I’ve been pretty open about the struggle I’ve been having lately with the mental aspect of my weight loss journey. I’ve talked about holding on when you think you can’t, and how, conversely, sometimes a complete breakdown is necessary in order to rebuild. I think it surprises a lot of people when the mental part of this journey suddenly rears it’s nasty, ugly head and becomes just as big an issue as the physical. Food and exercise are tangible things you can see, learn, manipulate, and control. But the psychological side of all this? The confidence, self-esteem, anxiety, doubt, and (at least in my case) full blown panic attacks? That’s much trickier.
The last year of my life has found me, probably for the first time in my life, with the teeny tiniest bit of confidence–I haven’t continuously felt like a worthless lump. I’ve seen the value in myself, and I’ve been able to live that.
Saturday, after a few hours at the gym, I showered and headed out to run a few errands. I had my wet, snarled hair up in a messy bun. I wore no makeup, nothing to cover the fresh breakouts (thanks, Womanhood, you bitch) that dotted my chin. I had was dressed in running tights, sneakers, and a form-fitting running shirt. Old Amanda would have never gone out in public looking like that. But New Amanda was fine with it. A little self-conscious, maybe, but fine. I was even proud of myself for doing it. Hello, progress and confidence!
Cut to a few hours later as I was getting ready to go out with one of my closest friends. We had a low-key night planned: grabbing a few drinks with people I knew at a bar I’ve been to plenty of times. No reason for any type of panic, nervousness, nothing. But as I was lining one of my eyes, I felt the first twinge that something was off. The butterflies started bouncing around in my tummy and my heart started to beat a little faster. I poured myself a drink to calm my nerves. But then I couldn’t breathe. And then I started crying–like, body-racking, curled up in the fetal position crying.
Um, what? Where the hell did all of this come from?
I couldn’t get up. I was paralyzed with fear, having a full-blown panic attack at the thought of spending time with my good friend in public, something we’ve done thousands of times–times when I’ve been much, much bigger and felt much, much less worthwhile.
This sort of anxiety is something I’ve been experiencing more and more lately, though not to this extreme extent. And it blows my mind. I don’t get it. At work, where I’m forced to be quite social, I’m fine. At the gym, I’ve started making conversation with my fellow gym-goers and the class teachers. I can look people in the eye, I don’t feel the need to look “perfect” any time I step foot outside my house.
So I don’t understand where this kind of fear is coming from. I feel overwhelmingly self-conscious when I’m out with my friends: my eyes locked on the floor, my ears straining to hear any whispers about my appearance. I feel like I’m making progress in every other mental aspect but this one–where I actually feel myself regressing.
Throughout college and even during my biggest years after, I hated putting myself in these sorts of social settings, but I did them with no real problems. I went and I had fun. But now? Apparently now the mere thought of being around a group of my peers causes me to hyperventilate and cry myself to sleep. Good. Lord.
What is it? A fear of being ridiculed? A fear of rejection? Of judgment? Or is it a fear that even though I see the changes happening within me, I’m terrified that others don’t. That they never will.
I don’t quite know how to end this post, because, for once, I have no real encouraging words or lessons learned. But I feel compelled to share these words and experiences because I know I’m not the only person having this problem. And I know I’m not the only one at a complete and utter loss for what to do about it. But I do know this:
Anytime we attempt to change the physical, more often than not, we neglect to address the always-present correlating mental issues.