. I think I’ll be blindsides at two am with bad news. I sleep with my ringer on, on occasion.

Every day I work to make my life better. I go to regular therapy. I evolve, try to become more self-aware. I read books that tell me explicitly how to live a whole-hearted life. I practice mindful breathing. I take a pill, every single day.

On occasion all of this works and I have a good day. No self-deprecating devil on my shoulder. No little inner critic. On occasion someone tells me I helped them in some way, and I believe them. My son hugs me tight and tells me he has a great life, and I give myself credit for creating it for him. On occasion a friend texts to tell me that I make her smile, and I smile, because I want to do better. I deserve to do better. To be better. But not every day.

I hope today is a good day for you.

M.

Therapatsy

My therapists name is Patsy. I’ve written about her before, but I used a fake name to hide her identify because she probably doesn’t want her name associated in any way shape or form with this here blog ‘o’ mine, but today I decided that’s too damn bad because well, first of all there are a lot of Patsys in this world, and probably some of them are therapists, and also I really like Patsy and want to tell you guys about her. So, let me start over and say that my therapists name is Patsy and she’s pretty cool.

Last week she told me that she feels like she always tells me to “lie” to my family, but in a way she does, and in a way I need her to tell me to do that. Take for instance when I have to get some alone time because my mom has been at my house visiting for two weeks, and we all took an eight-hour road trip together over a long weekend and I have been feeling like I always have to talk to someone every second of every day because someone is always talking to me every second of every day. Patsy said, “Tell them you don’t feel well, and go hide in your room.” Ah, see that? Patsy just gets me.

She apologized right after, but really, I’m sorta out of options here. I told her not to worry because I already do this. I’ve been doing this for literal years. To my mom, my husband, my son, my friends. I will be all, “Oh, I have to poop. Sorry, it’s gonna be a while. You know ‘ol Missy and her gastrointestinal problems…” then I hide in the bathroom for half an hour so I don’t have to talk to anyone, or make any decisions for anyone, or pretend to be engrossed in a story about that one time my friend’s cat got out of the house and showed back up three months later with three kittens and a penchant for blood. I mean, it’s a good story, but one can only hear it so many times, so I lie and I sit in the bathroom and I listen to nothing but fucking silence. I love silence. LOVE IT.

Before my regular visits with Patsy, I would get therapy anyway I could, while telling people that therapy just wasn’t for me. I would watch Brene Brown or Oprah on repeat and hope that I learned something. I would sit on park benches and listen to other people talk, hoping they would say something inspirational. I would write. I would listen to music, I would binge watch shows about women in prison to make myself feel better about my life. Patsy sorta ended all that for me. Patsy has a calming presence. Which is way good for me. She isn’t afraid of silence, which sometimes I just need in my bi-weekly hour session. But she also can tell when we just need to jump in and get started.

Last week I was fifteen minutes late to my appointment. I HATE being late, but I had the time wrong in my calendar, and well, I just messed up. Plain and simple. Not to mention the fact that I was in the line at Starbucks when I realized I had messed up. Jerimiah was with me and he was all, “Tell her it was my fault!” (He always makes this offer to me, about anything. If I do something wrong, or say something wrong, or hurtful, he will say, “Just blame it on me!” I usually don’t, because I’m too damn honest. But the offer is nice.) When I relayed the story to Patsy, because of course I told her the truth, because I can’t lie to her—which is coincidently one of the ways I know I can really trust someone. Always has been. If I can’t lie to them, I know they are nice, and good, and my kinda people—so I didn’t lie to Patsy and she was all, “Where is the damn Starbucks? Did you leave it in the car cause you didn’t want me to see?” And I was all, “Duh.” And she was all, “Dude, don’t do that! Always bring the Starbucks in with you.” Ahhh, Patsy.

