Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Things I Know To Be True

  1. The two times I tried to kill myself (as in moved past the "screw this, I want to die" phase, into the counting and swallowing pills phase), the repercussions and physical after-effects were exhaustingly prohibitive.
  2. If there was a legal, non-painful method of suicide, like voluntary euthanasia for the mentally strapped, I would have chosen it.
  3. If it wasn't for logisitical concerns about my cats, and the aforementioned after-effects of overdose, I might still have chosen a non-legal, painful method.
  4. Given points one through three, and given that I'm still here and still showing some semblance of fight, maybe I need to accept that I'm still here

By that I mean, trying to make some plans and encourage the tiny unfurlingness of dreams. After all, I would hate to think I stuck around in this life just to exist in a mechanical stupor with no big picture. You know??

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Thank you, Anonymous Drifter, for this friendship award

And thanks to Just Be Real for this cute award
I first starting blogging a couple of years ago, when I started planning to have weight loss surgery. At the time, there were very few blogs by people who'd had the type of surgery I chose, and I knew I could provide info and support as well as keeping a record for myself. It's been a great experience, and a number of people have emailed me through that blog and have pursued surgery for themselves. The WLS community is quite supportive, and I am still happy to be a part of it.
I have to say, though, that the mental health bloggers I've met this year, since my latest breakdown and diagnosis, have far surpassed any other community in terms of support and friendship. I don't know what I would have done, literally, without your blogs and emails and comments. Never before has it been more important that I feel connected to people, and understood -- and it has made a huge difference.
Just though it was time to say that. I am (in general) tired, strung out and loopy so may not have the wherewithal to post anything of note. But being able to visit and read everyone's blogs makes the day pass a little better.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Please Remember Me, Fondly

Happy birthday I. Oliver.

I miss you, always.


Lyrics to this song, one of my favourites and oh so beautiful

Please, remember me
By the rosebush laughing
With bruises on my chin
The time when
We counted every black car passing
Your house beneath the hill
And up until
Someone caught us in the kitchen
With maps, a mountain range,
A piggy bank
A vision too removed to mention
But Please, remember me
I heard from someone you're still pretty
And then they went on to say
That the pearly gates had some eloquent graffiti
Like 'We'll meet again' and 'Fuck the man'
And 'Tell my mother not to worry'
And angels with their gray handshakes
Were always done in such a hurry
And Please, remember me
At Halloween
Making fools of all the neighbors
Our faces painted white
By midnight we'd forgotten one another
And when the morning came I was ashamed
Only now it seems so silly
That season left the world
And then returned
And now you're lit up by the city
So Please, remember me
In the window of the tallest tower call
Then pass us by
But much too high

To see the empty road at happy hour
Leave and resonate
Just like the gates
Around the holy kingdom
With words like 'Lost and Found' and 'Don't Look Down'
And 'Someone Save Temptation'
And Please, remember me
As in the dream
We had as rug-burned babies
Among the fallen trees
And fast asleep
Aside the lions and the ladies
That called you what you like
And even might
Give a gift for your behavior
A fleeting chance to see
A trapeze
Swing as high as any savior
But Please, remember me
My misery
And how it lost me all I wanted
Those dogs that love the rain
And chasing trains
The colored birds above there running
In circles round the well
And where it spells
On the wall behind St. Peter's
So bright with cinder gray
And spray paint'Who the hell can see forever?'
And Please, remember me
In the car behind the carnival
My hand between your knees
You turn from me
And said 'The trapeze act was wonderful
But never meant to last'
The clown that passed
Saw me just come up with anger
When it filled with circus dogs
The parking lot
Had an element of danger
So Please, remember me
And all my uphill clawing
My dear
But if I make the pearly gates
Do my best to make a drawing
Of God and Lucifer
A boy and girl
An angel kissing on a sinner
A monkey and a man
A marching band
All around the frightened trapeze swingers

Friday, April 24, 2009

From The Margin

I had one of those Free To Be Me days, where I was fully aware I inhabited the margins of society and was happy to be there. It's a long weekend here, for Anzac Day (war service commemoration), and so I went to the grocery store to do the family shop (as the stores will be closed tomorrow, the usual grocery day). Before that I visited the library and spent about an hour poking around the "Tell Me Why", "Tell Me When", "Tell Me WTF" sections - AKA biography, health, psych. Grabbed a coffee, generally wandered.

