Losing Weight

I came across a post the other day where a woman’s photo that was used to illustrate the effects of anorexia was misused in a “listicle” for photos of successful weight loss. There was a lot of commentary about how people who suffer from emotional dysregulation (e.g. depression, anxiety, anorexia, bulimia, etc) are often “celebrated” for their good looks. They would often get comments such as, “Did you lose weight? You look great!” In reality, their weight loss was very unhealthy, yet still rewarded and showered with compliments on their “good looks.”

That got me to thinking about how one could approach another who has had a change in weight. Can you come from a place of concern? “I noticed you’ve lost/gained some weight recently, is everything okay?” Or can there be a neutral ground? “I’ve noticed you’ve lost/gained some weight recently, has something changed for you?” Or is there another way?

It’s definitely got me to reevaluate how I view others’ weight loss/gain. I can’t assume that others’ weight changes are done in a healthy manner. In order for me to stop rewarding or complimenting bad behaviors, I must reframe my commentary and/or not comment at all.

But for now, here are some examples of things I will not say:

“You’ve lost a lot of weight. You look great!”
“Please tell me how to fit into your pants!”
“You look so skinny!”
“Your face looks skinnier!”

Touched

I need to write this now to capture what I feel and use this post as a reminder of why I choose to do the work I do, or even be the person I want to be.

Last month, I attended a 3-day training for WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). There was an individual, R, in one of my groups. We were writing our responses on a topic on a large piece of paper. R shared with us that he had some difficulty writing due to his anxieties and fearing that his handwriting would be judged. I remember acknowledging him and his courage to share such information with us. From there, I remember I did what I could to support him, whether it was asking if he wanted  someone to write on his behalf or encourage him to share out to the large group. It was a short 3 days, but I remembered him and I remembered how much power he had in the sharing of his vulnerabilities.

This week, I started the 5-day training for the same program. Lo and behold, R was here too! This whole week, I have been utterly amazed by him. He has been sharing more during large group discussions, he’s been sharing in small and large groups, and today, he wrote in front of the large group on the poster paper. He even signed up for a role playing part and I was just so blown away by how much he was challenging himself to do things that made him uneasy. I am amazed and inspired.

Today (Thursday), as we were both leaving the training, he shared with me how he felt. He said that I would forever be in his mind as he is continuing his growth process. He said that when we make eye contact, he feels warm, he feels good. He told me that he was appreciative of me and what I had done for him. In that moment, I felt so much joy for him. I felt so much pride that he had pushed himself so much, even with sharing his feelings and thoughts with me. I felt so touched, so deeply touched, that I had been able to play a part in his life, a part I didn’t even realize I was playing.

I want to capture this feeling. I got to my car and I cried a little out of joy and out of happiness. I felt so validated in being the person I want to be and doing the work I want to do. I have this really good and really warm feeling in my heart because I get to be a part of this process, I get to be a part of his process. I don’t know where life will take us, but I’m glad that we were able to share these moments together.

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As I am continuing this post today (Friday), I am again touched by the warmth of others. Yesterday, one of the training participants was having a really challenging day. I had serendipitously walked into a space where she was visibly and emotionally upset. I offered my support and stayed with her for a bit before she requested time for herself. Today, she shared her appreciation for my actions and gifted me a rock she had painted. I’m usually not one for touchy-feely gifts, but this one really touches my feelies.

With any large group, I am usually apprehensive and reluctant to throw myself completely into the group. I still am and I acknowledge that is my piece and when I choose to show up and participate, it is meaningful and part of my own process. But the gifts, physical and not, that I have received this week have really touched my heart. I am so deeply moved to be here in this space and so deeply grateful that I was given the opportunity to be in this specific group. I came into the training thinking that I would be learning about the material, how to facilitate, etc – all the mechanics of the program. Instead, I am left with the warmth and kindness and while sometimes it totally bugs me that everyone is so positive all the time, I am grateful for the unconditional positive regard everyone has for one another.

This week was a great example of: You won’t remember what was said, but you’ll always remember how you felt.

Jaded

In the last 24 hours, and I suppose in general, I have been feeling really awful about the internet. It’s like a gun – it can be used for good, but so many people use it for bad. How can you justify its existence?

More specifically, what’s set off my mood was an incident that spurred yesterday in the internet world. A woman posted her opinion, comedic/satirical or not, about a recent celebrity death. So many comments spurred from it, mostly about hate. Most of them wished she or someone she loved would die, that karma would come back to her, that she was a cunt/slut/whore/bitch who deserved all most awful things to happen to her because she publicly stated her opinion. While I don’t agree nor think her public opinions were necessarily appropriate for such a forum, I don’t think she deserved all the hate she got. I don’t know why she wrote it, why she published it – that’s between herself and her therapist if she has one. What really upsets me the most was that all these people were bullies. Giant, big ass bullies. That’s what sickens me, that people feel so entitled, so “courageous” when they sit behind their screens, typing away without any repercussions to what they say. Would these people say this in front of a stranger on the street? Would these people want someone else to say it to their loved ones? Why do we have to wish such ill on people? It’s awful; it’s sickening.

