Weighty Matters

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Therapeutic Power of Openness

on June 12, 2012

I’ve written more than 100 posts on this blog.  With the exception of a handful of people, I’ve never met most of you who come here to read what I write.  I know you only through other blog communities and the one that we’re creating right here.  Yet, I come here and share things that often make me cringe inside to even think about; events, feelings and actions that have embarassed or upset me, caused me pain, or weighed me down with shame.   I hid a lot of these innermost thoughts for years, not even telling them to my family — the people who love me the most.  When I first went to OA back in 1992 and for the years that I frequented the program’s rooms I learned to share with others who were also battling eating disorders.  Nobody else.

Thinking over the last few months during which  I’ve pretty much shared more stuff about my obesity, eating habits, worst times and recovery, I’m trying to figure out why it feels safe to do so.  In OA, we have the protection of anonymity and the knowledge that those in the rooms do not judge what is experienced and shared by others.  There is no anonymity on the Internet, particularly when you write a blog under your own name, as I’m doing.

I don’t know why I felt like this would be a safe place, although I know that my inspiration came from Lucy March’s A Year and Change blog that sparked the creation of the Bettyverse community.  God knows, Lucy let it allll hang out on her blog and emotional magic happened.  I thought about starting this blog a few weeks before I actually sat down to figure out WordPress, and while I was preparing, Krissie Stuart, Lucy/Lani, and Jenny Crusie started Reinventing Fabulous, a blog that is fertile ground for more openness and sharing about happiness, pain and personal growth, with lots of Try It Fridays, all about us and WTFs for good measure.  The response from readers helped reinforce my thought that blogging about my journey after weight loss surgery would be a good thing to do.

It has been — in spades and sparkly rainbows.  There’s a saying in OA that we’re only as sick as our secrets.  By opening up the blog window and airing out the things that I’ve done, felt or experienced shame over, I’ve grown healthier.  I feel stronger and know that I have resolved some issues and am in the process of resolving others.  I truly feel like I can come here, share anything, and not fear that I’ll be judged.  Honestly, if anybody is secretly judging me, you’re being nice enough to keep the judgments to yourself which keeps this space light and free.

Keeping secrets is hard work and drains our energy.   It runs in parallel to the old habit I had of sneak eating.  One of my friends from childhood told me once that I baffled my parents.  They couldn’t figure out how I continued to be heavy and even put on weight when I didn’t overeat at meals.  They didn’t realize that I achieved incredible levels of creativity in my methods of sneak eating.   For much of my life, I did most of my overeating in private and, when around other people, carried stress around as I worried about getting the food I needed and consuming it without anyone else seeing.

I don’t do that anymore.  It’s another secret that’s been banished  so it cannot make me sick.

With each passing day, I grow more confident that my weight loss success will last long term.  Will I still be blogging about it two, three, five, ten years from now?  I don’t know, but I’m going to keep going on as long as I need to.  I’ve come far in the last five months, but there’s still a long way to go and I’m counting on the therapeutic power of openness to help my healing continue.

Thanks for being part of the process.

14 responses to “Therapeutic Power of Openness

  1. Tracey says:

    Mary this inspires me to consider going public in some way with my journey. I’ll stay open to it. Thank you so much for sharing yourself so honestly. I know for some folks change is so frightening it is downright paralyzing. But I just keep in mind that as we go through these changes, we only have to release the aspects of ourself that we no longer want or need. We get to keep all the great things we do love about ourselves. In that way, you haven’t changed a bit. You’ve kept all the wonders of Mary!

  2. hoperoth says:

    Thank you for being so open. I, for one, have really appreciated the little glimpse that you’ve given everyone into your journey.

  3. Briana says:

    Hi Mary!

    I’ve been reading along on your journey and I comment occasionally.

    When I read this post, I just had such a strong desire to respond. It was partly your comment about not having met many of us in person. I don’t know that you would remember me, but we actually did meet in person once, briefly. In Columbus, OH, with Lani and other Betties/Argh people, at the Italian restaurant.

    There were probably, what, 20 of us there? But I distinctly remember you. I remember being slightly intimidated and feeling shy because you were so bright and vibrant. And then I remember how you talked and laughed and made the people around you (me, at least!) feel comfortable and allowed us to relax. You were so full of light and — it seemed — openness to those around you. It was lovely to meet you.

    I don’t know that we talked a lot. But I don’t think anyone else at the table was as vivid as you were.

