After another week of struggling to keep myself away from chocolate, I decided to take my bariatric surgeon's advice and see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders.
I honestly felt a little stupid that I couldn't seem to work this issue out on my own, but as a friend bluntly reminded me, "The counselor who treats herself has a fool for a client."
Anyway, I've been to two therapy appointments. The therapist I'm working with is very intuitive and able to read (correctly) into what I'm not saying, but she's also very sensible and down-to-earth when it comes to problem-solving. That's a perfect combination for me.
Dormant, Not Dead
Talking with the therapist, I realized that I had never really overcome my teenage eating issues. The symptoms subsided because my life was less stressful, not because I'd actually gotten any healthier emotionally.
So, the first time I encountered a major stressor as an adult, I went right back to bingeing and starving. Then, when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and started to take a mood-stabilizer that has been linked to weight gain, I stopped starving and just ate. One hundred and fifty pounds later...well, you get the idea.
Realizing that an issue I thought I'd put to bed years ago was alive, awake, and as active as ever was a real slap in the face.
The only good part of all this is, as my therapist pointed out, that I'm not making the same mistake twice. This time, with her help, I am going to confront my food issues head on.
Life in the Ocean
When I told my therapist I was feeling discouraged, she gave me a beautiful analogy to hang on to. Imagine, she said, that I had never learned to swim, and all of a sudden I found myself stuck in the middle of the ocean clinging to a flotation device.
All of a sudden, I see and hear a helicopter above me. It's dangling a rescue line. But the line is a good six inches out of my reach. The only way to grab it is to let go of the flotation device, which I'm not dumb enough to do because I can't swim.
Then the therapist said that her job was to work with me to identify tools I could learn to trust - to teach me to swim, in other words - until I felt comfortable enough in the ocean to let go of that water-logged flotation device and reach for real safety.
That analogy really resonated with me and comforted me.
Meanwhile, I've started losing weight steadily again. I'm down three pounds from where I was last week. Making the choice to go into counseling to deal with my emotional eating issues was very hard for me. I wanted so badly to be able to handle it on my own.
But now that I've seen the therapist a couple of times, I think I made a wise choice. After all, I didn't try to do the surgical part of my gastric sleeve by myself. I let a trained surgeon handle that. So, why wouldn't I trust my aftercare to a person knowledgeable in the field as well?
I'm falling into a daily routine as I nurture my writing business. It's still small, of course. Some days, I feel as if I'm trying to coax life out of ashes that are about to go cold. On other days, though, I'll pick up a new client or write something I'm proud of and - for just a moment - I glimpse a flash of orange flame, a tantalizing hint of the bonfire this business of mine is capable of becoming. Those are the days I live for.