I took the boys to visit their grandparents this weekend while JB was off on a hunting trip, and one of the first things my father-in-law said to me was, “Hey, are you getting skinnier?” I blushed and preened and practically simpered in response, because in fact I have been putting a lot of effort into diet and exercise lately, and for someone who doesn’t see me on a daily basis to actually notice the difference was amazing. The instant those words came out of his mouth I felt leaner and stronger and almost like my waistband loosened a tiny bit right then and there. I caught sight of myself in the mirror and saw the results of all the hard work I’ve put in lately: stronger arms, a less pillowy midsection, upper legs that aren’t quite as jiggly as they were a month ago. Go ME, I thought, strutting by.

Not 24 hours later, I was staring at photos on my phone, confronted with my own image. There I stand, posed with my mother-in-law and my boys. We’re all squinting into the sunlight with the blue waters of the bay in the background. I’m wearing slightly baggy shorts and a patterned top that seizes my chest in an unflattering grip and wearily blouses out below. I was completely dismayed by the dumpy woman I saw, all sag and shadow. To my eyes, I looked fleshy and overstuffed, possibly wearing a maternity shirt. I suddenly felt enormously discouraged: what’s the point? I should just eat twelve donut-topped pizzas right now because FUCK EVERYTHING.

Nothing about my body changed between self-confident Point A and I-am-a-beached-pilot-whale-please-moisten-my-hide Point B, of course. It’s all in the upstairs wiring, which apparently has more than one section that’s been chewed to sparks by angry rats.

It’s the same thing with alcoholism, I’ve found. I have these stretches where I feel so positive about the days of sobriety I’ve been building. Then suddenly out of nowhere some ugly thought pops into my brain, usually a shameful relapse-related memory, and I have to physically shake my head like a dog to try and get rid of it while all my confidence seeps away, replaced by doubt. Exhausted at the idea of having to remain vigilant and aware for the rest of my goddamned life. A full-bodied toddler-tantrum sensation of it not being FAIR. God, what’s the point?

It would be nice to not be so easily swayed, in either situation. But it is what it is and so what is there to do but acknowledge the incoming tidal wave of murky bullshit — oh hi, it’s you again — and let it go by. I try to picture it just like that, actually: it crashes over me, but eventually recedes. Meanwhile, I’m still standing there.


80 Responses to “Let it go by”

  1. Anonymous on September 8th, 2013 11:03 am

    Ooh, I love this post. My struggle is with anxiety and depression, but still – it comes on like a wave, and I just have to remember to hold on until it recedes. Because it eventually will. Here’s to remaining upright in the midst of all of life’s tsunamis!

  2. Sarah on September 8th, 2013 11:26 am

    Exactly. Learning the same thing over here recently – to recognize what’s happening and remind myself that I’ve been through it before, and will be again.

  3. Katharine on September 8th, 2013 11:37 am

    Oh, oh, oh. Thank you for this so much. I needed not to feel so alone today.

  4. vedjen on September 8th, 2013 11:51 am

    Perfect. This post. You. Thanks.

  5. honeybecke on September 8th, 2013 12:08 pm

    …chewed to sparks by angry rats.

    Oh yeah. I’ve got some of that business going on in my head too. It doesn’t make it EASIER knowing everyone has these similar problems but I suppose it does help me to know I’m not alone.

  6. Erin Baebler on September 8th, 2013 12:20 pm

    I can totally relate to this. How is it that the same stomach can seem somewhat flat one day and the next: a poofy, pale bit of extra cargo?

    We all know these feelings recede but it’s easy to forget during the wave. I’ve come up with a list of things that lift me up while I wait: a short list of trusted friends to call, some quotations that never fail to steady me, a few favorite songs at the ready.

    And, try not to think about the rest of your life time frame. That’s why the one day at a time is so heavily stressed. Just today for now. Just today.

  7. Emily on September 8th, 2013 12:37 pm

    One of the things I’ve yet to understand about us as a species is how and why we are so, so, SO hard on ourselves. This isn’t a you thing, or a me thing, it’s everyone. We are our worst critics, and our inner voices tear us down so badly. I have no solution, but for what it’s worth, I think you’re amazing and I don’t even know you. You inspire me so much.

