It’s a good thing they warned me that relapse – or the gentler way of saying it, backsliding – is normal in the stages we go through, changing from entrenched ways of being to healthy new habits. I was about to go into my private, self-brutalizing mode until someone reminded me there might be value for me and others if I shared my story.
For the last three years, I have dropped the rope on nutrition. I let go of my vegan diet with the onset of increased osteoarthritis (wear and tear and genetics, sadly), my son’s continuing emotional (ADHD) and academic struggles, the sudden and devastating appearance of autoimmune illness in my brother’s family, and my elderly parents’ decision, without consulting me, that I was going to be their only designated caretaker and companion. I’m not the sandwich generation, sandwiches have only two sides. I’m feeling the crush from so many sides at once that stress has me hostage. Add to that the guilt I feel when my mother drops her not-so-subtle hints about how so and so is moving in with her daughter and I default to old ways of coping.
Basically, it is a story of an emotional eater whose struggles with this particular variant of over-eating and bad choices came roaring back post menopause. I have found that bad nutritional choices dovetailed with bad decisions. The reason: I just couldn’t get it together mentally. Adding, subtracting, finding the right words when speaking or writing eluded me. I was losing my ability to make a good quip or tell a good story coherently. I have been feeling shaky and off balance, emotionally and physically. I have had no energy to exercise and lose track of my sets and reps when I do.
I needed a plan. But the plan couldn’t be, “Get thee to a meeting.” I just couldn’t face the social contact, so I decided to return to Suppers online, making recipes and cooking my way through the categories. Very, very slowly I am re-emerging. I have frankly been too embarrassed to show up at Suppers or the gym because of the weight and the brain fog. I have decided to base my recovery strategy for now on the theory of nutritional harm reduction. I am doing yoga at home and cooking my way through the Suppers website. I have my eye on the new brain health meetings, a group of women who are studying reversible causes of dementia and preparing foods that reduce insulin responses. While I’m too stressed to execute new plans, at least I can tend them on the back burner so I’m ready when my time comes. I have promised myself that, in the near future, I will return to the gym, my counting problems be damned. After my kids graduate, I will look into a Suppers meeting (or maybe I will start one called Re-emergence, based on the mindfulness guru Sharon Saltberg’s mantra that it is “never too late to begin again.”) We are time-bound mortals, but even if we begin again knowing our time is limited, the kindness, love and caring we will have gifted to ourselves for whatever interval we are given, will have been priceless, and we can pass it on to others before we leave.
Lucky for me the doors to Suppers remain open to me, even when I’ve been hiding behind mine.