Art, pain, healing

Over the weekend I’ve been talking with Penny about food addiction again … it’s a complicated thing. An alcoholic can potentially avoid alcohol for the rest so their lives, a nicotine addict doesn’t have to smoke a cigarette ever again. A food addiction faces their addiction multiples time a day. Is it hard? Yes. Do we always succeed? No! But we’re not giving up either…

The other pain is my knee. I’ve got really good movement, and a scan on Friday showed there’s no clot in my calf. That’s great news, but does mean we still don’t know why it’s so tight and sore. Last night I slept with only one pillow knee to ankle instead of two. I slept ok but my hip’s been uncomfortable today. I think I can persist with just the one though and let the muscles adjust.

For me, with pain comes art. Actually, art comes with most things; pain, joy, sadness, anger, love and so on. This weekend I made a Teesha Moore inspired journal, starting with a large sheet of Fabriano Artistico paper that I cut, folded and stitched. Not quite my usual style, but a lot of fun.

All roads lead to…

Working from home is a busy time, everything takes a little longer and checking on staff wellbeing requires extra effort, but I also have a lot of time to think. I was in Auckland two weeks ago and visited two locations of interest so needed COVID tests at days 5 and 12 and had to totally self isolate. Both tests have come back negative and, after 14 days, I can do Level 4 like anyone else. Yay!

Once I got the negative test result I went up town and dropped some stuff outside Tony’s ranch slider, then into Four Square to get a couple of things – hand sanitiser, mask and QR code of course. I saw some old friends while I was there, looking a bit overwhelmed. My instinct was to reach out to them. Yes, I’m one of “those” people; I’m a hugger. If someone is distressed I’m inclined to touch their hand or arm or, if I know them or have permission, give them a hug. Some of you might know “The 5 love languages” by Dr Gary Chapman. It’s no surprise my main love language is physical touch – it’s how I show love, concern and caring. Fortunately I’m sufficiently empathetic to recognise people who don’t want to be touched, and offer them support in other ways

For someone like me physical distancing is difficult. (media tend to call it social distancing but it’s not – we can be social without being physically close). Watching people struggle with lockdown, and all that comes with it, makes me want to, quite literally, reach out. Not being able to stresses me. And it’s there the road circles back, as it always does…

I’m a very addictive personality and my drug of choice is food, but I’ve also struggled with other addictions. Thank goodness I never tried drugs! Dr Gabor Mate believes the root of all addiction is a response to pain, and one of the primary triggers is maternal deprivation. Mum was 40 when they had me and very sick; I was a 2lb 13oz prem baby who stayed on in hospital after she came home. They lived an hour’s drive away and had a business to run – through no one’s fault I suffered maternal deprivation.

When I had my consultation for weight loss surgery Dr Dhabuwala asked about my birth weight. At the time I thought it was an odd question, but he explained about the impact of infant formulas used in the 50s & 60s to quickly get prem babies up to a standard weight. I suspect he also knew about the research.

Lockdown makes me want to hug people, and deprives me of the touch of others. My pain response is that of all addicts; I want to self-soothe with my drug of choice – food. And so the cycle continues. Thankfully 5 years on from weight loss surgery I understand so much more than I did then and can fight back. But it is a fight, and a tough one.

Lovely news, thanks Mum

I am delighted that my niece Rosie and her husband Jason are the very proud parents of Harry James, born early yesterday morning 21 December 2019 by emergency C; weight 5lb and totally perfect. Rosie is fine too; thank goodness for good medical care which, in this case, was literally life-saving. I’ve talked about it before so won’t go into it again – but if you would like to support them on their difficult journey, being walked in love, you can donate here.

I have done a page in my Dylusions journal about it because art helps me work through the feelings. Yesterday I cried. Tears of gratitude that Rosie survived a high-risk pregnancy. Tears of love for a baby who was at considerable risk. Tears of admiration for Jason, learning to be a Dad even as he learns to walk again following an accident that could have killed him. Tears of sadness for all the babies who couldn’t stay with me. Maybe even a few tears of jealousy at Rosie becoming a Mum when I never managed a live baby. (it’s ok Rosie – it’s me learning to feel, not eat as self-soothing)

watching rosie 20191222

World Obesity Day

world-obesity-day-2018

Today is World Obesity Day. I have been obese – my BMI was 48. Normal weight range for my height is 62-70kg approx. On many charts I am still slightly overweight, and that’s ok.

