Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Random Sadness and the Pain Seesaw

When I started changing myself to lose weight, my initial problem was crippling back pain. Aside from a very painful blip earlier this year, my circumstances in that regard have greatly improved, though they are not 100% better. Surely, weight factored into the stress on my congenital spine condition and caused more pain, but losing weight hasn't made it go away. All it has done is reduce the stress and bring on better fitness and muscle strength from walking everyday.

Since late last year, I've developed an issue with my right knee which has been incredibly painful at night. My guess is that lying on my side places stress on damaged joints or resting causes inflammation of what is becoming an increasingly arthritic knee. The "cure" for this is to build up support muscles, but this is not so simple. The exercises which may help my knee are exactly the sort I was doing before my back problems temporarily surfaced.

I'm on a seesaw. If I attend to my knee, my back responds with pain. If I respond to my back, my knee becomes excruciating at night. Sometimes the pain is so intense that any mere movement while I'm asleep is agony and I wake from pain early in the morning and can't go back to sleep. The able-bodied don't know or care that some people have to live with this sort of difficulty. They just want to blame us for our weight problems.

For now, I have little recourse but to ease back into exercises for my knee at a glacial pace and hope things slowly improve without the seesaw tipping in the other direction and sending me back to my bed in terrible back pain. It's like walking a tightrope. If I step just a little too far in one direction, or move a little too fast, I will fall. This used to frustrate me back before I controlled food as a primary approach to weight loss. Now, it's merely about pain rather than weight, and, of course, that's of great consequence. I might lose weight faster if I exercised more, but I'm not convinced that the pace would be appreciably better.

Beyond the issues with pain I'm dealing with, I've had some experiences as of late with random and intense sadness. I'm not sure if these are biochemical in nature, or if they are the emotional equivalent of stopping to catch my breath after a psychological marathon. I have a strong sense that it is the latter given the frequency and duration and the circumstances.

These moments of intense and profound sadness, during which I feel so devastated that I put my head down and weep, only occur when I'm alone. They also tend to come about after I have performed a task which is atypical. The most recent one came after I cleared out a bookshelf in preparation for leaving where I'm currently living (which will happen early next spring).

Clearing this shelf was something which gave me great pleasure and even tossing out two giant bags of trash made me feel like I was making some good progress toward the inevitable paring of possession for our move. On a conscious level, all of this purging was joyful and filled me with a sense of accomplishment. As the job moved within an inch of completion, and I was sitting down and listening to some rock music, I suddenly had an uncontrollable urge to cry and was filled with fear.

It's my feeling that this is all tied up with what I have been saying about security, poverty, and fear of change. Growing up poor meant the things I had filled my life with some sort of value. Indeed, my mother was a shopaholic and a low-level hoarder who refused to throw items which had no utility and were in poor condition away. She role-modeled acquisition as a path to happiness (though it didn't make her happy) and as a way to give one the illusion of a rich life.

While I never embraced her view, I did collect things several times during my life and divesting myself of them was always difficult, even when those things no longer brought me joy. I think that, in those cases, it was because my identity was so weak that I connected it to those things rather than to the one that was forced upon me (disgusting fat girl). I wasn't the bad, ugly person people said I was, I was (fan of rock group/user of certain computer system/wife of my husband). The bottom line was that I wasn't any good, but I could attach myself to good things and elevate myself in the process. I'm not talking about the sort of raising of oneself which confers superiority, but simply bringing myself up closer to the level of other human beings. After all, I knew I was sub-human. People let me know that every day, but maybe they'd let me into the club as some sort of red-headed stepchild if I was connected strongly enough to something better than me.

I realize that leaving the place I'm in is going to bring about another extreme identity change as it has forced the status of an outsider upon me. I'm intellectually prepared for this, but emotionally, perhaps far less so. Divesting myself of useless possessions in preparation for departure is tied up in this loss, but also in change and the resulting loss of security. That loss is wider than a loss of money, though that is part of it. It is also the loss of health insurance (not that I ever go to doctors since they loath me and have nothing of value to tell me), loss of operating in a routine which I feel some mastery of, and loss of relationships that I've established. It is, in many ways, a forfeiture of power as well as identity and security.

I think these moments of profound sadness are coming on after I dive in with both feet and push toward a change I fear because of all of the losses. The inertia of the dive carries me through and success is invigorating, but all of the effort that it took to get there, and where I end up after taking the plunge relative to where I started fills me with unconscious anguish which bursts out in an explosion of tears.

There's not much I can do about this besides be aware of my feelings and work with them. These are the sorts of things that food smothered away and extreme fatness redirected. I could be sad because I was loathsome and there was nothing I could do about it. Now, I have to find out why I'm really said, as opposed to hanging it on my body issues.