Making Peace with the Past

It is often said that you cannot go back home. Although, some people try to challenge that ideology by eventually returning to their hometowns, to former lovers, or moving back in with their parents. Therefore, one is left to question, does it really work out in the end? I have myself had the occasion to return to my childhood home to live with my mother for a time, following the bitter ending of a broken relationship. At first, it was very awkward for me. But I just assumed it was the whole “I’m not supposed to be moving back into my parents’ house” pride thing. However, as the time lingered on, I began to realize that it was so much more. I found that the demons who haunted me in my past were still dwelling in that house. I found it to be a cold and unwelcoming place.

I had been in therapy several years ago and was under the impression that I had already dealt with all of the haunts of my past life, in particular my childhood. As I stood within the wall of this darkened paneled house, I figured out fairly quickly that I had not. I was taken aback by the torrential flood of emotion that befell me just being there. It did not make any sense to me. I mean, I had stopped by there to visit my mother numerous times. I had spent many a holiday with my family at her house. We had shared laughter and joy, and hugs abound there in the past few years. So, I could not understand what was happening to me. For the most part, during the evening hours, when I would arrive home from work and we would have dinner together and then sit in the living room watching various programs on the television set, I was fine being there. Even she and I had laughed and had some relatively good talks between ourselves. But, at night, when I was shut in behind the door of the bedroom, all alone, that is when every emotion I had ever felt in that house would come to pay me a visit. I could not shake that resurgence of sorrow and pain and utter heartbreak no matter how hard I tried. I began to watch television in the room until I would fall asleep at night, or I would read myself to slumber. Still, the darkness shrouded me like a heavy cloak.

My mother and I was working so hard on repairing a long-time damaged relationship, and I did not have the heart to tell her that being in her house was absolutely driving me insane and slowly crippling my soul. But I knew I could not stay there for much longer. The feelings and the memories proved to be far too hard to deal with alone in the night.

After a few months, I made the decision to move out, and got a place for myself and my daughter. It was probably, of all the choices that were available to me, not the most sensible or ideal place for us. But it was a quick move, and, at the time, I felt like anywhere had to be better than reliving my nightmare childhood night after night.

Ironically, shortly after my daughter and I had moved into our new place and were getting more settled in, I had started new classes at the college I was attending. During the semester, I had an internship placement. The internship was volunteering at an agency that did community counseling. Part of the process to be allowed to volunteer for the agency was to sit in and participate in two of the counseling classes offered. With the time frame that I had available between my full-time job and full-time course load at the college, I had one class that was on effective parenting, and one that was about making peace with the past. I believed those to be simple enough. I had, after all, already had therapy several years ago and dealt with many things from my past. Although, I had not given any particular thought to the experience that I had recently had while staying in my childhood home with my mother. Being that I had since moved out and into my little hipster cottage on the mountain, I had not given that a second thought. As it turns out, however, I should have considered it more significant that I had thought.

At first, I thought it was going to be interesting, and a little bit fun, to get an inside view of how group therapy worked. I was given my workbook to follow along. I also originally thought I would just be sitting idly by as a quiet observer, since, after all, this was my internship I had not signed up for this group therapy class. I could not have been more wrong. In order to get cleared to begin volunteering and complete my subsequent internship, I had to take an active role in the therapy sessions, and was expected to complete the exercises and journal entries in my workbook just the same as anyone else in the class. Initially I was a little shaken up about the idea of having to take group therapy. But later decided it would be the best way to learn how a group therapy session works. Plus, I would have the added benefit of free therapy for myself. With that, I was ready to embark on my path to making peace with my past.

The first two group sessions, I was reluctant to speak up for the most part. I immediately began to feel emotions stirring deep within my core. But again, this was an internship setting, and I was still unsure of just how involved I was expected to be with the actual counseling of this class. The leader of the class was very good at her job, and after the second session had called me aside to let me know she could tell I was holding back and let me know matter of factly that she fully expected me to participate as much as anyone else in the group beginning the next week. I was called out. I was expected to address the emotions that I had begun feeling from the first session we had. I was still unsure about how I felt sharing anything personal with a group of strangers. Yet, at the same time, I was feeling all of these emotions coming to the surface during the first two sessions and I felt like I wanted to talk about them, to get them out, and understand what they were and why they were there, haunting me. I was beginning to get scared. If I had already felt this much emotion surfacing in only two sessions, how would I ever make it for the following ten weeks if I did not deal with what was happening to me?

For the following ten weeks, I cried, I felt, and I hugged my fellow group participants. We all learned so much about each other, and subsequently, ourselves during our twelve weeks together. A lot of what had happened to me while staying at my mother’s house began to make a tremendous amount of sense to me. I learned that while I had been in therapy in the past, I dealt with a lot of things, but I had only touched on the subject of my relationship with my parents. I had dealt more with the relationship with my mother, because she was still alive, and I still had to maintain a relationship with her. But I had not ever fully processed or dealt with the relationship with my father completely. And, while I was staying in that house, all of those repressed and unresolved feelings came flooding back, because they needed to be met head on and processed, so that I could officially and finally move forward with my life in a more  healthy and happy way. During those twelve weeks of my free therapy internship, I met every single one of those feelings head on and dealt with them. But I did not have to deal with them alone. I had one- an amazing counselor, and two- a group of five other incredible women who were at the ready to hug me, cry with me, and encourage me at any given moment. And I was ready and willing to do the same for each and every one of them.