Weight loss surgery saved my life, but it is not a cure. I am an addict and always will be. Some people would argue I am a “recovering addict” but I am not so sure. The struggle is real, daily, and hard. Bloody hard.

I have tools I can use, including my tiny stomach, and a host of psychological tips and tricks. The harsh reality, though, is my head craves the dopamine hit food gives me. Food is my best friend & comfort, and my solution to everything – shame, anger, boredom, tiredness and so on. Some days I won, some days I lose – some days I chose the dopamine hit.

A drug addict can survive the rest of their life without another fix, an alcoholic can avoid ever tasting alcohol again. I have to face my drug of choice – food – multiple times a day in order to survive.

Next time you see someone who is obese, please don’t judge them. They might be mortally ashamed (yes, fat shame kills us because we avoid the medical system). They might have already lost 1, 10 or 100kgs. They might be booked in for weight loss surgery or trying to fund it. They might have had surgery, regained the weight and are wondering if suicide is the only way out.

Obesity is not just about the food we put in our mouths. It’s about our society, childhood deprivation (especially of maternal love), environmental factors, poverty, and much more. Please don’t judge. Please do support.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3 years ago

Today it’s 3 years since I had weight loss surgery; C bypass to be precise, also called a mini bypass. It was meant to be RNY Bypass but I had so much internal scarring it couldn’t be done. My surgeon, Atul, prefers this operation but it’s not popular in NZ.

My highest weight was 139.9kg and my lowest post surgery was 60kg, which wasn’t a good look. I got so low, not by trying, but because I got incredibly sick and was in and out of hospital including a brief stint on life support.

I’m back to exactly where Atul (and the surgeons in New Plymouth who treated me) said I should be – 75kg. Some days my head tells me that the gain means I have failed and will get super fat again. But the sensible part of me knows that is not true. The reality is I was too thin, it didn’t look good especially for my face, and I felt frail.

We’ve been talking about our mental wellbeing on a FB support group and I just commented that “All of us – fit or not, at goal or not, plastic surgery or not – have to find a place where our bodies & our heads are comfortable and that we can maintain without weight/fitness being the main focus of our lives – because that’s not really living”.

At this weight I can eat fairly normally in a high protein, healthy fat & low carb way. I don’t exercise because of my physical limitations so can’t rely on that for extra control. And my weight is not the biggest thing in my life.

I am incredibly grateful to Atul; I believe he saved my life and I continue to save it by doing the right things. I am still a food addict, and chocolate is my crack, but I have the tools to manage no. So grateful…

 

Skin, again … and self acceptance

Warning: weight loss, plastic surgery, half dressed photos (you’ve been warned…)

 

I seem destined to be honest about skin post weight loss surgery. I had the conversation again yesterday with someone who has been very successful post WLS, had some work done, and is considering more. I think she looks sporty normal, but her reality is different to mine. My question was “when will you be ok with who you are?” –  “when will it be enough” or words to that effect. We had a good talk and it helped both of us. I’m so grateful for her honesty.

I wrote about my skin at the beginning of last year here, and my opinion is essentially the same now. I posted a photo on a private WLS FaceBook page this morning and commented that “My thighs are less droppy than they were, but very loose skin. Same with arms. Neck is turkey-ish & boobs are basically empty socks with a rock in the bottom. My stomach is the bad bit. Because of past botched surgery it’s very uneven – the apron is heavy and low. It’s encased in strong undies in this photo. (and of course my poor damaged knees mean bandy legs!) But it’s ok enough for me. My body works despite the shit I handed it over decades. Sure I use a walking stick a lot of the time, but I do 4000-6000 steps most days, work fulltime and have a good life. Fully dressed I look normal. Anyway who seems me not fully dressed is aware what lurks beneath and doesn’t mind (well, my sister has never said she minds lol)”

I’m heavier than last year, so less floppy skin, and my middle is fatter. I think overall I’m better off for it. I’d like to lose 5kg again, but it’s not a ditch I need to die in.

I think the message is – be ok with who you are. We are so often kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

As with last year’s post I have been hesitating to hit the publish button – but then I think of bikinis, Walmart shoppers, and the fact some people need to know this. If you don’t like seeing the photos, stop reading…

 

 

Ok enough in my own skin

I’ve been chatting with a friend about the spare skin that comes with significant weight loss. Deciding or surgery, or not, is a big deal and impacts on your physical and mental health.

In my case, surgery isn’t an option because of the risk of ending up on life support again due to my dodgy airway. I doubt I would do it anyway. I’m ok enough in my own skin most of the time.