Then today, I ran across a video. It was in response to a charity video in which three men went around town asking relatively attractive women if they could motorboat them for charity. For each set of boobs they’d motorboat, a certain amount of money would be donated to breast cancer research. I found the video and the “charity act” despicable myself, but I brushed it off and moved on with my life. I read today that they tried to donate the money to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation but their donation was refunded. I agree with the foundation’s decision to return the money as their method of raising donations wasn’t necessarily appropriate nor empowering of women, but many didn’t. Comments said that it was women’s fault and so on and so forth. Other nasty comments ensued. While there were no death threats in this, it was just disheartening to read some of them.

I get that people are ignorant. I get that people have their biases and will act prejudiced in response to these biases. But it doesn’t make sense to me why people need to be awful. Why people can’t, for a second, think otherwise about certain situations. There are always two sides to a story and at the end of the day, can’t we be nice to one another? Maybe I’m too Utopian. Maybe it’s ironic for me to say this when I scream at dumb drivers all the time. But still. I just want the bullying to stop. I want the ignorant comments to stop. I want to stop worrying every time a person of color or a woman does something amazing/wrong and read the backlash about it. Can’t it all just stop?

Support

One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn in the past few years is how to be of support to someone I love, to someone I care about. We have automatic tendencies to give advice, to say something of use to another person, but sometimes, that’s just not what the person wants or needs to hear.

I remember hearing of a poem and since then, I have kept it in my mind ever since. It is hard for me, for us, to just listen. To be able to sit in the other person’s pain and not want to remedy or alleviate. But it’s important to sit, to share in, to feel what that person is going through.

This was evident during the summer and following up to last night. Partner was struggling, consumed with anxiety and fear and it was so hard for me to resist comfort. While I failed here and there, I had to learn how to say different things. Instead of trying to reassure and tell him that he would do fine, I had to say that I would be there for him despite whatever outcomes may have arisen. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all, maybe I should have.

A few weeks ago, a friend shared difficulties with her partner, about what he was going through and how difficult it was for her to be witness to that. I remember suggesting to her that she check in with the therapist he was going to see, to ask the therapist how she could be of support to him. I have remembered that since because it reminded me of how I should react and also what I need to suggest to my clients. Granted, in that latter position, I actually get to provide the suggestions, but it’s a reminder to the kids and the families I work with that yes, while the kid is the one coming to therapy, in reality, it’s all of them. All key players are a part of that child’s life and how can we all be a team and learn to support what that kid’s needs are?

It’s hard. It’s hard to just listen, to do nothing more than listen. I am still struggling with it. It’s a fine line to cross – at which point is someone asking for advice and at which point is someone not? Is the question implied? Or is a disclaimer needed? What I do know is that I need to be more mindful of when that occurs and truly strive to be as supportive as I can.

Partners

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes people last, what makes people compatible with one another. What is the secret ingredient to long-lasting love and a half-century of happiness together?

My parents split up a few years ago, yet they carry on as if nothing really changed. Daddy comes home for dinner and they both sit on the couch to watch Vietnamese dramas. Next week, they’re going on a cruise together. While I have gotten over the shock of their split, I wonder why they did it in the first place if they are still doing things together, still seeing each other, still acting like companions with one another. Their relationship confuses me; divorce should mean that while they can still be friendly and civil with one another, in a sense, they should be apart. They should spend less time with each other and considering I’m the only child left in the house and I already know about the split, it’s not as if they need to keep up the pretense.

I was trying to think about the type of relationship that you need to have with your partner in order to make it work. How vulnerable can you be? Should this other person be someone with whom you can be your most vulnerable and still feel supported? Can there really be a “no secrets” relationship? Can this person still love me despite the darkest moments of my life? Is this person willing to do the same? To share their inner darknesses with me, to be vulnerable with me, to allow me to nurture their pain?

Is it bigger than vulnerability? Is it trust? Love? Compatibility? Companionship? All of the above and more? Does the relationship work because you make each other happy? Or because you are two individuals who have found another outlet of support and really enjoy each other’s support? Is it a “needs” relationship – I need you; you need me? Or is it – I don’t need you to function and survive in life, but I really, really, really, really like that you are in my life?

What do I want? What am I looking for? What are the qualities of a relationship that I am willing and not willing to negotiate? What is important to me? And are my needs compatible with his?