It's times like this that make me the most scared of unemployment. Times when it's comfortable, when it's enjoyable, when the sun shines and all the "normal" folk are working. I think "Why would I WANT to find a job?" I think I read somewhere that Borderline patients have a tendency to find comfort in institutionalised worlds, like the armed forces or a cult. I was briefly in a cult, way back in the early 90s, but my indoctrination was more romantic than religious, as typically I joined to impress a hyperattachment/crush object, Steve. I was also an inmate of a particularly lax and loose boarding school during my teen years, until I was asked to leave. In both these instances, I found the rituals and routines to be hynotically soothing, and the discipline provided a heady counterpoint to my haphazard parenting.

My point, and yes, I do have one, is that I can already see myself falling into a state of comfy marginalization. I'm finding joy in the simplicity that comes from this type of lifestyle. I know I could restructure my life so that I can financially survive (tho' perhaps not thrive) on disability. I have a lot of positive things to occupy my time, which helps me to "justify" the not working. I think the only thing that fights the desire to become permanently disabled, or semi-so, is the knowledge that I'm really NOT. I am well enough -- to live in the world, rather than on the edges, and to work (at least part-time). I have to try and resist the "black and white" BPD thinking, to see my world as having two options, and two options only -- a) Psychiatric patient, permanently disabled and unemployed OR b) Worker Bee "A" type person, ambitious and driven to succeed. I have to work on finding middle ground, and that's why I have to resist settling into a rut.

Comfortable in my own skin, with my self and my existence - yes. But complacent - no.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Maybe If You Ate More Comfort Food You Wouldn't Have To Go Around Shooting People

I love that line (the title of this post), which Hurley says to Sayid in the first episode of this current season of Lost. Lost is one of my all-time favourite TV shows, and in the last few days (since the Great Sacking of 2009) I've re-watched the entire 4th season on DVD. As well as half of Buffy Season 3, and a few movies thrown in for good measure. When does distraction become avoidance? This is something Dr A will no doubt ask me this afternoon when I go in for my emergency session. The day after the Sacking I watched 14 hours of DVD/TV, because every time I switched the TV off my brain would start running scenarios, none of which made me feel pleasant. From re-living the actual "sacking-crying" scenario, to the wished-for (but never happened) "sacking-stabbing-arson" scenario. All of it sucked, all of it made me feel like crap, so I avoided going there. I'm all for learning Distress Tolerance, but I think the first few days after an "event" is too acute, and I needed to just block it all out as much as I could. When I slept, I had the kind of dreams which didn't relate exactly to recent events, but managed to tap into similar emotions just the same.

Getting back to Lost, I've decided the main reason I love it is that it manages to make sense of a seemingly nonsensical and rambling plot. I'm hoping for the same kind of scriptwriter in my own life. That in the end, the things that seemed to come out of left field, and the twists that seemed to signal the death of characters or the end of plot sequences, will all make sense. And will, in fact, be so pivotal to the eventual storyline that I can't imagine things having happened in a different way.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Universe Has A Sense Of Humour

Regular readers will remember I have a Dilbert-A-Day desk calendar, and that I shared a previous cartoon from it on a posting last month. Here is what today's cartoon said:

It made me laugh, which means all is not lost - right? I still have my ever-present sense of humour, which has got me through (and helped me avoid) many painful situations. I know that Dr A is trying to work his way through the laughter armour, which scares me witless... I feel like the sorrow will just engulf me without the barriers of self-deprecation and sarcasm.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Chicken Little

I think my hearing is better than I anticipated. Today, day three at Company X, went something like this: Work, work, work, work, lunch, work, work, "can I see you in my office please? We don't think it's working out, your skills are not what we expect for this position, sorry".

Laid off.
Let go.
Given the push.
Pink slipped.
Golden handshaked (without the gold part).
If I was a clergywoman I would have been defrocked. Ooo er.