Why am I telling you about Patsy? I dunno. Because I am currently “not feeling well” and I am in my room, alone, with the door closed, while my husband and mom and kid watch a movie downstairs, and I just realized how there’s no getting around that I NEED to do this sometimes. And I shouldn’t feel bad about it. Patsy said that. And she’s a professional. So I should listen to her. I also, probably, want to take this time to tell you all to get yourself a Patsy. Or a Susan. Or an Angela. Or a Bill or a Mark. Some therapist, with some therapist-sounding name. And check in with them every once in a while. It’s helpful. And nice. Even if you just sit in silence for an hour. It’s so totally worth it.

Take care of yourself.

M.

If I Were Forced into a Court-Ordered OA Group

It is six o’clock in the evening on a Wednesday. I am sitting in a semi-circle staring blankly ahead, trying not to make eye contact with the man directly across from me who has an oxygen tank next to him and keeps talking about how he wishes he could step outside for a smoke. There are only five of us so far. I know this because every fourteen seconds or so I look around the room as if I am searching for a clock on the wall, but in reality I am using my peripheral vision to count heads. Is that meaty woman by the door lingering there because she is afraid to commit, or is the success story for the night. I do not count her just yet.

We are all sitting on hard plastic chairs that are intended for children. That are so small my thighs are spilling over the sides. I shift uncomfortably in the seat, and I just know this will give me a rash, or deep lines in my softness, at the least. We are in the dank, dim basement of church that, five days a week, doubles as a pre-k for tired Methodist mommies who just need a fucking break for three hours in the morning so they can Zumba, then hit Publix alone.

My foot is asleep.

The woman beside me is breathing so heavy that with each intake I brace myself for the warm, garlicky steam to waft toward me. I close my eyes to pretend that I am in one of those funny sitcoms where I look over at her and we make eye contact and I say something funny and she laughs. The laughter breaks the awkward silence in the room and then we all become super best friends, bound together by our inability to control our emotional eating and our desperate desire to hide behind jokes, because that is the only way we think people will love us.

We start to meet outside of our designated meeting times. We start to have potlucks with things like kale salad (because we are trying) and Diet Coke (because we are not trying that hard) and we only refer to each other by the nicknames that we created (my best friend is Wynonna because of her red hair, and I am Momma Naomi because I like to tell everyone what to do). We start referring to ourselves simply as group.

I open my eyes to see a skinny, pale blond woman lowering herself onto a large, comfy rolling chair. Why does the skinny bitch get the rolling chair? Ah, she’s the mentor.

Twenty minutes later I say the first words I have said all night, after the blond says, Missy, tell us about yourself.

I’m quiet for an actual minute because I have learned that if you are fat, and no one knows what you are capable of, you can be quiet for so long that the silence gets awkward and the conversation goes on without you in it. This doesn’t work with the blond, because as much as I want her to be just one of the other fat people’s caring sisters who has volunteered to come tell us about Weight Watchers, she is actually a real, goddamn therapist who has been hired to try to reach us. To get us. To help us with our self worth. She continues to silently smile at me, her piercing blue eyes locking onto mine. Because this isn’t my first rodeo with a therapist, and because this is not the first time I have tried desperately to get a skinny, pale, blond woman to like me, I cave.

Hi! (I sort of wave to the group that I have actively been avoiding for the last half hour). I’m Missy and I’m a bread-aholic.

I laugh trying to ease into it. A few chuckles come from around the room and I am hoping I can figure out, by the end of the allotted time, who it was that laughed, because those my people. Meanwhile, the blond loses her smile. She ain’t playin’.

Uh, I am married and have one son and a poodle who is kinda, sorta, well he’s a shithead, but I love him. The poodle, not the husband or son. But I mean, they are sort of all shitheads sometimes, you know?

More laughter. Her smile comes back. Okay, keep going Missy.

I am 37 and have always been overweight. I was the kid who was picked on in second grade for having a big round belly, and also because sometimes I would toot when I sneezed, but never owned up to it.

