As the time for my appointment with Margaret approached, I found myself becoming more and more anxious. Like a school child waiting to be called to the principal’s office, each passing minute brought more dread. I didn’t want to see her, I haven’t been doing my (home)work. I felt like a loser. After all this time and hard work, at the first sign of stress – boom, I revert back to my old coping mechanisms.
I used to think that my bouts of success and failure with my diet were arbitrary, and out of my control. Now I realize they are a direct reaction to my environment, and right now I am feeling a lot of stress. This past month I have gained weight, had an argument with a coworker, shirked my duties at work, let my chores at home go undone, and found myself wanting to just lie in front of the TV and take a nap. That behavior sounds all too familiar. This retreat from responsibility and from life is my typical old way of dealing (or not dealing) with stress. I had gotten myself so worked up that by the time I sat down on Margaret’s sofa, I started crying.
I told her I didn’t want to come, I felt like a student showing up unprepared for class. I was totally falling back into my old habits. She said, “of course you are”. What!?!? But she was right. Faced with intense emotional stress, of course I reverted. This is the first time I have had real, intense stress and it was more than I wanted to deal with, so I shut down the way that I used to and retreated into my food and solitude. My eating has been out of control, focussing on my comfort foods, especially sugar and cheese. I’ve had so much cheese, I might start mooing. And where I used to eat lean meat, veggies, and fruit for a meal; now I eat cheese, bread, and candy. This eating is also causing me to feel sluggish. That combined with the desire to escape make me feel tired most of the time, which only makes good choices even harder. It is a downward spiral. I don’t know how to stop it. Wait, yes I do. I need to deal with the stress, not avoid it.
The stress is from two things: work and vacation. I know it sounds silly to say that my vacation is causing me stress, but the planning of it feels a little overwhelming sometimes. I will be gone for 9 days and in that time will stay at 5 different places, attend 3 live performances, and visit my childhood home. There were a lot of details to coordinate, and I am so afraid that I forgot something, or that I will forget to bring one of the tickets. I also worry that it will be colder than I expect and that I’ll freeze in the clothes that I have brought. And what if I forget my passport? Ah, it’s too much. My heart is racing even as I write this. I have to just calm down, and do all the things I need to ensure that I am prepared – and I have. Really, there shouldn’t be any problems, but the unknown always causes me concern.
The work stress is all too real. My industry is changing and my company is in a precarious position. If we don’t morph into what we need to be to survive, it’s entirely possible that I could be without a job in the next year. Now that is scary. The thought of having to go out and get another job is paralyzing. Do you know how hard it is for a 49 year old, fat woman, with a ton of experience to find work in this dinky little town? I don’t even want to imagine it. So again, I am doing all that I can to make things good here, and my boss has several irons in the fire. Besides, worrying won’t change anything.
So what can I do? I can continue to be the best me I can. I need to silence my critic, and my scared child voices, and let the patient thoughtful adult do all the talking in my head. She’s the only one that can bring calm to this storm. (deep breath) Positive Thoughts!