How I Became a Vegetarian and Discovered I Was Hurting My Body

My weight has weighed on me more than the physical nature of extra pounds on my skeletal frame.  It’s weighed on my emotional well-being, my every waking thought, my fear, my shame, my need to diminish myself as not worthy. It’s affected my relationships, my sex life, my willingness to pursue my dreams.  There have been moments when I was disgusted by my body, where I had full panic attacks in dressing rooms and cried uncontrollably, feeling imprisoned by a body I did not want.  And yet I kept trying.  I exercised, I dieted, I weighed myself daily and felt anger at this body that would not conform to the image I had in my mind of how I “should” look.  I have spent almost 40 years on one diet after another.

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The reasons for my self-loathing are as innumerable as the “diets” I have tried.  We are all fully aware of the imagery of what is “ideal” and how ads scream from the glossy pages of women’s magazines  – “you are wrong! you are not good enough! the reason your life sucks is that you are not thin!”  We are bombarded with messaging and images that remind us daily how we are failing. At points I gave up, I just let myself go because it all seemed so futile.  My top weight ever was about 205.  That is a good 60 pounds more than I should weigh for optimal health.  But it really didn’t seem to matter what I weighed because there was always someone (my mom, friends, boyfriends, my ex-husband, strangers, and even once my ex-boyfriend’s mom) who were more than willing to tell me that I needed to lose weight.  This happened when I weighed 130 pounds and it happened when I weighed 160 pounds but after I got to 200 people just stopped.  Honestly, as much as I couldn’t stand to look at myself at that weight, it was a relief to not have people tell me to lose weight.  I suppose they thought I was as much of a lost cause as I felt.

As I have gotten older my concern has been not as much for my weight as for my health.  Bodies age, they deteriorate, muscles atrophy without use.  As you age, being overweight becomes more of a health risk.  So I went on a pretty drastic diet about four years ago and I lost close to 50 pounds.  It is the only diet I have ever been on that was successful.  The diet was invented by my Dad.  He’s been studying and experimenting on himself for decades now.  He’s read every book you can imagine and tried every diet out there.  The bottom line is that eating a low-calorie diet is the best way to lose weight.  The problem?  There are eleventy-million different people with “advice” on what low-calorie diet really means.  And they are evangelicals, true believers whose religion has one belief system that cannot be challenged.  Low-calorie can range from 1,800 to 500 calories per day.  Trust me you are eating far more than 1,800 calories per day.  If you track your food, you will find out that you are eating far more than you need and your diet is definitely not “balanced”.  Losing weight is hard, gaining weight is easy.  Not eating is easy, stopping eating is hard.

I noticed the scale was going in the wrong direction about a year ago and it was creeping ever so slightly up day by day.  I had become a vegetarian, which I assumed would help me to decrease my weight but that is not what was happening. In fact, not only was I not losing weight, I was gaining weight and I didn’t feel good.  I began having gastric distress.  I felt uncomfortable and (sorry if this is gross) began seeing that my food was actually not digesting as I found whole pieces of food when I would go to the bathroom.  After a year I decided to go see a gastroenterologist.  I am very choosy about what doctor I see as I don’t want someone who is going to put me on medications so I did a lot of research and found a doctor who I felt was going to really listen to me.  Dr. Varon spent over an hour on my first visit with him taking in my entire history starting with my birth.  I brought him a test that I had taken through a service called UBiome (if you are having gastro issues, I highly recommend this service).  He confirmed everything the test had provided – namely that I don’t have many good bacteria in my digestive tract.  After an abdominal ultrasound, colonoscopy, endoscopy and blood tests, the results are clear.  I have the following conditions (although I appear very healthy):  fatty liver (non-alcoholic), low amounts of good bacteria, leaky gut, and gastroparesis (aka lazy stomach).

