I certainly didn’t set out to gain fourteen pounds. Actually, my theme for the new year was going to be “health and wellness.” It was November of 2015, and I had just broken up with my on again/off again boyfriend. I knew this time we would be off for good and I also knew there would be no friendship, no communication, nada. I was sad. Not overly depressed, crying every minute, but sad. In fact at one point in December I remember telling my friend Lynn I was really pissed off at myself because I was still sad. Her response: “So, let me see if I understand. You’re saying you’re mad at yourself for grieving. Is that right?” Well, when you put it that way…
See this time was different. This time, instead of going immediately online to find a replacement guy to date, or guys to flirt with, I decided to go it alone. There would be no deflection from the loneliness and pain. I was left with myself, and all of the emotion and feelings. I decided to set out on a journey to repair a relationship that was working fairly well, but needed some major tweaks and tuning up. That relationship was the one with myself. Now, I’m a therapist and I specialize in relationship counseling, so clearly I know that the most important relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves. I have said that sentence to more clients than I can even think of right now. But I am going to let you in on a secret: therapists don’t always practice what we preach. We, well I, certainly do try. But I often fall short.
My first stop on this journey was to the office of a highly recommended therapist who specializes in Internal Family Systems, or IFS. I had taken a class on IFS and it was the foundation of my Marriage and Family Education at CCSU, so I was quite familiar with it. In fact, I often utilize a light version of it with my own clients. The basis of IFS, that was developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, Ph.D. is that we are all made up of an internal family of “parts” whom all mean well and have different roles to play, some protective and some more fragile. And at our core, lies our “Self” that contains all leadership qualities.
My entry into IFS was natural, swift, and successful. I took to it immediately. I went deep into myself and found some very raw, vulnerable hurt parts that needed a hell of a lot of nurturing. It was amazing, magical, and so, so draining. There were days I cried harder in that office than I ever had in my life. I learned so much about myself, and I was able to capture the essence and pain of who I was as a little girl. I continue to stick with it weekly or bi-weekly.
Next stop: another break-up. This one was a devastating doozy that caused more loneliness than I thought possible. This time I decided to break-up with my phone. It started by deleting my Facebook and Words With Friends apps. Dear Lord, what was I going to do? Here I was, already ending my semi-addiction to online dating, and now I was going to stop spending countless mindless hours flipping through nonsense, stalking old friends and lovers, posting about every drink I drank, food I ate, friend I saw, AND coming up with hundreds of words a week, half of which I made up? Yep. I did it. I threw on another goal of reading 25 books in 2016. This would be up from the likely 2 that were read in 2015. But I have always loved to read, so why not set a lofty goal? Besides, now I had a lot more free time.
Health was still in the forefront of my mind. I was continuing to take tennis lessons weekly and spin a couple of times a week but it was starting to get too cold to walk outside. I took to drinking green tea, twice a day every day, and experimented with bone broth, which I loved but found to be too inconvenient and expensive too stick with. I saw a wellness provider and a naturopath. I was on new supplements. But the scale wasn’t going down, in fact…I noticed it was going up a bit. Still, I trudged on. I drank less alcohol. I decided to stop being an occasional smoker and became a non-smoker. I celebrated my 46th birthday with a group of my closest friends, and felt insanely blessed as I looked around at these wonderful women, all five of whom I had known for 20+ years. The next morning my best friend of 36 years said to me, “You’ve gained weight.” It stung. I got a little defensive, explaining all of the positive changes I had been making. When I thought about it later, I realized she had been more upset about the gain than I had been. In hindsight, I also appreciated that she had stated it as a fact, and had not beaten around the bush. To her credit, she apologized by text later that day. I told her it was completely unnecessary as I did, in fact, gain weight!
As I navigated how to be alone, really alone, I decided to spend some time with Me. I started to play around with staying home alone on some Friday and Saturday nights. When I survived those successfully, I did something really outrageous. I booked a five night trip to Turks and Caicos by myself. I then decided to buy myself a bike for my 46th birthday so I could ride the rail trails…alone.
In the meantime, I continued to grow my private practice: my business, my baby. I took another forty hour training in Divorce Mediation and took on several more clients for counseling and mediation. I also spent a weekend in Boston at a workshop for IFS and Mindful Self Compassion, as well as an all day training on Sexuality and Desire. I signed up for a week long session at the Cape Cod Institute this coming summer on Applying Mindfulness in Psychotherapy and Buddhist Practice. I moved to a bigger (and more beautiful!) office. I counted my blessings once again, but as my car air freshener reads, “Everyday I’m hustling.”
After a fun and much needed vacation with my kids to Florida, I stepped on the scale and I saw what I pretty much knew already: I had gained a total of fourteen pounds since November, since the beginning of what was supposed to be a journey to work on myself with an emphasis on health and wellness. Did I fail? Was I just a big, fat fraud? The number on the scale was concerning, I won’t lie. It was a number I had never seen before. But when I walked into my therapist’s office and told her, “I’m not upset with myself. I’m not angry. I’m doing my best and I’m so proud of the changes I’ve made, ” I was being completely honest. For the first time in my life, I was not devastated with weight gain. I had gained so much more than just those fourteen pounds. I was becoming comfortable with the idea of being alone and loving myself for who I am. This is not to say I intend to be a spinster for the rest of my life, by any means. I’m a catch for God’s sake! But it does mean that I have learned to fulfill myself. In addition to that, I cut out some really bad habits. And I added some really good ones. Oh, and I’ve read 13 books so far this year. My business is growing and I’m being smart about it and fiscally responsible, adding retirement funding and disability insurance. No, I wasn’t happy to see the fourteen pounds and my newest project is helping them (and more) disappear for good! So far, four of them have. I’m truly thrilled with what I’ve gained in the last five months.
Here’s the thing: we have got to learn to love ourselves. As is. Current model. Yes, we can work on all kinds of cool changes, internal and external. But we are all beautiful, lovely, amazingly flawed humans just as we are. And we must not forget this. Ever.