because i love myself enough to swim

i have been trapped in one of those horror movies where there’s only one character: me – and i’m doing all the terrorizing. it’s been rough to say the least.

eight days ago, the merman went away on business leaving me and lil’ flipper on our own. we had a fun week planned swimming, science centers, and library puppet shows, swimming every day, bouncy castles and visits to the frist. but, tragically for us, basically the second the merman left on the plane, a major blizzard blew in and we were turned into mermaicicles. the roads surrounding and leading into our neighborhood were too steep and iced over for even 4×4’s to traverse safely.

YMCA CLOSED

it was certainly well beyond dangerous for people to get in and out, so we were trapped – me and almost all of my neighbors, trapped until the thaw that would eventually come, eight days later. luckily, i had stocked up on enough healthy food for us to eat right and survive and hopefully, lil’ flipper and i would not perish prior to the merman coming home to dig us out.

part two of the horror show, is that the day the merman left, my cellphone died. so basically, i had FaceTime on my laptop to keep me from coming completely unhinged but that’s it. it was me, lil’ flipper – who was nuts from being inside by day two, a lot of “super why,” “i’m going to the potty” and “sesame street,” until my eyes bled and my brain started dripping out of my ears.

i want to be able to tell you that this was the entirety of the horror story; being trapped in an icy, jack-frost-type blizzard with a toddler, and no phone, no ability to swim, and elmo on a treadmill-like loop, but that wasn’t even the bad part. the real beginning of this horror movie began a week before, when i found out my mother might have cancer.

it was right around valentine’s day when my mother’s mammogram revealed a lump.

i was so hysterical, so panicked, i didn’t know what to do for her. i was so angry at the cancer. i was so frustrated that there was nothing i could do. cancer is most definitely a bully, but not one i could beat up on her behalf. this was a fight i would have to sit on the sidelines for, because it’s not mine to wage. it’s my mother’s fight. all i can do is be there and cheer her on until she beats that asshole cancer – and then pray it doesn’t come back.

it goes without saying the pool was closed every one of these days. i would’ve strapped lil’ flipper to my back in a papoose and i would’ve snow-shoed it the 8 miles to the pool if it were open. it’s been since last sunday since i’ve been able to swim. But with no swimming, trapped in the house, i was back to being sedentary again and treating my body poorly.

the strong me, the me who has lost 120 pounds due to hard work and dedication, the me who is in the best shape i’ve been in since my freshman year of high school, the me who swims 6.5 miles a week, the me whose diet is on point because it’s awesome and not in the least bit because i’m punishing myself, the me who leads her family into good and healthy food and physical activity choices, totally and miserably faltered. i faltered and fell and stumbled and landed face first into pounds and pounds of valentine’s day chocolate for a week. i love a heart shaped box of truffles. and they were everywhere and by the 15th they were basically free. and i was beyond seriously depressed. so, even before we knew the worst, i started binge eating candy.

the merman saw me acting out and he was justifiably worried for me.

he never judged, he never chastised, he never said “it’s bad what you’re doing here and you’re a bad person for doing it!” nothing like that. he was totally understanding and he totally got why i was so hysterical, why i had suddenly fallen so far off the rails i had worked so hard to erect in my life. he gingerly commented on it, in sincerely the nicest way possible, but i was like a wolf or a wildling and i growled at him to leave me, and what must’ve been seventy heart shaped boxes of chocolate, be. 

there was nothing he could do to stop me, just like there was nothing i could do to stop my mother’s cancer. he could see the pain i was in and my fear and my sadness and he could see that i was trying my best to cope, but there’s only so much he could do. plus, i still swam 6.5 miles that week. so he had less to bust chops over. i know silently, he was hoping i would just wrap up a box of candy, throw it away, stand up and get my act together, give myself a figurative slap in the face, and get back to being the healthy me who doesn’t stuff down her fears with candy, but rather the me who faces them head on in her bathing suit. that new me is awesome to live with. the old me, not so much. part of me hoped that was what was going to happen too, that i would stop craving the sweets to fill the sadness in my soul. except, that’s not what happened.

the binge eating lasted the whole week.

i really showed all the valentine’s day candy i could find a what for. i think, my grand total came in at about two pounds of chocolate. i literally ate TWO POUNDS of chocolate in a week. when i tallied it all up and realized that over the course of a week, i ate two pounds of chocolate, i wanted to throw up. but i was too deep in the cycle to stop there. i was too deep into my cycle of self-abuse to just wake up from it and correct myself. 

the slide into beating myself up with food was so fast, i barely felt it happening. i’m normally so strong willed. i had no problem saying “no” to taco bell the other day when my preggo friend had a craving. i have no problem telling lil’ flipper “milky ways are poison.”

i was in the punishment stage. i was still punishing myself for not being able to do anything to help my mother. sure, i could “be there” for her, i could visit, i could hang out on FaceTime with lil’ flipper while we colored, but i couldn’t go there and beat the shit out of her cancer the way i want to. it’s not as simple as me hopping on a plane and giving her cancer the old 1-2. the only thing in this situation i could control, is how much food i stuffed in my face. so, i did the only thing i had total control over. i ate.

we have worked so hard to clean out our diets and lives to show our son a better way, a better life, give our son a better example to follow, to make his initial instincts the healthy and right ones innately. and while, i kept a brave face on while my son was awake and paying attention to me, while he was asleep, i binge ate. every single day. until i was so stuffed i was sick. until i couldn’t fit in another bite and then i cried because i couldn’t stuff anything more in me.