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The most important thing of note in those findings is that gastroparesis is a condition where your stomach just doesn’t digest food normally.  Which is a big problem because food just sits in my stomach either slowly draining or draining all at once.  It’s as if I had gastric bypass.  My stomach can only handle very small amounts of food and most significantly it cannot process FIBER or FAT well.  Now, why is this significant? Because all of the things I have read about, every diet I have been on, in fact, emphasizes INCREASING your fiber intake.  In fact, every other doctor I have seen has (without examination) told me to lose weight (even when I was 50 pounds thinner) and to increase my fiber.  The exact opposite of what I should be doing. Everything that I eat (either because I think it’s good for me or I like it) is basically persona non grata now. Avocados, nuts, lettuce, brussel sprouts, green beans, legumes, beans, whole wheat anything, brown rice, etc., etc.) is off limits because my stomach cannot digest it properly.  My meals need to be under 8 oz and 1 gram of fiber or less, plus low-fat.  MIND BLOWN.

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My reaction to this news was mixed.  Relief that I am not crazy and that losing weight for me is VERY hard, and anger at every person who has told me that their “diet” is going to work for me and every doctor who told me to increase my fiber.  Our insistence on focusing on how someone looks rather than understanding their health is creating obesity not combating it.  Everything that you are told not to eat on a diet: white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta…those are the only things I can digest.  This life of dieting led to auto-immune issues and has made me sicker than I ever would have been had I just listened to my body and sought help earlier.

I’m writing this in hopes that if you are like me and have faced similar issues that you take the time to do some research on good doctors who have a track record of helping people get well.  Look for functional doctors who will look at your lab work in detail and not just accept the “normal range” for test results.   I highly recommend Dr. Bradley Kobsar as a functional doctor (he has patients all over the country and will work with you over the phone).  Don’t be embarrassed to talk to them about gastrointestinal problems or other issues of that nature.  Don’t let them shame you about your weight when there may be an underlying cause that needs to be addressed.  This is not about fitting an image, it’s about making sure this body you are in is healthy and can sustain you for a long life.

If you really know and understand your own body, you can make better decisions.  For me, I will be needing to change my entire lifestyle when it comes to food.  I have to eat very small meals several times per day, increase my protein (no red meat) and monitor my fiber intake.  My intake of calories on a daily basis will be much lower than I was normally eating.  I don’t mind making these changes if it means I will feel better.  The change in my eating habits has already made a big difference but I have a long way to go to truly heal.

Don’t believe the hype.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing that one-size fits all.  DO NOT randomly go on the new diet trend just because of overblown promises.  Your health is too important.  What do you have, if you don’t have your health?  Work with a functional doctor, seek a medical doctor if necessary (but be choosy).  Will you lose weight on the latest fad?  Yes, you will.  Will you also gain it back and then some if you don’t have someone to help you monitor what really works for your body?  Yes, you will.

Most important – love yourself enough to find the answers.  It may be much simpler for you than it was for me or it may be more complicated.  Either way, I urge you to put your health first.  Don’t wait 40 years to figure out what your body needs.  You won’t regret it.

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Easiest Way to Die

 

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I’ve been feeling hopeless, lost and worthless lately.  I felt this way a lot when I was growing up but I was able to push forward knowing that there was hope for my future.  But now things are different.  I am over 50 and hope is a thing of the past.  I’ve been crying a lot lately and it just honestly feels like there isn’t a good reason to be alive.  I googled easiest ways to commit suicide today.  The google auto-text thought that maybe I wanted to commit insurance fraud instead.  If that would solve my problems, maybe I would but I think I fear jail more than death.  Nothing seems like it would be more depressing than jail.

I’ve spent my life working hard, not just on myself to overcome so much of what happened in my life, but on being better for others.  I watch people who are able to influence others in profound and meaningful ways and I am envious of whatever power they possess that I do not.  Not power over people but the power to help people in larger, more significant ways.  People depend on me, they count on me to make their lives better but not in any way that is satisfying for me personally.  I wish I knew what the magic formula is for people who are able to do something that fills them with joy and also contribute to the greater good.  Whatever that is, I don’t have it.  I’m more like a mom, everyone wants you to be there for them but only when they choose and often they are more annoyed by you than appreciative of you.