  8. Joselle on September 8th, 2013 12:46 pm

    I really needed to read this today. I’ve been living with anxiety and depression and weight issues since childhood and now I’m dealing with the postpartum waveform and I’m fat again. Just when I feel like I’ve gotten on top of it all, got my shit together, it just hits me and I’m back to feeling helpless and horrible. It passes. And then I’m fine. But I don’t know a life where it doesn’t eventually come back. Sucks. But it is indeed what it is. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Michaela on September 8th, 2013 12:54 pm

    This. Just this. Yes.

  10. Koa on September 8th, 2013 1:35 pm

    That was really lovely and the part about the rats in your brain, oh hell yes. I went on a run yesterday that cleared a lot of rat bites out of my head, so your writing today hits the spot perfectly.

  11. Sara on September 8th, 2013 1:52 pm

    Amen, sister.

  12. H on September 8th, 2013 2:21 pm

    What you described is exactly what I learned to do for my anxiety. I use a technique called mindfulness. I acknowledge the feeling/thought is there, that it is a valid feeling and I can choose how to respond. I make that choice and move the thought away. Like your wave analogy, I use a technique in which I am seated in a theater and the feeling or thought appears on the screen, then the screen changes. It helps me stay away from the “rabbit hole” I used to fall into.

    It is hard, but you’re strong enough.

  13. Margaret on September 8th, 2013 3:34 pm

    Something I’ve always carried with me since my teens when I first read the book was the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, from _Dune_.

    “I must not fear, fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I shall turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

  14. Kristin on September 8th, 2013 4:07 pm

    I know how you feel about the feelings about appearance. I go through this all the time, where I feel pretty good about myself and then I see a picture of myself and it’s just as you described. I have noticed in pictures of other people that sometimes they look bigger than they do in real life. I always want to shout–”THAT IS NOT HOW YOU LOOK.” But, of course, I don’t. All that to say, I understand. And I think you look fabulous, for real.

  15. Barbara on September 8th, 2013 5:33 pm

    Oh yes. I know that voice well. We all have That Voice. The one that says, “I think I’ll have a second helping.” Of course it’s the same one that after you eat it says, “I wouldn’t have done that if I were you.”

    It’s the Dark Side. The Boogey Man. Always looking for a way in. It’s what the Boogey Man does, the nature of the Dark Side. We do have to be diligent, fair or no, about oh so many things. For me it’s a roller coaster of sorts, and always has been, always will be. That’s just life, I figure. And as long as I stay on a fairly even keel, I’m good with it. Gotta be.

    Great post.

  16. ginger on September 8th, 2013 5:37 pm

    “Exhausted at the idea of having to remain vigilant and aware for the rest of my goddamned life.”
    That, right there, is why the AA people are all about “one day at a time”. I am not an AA person but I think they got that exactly right. Don’t give in to the urge to stare into the abyss of The Rest of Your Life. Start with today and let tomorrow take care of itself. Or with the next hour or minute, if today seems too big.

    You know all this, of course, but sometimes it helps to hear it again.

  17. Mary on September 8th, 2013 5:43 pm

    This sounds like I feel about some of the compulsive behaviors that I struggle with, and this especially resonates with me: “Exhausted at the idea of having to remain vigilant and aware for the rest of my goddamned life.”

    Sometimes, I think it would be so much easier just to fall in with my behaviors and not bother to try to be better than that. And it WOULD probably be easier, but it would also mean that I would feel as bad as I have ever felt for the rest of my life. And that means that it isn’t really an option. Thanks for reminding me that I am not alone.

  18. Robin on September 8th, 2013 7:33 pm

    I do the same thing with pictures… I’ll be having a great time, and then later I’ll look at the images and wonder why my hair is always so dumb and my ass is so flat and do I actually make that face?

    But you know what? Fuck that photo, because photos don’t always tell the truth. A photo is not who I am, and it isn’t how I felt.

    I mean, I totally do that yo-yo-ing from confidence to abyss — and the vessel doesn’t ever change — but there are so many more reasons why I am lovable and awesome. Same goes for you (and you, and you, and all of you).