I have often said that I believe everything happens for a reason. Often times, we may not know the reason or the how or why behind things that take place in our lives. Regardless, sometimes, things just happened that we later realize we really needed. That internship that year was actually an accident. I had originally signed up for a different internship for the semester. Somehow, the paperwork had gotten messed up, but this was not realized until the semester was beginning and the placement at the counseling office was the only placement left available. I had planned to be a silent observer and just learn how to conduct a group therapy session. Yet, I was prompted and encouraged to speak up and take an active role as a genuine participant of the class. And, something amazing had happened. Over the weeks of the class, I learned that I still had a lot of unresolved things in my past that I have never dealt with, let alone made peace with. With the help of the counselor and the other ladies in the group, I was able to put so many things to rest, to move past a lot of hurtful things that had held me captive and crippled for so much of my life. I made peace with my past, and I was able to free myself in ways that I had not realized was possible previously. I have since moved forward, and have a close relationship with my mother, and have buried the heaviness and dark feelings that had once consumed me just being in her house. I have been able to develop a close and loving romantic relationship, which I also came to realize was near to impossible in the past because of the many things that I had left unresolved kept me from allowing myself to get too close to others, or allow anyone to get too close to me. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had in getting put in the wrong internship placement and the ability to make peace with my past.

Setbacks, We All Have Them!

Weight loss is complex. That is putting it mildly. It is truly a never-ending series of ups and downs. Highly unlikely do you come across the successful person who entails no setbacks or struggles along the path of their weight loss journey. No, those who set out to lose weight or gain overall better health and accomplish such with no road bumps along the way are quite the rarity. For the rest of us, setbacks are as natural a part of the weight loss journey as is anything.

I am myself working through such a setback in my own personal journey. To give an accurate idea of the setback that I am working through, at this time, I need to paint a picture of how I got to the place that I am mentally in right now. About a year and a half ago, my daughter decided to leave home to move to Minnesota to be with her boyfriend. Now, we lived in North Georgia, and that was a very long distance, and given that she had never been away from me since birth, I was crushed over this. Shortly after making her move to Minnesota, my son informed me that he and his wife had decided at the end of that year to move to Utah. Again, I am in North Georgia, and am being completely blown away by the idea of both my children (and now my grandchildren) moving so far away from me. After some thought I told my husband that if the kids both moved away up north, we should just get us a condo in the Gulf of Mexico. That way, the kids would have a good excuse to come visit me- beach vacations! Within two months of my declaration to move to the Gulf coast after the kids moved, my son and daughter in law decided that Utah was too far to move the grandkids from their family. They had now decided to move to Florida, and instead of waiting until the end of the year, they were moving in a month. Yet again, overwhelmed, that set the wheels in motion for me to make some drastic changes with my own life. I am fortunate enough to work from home for my corporate office, and after doing some research and questioning my management staff, I learned that I could, in fact, keep my current job and move to Florida. My husband and I had begun the exhausting task of selling, giving away, and trashing everything that we owned that was not considered a necessity, in order to downsize and move to Florida.

Things had not worked out for my daughter in her job as well as she had hoped it would, and she had made the decision to move back home with me and my husband three months before our planned move to Florida. We had gotten my son and daughter in law moved down to their apartment and settled in. My daughter had applied for and conducted several phone interviews for work. Things were going smoothly in preparation for the move. Inside of one month before we were to load the moving truck and move our entire life to South Florida to be with my son and granddaughters, my daughter had decided not to go with us. She had gone back to work at the job she had prior to moving to Minnesota, and things were going well for her there. She had decided to stay with a coworker and friend for the time being. To say the least, I was crushed, yet again. I had envisioned this dream life of having my children and grandchildren with me enjoying all the tourist-worthy things Florida had to offer. But I had to respect her decision, and as much as it hurt, I moved to Florida and left her in Georgia.

We got settled in the first week of October and things were going as well as planned. I was always searching fun things to do in the weekends with the girls. We had moved into the same apartment complex as them, and I could walk down on my breaks to visit, or after work, my husband and I would go down and take the girls to the park or for a walk around the pond. It was indeed a nice life. The only thing missing was Bree. However, I did not realize it was not to last. By December, Ryan and Teresa had informed us that they had not taken to Florida quite as well as they had thought they may and had made the decision to move back to North Georgia. Already crushed by Bree electing to stay in Georgia, I was now utterly devastated. Teresa’s parents had also, during this time, moved to the same area to be close to them and the girls. However, they had a daughter back in Georgia as well who was still in college, and they, too, had decided to move back home. Now, Henry and I were in a strange city with absolutely no one. We now faced a life in which we were truly isolated- no family, no friends, and, for me working at home, no coworkers. It was, without a doubt, the third most terrifying thing I had faced in my life.