There are websites that do offer good advice on effective ways of suicide.  They are primarily educational.  I found this site – Lost All Hope, which is comprehensive in its information.  The thought of actually dying terrifies me, not the being dead part just the mechanism for ending your life.  I am afraid of the pain and more importantly not actually dying and dealing with the cost and effect of a failed attempt.  I also don’t want to hurt people, specifically my husband.  Everyone else will be fine but he would be devastated and I can’t do that to him.

Reading about the methods, the time it takes to die and the amount of agony for each method is sobering.  A shotgun blast to the head is the most effective.  I can’t imagine leaving your body for someone else to find in that condition.  Poisoning is effective but the agony factor is high.  I imagine dying from poisoning is very painful.  As often as you hear about overdoses, they are particularly ineffective.  Only 12.3% of overdoses actually work.  The most common way that suicide is shown on television and in movies is someone slicing their wrists which is the least effective method of everything listed.  Overdose by illegal drugs is more effective than prescription drugs but it takes a long time to die typically.  If you are high, you probably aren’t aware that you are dying which is why this might be a common method.

I used to believe that I had a purpose.  I suppose that is ridiculous but I did believe it.  Now I see that what your life is and becomes is more out of your hands than you realize.  The pain of suicide, both for myself and for my husband is too profound for me to actually consider taking my life.  I can only hope that I find a way through this horrific sadness so that within whatever time I have left I can find some relief.

 

Confessions of the abused

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In the center of my body, in the deep recesses where the tangled heart scars remain hidden from the light, from the consciousness, within the carefully crafted prison I created, there has been an awakening.  I can feel them tugging at me, reminding me of their pain and worming their tattered tendrils through the unlocked door, into the light, into my patchwork heart, reminding me that they are still there and their prison is not impenetrable.  They remind me that they carry every moment of my lost youth, my shame, my rage, of how I was betrayed again and again, of how I had to save myself again and again.  They woke from the slumber of the spell I cast upon them, a spell woven from the incantations I spoke into pillows when the darkness choked out the light.  They woke because I was reminded that I am not safe, that women, girls and boys are not safe.

The spell was broken when I came home to find my husband standing in front of the television one day last week.  There he was, no more than a foot away from the large flat screen TV.  His arms were crossed and he was staring at the screen with a look of horror.  I paused, expecting him to tell me that something unimaginable had happened, that this continually tilting world we are living in might be off it’s axis.  For a split second, I thought of fear and terror that might have been happening while I was sitting under a hair dryer at the salon.  He didn’t say anything, he just stood there, trying to find words to prepare me.  As I walked toward him, I heard a voice, a familiar voice.  I bristled, knowing that whatever the voice was saying was likely to upset me.  That voice, the one belonging to a man who has fashioned himself into an idol of worldly worship, a man who is merely a well-dressed grifter, a man who wants to rule us all.  A man who has created a cult of personality, in the United States of America, in 2016.  The words this man was speaking were vile and vulgar, an unsurprising tone and tenor for the rage he so often expresses at his inability to convert those who reject his farcical theater of the absurd, but these words were not the rantings of a half-mad pretender to the throne but the words of a serial abuser.

Abusers possess a secretive tone,  like the soft hissing of a wick of dynamite as it’s lit by the match, a tone that seethes with rage and escalates when resisted and then blows up just when you thought you might get away.  Any one who has heard this tone, knows.  We know.  Serial abusers use a tone of ownership, they tell, they don’t ask.  They connive and convince and then take what they want.  They are thieves; stealing dignity,  innocence, safety, trust, freedom, self-esteem, health, even family and friends. They believe they are owed, they are entitled, they are deserving.  And we let them, not the victims, but the society at large.  We have turned away and said this ugliness cannot be true because that truth means that no one is safe.  No one.

