Someone once said to me (someone who really ought to know better): enthusiasm. That’s your best quality. They meant: The way you throw yourself into things. The way you are all-or-nothing. The things you try, they are done and dusted. The people you care about, they know you care about them. The cliffs you fling yourself off, that is some full-fledged epic-style flinging and it is kind of amazing how you have not yet ended up a splash on the boulders far, far below the sane people way up above you, dude. Or words to that effect.

Which is nice, right? That’s nice. But it doesn’t change my argument in response—that it is also a kind of brokenness. That what it actually feels like it means is that the regulator that normal people have is out of whack in me. Gone missing entirely, maybe. Though I suppose if it were missing entirely I really would be a chunky splatter, metaphorically speaking. More so than I usually feel.

So this regulator that I imagine—very steampunky, lots of gears, makes some kind of whistle or clanking noise—I think it’s the thing that lets most people be adults. Make smart decisions. Consider things carefully. Be less dangerously impulsive. Beat down those essentially self-destructive urges.

It is, this imaginary bit of machinery inside me, the thing that ought to have helped me not gain 100 pounds because I was afraid if I didn’t eat all the cake, there would never be cake again. That should have made me carefully consider the fact that there were consequences to eating all the cake. That there were other things to think about beside “not having all the cake.” Instead, what I did was eat with an impulsive and reckless abandon while my regulator clanked and whistled uselessly and disregarded.

Weight loss surgery cuts into that, physically speaking—you can try to circumvent and that works to an extent. But it hurts. And eventually Pavlov is pleased to note that the association of pain with overeating becomes an effective way to curb that reckless consumption. It’s not cured—it’ll never be cured. It becomes contained.

And yet it feels kind of like a whack-a-mole, because other impulses have gone and reared up their ugly heads. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because how many articles have I read about weight loss surgery patients suddenly developing impulse issues? Compulsive spending, gambling, drinking. But that didn’t apply to me because I am not stupid.

And then Ben and I broke up and I bought a bottle of wine and I thought, oh. This is much better, with this bottle of wine in me. I hardly even notice that I’m crying all the time and that is so awesome you guys, who is going to the store for another bottle?

It was okay, though, right, because it wasn’t like I was doing a morning shot to wake up or keeping a flask in my desk or getting drunk at lunch. I wasn’t drunk all the time! So no problem, right? Here’s the problem: when it was there, I drank it. When there was wine, I’d have a glass, and then another. And I’d keep saying yes until it was all gone. Because there was no reason not to. Because if I didn’t drink it, I’d never have alcohol again. It didn’t feel like I was drowning sorrows—but it was nice to not think. It was nice to be cheery.

It felt better than bingeing ever had.

And it helped when I’d panic. In social situations where everyone expects me to be an extrovert, I can do that for you if I’m drinking! Let me give you what you need the only way I think I can. I didn’t think anyone noticed I was anything but totally charming and not tipsy at all—but of course people noticed.

And then those nights when we’d have a bottle of wine in the house, those nights were getting hazy. And then the nights when there wasn’t a bottle of wine in the house, I started to go out and buy one. Or two. And it was becoming a problem—no, it was a problem. It was full speed ahead into reckless abandon, it was a pattern, it was throwing all caution to the wind and saying fuck it, I do what I want. I can drink if I want. I can drink until we run out (echoes of I can eat everything and anything and all the things, and let’s see how fat I get).

God, do I ever learn?

I do. I do learn, eventually. So I got that going for me. And I’ve quit drinking for awhile. Easy-peasy. Except it was hard the first day, and I was mad. And then I thought oh, yes. Yes, that’s why this is a really good idea, if you’re getting mad because you can’t have a glass of wine (and then another or two) with dinner. That’s why this is possibly the best idea you’ve ever had.

It has been fairly simple since that first couple days—see above, re: whole-heartedness. When I do a thing, I do it well. Ladies.

It is frustrating though, to feel so broken. To feel like I have this tiny little flaw in me that can rupture in new and unexpected ways at any time. Like I will be spending the rest of my life being mindful, being vigilant, being afraid that I will find a whole new way to fuck things up and lose control and maybe that’ll be the time I don’t catch it and everything just falls apart. It won’t and it can’t because I won’t let it—I get better every time at beating it back. But that vulnerable feeling never quite fades and the worry never quite dissipates and that’s probably, in the long run, a good thing?

I think, when I’m being not-so-hard on myself, that it’s what makes me who I am. That these moments of weakness have made me incredibly strong. They’ve helped me define who I don’t want to be and who I can’t be and who I refuse to be ever again.

I’ve always been so, so ashamed of my vulnerabilities—and believe me, the fact that it manifested so patently and physically in my size was such a source of self-aware misery. But I’m learning achingly slowly that being vulnerable is no terrible thing. Letting other people know you are vulnerable and flawed won’t leave you alone and lonely, the way you’re terrified it might. Though it has taken me really so ridiculously long to learn that.

And I’ve even figured out that, if you can forgive me for being sincere here for a moment (which is another of my vulnerabilities, the way I come over all unexpectedly sincere sometimes): it’s where our vulnerabilities meet and mesh that helps us understand each other and fall in love—true love, all kinds, not just the romantic—with the most important people in our lives.

And this flaw of mine, this vulnerability of mine. This bright and brash and slightly mad part of me that sometimes erupts? It also manifests in adventure and taking chances and being brave and trying things because it is a sadness, to be afraid. It manifests in loving people hard without being afraid. And wanting their happiness as much as my own and saying the things that matter even when I’m scared. And from that, the good things in my life, so many of them in all arenas, have come. They’ve come from closing my eyes and flinging myself at the things I want, the things I want to experience, the kind of person I want to be.

It is still incredibly, painfully embarrassing sometimes. Both the good side and the bad. But I’m getting better at believing, whole-heartedly, that the truth of who you are, both that good side and that bad side, can’t, shouldn’t, won’t ever be hidden, and is probably loved. Hopefully.

7 Replies to “whole-hearted”

  1. There is so much of my truth and reality in this post. Thank you for being vulnerable, thank you for being brave. Thank you for helping me maybe be a bit braver.

  2. I love you wholly. When you admit a new flaw it makes me love you even more, because it shows me that you and I aren’t really that different. That makes me feel closer to you.

  3. I have been a looong time reader but have never commented.

    I went through a very similar weightloss journey. In the last year I have lost a grown man off of my body and am still losing (I didn’t have surgery but the results are the same). I thought it would help me feel more together but instead it has basically unleashed every insecurity that ever lurked behind the curtain of flesh. Your book helped me realize I wasn’t alone–that this amazing, miraculous and life-affirming choice to reclaim my health was also insanely traumatizing. And half the battle is beating the compulsive part of myself into submission. This post couldn’t have come at a better time…I needed to hear this as family and friends had started to make mild rumblings about “the drinking.” I want to be in the world and drinking has helped ease the transition–plus, “hey look at the fun, good time gal”! So thank you for this post. Thank you for being so vulnerable and open. You have helped me in ways I cannot fully express. Keep on keeping on!

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