I've done plenty of sackable things in my 25 years of working. Drunk or hung over on the job - check. Thieving/embezzling - check. Undermining boss - check. Sleeping with boss - check. Misuse of company email and or internet - check. But I was on my best, most honest, straightest behaviour this week and NOW I get my marching orders. I cannot believe it. If my head didn't ache from two hours of hysterical crying and moaning "why me" I might be able to start getting angry and demanding revenge. I just don't have it in me. Starting this job, and trying to build up my confidence and learn how to do the fricken job, has taken all my focus and energy. Shit, imagine if I had KNOWN I only had three damn days in which to impress my new bosses. Even the hypermanic BPD showoff now known as Just Lil would have struggled with that challenge.

I didn't mention before now that one of the guys in my new (now ex) office once worked for my previous employer, and seemed to know people I know, in the way of these things. The paranoid, scared, weak part of me thinks "Did he ask people there why I left?" Did he find things out from Company A that he passed on to the boss of Company X? Or can I really have been sacked because my Excel skills are intermediate rather than advanced? Because I had to ask ONCE how to apply a filter to data?? It's so much easier to dismiss what is probably just a hideous coincidence and believe that this is all due to my breakdown and the relentless cloying stigma of mental illness.

I have not a single clue what I'm going to do now. I put in my first after-hours panicked call to Dr A (and here he was thinking I was high-functioning and not one of "those" BPD patients - sucker), and am trying to get an appointment earlier than next Wednesday night. I will probably try for an extension of my disability, which only finished on Monday. Truly, I doubt whether I have enough left in me to apply for work, let alone walk into another new workplace. Turns out there IS something worse than being ill and leaving a job through your own choice...

So that noise you hear, might be the sky falling after all, folks. Paranoid or not, doesn't mean people aren't out to get us lol.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Just got home from Day Two of the New Job. Aforementioned "fraud" was committed on Day One when I (for the first time) wrote "none" next to Medications on the medical history form. Didn't mention my low-dose SSRI. Didn't mention my lupus meds, cause let me tell ya, THAT disease is only slightly more socially/workplace acceptable than mentalness. I felt like I was crossing a threshold of some kind, becoming "one of the other people" of the people who understand that sometimes it's okay, maybe even imperative, to lie. There was no good reason for my new employer to know about my medical history, in the past I would have disclosed it for two reasons: 1) To garner sympathy or admiration; 2) Because I was afraid of getting in trouble. Those things are no longer motivators for me. Wow. Big step.

I don't even feel guilty, because I know that legally my employer can't not hire me based on my "disability". So why do they even get to ASK about it?

I have been having a lot of these internal conversations and monologues in the last 2 days. It's part of my new workplace persona, as dictated by Dr A -- aloof, passive, observing. Instead of doing my usual new workplace show-off/make friends dance, I have been remaining silent. A couple of people have said "You're really quiet", which is totally bizarre! I kind of like it, though, because there's a lot less pressure and tension attached to being the quiet, shy new girl. More times than I can count, or record in my journal for "processing" with Dr A, I have almost spoken or shared information, but instead have backed off and let the other person talk. It's the strangest's like I am seeing myself in a new light, or in the third person. I can see where I would in the past have forced myself to find bonds and commonalities with people. Now, I sit there, mute, and think "I have nothing in common with these people. They are different to me in age, background, experience...and that's OKAY."

Remains to be seen whether this continues. But generally I go into new situations pumped up and ready to impress -- and that is definitely not the case these days. I thought I would be nervous and feel worried about being mental, but now, post-breakdown, it's like the worst has happened and I know that I can survive it. I almost wish I would flip out, because then I can go home, get into bed, and apply for disability again. But financially, and for my own sense of purpose, I need to keep working while I am able. I'm lucky enough to be functioning and medicated, and am learning enough CBT to hopefully cope with a working life. Sure, I am in a job that is waaaaay beneath me in terms of experience, education, talent, but I am learning to deal with that loss of potential. I'm happy, just now, to potter along in an "ordinary" job, being the "mute girl in the corner". Reading my book at lunchtime. Drinking far too much coffee. Trying not to check if the sky is falling.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

True Confessions of A Shopaholic

I'm Lil and I'm a shopaholic. Not one of the cute and stylish shopaholics like you see in the movies. It's rare to find me with anything designer, and being a 250 pound-plus woman means that teetering high heel shoes are not something I would ever buy. But nonetheless, one of my main binge impulses is to overspend. I may never have owned a pair of Jimmy Choos but I have in the past owned 7 pairs of Crocs in one season. In every colour and style imaginable. Now, even I know there are very limited occasions when it's appropriate to wear Crocs...