I have heard this tone nearly my entire life.  There was the time a boy pinned me down when we were playing tag and tried to kiss me and then pulled down my panties when I pushed him away.  I was seven.  There was the time a neighbor stood in his window while I was laying outside reading a book and pulled out his penis and started stroking it.  I was ten.  There was the time that I spent much of fourth grade fishing pennies out of my “bra” because the boys thought it was funny to drop them down my shirt, knowing that they would get caught and I would have to get them out.  I was eleven.  Eleven was a bad year.  That was the year my step-father grabbed me between my legs as I was lying on the couch watching a football game.  We were cuddling.  I felt safe.  I would never feel safe again for the next seven years.  There were many more times after that: men trying to pick me up in cars when I was out walking my dog (13); catcalls too numerous to mention; boys who wanted only to see parts of me and touch them; trying to fight back when my bra was snapped in class but getting in trouble instead; men reaching up my skirt and grabbing me (once this happened at a family gathering at a friends house and no one believed me when I told them); in college when I was pulled through the door of a frat house and felt up by 10-12 young men and when I fought back was made fun of by everyone at the party; when a male co-worker rubbed himself against me in an elevator; when I was violently ill and asleep in my friends bed and a man I didn’t know came in and tried to get me to have sex with him; and, and, and…

But this broken spell is not because I have been reminded of abuse, I am reminded of that every day because the world we live in is rife with abuse.  This past week has plummeted me into the darkness because I have been reminded of the afterword to the story of abuse that still haunts me and every other abused person.  Accusation and denial.  Why don’t we tell?  Why do so many women and men say nothing?  If this week has taught you nothing, please remember this – we do not tell because we are not believed.  You cannot see our scars so they aren’t real to you.  We must have done something to cause it to happen.  That is the beginning, there is a search for a reason for something that is without reason to a reasonable person.  The accusations can be blaming the abused for “putting themselves in that position” to calling them a liar.  Because a charge of sexual abuse is so horrific to anyone with any decency, accepting that someone you love and care about could be a sexual predator/abuser is a nearly impossible pill to swallow for most people.  I know you think you would be different, it’s unlikely, but I hope that is true.

Denial is to select reality.  It means that you have chosen what to believe despite the facts that are available.  Our country is in denial right now.  There are large groups of people who believe that an abusers confession of sexual violence is not true.  Denial is a form of abuse in and of itself.  It is saying to the person, you are not believable and if I don’t believe you then I must reject you.  The coup d’etat of abuse is the rejection based on denial.  It is severely painful and lasts a lifetime.  For me, I lost people I loved, adult people who I had known my entire life because they refused to believe it was true.  Because those adult people were family friends that were my “aunts” and “uncles”, I lost my cousins too.  I tried to tell two of the people who’s job it was to protect me and I was not believed (although years later one of them did believe me).  One of those people told me that they didn’t want to know “because there wasn’t anything they could do about it now”.  I tried three times in high school to tell people.  The first was my best friend who said nothing and then acting like I didn’t say anything, so I did too.  The second was my boyfriend and his response to me asking him if he would feel differently about me if he found out I had been raped was “yes”, so I didn’t tell him.  One person knew but only because he happened to be hiding in my room when my step-father came in at night.  I had to tell my step-father he was there so that nothing would happen.  My step-father ran out of the room and I was left to explain why he was coming into my room naked at night.  That person tried to make me tell someone when I was an adult, but I had been keeping the secret so long I just didn’t know how.  He kicked me out of our shared apartment so that I would be forced to go back and live with my abuser to try to force me to tell someone.

After I did finally tell someone when I was 19, my abuser continued to show up at my work and try to talk to me, leaving me in tears.  I had to move hundreds of miles away to get some peace but the miles didn’t help me heal.  I healed myself, it took years, it took decades.  This week I have been reminded of how it feels to be abused every day for years, and then how it feels when no one believes you and then how it feels when people stop loving you because you were abused.  There is a hollowness to you, as though you don’t exist, as though you aren’t whole, as though all that you were was scooped out of you a little at a time.