    I’m grateful to you for being so candid about your struggle with alcoholism, too… I’m in the other camp, so I have crazy respect for what you’re going through.

  19. jill on September 8th, 2013 7:36 pm

    I had no idea alcoholism was so much like grief, with the coming in waves things. Here’s hoping you are able to stand strong and let the waves wash over you without knocking you down.

  20. Philip on September 9th, 2013 12:41 am

    And thanks to that last line, I now have “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John running through my head. But cheesy though it may be, it’s still a fun pop song, and trite or not, you can still use that chorus as a reminder. (I wrote “as an incantation against the darkness”, but that sounded too “ooh deep and spooky!” once I had.)

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  22. SS+1 on September 9th, 2013 5:44 am

    Due to the sheer fact you’re willing to be open and honestly share your triumphs and struggles with us is a true testament to how strong and courageous you are. Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration to the countless numbers of people you reach through your corner of the internet.

  23. Kristianna on September 9th, 2013 6:41 am

    This. All of it. Our brains are the worst enemy of happiness sometimes.

  24. Amy M. on September 9th, 2013 7:23 am

    I’m right there with you! I can see the scale dropping, the pants feeling looser, but still see a flabby *insert random body part here. Stay strong and good luck with your daily struggles!

  25. Karen on September 9th, 2013 7:30 am

    I swear the camera is my enemy! I feel great and think I look great in the mirror. I get a few occasional looks from men, but I do realize I’m a middle aged mom of 3. Still, I feel good about my appearance most days…until I see a g-d picture of myself. My double chin gains a life of its own and I just cringe. Why can’t I look like I feel? Thanks for putting what we all feel into words. I don’t feel so alone.

  26. C on September 9th, 2013 8:22 am

    Thank you. Yes.

  27. Anne on September 9th, 2013 9:02 am

    Yep, to all of this. Add my thanks to everyone above.

  28. Mariya on September 9th, 2013 9:19 am

    I know the feeling!!

    A few years back I wanted to look at weight loss and fitness a different way so I decided to analyze what it was I liked about being thinner and more fit – aside from looking better. I realized that what I liked most was how I felt. Emotionally and physically. I felt like I was able to move more freely, lift things more easily, sleep better, have more energy and over all just felt happier. It’s worked wonders for me – makes it easier to stay motivated. Don’t get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth like you wouldn’t believe and would love to drown myself in really unhealthy food and not get off a comfy couch but that stuff makes me feel like crap.

    I’m on my 2nd and last pregnancy and I am soooo looking forward to taking my body back for ME never to again be controlled by another being other than myself. I also have MS and regardless of what I do, at some point or another it will take over my body for a period of time but I want to feel confident and proud in knowing that for 97% of the time my body is ALL mine so I can give MS the bird.

    So here is some completely unsolicited advice…maybe try doing something similar. Try looking at weight loss and fitness in a different light? It may help you as much as it’s help me.

    Regardless, Keep on keepin’ on lady you’ll hit your stride :)

  29. shriek house on September 9th, 2013 9:54 am

    Urgh, I know that full-bodied tantrum sensation well… I get it when overwhelmed by my kid’s behavioral health issues. As my dad is fond of saying, No one ever SAID life was fair! But as *I* say, we still get to have our feeeeelings about it.

    I like your wave metaphor too. Sometimes we just have to make like a barnacle until the tide o’shit recedes. Hang in there, you are doing GREAT and you are an inspiration to many, myself included.

  30. Angella on September 9th, 2013 11:09 am

    I so hear you on this. I ran a HALF MARATHON on Saturday and was picking apart my mid-section in the mirror this morning. Sigh.

  31. Katherine on September 9th, 2013 12:27 pm

    Read The Untethered Soul. Can’t remember who it’s by–it’s on Amazon and I picked it up in paperback at Costco. It’s my bible for times like these when I’m caught in my own brain’s destructive spin. It’s a little hard to get through in the first read but now I grab it and just dive in whatever section feels right when I need to. Hang in there. You’re just like the rest of us.