Stage 3 Breast Cancer

the binge eating got worse when the diagnosis was confirmed as stage 3 breast cancer. it’s not terminal, and i believe she has the strength and fortitude to beat it, but yet again, there’s still nothing i could do. and now, i was trapped, with no phone, in a blizzard with “super why” on a loop and nothing to do from the moment i woke up, until the moment i went to bed, but clean my house and eat. i did 40 loads of laundry. i washed everything i could. even stuff that generally doesn’t get washed like couch cushion covers and throw pillows. i did so much laundry that i actually ran out of laundry to do. i was washing one garment at time just to occupy my time. all that lifting and hanging, it was killing my injured neck and arms, but i did it anyway out of trapped frustration. i scrubbed windows, counters, even though i’m not really supposed to do movements like that for my recovery. it didn’t matter. i didn’t care about myself. i did all that abusive stuff and then, on top of all that, i binge ate until i was ready to throw up. 

I still tortured myself and binge ate out of terror, boredom and self-abuse by baking up anything i could think of with whatever i had. and then, just when i hit my saddest point, the merman returned from business with an ice pick in one hand and his suitcase in another, threw his arms around me and said:

“daddy’s home. stop eating. it’s not your fault she has cancer. it’s not even her fault she has cancer. it totally sucks. but it’s no one’s fault. and you punishing yourself because you can’t do anything has to stop. i love you. we got this.”

we went to the grocery store, after he dug us out, we stocked up on our regular, healthy choices to get us back on track to health, wellness and taking control of our lives. the pool has just reopened, and most of the snow has melted. we are going to head over there after naps.

my new suit, towel and stopwatch / lap tracker finally arrived and i cannot wait to try them all out today. tonight, we will do our regular food prep / date night to get us prepared and ready for the week so we can be successful. thankfully, and mostly thanks to the merman, we’re back on track and firmly planted in our routine.

but what isn’t back on track is the hole in my heart. it’s most definitely still there.

it’s still there. just because i’m not going to allow myself to stuff it full of bad, sugary candy anymore, doesn’t mean it’s gone. it’s most definitely still there. but what i have learned this time is punishing myself isn’t going to make it heal or whole. nothing is but me doing the right stuff for me, and even then, i’ll still feel upset. but that’s okay. it’s okay to feel upset. it’s not okay to beat myself up with food because i feel upset. i can feel upset that i have no control over the world and every part of it. but there is real comfort in knowing that the only thing i have control over is how i treat MYSELF, how i love MYSELF, and how i treat and love MY FAMILY. that’s what i have control over. and you know what? that is enough. that’s enough to at least try and fill up the sad hole, and make myself whole. loving myself is the first place to start.

until she is cured and cancer free, i will worry about my mother. i will wish we weren’t so far away from each other during this difficult time. but that doesn’t mean i have to abuse myself to fill up the void because i can’t do anything to stop her cancer.

i have to remember that my physical recovery, from the surgery and from obesity, isn’t a straight line.

i will falter again, and fall again, and again give in to temptation and hopefully not, but most probably maybe, will totally give into stuffing down my feelings with self-abuse candy at some other point, down the line, in the future. life is long, and bad shit happens out of the blue, shit like cancer. and sometimes, you just find yourself doing that bad thing before you even notice it happened. my hope is that with time and dedication to loving myself, there will be fewer and fewer moments where i falter, and more moments where i face adversity with grace and strength.

It's not okay to punish yourself for being human

in fact, i am grateful for this latest binge. it has taught me that i have so much to live for, so many people who are so wonderful in my life, who need me to be my best, because not only do they count on me, they count on me to teach them how to do it right. that’s a huge responsibility, but it’s such a worthwhile one. i want to teach lil’ flipper how to be strong and graceful in the face of adversity, not bury my head into a pile of comfort food at the first sight of crisis like a starving ostrich. i want him to see me be strong and graceful in the face of adversity and follow my lead for the rest of his life. 

this binge has taught me that i can control myself and i can control my feelings, even the bad ones. it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to be angry at my mother’s cancer, it’s okay to feel scared, frightened and alone at possibly losing my mother to cancer, and it’s okay to feel frustrated that there’s nothing i can really do to stop it or help her. but what’s not okay is to punish myself for being human and having human emotions. that’s not okay. i can do better, and it starts now. 

so today, i swim.

i practice yoga, i make healthful meals to fill up my fridge to nourish myself and my family properly, and i love me. i treat me like a loved one or a good friend, with kindness and compassion. i will do right for myself today, and every day hence, because i deserve it. because i love myself enough to be strong and graceful in the face of adversity. because i love myself enough to swim.

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