Colors

I recently watched some Upworthy video of a diversity class in which the facilitator (not teacher, facilitator) reprimanded a presumably White girl for being racist, for not understanding that people of color don’t get to “leave the room” when they are tired of being prejudiced against. While I could easily rally with the facilitator and do my own snaps, at the same time, I wonder if I could be doing the same, especially when I am in my own comfort zone.

A few weeks ago, I called someone out for being White (presumably). I was trying to make a remark and I said, “No offense,” to the only other White person at the table and said my piece. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong. I knew that I had done what I wouldn’t have wanted someone else to do to me and I later apologized to her for my stupid comments.

A few days ago, I attended a wedding of a friend/acquaintance. I was more of a +1 (for once!), but that’s beside the point. At almost every instance in my own recollection of the very beautiful, very loving and also very amazing wedding, I wouldn’t hesitate to point out the fact that my partner and I were “ethnic outsiders,” that the wedding was not my own style and how it was a reflection of the couple’s (ethnic) culture. While these misguided comments took me longer to realize, I have now come to understand that my thoughts were no worse than the ones I call perpetrators. If I were to host my own celebration of love someday (FAR FAR AWAY), I wouldn’t want someone to make comments about how “Vietnamese” it is, or to show that they felt out of place, because at the end of the day, it is a celebration, no matter the custom, no matter the traditions, no matter the “style” in which the couple whose families are joining decide to do it in.

I realize now it was wrong of me. It’s not okay for me to make my own prejudices, my own judgments on things unlike that of my own. It’s so interesting – here I am trying to fight the fight, but I forget to realize there’s still a fight in me I must battle. I am not immune to being racist. I am not immune to having prejudiced thoughts. I am not immune to behaviors that indicate that I am both. But I can change the way I respond to others outside of my own comfort zone.

Behavior in Context

Tonight, one of my professors said something really good: he said that we, as clinicians and social workers, must take into account people’s behavior in context. For example, if a child is running and screaming – is that appropriate behavior? If I didn’t tell you any other information, you wouldn’t really know how to judge that question. Is the child in a library? A church? Is this occurring during a church service? Or did they create a fun day?

Carrying this thought onto the work that I do is crucial. At one point does my client’s behavior become inappropriate and in which context, for the client, does it seem appropriate? By whose definition of “appropriate” am I going to judge the behavior? Even outside of my clients, I can use this for my relationships with people. In context, it was very understandable – though appropriate is another question – about why my dinner partner was in a crappy mood: he was late to work, had a lot to do, was given a new assignment on that day, was waiting for a response from a coworker, and it was mid-week when his stress level is probably pretty high. If I didn’t take his behavior into context, I could have demanded that he change his behavior to accommodate me and instead, I offered solutions such as declining or rescheduling dinner if modifying his behavior was not a viable option at the time.

If I apply this concept to myself, it will give me a better understanding of how my behavior is affected by the context in which it occurs. There is so much context in one’s behavior – the fact that I have chosen to do something is based on years and years of experience. Behavior is a learned trait – not necessarily innate. For example, I have acquired a lower-than-average self esteem based on years of criticism, years of watching children in media receive praise, years of receiving praise from others but my parents, the lack of “fitting” into the “physically attractive” category, being taught that there will always be someone better or that I can always do better, indicating that my “current” state is not enough, and so on and so forth. In context, in knowing all of this information about my history, I can see that I was not able to channel those experiences in a more positive direction and thus spawned the low-self esteem. I didn’t learn the tools in order to fight the crappy self-talk and only now am trying to acquire better cognitive reflexes to deter that thinking. It’s taking work, but I’m glad to be on this uphill path.

I’ve been trying to acknowledge at least one good thing I do each day. This acknowledgement must be my own – not after I’ve received feedback from someone else, but a thought that I came to by myself. Only then will I be satisfied in knowing that I didn’t allow for someone else to affirm me and that I was able to do it for me.

Jar of Affirmations
It’s so colorful!

What to publish, what not to publish

I’ve been thinking about this idea of a public blog for a while and considering that I’m doing this post to Facebook thing, it really gets me thinking about the content that I’m posting. What if I’m posting my thoughts on an issue in which other people are involved? What if my comments on said issue can affect someone, either how they feel about themselves or about me? Should I care? Should I be able to say what I freely want to say without fear of repercussions?  But if I’m discussing things that bother me, wouldn’t it be better for me to discuss it with the people involved?

But ultimately, I’m guess I’m deciding that this is my space and by posting this onto FB, I’m allowing people to visit me in my space and how they choose to comment or discuss with me is their choice and I will respect them of their choice. Should I discuss an issue I have with other people, then that should be on me to decide on whether or not I should discuss it with them and if we should work it out, or as the boyfriend says, “if it bugs me enough, I’ll tell you.” While I hate that comment, I can understand the desire to avoid confrontation, especially if it’s not on a particularly large or pressing issue.

Continue reading What to publish, what not to publish