Understandably, after Ryan and Teresa had moved the girls back to Georgia in January I had gone through a really deep depression. I had lost, for the most part, any motivation to do anything. I did not clean house, except what was absolutely necessary to function, I did not go out and walk around the pond- I tried, but I would just start crying every time I would walk past “their apartment” or think about silly things Elli would do or how Kenlee wanted to race around the pond, and I took to comfort eating. This went on for some time, and I knew it was not fair to Henry. He was devasted too by being here alone. He had to give up a job that he loved and good coworkers who had become great friends to come here and take a huge cut in pay with complete strangers to do this for me. I began talking about wanting to lose weight and researching ideas. Henry suggested that of the ideas I was tossing around, joining the local Weight Watchers made the most sense. He thought the idea of having a reason to get out of the apartment and socialize with other people would be good for me. Not only for support and encouragement in my weight loss endeavors but would help with the depression. So, I signed up.

He was right, the people at the weekly meetings were so supportive and welcoming. My WW coach is phenomenal and such a great leader for our group. I started out my first month really amazing, I had lost sixteen pounds. Things were going great again. I still missed my family terribly but was losing weight, so I was feeling better physically and mentally. Henry and I began getting out on the weekends to go to the local parks for hiking and walking. We started setting challenges for ourselves like getting twenty thousand steps in a day, then twenty-five thousand, and eventually thirty thousand steps in a day. As of this writing, we are still working on accomplishing a forty thousand step goal. I had regained my interest in going to the beach and doing things that I had basically stopped doing altogether after the kids left.

Then, the crash happened. We did not have a weigh in or meeting for Easter Sunday. That is when I go to my weekly meetings, on Sunday morning. It seemed harmless enough. The next week, my daughter and her boyfriend (yes, the same boyfriend from Minnesota) came down to spend a week with us. It was so wonderful to have them here. We did so much to enjoy their time down. We went to the beach, went fishing, showed them our favorite parks, and just all around basked in their presence. They left on that Saturday morning, and as it always is, it was so sad to watch them go. The sadness sinks in and takes a hold unlike anything else I know. I worked that Sunday, so I did not get to attend my weekly meeting. I worked the following three Sundays and elected not to attend any of the other weekly meetings during that time from Easter and Bree’s visit until the Sunday after Mother’s Day. What was the underlying reason, the reason of which I did not wish to truthfully admit to anyone, was not that I was working. I did, in fact work for three straight Sunday’s. But after Bree and Ryne left, the reality of missing my family and being isolated hit me again, just as hard as it had in January when Ryan and Teresa left. For two weeks, I did not want to get out of bed, let alone work out or track food. I had gained back six of the sixteen pounds that I had lost. This time, Henry was crushed to see me so broken and giving up on all the hard work that I had put into losing the weight. So, by week three, he had started going to the gym at our apartment complex, going for walks around the pond after dinner, and getting out on the weekends for a hike. Encouraging me to join him, he helped me snap out of the deep sadness that I was experiencing, and in that last week and a half, I had lost back five of the six that I had gained.

That following Sunday when I went to weigh in, my tracker recorded a 1.2 lb weight gain. I wasn’t happy about having any gain at all recorded in my official tracker, but I knew that I had busted my ass the previous week and a half to keep that number from reflecting the entire six pounds that I had gained. I share this story not to make excuses or to make out that I blame my family for my depression or my struggles with my weight. I chose to move to Florida to follow them, and I cannot make them decide to live here or to love it here. I can only control my choices and actions. No, I share this to say that we all encounter setbacks along the way in our weight loss journey. So, the question is never really if the setback will come, it is when will it come and how prepared for it will you be? I did not anticipate Bree’s visit setting the stage for a setback, and I was not prepared for how I would feel after her visit ended and she and Ryne had left. But after working through this difficult time and seeing for myself just how hard it was to get the weight back off, I know now that I need to be more mentally prepared for the next time. There are countless other things to do to work through being sad over missing my family. I could go for that walk around the pond, go out and lay by the pool, listen to some positive affirmation, or journal about my feelings. Also, I could always FaceTime them when I am sad and miss them the most. Now, that is a novel concept!

The reality is, that it is called a weight loss journey for a reason. It IS a journey; a process. There will be good days and there will be bad days. But everyday is a day to push through and remember what you are working for. To think about how much better I can be for my family when I am in better health. How much more I can enjoy seeing my grandchildren when I can run and play with them without getting winded and feel like I have been hit by a truck. But mostly, how they do not need to feel guilty for their decision to stay in Georgia because they have to feel that every time they see me, it makes me depressed and I spiral out of control. That is not their burden, and they must see me be strong, so that we can enjoy seeing each other and love each other. It is important to keep finding the things that keep me uplifted mentally and physically. Self help books, daily affirmations, journaling, and just sitting outside by the water and being in nature are the things that I have found that bring me back to a safe and healthy place. They say that the true key to long lasting weight loss is in that it is not a diet, but it is a lifestyle change. That is true, and this will be a lifelong journey, and a daily process. But, a process in which I am fully committed to giving my everything to.

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