  32. Amy N on September 9th, 2013 2:24 pm

    Thank you! I have been unhappy with my weight for some time (and I know it is all individual, but would really give my left tit to have a body like yours!) I’m starting again with trying to be more concious about what goes in my mouth. Being concious about moving more. I won’t be doing any marathons or sprints up skyscrapers any time soon, but I am trying. And those pesky thoughts do make it difficult!! Nice to know I’m not alone.

  33. Donna on September 9th, 2013 3:24 pm

    Hang on. You’re doing great in every sense of the word.

  34. Anne on September 9th, 2013 3:24 pm

    I always turn to the essays of Anne Lamott and Robert Fulghum when I have these kinds of thoughts. Robert Fulghum talks about the “wave” as a bull, ie., he is a bullfighter and the bull (fear, depression, etc) is coming right at him. But, like you, he has realized during his lifetime that he has the experience to let the bull pass him by, that it always does, every time.

  35. NancyB on September 9th, 2013 4:02 pm

    You are amazing the way you capture that feeling.

  36. Alison on September 9th, 2013 4:48 pm

    Timely post for me. I was feeling pretty cute this morning, then caught sight of my reflection in the car windows mid-day, and thought “who is that MOM?” There was nothing cute there – just mom all over. And…funk ensues. It drives me crazy, because as you say, I’m the exact same person as I was two minutes ago when I felt really good about myself. I like the wave concept though. I’ll have to try something like that.

  37. Carrie in MN on September 9th, 2013 4:48 pm

    Do you ever read Captain Awkward? She calls it the jerkbrain – that little asshole in your brain that says hateful things to you and tries to shame you. Mine is shitty to me about my depression and about my pillowy midsection. The depression part is a double whammy – the jerkbrain (or the rat-chewed wiring) is the depression AND it’s shitty to me about the depression (”what a pathetic idiot – no real reason to be depressed, just f’ed up brain chemistry, and you’re going to be stuck on these meds for the rest of your damn life”)

    Anyway, somehow picturing it as a little jerkwad in my brain makes it a little easier for me to tell it to STFU.

  38. Frannie on September 9th, 2013 5:22 pm

    At those times of weakness, call someone who understands, who will let you let it out. Do some anger work. I’ve been working on myself as well. You look and are amazing-tell the shitty committee in your headto sit down and be quiet. Something or someone in your past or youth told you to listen to all that negative crap. You. You are good enough. Underline that. I’m probably screwing this up, but thank you for sharing-it takes *courage*. Yes, I’m the commenter who had an ex whose purpose was to make me feel misunderstood, not good enough, a horrific person. All while he’s going through anything I wrote to distort it- because he had something to hide. But it left me with a gaping hole if self-doubt, etc. But it takes strength and work-glad you have a good support system and working on it. Love and light.

  39. Casey on September 9th, 2013 7:27 pm

    Lose the weight! you’ll feel SO MUCH better! stop drinking, you’ll love your body and your mind! Stop eating wheat, you’ll feel like a miracle!

    Nothing I have done EVER has shut that bitch up. Fit into THOSE jeans, wear THAT bikini, be THAT weight, oh crap. That voice is just always there.

    Does it drive us? Or hinder us? women are so hard on ourselves, and on each other. Jeebus, I wish for PEACE.

  40. Carley on September 10th, 2013 12:20 pm

    You are just so, so amazing at putting into words the same struggles that go through my own mind. When it’s happening I feel so alone and like I need to just get it together. But, then I read this and I know that I’m not alone and that everyone has their own version of these bad thoughts. I’m going to try that out next time the thoughts are dragging me down…let them crash over me like a wave and be proud of myself for still standing.

  41. Laura on September 10th, 2013 12:56 pm

    Thank you for this.

    When I battle my inner critic that tells me I’m not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough…is how it affects how my 12 year old daughter learns to deal with her insecurities. I don’t want her to have an inner critic.

    I worry about that…a lot.

  42. Nancy on September 10th, 2013 6:08 pm

    This is why the motto is “one day at a time”, right? It isn’t about this eon of life ahead of us – it’s just today, and what choice we make today.