More laughter. She doesn’t laugh, but her smile broadens. She is starting to like me now. I feel safe for no reason whatsoever, except that probably these other fatties get what I am going through and I assure myself that I am not the saddest sack this blond therapist has ever seen, so I decide to go all in.

Obviously, I hide behind humor. My biggest problem really is bread. Carbs. Sugar. I eat when I am sad. When I am angry. When I am happy. I enjoy over-processed foods, but could tell you what I am supposed to be eating, what I should never allow into my body, and how important portion control is. I know how sugar releases dopamine in my brain. I know that too many carbs can cause inflammation in my joints. I know that people like me, who eat a lot of added sugar, are twice as likely to die of heart disease. I know I should not drink Diet Coke, but when I’ve had a shit day, that’s all I want to do. I exercise five days a week, but I know that you can’t exercise away a bad diet. I do not jump on fad bandwagons. I don’t Keto, or South Beach, or Slim Fast. I know those are not healthy, and unrealistic for the long run. I know, but I do not adhere to most of it.

The group sits with their mouths agape. Oxygen man turns up the dial on his machine. Heavy-breather coughs. Blond woman’s smile fades away. I decide this is probably a bad time to ask if there is a snack table somewhere.

By the end of the night I haven’t realized anything that I didn’t already know. I grew up on TV dinners and pre-packaged lunch meats because we were poor and those went a long way. I never learned to read the ingredients on the box. When I was a kid they didn’t even have to tell you what the hell was in the food you were eating. This aided in a whole generation of new fatties cropping up. McDonalds became a thing in the generation before mine. By the time I was born we had so many different fast food choices it would make your head spin. It does make your head spin, because mental confusion is a symptom of bad eating. I know. But like most things, slowly but surely food and the elevated importance of it in our emotional well-being took over and no one, no one stood up to say we have to stop.

But, I also know that at this point in my life it is no one’s fault by my own for still being overweight. I have been given all of the tools that I need to succeed. Anyone can now Google how to rid yourself of sugar, how to restart your cravings. I know people who do the Whole 30 every other damn month. And they do it because it is freaking hard to stick to it. It is freaking hard to retrain your brain. Hard to live everyday in a mental fog, wishing and hoping for just a little suckle off the old fructose bottle. Because we all want to be happy, right?

I’ve never been to an Overeaters Anonymous group, and court-ordered would be the only way I would go. Though I am having a hard time figuring out what would make a court order you to a place like that. Do I need to stab someone over a lack of cheese at Taco Bell? What if I lifted a case of Little Debbie Snack cakes from the Kroger down the street? But I suspect if I did go to one of those meetings, it would end up being a lot like the scenario above, because although I do not know yet how to get a handle my emotional cravings, I do know myself.

For now I will continue to dream of the day I can pick up a stalk of celery and it can emotionally fulfill me like that bag of pretzels. I will keep refusing Diet Coke for La Croix, keep buying that damn Halo Top instead of the Ben and Jerry’s that I really want. I will keep buying the damn caesar dressing made from yogurt, because even if all that is bad for me too, it is still a hell of a lot better than I used to do, even I though I will still eat chicken wings whenever I get the damn chance.

For those of you who are struggling with the weight. Struggling with the cravings and the bad choices and the lack of exercise and all of the things, remember that you are not alone. There is help out there if you need it or want it. There really are Overeaters Anonymous groups, and if group therapy works for you, DO IT! There are nutritionists (that your insurance will indeed pay for, you may just have to ask), and there are good, honest gyms, or workout groups, or just people to walk the block with a few times a week. There is therapy to deal with the real root of your overeating, because regardless of what you think, you are probably not just a lazy, slob who doesn’t have the time. There are things, mental and emotional things, that are stacked against you. You just have to be committed to finding what works for you. And remember, one step at a time. Sometimes, quite literally.

I’m always here to lend an ear or a smack on the hand if you need me.

M.