I don’t know whether any particular story about this sexual predator is true, but what I am certain of is his confession was the most honest thing he has probably ever said about himself.

You Never Forget Your First Time (Halloween Edition)

Everyone remembers their first time.  It may have happened in the dark comfort of a movie theater, in the front seat of your first car or possibly on the couch in your parent’s living room.  My first time was at a slumber party, where I gathered with a group of my friends.  As I lie on the floor in my sleeping bag, the only light in the room emanating from the television screen, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle as I watched Johnny and Barbara in a cemetery somewhere in Pennsylvania. Johnny teases his sister, “They’re coming to get you, Barbara”, right before a strange man appears and attacks Johnny.  “Night of the Living Dead” was the first scary movie I had every watched and I have been afraid of zombies ever since.  It was a long time before I watched another horror film again.

Yeah, totally not creepy at all

Yeah, totally not creepy at all

Movies that scare us, that leave our hearts pounding, our skin crawling and our throats constricted, are often indelible experiences of our adolescence. There is a bit of fun in feeling scared by something that is not real; that cannot really hurt you. The rush of adrenaline followed by the relief that the maniac on the screen isn’t going to leap out and chase you down the street leaves us a little giddy.

As we enter the prime scary movie watching time of the year I wanted to find out what most of my friends would rate as the “scariest”.  For me it was “The Shining”.  Everything about that movie is creepy to me but seeing the main character, Jack Torrance, descend into homicidal madness was terrifying. When he chases his wife with an axe and breaks through the door, shoving his face through to look at her with menacing glee and says “Here’s Johnny!”, I froze in sheer terror.  My friend Jennifer W. agreed that “The Shining” had the “trifecta” of being scary physically, psychologically and visually, while David and Linda thought the “Night of the Living” Dead had scenes that were unforgettably terrifying.

Here's Johnny! AHHHHH

Here’s Johnny! AHHHHH

After watching “The Ring” a movie with a ghostly, faceless girl who crawls out of televisions to kill people, David was awoken by a dark figure crawling across his bed. To his great relief, it was just his baby daughter and not a murderous apparition.

Get back in the TV Samara!!

Get back in the TV Samara!!

Jennifer B. and Mark brought up two iconic horror movies, “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Halloween”.  Jennifer B. slept with the light on for 3 months after watching Freddy Krueger kill all the kids on Elm Street in their sleep.  Halloween, which was shown on October 31, 1978, begins with a child dressed as a clown killing his sister.  Some years later that same boy is now a full grown serial killing psychopath who has escaped and returned to his home town to continue what he started.  What is scarier than that?

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Yep! Never sleeping again…

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I’m not scared. I’m not scared.

Halloween was the first in a long line of “slasher” flicks, which includes Nicole’s pick for scariest, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.  The macabre tale (based on a true story) is about a chainsaw wielding family of serial killers and cannibals.  “I had nightmares for 3 months after watching it”, Nicole confessed.  Chainsaw cannibals would definitely be on the “do not watch” list for Allison, who can’t watch horror movies with realistic plot lines.  “I can’t watch anything that could actually happen” Allison remarked.  Her favorite scary movie: Poltergeist.

Can't Even.

Can’t Even.

Clowns. Why did it have to be clowns?

Clowns. Why did it have to be clowns?

Some scary movies are just too scary and many of the responses included professions that they would “never watch it again”.  Michelle said that she would not watch “The Omen” again, “EVER”. Spawn of the devil and demon movies ranked high on this list.  Bonnie said that even though she had only watched scenes from “The Exorcist”, she was terrorized by the movie. “Rosemary’s Baby”, a tale of a young woman whose husband is plotting to impregnate her with the Devil’s baby, was another one on the “never again” list.

Devil Child. Just no.

Devil Child. Just no.

Hey, your heads on backwards...

