Happy Week 6, everyone! Well… it is for us, anyway.
Our 20/20 progress continues to be excellent so far. We both decided to move on to Stage 4 this week, which re-introduces us to the joys of fruit other than berries and apples. I don’t quite know how to explain how sweet all the other fruits are by comparison at this point; we are so far removed from sweeteners (artificial or otherwise) that the last diet soda I attempted to drink nearly made me sick. The orange I had at lunch today felt like a decadent dessert. Pineapple is almost unbearable.
In some ways this is awful, because I’m starting to realize that even after 20/20 ends, I’m not going to be the person I was; I can’t even begin to guess what a real dessert would taste like now! Most foods at restaurants are terrifying. Nothing tastes like it used to. On the flip side, it’s going to be better for my health and my ability to maintain the weight loss once I’ve achieved it. This lifestyle change (I don’t want to call it a diet, because it’s really not, it’s just a different way of eating) hasn’t taken anything from me that didn’t NEED to be taken, and yet there’s still a little sense of loss from all the good memories of tasty food. Even if I’ll never eat the same way, I can still make new memories – this time with the people and the places I go to, and not just the food!
Both of us also continue to lose weight. For my part, I’ve lost four pounds this week! The last couple of weeks have finally brought me in range of the 1-2% of body weight reduction each week, for which I am THRILLED! It’s a new thing for me, losing weight to something other than extreme illness. Even with my body and my limitations, it is possible to change with enough time and effort. I’m the smallest now that I’ve been in several years, and even my tightest jeans are starting to threaten to fall off of me. John and I realized that between the two of us, we’ve managed to lose an equivalent amount of weight to both of our cats combined – perhaps a silly benchmark, but we have two VERY hefty cats living in this condo!
We also successfully ate restaurant food for the first time since 20/20 started! We could have tried before, and in fact we are semi-encouraged to do things that test our limits so that we know how to handle them, but John felt that he wasn’t yet ready to risk it until now. I’ve been hoping to do this for a couple of weeks; everything I’ve learned over the last six months, but especially since joining 20/20, has taught me a lot of safe ways to make eating out safe. Learning to eat Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Indian foods without rice or bread was one of the first tricks I learned while trying to clean up my diet in years past, and Mediterranean is easy since you can always order salad. As long as you’re careful what sauces and dressings you’re using (and how much of them you’re actually eating,) it’s very possible to stay healthy and still enjoy a treat out once in awhile.
Our treat came from Beijing O’Chef, a local Szechuan Chinese restaurant that we’ve adored since we moved to Kirkland. Despite the absurd name, their food is pretty authentic from what I’ve heard, and I’ve never had a bad dish no matter what I try to order. The authenticity also helps in terms of health, since so many places try to suit American palates by piling on the sugar and salt. The simple spicy beef and green beans dish we picked was an old favorite from our pre-20/20 days, and we enjoyed the heck out of it! Even with our new inability to tolerate “normal” amounts of sugar, salt, fat, etc, we had zero trouble devouring it between the two of us. We supplemented it per the rules of the diet with more veggies and a shake at home, and all of it worked really well. Neither of us had trouble getting back on the wagon, there were no ridiculous splurges, and no cravings. I was prepared for another “banana-shake incident” but we planned carefully to avoid it and IT WORKED!
I’m really proud of us for doing so well, but I’m most proud of John, who had to conquer a very deep fear of potentially making mistakes to face eating out. He was genuinely terrified at even the suggestion of doing anything like this until now, as eating out too much used to be the source of some of our worst habits. We won’t be doing this all the time, and it’s still far better to manage our own food at home right now, but now we know that we have the freedom and the knowledge to make safer choices when we do go out.
As my title alludes to, however, this week wasn’t all roses. We had what I consider to be our once-per-year ugly fight last weekend, and it was just as painful and difficult as it ever is. We’re so close mentally and emotionally that there aren’t a lot of things we disagree on, and when we do disagree, we’re usually respectful of each other when we do it. It’s hard to imagine us fighting, right? I hate to even admit that we do it, but – vulnerability, right? Like most couples, it happens when we fail to communicate well; one person says something meant to be helpful, but the other person hears it wrong or internalizes it badly, and then everyone’s in tears and upset and unsure of how to move on. I’m also too aware that I have the kindest, most loving husband in the world – who is currently working on learning to express himself and his needs after years of struggling with a socially-anxious and terrified wife. Sometimes I don’t know things are a problem until they explode in my face, and I’m still learning to be gracious about that.
I never chose to be as helpless as I ended up, but the truth is that my fall from grace had deep effects on the man I love as well, and we’ve been working through the results of that on both of us for a couple of years now; about the same amount of time that I’ve been working on my own recovery. There is still a deep anger in me that I can barely describe when I think of how blind I was to all of this before; I would give anything to just turn back the clock and never forget my own worth and my own agency… but that’s not how things work. He has always been the sort of person to sacrifice anything and everything for the sake of my happiness, and he put so much of himself into trying to save me that it hurt him over the years. This is why mental illness is such a challenge in families and lives; it doesn’t just affect the person afflicted by it. It affects everyone they know and love. Watching someone you love repeatedly hurt themselves over and over again takes a toll that I’m not sure it’s possible to understand until you’ve experienced it.
Because of that, I’ve fought far longer and harder than anyone to help him regain what he’s lost along the way. The things I’m going through now are many of the same things he tried to carry for me. While I cannot say that any of this was my fault, and I’m not to blame, I am still heartbroken about my role in all of this. There is nothing I treasure more in my life than the man I married, and the long, impossible journey it took to bring us together across so many years and so many miles. He isn’t the only protector in this family; I too would do anything to protect his heart and the smile I fell in love with. Had I realized sooner, in the haze of darkness that was my mind, what was going on, I’d have put a stop to it then. The problem is that there’s nothing that I can do now to help but listen, love, and be as strong as I can be while he pulls himself out of the same dark hole that I fell down years ago. In some ways, it’s a special sort of hell; a sort of divine penance to help me learn the lessons I didn’t learn soon enough. Life is strange like that.
But I’m a warrior. I don’t handle sitting and waiting well. I want to help. I want to change things. Especially now that I’m no longer the helpless child I was. Alas, there are some enemies that others can, and must, face in their own minds – not alone, but beyond my reach and influence.
Trusting is also difficult, but I must. Just like I was, I know that the man I married is locked down and afraid of so many things that he shouldn’t be. He thinks things about himself that I’d consider worthy of immediate violence if anyone else said them to him. But even so… he’s still there, and he’s stayed with me though everything. Sometimes he even remembers how to smile and have fun. He’s far stronger than anyone, even myself, ever gave him credit for. And it’s time to believe that he, too, can emerge from this stronger and kinder and wiser. It’s easy to be afraid that he might change during his journey, but the funny thing I’ve realized is that what I’m afraid of already happened. The change I was terrified of came. We nearly lost each other and we didn’t even know it.
And yet… we’re both still here. Still in love enough to fight to try to save each other. Still in love enough to have stupid fights when we misunderstand each other’s intentions. Still in love enough to listen when listening is the only weapon worth wielding. What we’re fighting for now IS that love.
He’s strong enough to have done all that and more… and I will be, too. It’s the only way I can ever thank him.