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The Skinny on Fear

Geez, it’s been a long time since I’ve written in this blog. A lot has happened, and also not so much. In a lot of ways I feel stuck. My weight loss has definitely stalled. In fact, I had regained about 10 pound although I’ve re-lost about 5 of them in the past couple of weeks and am hoping this is the beginning of me getting back on track.

Anyway, that’s not really the point of this post. The truth is, my psychologist gave me a homework assignment—to write about fear; to help me with my fear of developing relationships and letting people in. As I was researching (yes, research-- I’m a dork) and thinking about what I would write it reminded me of a blog post from many moons ago. In it I was talking about how I got upset over people asking me if I “felt” better. Because the truth was that I didn’t. And that scared me. I was actually pretty healthy before this (or as healthy as anyone with a BMI of 47 could be). The changes I was looking to make (other than to my waist line) were more mental and emotional. On an intellectual level I always knew that losing weight wasn’t really going to change my life, but on a visceral level I think I believed it would. I imagined all the ways my life would be different when I was skinny. Now I know I’m still a long way from “skinny”, but I’m far enough along in this journey to have to admit to myself what I really knew all along—that my unhappiness was the cause, not result, of my weight.

So what was the cause of my unhappiness? Well perhaps it’s this fear that Dr. F wants me to write about. I suppose everyone is afraid to some extent—not just of cockroaches (eek!) or heights, but of the important stuff. Of letting others in, of getting hurt, of being too dependant on someone else, of being so independent that we die all alone with the exception of the 40 some-odd cats we’ve kept for company. But it seems like most people are able to overcome this fear whereas I’ve let mine debilitate me. Instead of confronting that fear, I hid behind 100 pounds of excess fat. I got so big, I became invisible so that I wouldn’t have to let people see me.

Now I’m going to risk becoming one of those people I hate who bring their pets to me after having “diagnosed” them on Wikipedia. In my attempts to complete this assignment, I did some searching on “social fears” and found a lot of reading on “social anxiety disorder.” (But not on Wikipedia :P) A lot of it resonated with me, though to be fair many aspects didn’t seem like me at all. Then again it seemed like a pretty broad disorder. Forgetting about labels (it’s only my job to put a name to dog and cat diseases—not my own) the truth is, I have a major tendency to sequester myself. I used to think (believe?) it was my self-consciousness over my weight that lead me to avoid social situations and getting to know people, but as my weight goes away I find myself facing the fact that perhaps being fat was just the excuse I gave myself for avoiding these situations. I still find myself feeling extremely anxious when it comes to putting myself out there. When social situations arise I want to take part, but as the time approaches I find myself making excuses not to. And even when I know a person the thought of picking up the phone and calling them to see if they want to hang out makes my chest literally tighten with anxiety.

For a long time I felt like my weight defined me but if my weight is really a manifestation of my fear, does my fear define me? Do I let it? I don’t want to. I want that life that I envisioned I would have once I was skinny. I still think I can have it, it just turns out that getting skinny isn’t the way to get it.