One of the difficulties I've had in getting an official diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder is what I perceive to be the "inanity" of my impulses. Rather than starve or binge/purge, I like to eat. Too much. Too often. With detrimental effect on my health. Rather than sleep with a different man each night, I like to go shopping. Too much, Too often. With detrimental effect on my credit rating. Rather than cut myself, I like to pluck my eyebrows. Too much. Too often. With detrimental effect on my facial expressions LOL. I know intellectually that having the impulse control problem is the illness, not WHAT I do with the impulse. I'm not "less" BPD because I abuse carbs instead of cocaine. It's the fact that I use or abuse anything in an attempt to regulate my emotions or subvert unpleasant feelings.

Sometimes I think my personal choices make it hard to differentiate between "benign" behaviours and "dangerous" behaviours - after all, everybody has to buy things and everybody needs to eat food. But I've always known that what a non-BPD considered shopping or eating did not compare to the sheer volume and velocity of my consumption of both. The food thing is for another day, another post (and probably my other blog). But in the last few days I've found the spending demon to be rearing its ugly head again, and hopefully it will help me to blog it out! Although I've been pretty much housebound, since Wednesday I've managed to spend $200 or thereabouts - Ebay has a LOT to answer for. CDs, DVDs, clothes, shoes, electrical goods, books, books, books...these are my passions and Ebay means I don't even have to shower or dress or leave the house.

My Ebay addiction started in 2003 when I was severely agoraphobic and could barely leave the house. I was out of work for 18 months, supported by Mr Ex, and as a comfort I started obsessively collecting memorabilia from one of my favourite TV shows. These purchases (sometimes $300 a week on crazy things like magazine clippings, yoyos, photos, props from the show) were in addition to my existing credit card and store card debt, and in conjunction with me and Mr Ex having spent $30,000 profit we made selling our house (mostly on an overseas trip). Stupid, reckless decisions - I take the blame entirely as Mr Ex was floundering, dealing with an increasingly mental wife whose only joy was in buying junk and eating (hence the weight gain of 60 pounds during this time).

Eventually I started on Zoloft, had some great counselling and EFT and returned to work. Unfortunately, I worked in Australia's most fabulous department store so the shopping was not curtailed - my next obsession was Barbies (I worked in the toy section), but I also bought a lot of linen, clothing, perfume, jewellery, CDs, and yep books. I spent almost all of what I earned, and as well had spare time to browse other stores in the mall and spent a huge amount of money on junkfood ($30-40 some days). Mr Ex and I had to get a consolidation loan to close out all our store cards and credit cards (I think I maxed out at 6, Mr Ex had a few of his own - and this while we were both barely earning minimum wage). It didn't help, as soon as we had them paid out by the loan we put the limits up again and went on three interstate trips we couldn't afford. You see, it's not just buying things, with me it's general misuse of money. I feel joyous and happy and briefly "okay" when I'm spending money, and holidays are even better because they fill the "obsession" gap as well - planning them becomes my focus and I obsessively research and plan every detail.

Fast forward to now, and my credit rating is so bad I have been knocked back for even the smallest of credit card limits. I can't qualify for a new mobile phone contract unless I switch to prepaid. I have to have one of those VISA Debit cards, which is attached to my savings account - so if there's no money, there's no buying. It's a smart idea, and one that is just what I deserve after the binges I've had, but crikey it's embarrassing. Other people my age have assets (cars, houses, bikes, stereos, tvs), whereas I have a PC that I rent and people's secondhand electronic castoffs. I don't have the excuse of alcohol or drugs having consumed all my money. I don't have kids I'm putting through private school. I don't have ANYTHING to show for all those thousands and thousands of dollars I spent (and some I stole to spend, but that's not for discussion here). The food went to my hips, and then took $18,000 of my superannuation (retirement fund) in weight loss surgery to shed. The books have been read and reread (and sometimes exchanged for others), the TV show memorabilia is hidden in boxes (yes, plural) in my closet so I don't have to face the shame. These days, after binges I re-sell what I can on Ebay. And if I feel I can't distract myself from shopping/spending binges I try and go to thrift stores and dollar stores.