Hey, your head’s on backwards…

Scary movies are not all about serial killers and devil worshipers; some mentioned included: “Cujo” about a rabid dog on a murderous rampage, “Jaws” about a giant shark terrorizing beach goers, “Alien” and “Event Horizon” featuring other worldly creatures invading bodies and killing the host. The idea that something with a purely animalistic drive could strike without warning, plays to our real fear that we have no control over our environment.  Jeff brought up the movie “Phantasm”, which involves the horrifying combination of aliens, deaths of children, grave robbing and reanimation of the dead into dwarf slaves.  He described the main character, an alien that the children call “the tall man” as “uber-creepy”.

Nice doggy, good doggy...RUN!

Nice doggy, good doggy…RUN!

Who came up with this terrifying story?

Who came up with this terrifying story?

Scary movies connect us in ways that other genres do not.  Whether you remember them with fondness or fear, you remember them.  Maybe your favorite made this list or maybe you are like my friend Don, who thinks the scariest movies are “anything on the Lifetime channel.”

Secrets can be scary, especially on Lifetime

Secrets can be scary, especially on Lifetime

What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

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Uncle Jack

He really wasn’t my Uncle.  Not in the traditional sense.  He was married to my Mom’s best friend from high school, someone she considered a sister and that is what made him my Uncle.  Linda and my Mom grew up in a volatile city at a volatile time.  It made them tough and it gave them a sense of humor, which I suppose was a perfect fit for Jack.  Linda and Jack formed a family of three girls (Jackie, Robin and Theresa) and then added a fourth daughter (Patty) who Jack affectionately called Charlie because he was sure that she was going to be a boy.  They lived in Camino, CA and we visited them often and I spent most summers there as a kid.  It was an idyllic place for kids with big imaginations and parents who insisted that we play outside.

Growing up with the Nobles as my cousins and friends was as good as it gets in life.  We loved, we fought, we laughed, we cried but most of all we had a lot of fun.  When we were all together, including another “cousin” Kristina, there were 6 girls in total.  My little brother was the lone boy in the bunch.  The oldest, Jackie, and I spent a lot of time together.  She was two years older than me and I idolized her, as did all the other girls.  She was beautiful and fun and always on the verge of getting in trouble.  She was also the apple of Jacks eye.  I envied their close relationship and admired their bond.  But he had a bond with all the girls, cousins included.

What I loved about Uncle Jack was his desire to protect us but his insistence in not treating us like “girls”.  Jack expected that we were going to do all the same things that were expected of boys at the time and never treated us like there were limitations for us.  It was silently acknowledged that we would probably get into a little trouble but it was okay as long as it wasn’t too much.  Never once did Jack look at us and think “well they can’t do that, they’re girls”.  When it was time to go cut down firewood, we were recruited to ride along and help.  When the water dried up from the drought and the fish were stuck in shallow water in the dam, we just climbed down the walls and caught them with our hands.  When I wanted to know what it felt like to shoot a gun, he let me (I ended up on my butt from the kick back) and it scared the crap out of me.  We climbed and camped and got dirty and played hard.  Our love of nature, is a direct result of our experiences growing up with Uncle Jack leading the way.

He was quick with a good joke, and always teased you if he liked you.  I remember him giving Jackie a hard time about dating and having the gun sitting on the table next to him to greet her date for the evening.  One of my favorite things that he did, which I still talk about to this day, is when he installed a pay phone in the house at the end of the hall next to his bedroom to keep the girls from being on the phone constantly and so that he could monitor their phone calls.  Genius!  He was smart and funny and let kids be kids but he knew when to draw the line and wasn’t afraid to do it.

Despite losing touch with him in my adult years, I have always and will always think of him with love and fondness.  He helped shape the person I am by ensuring that I believed I was capable and didn’t question whether I could do something.  That is the legacy he left behind for me.

Uncle Jack passed on a few days ago.  It saddens me greatly that his life here is over but I believe that he was greeted with open arms by his darling Jackie and that he is at peace.  I will always picture him singing a song or dancing around with a smile on his face or the way that he looked at his girls whenever he was around them.   He had a light about him that won’t ever really go out because it lives on in his children and their children and also in me.  Thank you Uncle Jack, you will be greatly missed.