I also support those who feel the need to get it fixed so they can move on; I think there’s balance needed though. When you’ve abused your body so much you need weight loss surgery, your body is never going to be perfect and that needs to be ok for your mental wellbeing. (I may be wrong on that of course – maybe perfection is possible?)

Small Dylusions journal. Paints: Chopped pesto, Lemon zest, Periwinkle blue. Stencils: Teardrops, Diamonds in the rough, Shutters. Stamps: Dyan’s alphabet. Other: Tim Holtz tall text stamps, Distress Ink, Archival ink, white gel pen, Pitt Big Brush pen, Distress collage medium. 

spare skin 20190708.jpg

P!nk – Courage

I’m still recording the music I love in my art journals. I enjoy the process, but also it tells people a lot about me. Music is a huge part of my life; I listen at home, in the car, at work, while I cook…
This is P!nk’s Courage. It speaks to me because maintaining my weight loss means having the courage to face all the reasons I overeat. The courage to dig deep emotionally, face my fears, feel emotions instead of smothering them with food.
This page is in my large Dylusions journal. Inks: Peony blush, Bubblegum Pink. Postbox red & White Linen. Paints: Peony blush & Funky fuschia. Stencils: Teardrops, Star struc &  Diamond in the rough. Stamps: Dy’s alphabet. Other: Archival ink, Distress ink, white gel pen.
courage 20190602.jpg

No, it isn’t easy

Trigger warning: abuse, weight loss surgery.

I’m still recording the lyrics I love, this time it’s P!nk’s (Hey Why) Miss You Sometime. No doubt she was writing about a partner but, for me, this could easily be about food. Yes, food – chocolate, savouries, ice cream. OMG Sante Bars!

 

miss you 20190603.jpg

I had weight loss surgery, three years ago this September, and have lost over 70kg. It probably saved my life. But here’s the thing – I’m still a food addict. Surgery is a tool, not a cure. The line “thousand nights I’ve said goodbye, almost lost my mind”. That’s me and chocolate. Chocolate is my answer to grief, pain, shame, embarrassment, loss, fear, boredom, loneliness; anything and everything.

For me, food does two things. It smothers my emotions, and I’ll do anything to avoid feeling emotions. I’ve lived most of my life carefully flat. And, as an addict, certain food gives me a dopamine hit and my brain lights up with sheer joy. That’s the hard truth of it.

On book I’ve read on addiction suggests pain and shame is at the heart of all addictions. For me, the pain and shame stems from low-level but damaging abuse as a kid by a friend of my father, and an abusive first marriage. Now’s not the time to write more about it, just putting it out there and parking it for now.

Despite the weight loss surgery, and a lot of work on “fixing my head”, maintaining a healthy weight will be a lifelong journey for me. If you think weight loss surgery is an easy out, think again.

And, to finish. I love people, love people’s bodies and think all bodies should be honoured – including fat ones. I don’t hate fat bodies, far from it. My father died of a heart attack at 65, Mum died slowly over more than a decade – my decision to have surgery was to try and avoid what happened to them, and a recognition that I could never lose weight on my own. I have *no* judgment of other people’s bodies.

Hiding the details

When I journal, it really is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Currently I’m using a Dina Wakley mixed media journal, which I love, to “download my head”. If you’ve been foll wing me a while, you know I’ve had weight loss surgery and as part of that journey have faced up to my food addiction, abusive first marriage, miscarriages etc.

All my feelings get poured out into my journals, and I share all my pages, but some of that I don’t want others reading – and don’t even want to re-read myself because the psychologist think that creates a ‘loop’ in your head.

How do I write down the hard stuff, then share it safely?  There’s a number of things I do:

  • Cover the writing with a light coat of gesso or Tim Holtz Distress Paint
  • Put it in a sealed pocket or enveloped attached to the page
  • Cover it with printed tissue paper, such as the Tim Holtz range
  • Use scribble writing – this is my go-to

I did the background with Tim Holtz Distress paints and StencilGirl stencils, and the tag with Andy Skinner stamps using Stampin’ Up ink and a red Tombow, then wrapped some red cotton round it. I used a thick black Pilot pen for the journaling and added some messy burgundy and red cotton under the tag with Tombow glue to ground it a bit.

technique

This page talks about some hard stuff we’re facing at the moment, and how I feel about it. It’s personal and involves other people – it’s not just my story – so I needed to think about their privacy too.

fragile 20190512.jpg