    That’s not totally to the point, I guess, but…I’m so pleased for you and your journey and the success you’ve seen so far. And I’m glad that you’re sharing and will continue to share your light with the rest of us for.


    • Mary Stella says:

      Briana, while I don’t remember everyone individually, I absolutely remember that evening at the restaurant and that I had so much fun! Everybody at that long table contributed to the positive spirit and energy. Thank you so much for all of your kind words, for being part of that night, and for being part of this blog community. I hope we meet again!

      At this year’s RT in the Chicago area and last summer’s RWA Conference in NYC, I got to meet several other Betties/Arghers. It’s great fun to spend time talking in person with people we’ve come to know through our blog connections!

  4. Aannnddd, I just read this article and thought I’d share it since it was so apropos: http://now.tufts.edu/articles/how-burdensome-are-secrets

  5. Skye says:

    I’m taking an e-course on shame and the lead teacher, who has studied shame for over a decade says that shame is wired in. It’s related to a fear of not being loved and not being connected to others. For some things, the shame is rooted in childhood. For other things, it’s rooted later (like some of my work-related shame triggers). I’ll write a blog post about the specifics of my shame/triggers soon and give you some ideas.

    I, and the teacher/book author, believe that sharing your shame and shame triggers with trusted others helps with shame resilience and with decreasing the shames we carry with us. You, Mary, are doing this, even if it’s taken a leap of faith that this would be a trustworthy audience for sharing your shames. Good for you. You are a courageous person and I admire you greatly.

    • Mary Stella says:

      I’ve read some of what you’ve written already about that course. It sounds fascinating and I hope it’s proving worthwhile for you, Skye. You’re doing a lot of hard work and I salute your efforts! Thanks for sharing this perspective. It helps.

    • inkgrrl says:

      Mary, you are tremendously courageous and every time I read one of your blog posts I’m inspired.

      Skye, wish I had made it into that class in time as there’s not another one offered this year. You’re awesome for taking the time to confront the shame bullshit.

      Hugs and FGBVs to both of you!!

  6. Shame is such a big part of it. I think many, most?, of us are taught what a “good” girl or boy is when we are very, very young and when we violate that standard of goodness we feel ashamed. Good girls don’t have more than one serving of dessert. Good girls don’t touch themselves there. Good girls don’t play rough. (I know there are boy standards too, but since I’m female and this seems to be a predominately female group, I’m staying with girl stuff.) Your “good girl” standards may be somewhat different so fill in as needed. Then, hopefully, later we learn for ourselves that those standards need to be questioned and re-evaluated. But those first lessons are deep within our psyches and are very difficult to eradicate. And it can be really difficult to hold those standards up in front of the people who taught you them and say, this isn’t working for me. Especially when those people truly love you and want the best for you. Hmmm, now I’m wondering what standards I’ve taught my kids that they will need to question.

  7. Martha Andrews says:

    Mary, I’ve actually read some of your posts with utter amazement, but today may take the proverbial cake…

    You have spoken so honestly about much of what I already knew about you, and most of what I suspected (but would never have outright crossed *that* boundary by asking you). Your openness amazes me on a daily basis now because there were always so many unspoken truths growing up. I was always aware of the fact that, regardless of how confident you were (or appeared) in so many areas, you were also painfully self conscious and embarrassed of your size, and I respected how sensitive and touchy this subject was for you. You had subtle signals (whether you realized it or not) and I would try to pretend I didn’t notice, especially when I saw you sneak food. To “hear” you openly discuss these things with so candidly and with so much honesty feels like nothing short of a miracle. I can tell that THIS time it really is different.

    Congratulations to you for everything! You are awesome and inspiring and there are no words that could express how proud I am of you for all of this hard work you’re doing. ❤

    • Mary Stella says:

      Thanks, Marti. I don’t know where in our early years we learn to keep secrets, and it’s probably different for different people, but the roots sometimes dig in deep. Many thanks again!

  8. Thank you for being so open. I am a big believer in not keeping secrets. If you are doing something you don’t want people to know about, you either don’t really want to be doing it…or you need to be around different people. (And yes, i realize that many folks have jobs and families that make things more complicated than that. But still, secrets, mostly not good.)

    • Mary Stella says:

      I think there are often other reasons, too. Early conditioning sometimes contributes. Fear, lack of faith in something, etc. etc. If we keep secrets about things we’re doing or things that have been done to us, or even things we’ve experienced for other reasons, they can definitely make us sick.

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