So there you have it. My name is Lil and I just LOVE to shop, in person or online. I love the rush, I crave the feelings of bags heavy in my hands, I love the smell of new stuff. I love the potential that each new "thing" has for developing my latest image or obsession. Combined with a new "hyperattachment"/crush, and the desire to be like them, or have them love me, shopping is the ultimate high. But, like all impulses, the rush is fleeting and afterwards I'm left with the horrible darkness again, except with the added feelings of guilt, fear (of being bankrupt, creditors, etc) and the realisation that I will never wear or use a large percentage of what I've bought. So this is why I know that ordering a few things on Ebay is not just that. I have to be vigilant, and watch out for warning signs - especially when I can recognise my mood is low and my stressors are high. Which is now.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This Is What Today Feels Like

The last few days have been heading downhill. For a start, I'm getting closer to the dreaded luteal phase of my cycle, which triggers the PMDD symptoms. I've been thinking I should probably increase my fluoxetine dose to 20mg, especially as I have the added stressor of starting my new job next week. The timing sucks.

I wish I didn't have to wait so long before starting work. At first, I thought it was a great opportunity to get organised -- now, I remember how much of an enemy anticipation can be. With anticipation comes anxiety, uncertainty, "what if" scenarios, and an added need to practise my still fledgling CBT skills. I was supposed to start with my new psychologist MH this week. Although I waited 6 weeks for the appointment I cancelled at the last minute...I wouldn't have been able to continue with the appointments as they were all scheduled for work hours (made the appts while I was out of work), so I have re-scheduled the entire series of appointments for after work. The first one isn't until June 2nd, at least by then I will have some idea of my work circumstances and any issues that may have arisen there -- which I can work out in CBT with the new therapist. Still seeing Dr A once a week or every two weeks, he has one day per week when he works late so it can be hard to get the appointments. All in all, this says to me "Am I doing the right thing going back to work?" It's so much easier to see doctors, do homework, get prescriptions, etc, etc without having to be somewhere every day from 7:30 - 3:45pm.

I know, I know...all that is just an excuse and OF COURSE I can organise myself and get everything done even while I'm working full-time. I'm allowing practical concerns to mask the fact that I am flatout gut-twistingly terrified of going back to work. The last few days I have gone back to the safety and santuary of my bed, and back-to-back episodes of Buffy and NCIS. I've been mindlessly eating chips and bread and cookies, desperately lamenting the fact that I've given up my Diet Coke habit, and I've spent $200 on crap on Ebay. It's hardly the end of the world, or even the beginning of a breakdown, but these are warning signs.

So, I am going to take more Prozac for the next 10 days, and try to get out and exercise. I need to start this new job in a better frame of mind than the one I'm in today, and the only way that will change is if I MAKE it change. The bottom line is, my illness is never going to go away -- the only thing that is negotiable is how well I can manage it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Twitter Me This, Twitter Me That

I have recently become enamoured of, after reading about Demi Moore thwarting a fan's suicide attempt. Not only have I started following some online and "real time" friends, I've also managed to net-stalk some brave celebs who have Twitter accounts. There are an amazing number, some more interesting and involved than others - Demi and Ashton are two of the more well-known Tweeters, I have also been reading updates from Ellen, Taylor Swift (bless), Mandy Moore, Rainn Wilson, Phil "Amazing Race" Keoghan and Stephen Fry. There's something strange and yet slightly comforting about it...the 140 character updates from people who obviously (like me) really DON'T have anything better to do right now.

If anyone wants to follow me, I guess you can just search BorderlineLil. Rest assured there is nothing thrilling over there that y're missing out on!