Michelle (Micki)

Jackie (Jack) Noble

What Would You Do?

Note: I haven’t written on this blog in some time.  I was focused on my alter ego – The Batty Broad for awhile and left my words unattended but recently I have found the need to go back to my more philosophical side and thus my reawakening of this blog.  

I have been involved in some conversations lately and have also been reading about events that have incensed groups of people based upon the way that these events were or were not responded to when they originally happened.  I have read responses from people to these events that consist of horror, disbelief and categorically a response about how they would do things differently.  Which is a nice thought.  What a different world it would be if we all knew how to do the exact right thing at the exact right time.  If our decisions were always perfect and only lead to just actions being taken.  What a world it would be.

I hate to be a harbinger of bad news here but I can assure you that you don’t know what you would do until you are in that situation.  I know.  I have been there.

When I was a girl I was abused by someone very close to me.  I knew it was wrong but I also worried about hurting people around me by telling the truth.  It was scary and not something that I was prepared to deal with.  I did try to tell people.  Initially I tried to tell the person who was closest to me but the situation wasn’t handled well and I ended up saying that I was lying when I wasn’t.  There were other people involved that I loved and didn’t want to hurt.  I accepted that this was my fate and found ways to cope with it as best as I could.  The abuse lasted for 7 long years.  When I finally escaped, there was a lot of damage that I had to fix on my own.  It took a long time to find my way back to myself but I did.

But that’s not the end of the story.  As this abuse lasted such a long time, there were plenty of people around that should have suspected something.  My abuser was a consummate liar and world-class in his ability to deceive so he was able to focus attention on me in a negative light to make sure that I was never able to be credible with those who could protect me.  I was afraid to tell people because of what they would think about me but I did try and eventually succeeded in telling a couple of people. Their reactions weren’t what you would expect.

In the movies, once the abuse is reported and known everyone hates the abuser and comes to the aid of the victim.  But in real life it doesn’t always happen that way.  Are people upset? Yes.  But their anger and shock isn’t always directed properly.  Why?  Because they have to admit something about themselves and take responsibility if they are to support the person who was victimized.  Which often means that they invited or accepted this abuser into their lives and didn’t see it.  They didn’t see the person for who they really were even when there was evidence to support the truth.  They were fooled.

If you are to accept that you were completely deceived by this person and that you didn’t see things that were obviously wrong, then what does that say about you?  What does it say about your life and the decisions you make?  Those are the questions that people are faced with and having to admit a failing of that magnitude is sometimes too much to bear.

So what really happens when someone who is being victimized comes forward?  You lose a lot of people in your life.  Some people you love, will accuse you of lying or blame you for what happened.  Friends may stop talking to you or be unsupportive because they just don’t know what to say.  People will see you as damaged.  You feel alone.  Even later on there are people who will be uncomfortable even knowing that you suffered abuse.  It is a constant struggle.  Hopefully you find someone or a group of people who do understand and want to support your healing.

It sounds tragic, right?  To some degree it is.  But it is important to remember that dealing with an unfathomable situation is not something anyone is prepared for.  There are no classes on how to face and do the right thing when confronted with an unimaginable situation.  So people often handle it poorly but not out of intention.  They handle it poorly because they do not have to tools to handle it better.

It is one thing to KNOW something is going on and do nothing.  It is another to SUSPECT something is going on and try to deal with it the best that you can and it is a different thing to be UNAWARE that something is going on.  It is easy to read about something that happened and say to yourself – “I would do it differently”.  I hope so and I’m sure you hope so too.  But realistically you don’t know, you truly don’t know what you would do unless you have experienced that exact situation under those exact circumstances.

We don’t want to imagine a world where people do the wrong thing and then nothing is done to stop them.  But that world exists and we live in it every day.  We are all trying to figure things out and sometimes we make very poor decisions and sometimes we make really great decisions.  We all have to live with regret even when we are the victims of something terrible.