    I had a yoga teacher who encouraged us to think of our quiet moments of practice like looking at a fishtank. Sometimes as you look calmly ahead, a blue fish will swim into your field of view. You think, “oh, a blue fish” and it swims back out of view. You don’t assign great meaning to it, why was it a blue fish, I hate blue fish, I don’t look good in blue, who sent that blue fish here. You just acknowledge what you saw and it’s gone. She encouraged us to think of our thoughts, the “chatter” that is always barging in on our peace, like the blue fish. Don’t assign meaning or attach emotion to it. Just say, that’s a thought, and let it swim on by.

  43. MuthaTeresa on September 11th, 2013 1:08 pm

    I’ve been reading a lot about grief lately (a story for another day), and recently came across something that really, finally hit home with me. Grief is like waves in the ocean.

    For ME, these same shitty feelings I have about alcohol, my weight/appearance, my effing parenting skills, all of it…they feel like waves, too. Just when I think I have my footing, one of those bastards knocks me back down.

    Ya know?

  44. Laura on September 11th, 2013 6:13 pm

    Yes, you are still standing there. And I’m so grateful that you didn’t get swept away by that tidal wave.

  45. alimartell on September 12th, 2013 8:30 am

    I can’t personally speak to the alcoholism, but hoo boy do I have that same upstairs wiring when it comes to body image. I work really hard with food and exercising and then there’s that…god it’s a battle I will fight for the rest of my life bring on the cronut burgers.

    But yes. You’re still standing and that’s some sort of battle won right there.

  46. Mary Clare on September 12th, 2013 9:44 am

    Linda, great writing again! My anxiety about my life escalates about a week before my period. I hate to blame the damn hormones, but I’m going to do it for a minute. When it happens, I have trouble sleeping as everything I think I’m doing wrong in my life sloshes around in my brain. It is overwhelming as the big wave that you describe. The wave always ebbs, though, and I come out the other side a bit more thoughtful about how I want things to be and how to get there, but also gentler on myself about taking time to get there.

  47. Phoebe on September 12th, 2013 2:32 pm

    Oh, oh yes. All of this, except that like so many other posters, I struggle with anxiety. I’m currently in the throes of a fierce internal battle brought on by so many things (grandmother dying, job searching, dating) that I am helpless against the wave.

    The irony is, I lost the bulges I so desperately wanted to lose, but I lost so much of myself in the process. I certainly wasn’t this bundle of anxiety 6 months and 15 pounds ago.

    Either way, thank you for voicing the things we all feel.

  48. melanie on September 13th, 2013 7:43 am

    This is how I feel about my weight – I worked so hard to lose a lot of it, and then I stopped being vigilant and I gained a bunch back, and I keep being hit with “this is FOREVER, I can never STOP, I will always have to be careful and pay attention and exercise” and it makes me shouty and stabby. Because I don’t want to, I want to do it and get it done and eat donut pizzas forever after and have it not change anything. Why is everything so UNFAIR?????!!!!
    Meaning, I agree with you totally and it’s not fair and I love that you come out and say what’s in my head all the time.

  49. Laura M. on September 15th, 2013 7:14 pm

    Holla! I feel this too. I thought it had something to do with my girlie hormones and how they make into a werewolf, basically. Fun times!

    If you have any inclination please, please make time to read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I just read it and Brene talks about basically the thing you just blogged about. It is a book that I will reread each year and get something from it every time. It’s relatively short but such a great read.

  50. Shannon Lell on September 30th, 2013 11:35 pm

    I come by every now and again to see how you’re doing. As I was reading tonight this post struck a raw nerve, perhaps one of those exposed faulty ones you speak of.

    I have such shitty wiring when it comes to body image, too. A bad picture can send my self-esteem into a death spiral. It actually happened last weekend, so I totally understand.

    But then you went and related it to alcoholism and having to be so, so vigilent and that is so, so not fair because vigilence is HARD, yo. So hard. I feel that way too, but about other stuff. Namely, my temper and my proclivity for thinking that things suck. Sometimes you just don’t want to have to pay attention, you know? DAMN IT! (Que toddlery tantrum.)

    I don’t know my point, but just that I hear you. And, I think pot crossed my brain wires, not rats.

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