#606 – The Embarrassing Epiphany

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First off, hi there, I’m Steven, and this is my blog. I haven’t written in it for most of 2018. I’ve been busy with school and life, and honestly, my therapeutic need for writing on a regular basis is mostly in remission. When I started this blog I was pretty much house-bound because of anxiety. Today, I am a successful college student carrying a 3.893 GPA and a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. I’m back to doing all the things I was terrified to do a few years ago and I’ve been like this pretty steadily for over a year with only low-grade, brief dips into anxiety and depression in between.

The name of this site, MWMISOSELF.com, is an acronym, meaning “Married White Male In Search of Self-Esteem, Living Fearlessly.” While this originally applied to my mental health, there are other situations in which my self-esteem is suffering, and so I’m returning to my blog to work on those.

A little bit of background about me. I’m 49 years old. If I stand up straight, I’m five foot eight, and as of this morning, I weigh 296 pounds. That clocks me in with a BMI of an even 45, 20 points higher than the threshold of being overweight. (For the record, I put little stock in the BMI, I’m just using it here to illustrate just how morbidly obese I am.) My extra weight is causing me a wide variety of health issues, primarily type 2 diabetes and dangerously high blood pressure. Both are under control, but between these two conditions, I’m taking 15 pills a day with a weekly injection to do so.

I carry my extra weight primarily in my belly, although I’m a little bigger everywhere because of it. That means that my waist measurement is markedly longer than my hip measurement, and because of my body shape my pants are constantly slipping off my waist and down to my hips. As a result, I’m very frequently hitching my pants back up around my waist.

I promised you an embarrassing epiphany, and finally, here it comes.

Yesterday I spent the day traveling from Chicago, where my mother-in-law lives, to Austin, where my wife and I live. Both of us have the flu, my wife much worse than me. (PSA: She’s in awful shape, I barely have any symptoms. I had my flu shot, she did not. Coincidence? I think not. Get your flu shot.) As a result of the fatigue she was experiencing, and also because of a herniated disc in her back, we reserved a wheelchair to get her to the gate more easily. We traveled with her purse and my backpack, as well as two carry-on-sized rolling bags. She carried her purse and the backpack in her lap as she was being wheeled, and I had the two rolling bags trailing behind me.

The guy that was pushing the wheelchair set quite a pace for us, and at one point during the journey, I felt that tell-tale slip of my waistline migrating to my hips. But I had a rolling bag in each hand and couldn’t just hike them back up as I went. So I walked for several more yards, feeling them continuing to slip lower and lower on my hips.

Finally, my pants slipped off my left hip and there was no longer anything keeping gravity from doing its thing, and my waistline fell to my knees before I could catch it. My pants were pretty much the only thing keeping me from an indecent exposure charge and they were in full mutiny. Fortunately, I was wearing my jacket and it was long enough to avoid doing anything obviously criminal, but it was a very close thing. I was mortified, and the only thing that kept me from having a panic attack is knowing that no one that I knew was watching and therefore no one would have any way of knowing it happened. (Except, of course, for this blog post of admission, but I have my reasons for ratting myself out.)

I called out to the guy to stop while I pulled my pants up as quickly as I could, and once I was again properly dressed we continued on to the gate, a trip that involved walking underground from one terminal to another and then to the far end of that.

We got to the gate only to discover that our plane wasn’t even there yet, so we sat for some time before we could board. I was very warm from all the exertion, so once we got settled I took my jacket off and then noticed that the collar was pretty damp with sweat.

It took me a full fifteen minutes to catch my breath from the brisk walk that we took, but in that fifteen minutes, I had time to think about what had happened to me on the way. The waistline incident was just one more reason that I had to lose weight. I’d been tossing the idea around for some time, but nothing more serious than making an appointment for three classes with a nutritionist in January. I know I need to lose weight because of my health, but having my pants actually fall off in public was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It suddenly became a high priority.

At the same time, I was realizing that the trip through O’Hare was the most actual exercise I’d gotten in months, possibly years. I’ve walked plenty, but it’s all been leisurely strolls rather than purposeful workouts. I was scared of how my body would react to doing something that rigorous for that long, but now I knew. I was dripping with sweat, I was heaving trying to catch my breath, and I was doing it all in a very public setting, so there was no ability of me to hide that struggle away – but I survived it. And as I was resting, I realized that I felt more alive at the end of the journey than I did before we set off through the airport. There was an immediate benefit from exercising, one I hadn’t foreseen, and I liked how it made me feel.

So now that I’m home and the holidays are behind us, I’m finally ready to commit to losing weight and all that comes with it – the dietary restrictions, the cardio, all of it. And the timing is such that it can commence with the new year. That’s not to say I’m making losing weight a New Year’s resolution – I don’t believe in resolutions because they’re set up to crumble at the first sign of difficulty – but I will make a goal to lose ten pounds as soon as possible. And when I hit that, then I’ll make a goal to lose fifteen more, and then twenty. At the end of those three short-term goals, I’ll have lost 45 pounds and will be at my first target weight of 250. And then I’ll keep working on goal after goal until the excess weight is gone. My future depends on it. And so does my state of dress, apparently.

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The Lighting Guy Was Great

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I went to see my therapist today.

I told her about the addition to the family (who, for those keeping track, is now using both legs fairly well!) and about some issues with Mom that I haven’t talked about here. (Nothing serious, just dealing with someone who’s very unhappy about where she is in life and is willing to do almost anything to change it. More on that in a future post.) I also talked about what I’ve been covering in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, a recommendation that she made to me. I told her about my ideal scenario and we discussed that in earnest and detail.

There were a couple of changes that she wanted me to include in there, which I’ve done – those curious can follow the link above to see the edits. But there was an epiphany of sorts in today’s session.

We were talking about the concept of self-generated anxiety, and I told her that I know that I bring some of this on myself, so I asked her how much of this is stuff my own mind is making up and how much of this is a direct result of the experiences that I’ve had in my life.

She said she believes that 90% of it is self-generated. That’s not to say that I’m making it up, but rather my experiences have led me to create the anxiety that I feel in so many situations – but ultimately it was my own reaction to the experiences that caused the anxiety.

Now, at this point of the story, I feel obligated to tell you a little bit about the layout of her office. As you walk in, there’s a large leather couch to the left of the room, and across from it, on the right, is her chair and a side table that she keeps her calendar and phone on. (The phone is important, since she uses Square to take credit card payments.) Facing her chair from the couch, her desk is over to the right in an alcove almost specially designed for the workspace. On the wall on the far side of the room from the door is a window, there’s another window by her chair, and there’s a third over in front of her desk. The blinds are drawn on all three windows, but they’re thin enough to tell when the sun’s out and when it’s cloudy.

As I asked her this question, the sun was behind some clouds, so it was a little dimmer in the room than usual. But when she gave me her answer, and the truth of it dawned on me, the sun came out from behind the cloud cover and it became notably lighter in the room, as if the light over my head had literally come on.

We had a good laugh about it – I complimented her lighting guy and she referred to the little remote that she keeps in her chair for just such an occasion – and that’s when I told her something that I’m proud of. Unless I’m well and truly irrational, my sense of humor is usually right there on the surface, and it helps keep me sane.

We talked about a few other things in the session – she wants me to turn the goals in my ideal situation into SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) so I’ll be working on that in the coming days in a further blog post. She also wants me to do some checking into Mom’s situation – more on that later too.

It was a good session.