Which brings me to something a little more relevant and supportive in a day-to0day sense, especially for those folks just finding their way in the Borderline Personality Disordered world. Through BPD in OKC and her kick-ass blog, I found a new support site - BPD Haven. It's just starting out, ably mentored by Leona (herself a person coping with BPD), and I have been over there and registered. These things need input and activity, so I'd encourage anyone with BPD, or anyone who knows someone with mental health concerns, to check it out. Click on the link above, or type into ye olde browser

I'm determined to enjoy this last week of freedom before I hit the work trail once more. Spending time on all the boring stuff: "where the dickens did I put my work shoes?", "crikey, do ANY of my pants fit me?", "is it too warm to wear a jacket to work?", "where will I eat lunch?", "will I make friends mommy?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Angry Heart

I'm reading Joseph Santoro's book The Angry Heart at the moment, and as always I find it immensely comforting to realise I'm not alone, and other people have dealt with similar issues and feelings with their experiences as Borderlines. Although this book suffers from being 12 years old and a little bit outdated in my opinion, there's a lot to be gained from the self-help exercises and activities which are mostly based in writing and art therapy.

The authors suggest that BPD has three phases, each of which is activated or expressed because of feelings of "self-hatred". The phases are as follows - the Direct Self-Harm Phase, which includes times of self-injury, suicidal actions and depression; the Indirect Self-Harm Phase, where the BPD abuses substances, has extreme impulsivity and recklessness; and then there's the Inter-Phase. It's the Inter-Phase that interests me the most, it being the place I've most regularly inhabited as a Borderline. Although I've been self-harming and suicidal, and attempted both, and have terrible examples of binge eating and overspending, most of the "damage" I've done to myself and to others has been during the Inter-Phase.

The way Joseph Santoro describes the Inter-Phase is "during periods of supportive living or working situations, people with BPD can become increasingly free of self-harmful behaviours...During the inter-phase the acceptance-seeking behaviour of people with BPD becomes more visible. At these times their need to be wanted, liked and accepted by others is so strong that they will often go to extreme lengths to please others". For me, being high-functioning (as Dr A calls it) posits me in the Inter-Phase, whereby I can mostly control my impulses and live a daily life without trying to kill myself or others, or engaging in illicit substances or activities. I think that medication helps keep me, and probably others, in that middle zone. But conversely, dangerously, being in that middle zone means that I have the spare time, energy and motivation to over-indulge my hyperattachments, crushes, BFFs, nemesises (nemeses??), enemies, vendettas, schemes, projects and plots. This where my true danger lies, where the roots of my insanity lurk, couched in "normal" behaviours and "everyday" relationships.

I found this concept to be illuminating. I'd never seen BPD separated out into those three phases, and whether or not it's true for everyone, I can't say. Most of us probably switch between the three phases in different ways, at different times, with our own unique triggers and patterns. But I definitely feel like my battle lies in the Inter-Phase.

I am both dreading and welcoming my return to work after Easter. It really is the only way to recover, and to teach myself new coping mechanisms and ways of relating. But it's scary as hell. I guess that's mostly because my last breakdown happened at work, and was triggered by my work-life situation. What if there's a cute salesman who makes me laugh? What if the girl next to me likes Belle & Sebastian?? What if one of my new bosses reminds me of my mother??? These are such innocuous things, that have in the past triggered such intense bonds. Dr A has already started me on some lists and plans to be more passive in my new environment and to defer any decisions (social or work related) until we can process them in therapy. The thought of having to be passive and more of an observer makes me nauseous haha!!! I have to tell myself that the lack of control in passivity is only perceived, and isn't real. Truthfully, remaining somewhat aloof and removed is where I will regain control of my life.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Talk To Jess

The below was posted on Talk To Jess a couple of years ago, and I re-read it today after I posted about my battle with my self-image. I thought it deserved reprinting here, if only so I can re-read it easier in the future...

Karly Randolph Pitman founded First Ourselves to help women love their bodies, embrace their divine worthiness, and make self-care a daily practice. Her dream? To help women face their stuff---whatever it is that holds them back----so that they may be free and clear to fulfill their unique purpose. Karly is a mother of four who feeds her spirit with long walks, pedicures, reading, and beautiful clothes. She makes her home in the mountains of Montana.