I hope that if you are ever faced with a situation such as I described that you would do the right thing but I would understand if you didn’t.  I would hope that you would figure it out and make amends if you did the wrong thing and that you would do things differently if faced with a similar situation again.  I would hope that you would educate others about your choices.  I don’t see a lot of that.  I see a lot of pointing out other people’s bad choices and vilifying them.

The next time you ask yourself – “What would I do?”  I hope your first answer is – “I HOPE I would do this.”   If you are able to say that with some measure of knowledge that you truly don’t know, you will be better prepared to face tough decisions in the future.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”
Theodore Roosevelt

A Philosophical Conundrum-Be Self-Centered

Selfish – devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily
with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardlessof others.

Self-Centered – independent, self-sufficient, centered in oneself or itself.

The other day I read a quote by the Dalai Lama.  It referred to the importance of focusing not on ourselves but on others as the pathway to true happiness/enlightenment.  I wouldn’t disagree with the Dalai Lama but i think there is a distinct and profound difference between being selfish and be self-centered.  It may just be in my interpretation of the words but I believe most people think of being selfish and self-centered as the same thing.  Most of my conversations with people where the subject of someone being selfish comes up, also seem to contain the words self-centered.  But is being self-centered really such a bad thing?

Inherently I am an outwardly focused person.  It’s not something I had to cultivate or work towards, it’s just who I am.  I don’t think of this as being either a good thing or bad thing.  It just is.  I don’t recall every being “selfish” at any point in my life.  In my experience coveting people or things, even those that you have attachments to, only leads to disaster.  Things can be replaced and people should be a part of your life because they choose to be, not because you demand that they remain.  I don’t demand that people do things for me or expect anyone to do anything in particular.  I know that what people do is only a reflection of how they feel about themselves and has very little if anything to do with me.  Conversely no one should be expected to subjugate themselves to the way I want or like things to be.  I am not more important than anyone else therefore there is no reason to be selfish.

But I am self-centered.  I spend a significant amount of time focusing on what I do and how I do it.  I analyze my own behavior and its affect on others and its affect on me.  I think about what I want and how I want to achieve my goals.  I think about how I can be better and what I can and cannot control.  Of all the things in my life that I focus on (outside of work), I would say that I spend the majority of my time (even while I am doing other things) focusing on me.  I cannot see any other way to truly focus on others if I do not have the ability to first look at myself and how I am “being” in the world.  If I only focused on others, how would I truly grow as a person?

Being self-centered is, at it’s core, a biological function.   Without the ability to focus on ourselves, we wouldn’t have survived as a species over millions of years.  Although we try to fight against some of our more base instincts, being self-centered might be one we should embrace.  If people spent more time thinking about what they are doing, how they are doing it and what that means to their own lives and the lives of those around them, the world would definitely be a better place.  Being focused on the center of ones self  is the opposite of being selfish.

Whenever I think of someone demonstrating selfishness I am reminded of Veruca Salt (not the band) from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  She was selfish but mainly because she was brought up to be that way.  She was allowed to behave like a petulant, abrasive, selfish brat and so she did.  Selfishness stems from insecurity.  It is hard for me not to pity selfish people because I can so clearly see how it limits their life.  Unfortunately selfish people also limit the lives of those around them, or at least they try.  Selfishness is a powerful expression of lack of self.  Only people who are empty and have no sense of themselves are selfish.  This internal void sucks the energy of other people into it so that the person can fill the hole inside.  The only time a selfish person feels powerful is when they are controlling others through their behavior.

So think twice when you say someone is self-centered.  Do you really mean that they are selfish?  Egotistical? Self-Interested?  Being self-centered in and of itself isn’t a bad thing.  It’s only in conjunction with selfishness that it takes on a negative connotation.  Frankly I wish more people would be concerned with themselves and less concerned with others.  If you focus on yourself, your relationship with others might improve dramatically.  Just a thought.

M.-