Friday, December 14, 2012

Holding My Ground

I've been away from this blog for a long time because of the emotional difficulties involved in making certain transitions to the changes in my life since leaving the Asian country I had been living on for over two decades. The bottom line is that I've been depressed and sliding deeper into it for quite some time. The issues that lead to that depression are complex, and actually have only a little to do with weight, weight loss, or my relationship with food.

This blog isn't really a place for me to talk about other aspects of my life, including depression, but there are parts of it which fit the motif. Mind you, I know my readers would be more than happy to listen if I'd like to talk, and I may yet go into some elements of this depression which are not related to food or weight. The one thing about it that I can and will say is that people often believe that depression is about sadness. It is, but the greater part of it is more than that. Depression is a thief. It steals your energy, your ability to experience joy, and your resilience. During the last few months, my ability to cope, experience pleasure, be productive, and endure any hardship have been eroded by depression. I haven't blogged because I've been barely coping with what I have to do. I didn't have to blog, so I didn't.

Things are slowly getting better. Circumstances have actually not changed, but a turning point was reached in certain aspects of my life where I decided that I had to yank myself mentally out of the downward spiral I was in and start rebuilding mentally or I'd never climb out of the hole I was being dragged into. That is not to say this is a complete process at this point, but I pulled myself out by sheer force of will and a realization of the long-term cost if I did not  break the cycle I was in. I keep resisting being dragged back down. I am not always successful, but I am finding enough success to keep trying.

Before I go on, it is imperative that I say that I don't believe that people can overcome depression by will or by "snapping out of it". I am/was depressed due to circumstances and not due to innate biochemistry. I do believe that certain techniques can slowly help a person re-write their biochemical nature, but not if the roots of it are genetic. My case is unique, as am I. If anyone takes a message of pulling oneself up by ones own bootstraps from this post, then there has been a misinterpretation of my intent. What I've suffered is hard, and what I'm doing to deal with it is difficult, but it is not something I think just anyone can do. We all live in our own skins and within our own unique set of circumstances. 

The process by which I'm dealing with my depression and the situation surrounding it is not at all different from the "rewiring" that I did to help change my relationship with food. The biggest difference is that the results are absolutely faster because I haven't spent as many years building to this state as I spent getting to 380 lbs. It's a lot easier to overcome a few years or months of biochemical changes brought on by difficult experiences than to rewire decades of them.

Getting to the aspects which concern this blog, I wanted to speak of how this has impacted my eating/weight. My weight remains stable. I'm still not thin, of course, but I've been maintaining my 200 lb. loss without calorie counting, restriction, or extreme exercises. I have not found myself compelled to eat compulsively to deal with my feelings. Sometimes I have actively wished that that would still be effective for me, but I have undone the connection that says that eating will make me feel better. I remember that it might make me feel bad enough to forget how miserable I am emotionally, but I have not turned to that. The cognitive "rewiring" I did has served me well in this regard.

What no amount of mental conditioning can do, however, is take away the fact that, as a force which drains you resolve and resilience, depression makes it far harder to deal with additional difficulties. That is, I've found it harder to spend time being hungry or to resist eating impulsively rather than to simply wait for meals. While this has not had an impact on my weight maintenance, it has certainly hindered more loss as well as made my overall diet "noisier" than it should be. By that, I mean that I've been inclined to snack more and less healthily, though absolutely there is no issue with quantity.

I don't mention these things to deal with this punitively. Trust me when I say that I'm not beating myself up over eating 3 tiny pieces of candy a day instead of one. I mention this here merely because I want to say that my depression has had this particular impact on my eating. It dampens impulse control. It undermines the ability to endure discomfort, even routine hunger which is normal between meals for most people. It is a factor, though it hasn't been a highly destructive one for me.

In an odd way, this depression has revealed a certain triumph for me. My biggest fear upon returning "home" has been that I would re-gain the weight I'd lost as I dealt with the hardships of being here. I gained a lot of weight last time I made a move from my East coast home to my husband's West coast home because of the stress and emotional upheaval it brought. This time, it did not happen despite even greater difficulties that had to be faced. I attribute this to the mental groundwork I laid to change my approach to food as well as my increased awareness. My husband's support and cooperation are also a part of this. If he had invalidated my pain this time as he had done nearly two and a half decades ago when I made the initial move, I don't know where I'd be this time. Fortunately, his eyes are open this time and he has been a lot better about making the changes necessary to validate my concerns as well as be supportive.

It has been a hard road coming home, and I'm nowhere near riding out the bumps. This post is just checking in to let my kind readers know where I am and what has happened. I hope to tell more when I have greater energy, but, for now, I'm holding my ground.


dlamb said...

Dear Girl, I am so very, very sorry for the hardship you are experiencing. I am impressed by the fact that the incredible work you have done in order to manage other aspects of your life have solidified to the extent that they are helping to maintain changes you have already implemented. I hope that your circumstances will provide the necessary conditions that will bring you to a place of peace and fulfillment.
I imagine you have several internet friends and admirers who are grateful that you checked in. I count myself among them, as I am certain I am one of many who wish you the very best of everything,

hopefulandfree said...

I hope you are finding more peace of mind as time moves forward. Culture shock represents much loss from everyday rituals and comforting traditions that now exist only in the past. It takes time, patience, (and small steps) to learn to feel at home again in a new (and very different) environment. Be good to yourself and to your sweet heart. Lean on each other. Try not to allow your fears to determine your choices. A moment and a day will come when the discomfort has fallen to manageable levels, and you will see before you a wider array of options from which to choose. Choose the one that speaks to your deepest values. You'll know it when you see it.


LHA said...

I am so glad to hear that you are well and continuing on your journey. As one who has suffered from several bad depressive episodes I can really appreciate what you are going through. The abrupt change in geography and culture is something difficult to deal with and it makes total sense to me that it could trigger a deep depression. No one can understand that deep pit of pain and despair unless they have had some experience with it themselves. It is truly very nearly unbearable at times.

How inspiring that you have not regained any weight as you deal with the depression! Appetite and food intake are usually seriously affected (in one way or another) while depressed. It shows incredible strength and determination, as well as the self understanding which you have gained, to keep eating and food choices on and even keel.

I wish you the best during this period of readjustment! Thank you for writing such an interesting and unique blog.