Why Beauty Matters -- Feeling beautiful, I've found, has very little to do with the reflection in the mirror, and everything to do with the inner landscape. In my work, I've talked with countless stunning women who can neither see nor accept their beauty. I've also spoken with size four women who aren't comfortable wearing a bathing suit in public; who bemoan their hips, butt, or thighs. Conversely, I know women who are at the heaviest they've ever been, and yet go swimming and clothes shopping with ease.I'll save answering why some women are at home in their bodies, and some chastise every flaw, for another day. I think a more interesting question is why beauty matters at all. Why should we care what we look like? Why does feeling beautiful matter so much to women?

The two aspects of beauty -- Beauty is tricky, because it does, and doesn't matter. No, in the grand scheme of things, our appearance isn't important. On our deathbeds, we won't lament the time we spent dieting or berating ourselves for being a size 10. We are ultimately spiritual beings; our true essence is not our physical self. Our beauty will change, and fade; our spirit, by contrast, grows and evolves.Yet we are not only spirit; we are also human. And our humanity brings all the challenges and blessings of living in a physical universe. Our bodies are a gift: the vehicle for experiencing the world through our senses. Our beauty is also a gift, something to be honored and appreciated and used, just as we honor, appreciate, and use our other earthly talents. For everything, there is a season. There is a season to relish your beauty, a season to enjoy your body, and that time is now.

Over focusing on the body -- The key to understanding beauty is to accept both aspects of ourselves, body and spirit. Each has its place. We become unbalanced and suffer pain when we lean too strongly towards one or the other. When we're too focused on our physical selves, we become rigid, perfectionistic, holding our bodies to impossible standards. We bemoan the onset of wrinkles, cellulite, gray hairs; we denigrate any wiggle or jiggle. We live for someday ("I'll take that dancing class when I lose fifteen pounds") and worship our youthful past. We white knuckle our sensuality, shame our natural human desire for sexual pleasure, satiating food, and physical comfort.Even worse is when we hate our bodies for unconforming to our impossible expectations. We think that somehow we can love ourselves while hating our bodies. But this is impossible. How you feel about your physical self influences your feelings about every part of you. Your physical body is in the house in which the rest of you---your spirit, mind, and emotions---resides. Hating the vessel pollutes every part. If you loathe your body, you loathe yourself. This is slavery to beauty; being in bondage. Bondage is when your self worth, how you feel about yourself as a person, is defined by your appearance. Your physical self will fluctuate. Some days, you'll look smashing. Some days, you won't. This is where your spirit comes in. If you appreciate your spirit, your being-ness, then you can accept the changes in your humanity without fear, knowing that wrinkles and cellulite don't change who you are.

Overfocusing on the spirit -- However, this doesn't mean we should ignore our bodies' needs. Sometimes we feel guilty for caring about our appearance at all, especially women who are focused on their spirituality. We feel unholy for wearing make-up or desiring pretty clothes. We feel egoic because we feel better when we look better. When we take time for a massage or a pedicure, we feel like we're indulging in something slightly sinful. This is shame talking; not your spirit. Shame is simply another form of slavery; another form of bondage. Focusing solely on the spirit, and ignoring the body's needs for rest, proper nutrition, exercise, and, yes, beauty, is just as harmful as overfocusing on the body. Devalueing your body is as painful as overvalueing your body (vanity): they are opposite sides of the same coin. It's human and natural to have a need for beauty, just as it's human and natural to have a need for rest, solitude, and peace. It's normal to want to feel pretty; to enjoy a new outfit; to pamper your body so that it can look its best. It's okay to indulge the body.

Balancing body and spirit -- But how do we acknowledge our need for beauty without become trapped by vanity? How do we navigate a world that defines beauty in narrow terms? How do we balance our humanity with our spirituality? The answer is twofold: self love, and self care. It takes both. Self care is what motivates you to exercise, eat food that makes you feel good, and rest when you're tired. It's also what inspires you to find a dress that makes you feel sexy, style your hair, and paint your toes lavender. Self care is treating yourself to a yoga class, silk sheets, and a makeover. Self love, by contrast, is what enables you to completely and deeply love and accept yourself at all times, when your toes aren't painted; when you're grungy and sweaty or camping in the woods. Self love is accepting the loss of your beauty with grace and levity. Self love is embracing the abundance of the universe, letting other women feel beautiful, too. Combining self love with self care is treating your body as well as, but not more importantly as, your spirit. It's embracing your humanity and your spirituality with equal measure. It's letting your inner beauty match your outer beauty, and apologizing for neither. It's expanding your definition of beauty to include you at your best, your worst, and everywhere in between. It is, in a word, freedom.

Once I Was Overweight

This is something I posted over at my WLS blog, but wanted to capture it here, also.

Once I was Overweight. It was 1992. I'm almost five foot ten and I weighed about 80kg (175 pounds).

After that, about 4 years later, I moved into the Obese category, weighing about 95kg (209).

Eventually, after the Heartbreak of 1997 and the Doomed Marriage of 2000, I qualified for the Super Morbid Obese category, and let me tell you not just any old fat chick gets that label. My BMI was 54, and I weighed around 170kg (374).

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was the second heaviest person in my class. It was 1986 and I was 16 years old, almost at the height I am now (five nine and a half). I weighed 64kg. Smack bang in the middle of the Healthy Weight category. I'll say it again - I was the second heaviest person in my class, including boys. Every day I was told I was fat, ugly, slow and was always the last person chosen for sports.

No wonder I have such a screwed-up body image. No wonder I constantly question whether it's even worth all this money (cost of my weight loss surgery =$18,000) and effort to get to my new goal weight of 80kg, which will see me still Overweight. I need to find a way to disconnect from the numbers, but how do I measure my "success" if not through BMI points, clothing sizes, centimetres and kilos? Sure, there are a number of things I can do comfortably now that I couldn't 50kg ago. I'm not disputing the fact that I've lost weight and gained health and fitness. But basically, I've hated my body since I was 10 years old, no matter what number was attached to it. And lots of other people have hated it too, and have told me so.

Sadly, I find myself still hating my body, still lamenting its ugly lumpen state and scarring. Even worse, now I've lost a lot more weight from my top half than my bottom bits - where I was once an "even" size 26, I'm now 20-22 in pants and 16-18 in tops. Nothing fits. I'm uncomfortable all the time! In my former-life as Super Morbid Obese girl I was comfy in track pants and lycra.
I would never want to go back. But sometimes I wonder WHEN or IF I will be able to learn how to value my body instead of viewing it as my enemy.

Meme - Six Things

Crikey. Elizabeth from Seriously tagged me and now I have to tell you six things and then tag others. I hope you realise I barely know six people around these parts, and I think they've all been tagged already. Well, I'll give it a whirl just the same!
  1. My favourite TV show of all-time is Dawson's Creek. The night the last episode aired I watched it over and over until the early hours of the morning and since then I've watched each episode (six seasons) in order twice. Sad.
  2. When I was six years old I met Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Perth. I was on the TV news (in the background). My teacher made us practise curtseying for HOURS but when the time came I kind of huched over like I had been punched in the gut. QE2 was very nice about it.
  3. I've been to the USA four times (which is unusual for an Australian, mostly we travel to Asia and Europe) and my favourite place in the US is Baltimore, followed close second by Las Vegas.
  4. I had a near death experience aged 7 when I developed peritonitis following abdominal surgery. My nanna claims I brought back an evil spirit which explains my bad moods, anti-social behaviours and love of the colour black.
  5. I only started watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer a few months ago, having resisted the urgings of all my friends for many years. Now, of course, I love it.
  6. I absolutely LOATHED the movie Titanic and shouted out in the cinema "Just sink, for crying out loud, so we can all go home". Hate it. Really, truly, pathologically HATE it.

Probably some of these folks have already been tagged in this, but I'm choosing Kate at The Agonies & The Ecstacies; Tricia at The Girl Who Wears My Shoes; Teresa at Broken Pieces; Me at My Rantings; Ruby Tuesday at My Thirteenth Sad Day and myself at Last Chance Lil (hey, doesn't that mean you'll have to find another 6 people to tag? D'oh!!)

The rules:

Link to the person who tagged you.

Post the rules on your blog.

Write six random things about yourself.

Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.

Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.

Let the tagger know when your entry is up.