Feeding Demons

Feeding Demons

I like buying vodka tonics for my alcoholic friend.

Before he stopped drinking, it was his favorite cocktail.  Mine too.

For him, the vodka tonics cause cascades of problems in his life, both physical and emotional.  One day, he turned a corner.  He acknowledged that he has a problem with alcohol, and announced that he was going to stop drinking and work on getting healthy.

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I am super proud of him.  I cheered him on that first week, then 2, and was ecstatic when he got his 30 day chip from AA.

I took him out for dinner to celebrate, and got him a vodka tonic.  Just one, of course, because I didn’t want him to go overboard.  I just wanted to reward him a little bit.  He *loves* vodka tonics.

Ridiculous, right?  No decent person would sabotage a friend that way.

So why do we do it with food for our friends who are struggling with healthy eating?

Not the friend who’s swearing off dairy for a month because she’s bloated, or the one who wants to be down 5 lbs. for an upcoming social engagement.  No, not the vanity dieters.

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The ones who have struggled with food addictions, with weight issues, with emotional dependency on food for years, decades, even an entire lifetime.  The ones whose quality of life, and quite possibly length of life, is being destroyed by food.  The yo-yo dieters, the ones who hate having their pictures taken, the ones who feel so self conscious when they’re out in public they develop anxiety, the ones on multiple prescriptions before they’re 40.

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They struggle greatly.  If they’re lucky, something clicks one day, and they commit to making a change.  Just like our friend the alcoholic, they decide to take back their life.  You encourage them.  You cheer them on.

Then you set them up for failure.

You have great excuses:

“It’s a birthday, for heaven’s sake!”

“Christmas only comes once a year!”

“One teeeeeeny tiny slice of cake is not going to kill you!”

“Ohmigosh, it’s not like you can go FOREVER without mashed potatoes!”

“Everything in moderation!  Just don’t overdo it!”

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It’s like buying an alcoholic a vodka tonic.  Do you know that research shows sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine?  EIGHT TIMES.Seriously, the research is right here. )

Imagine, you’re addicted to cocaine.  You want to stop, you really do.  It’s ruining your life.  It’s ruining your health.  It’s ruining your self esteem.  Yet, 90% of what you ingest everyday to survive has some cocaine in it.  You find out that all the “healthy” food you’ve been eating has all sorts of cocaine in it!  OMG!  You tiptoe around to find food that won’t trigger your cravings and the inevitable spiral that happens once you give in.  Then your friends keep offering you cocaine!  Just a little, of course.  Can you imagine?

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Not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic.  Not everyone who eats a cupcake has a food addiction.  But if your friend has a serious battle with food or weight and is trying to get control of their health and their life, please don’t sabotage them.  Don’t encourage them to “cheat a little”.  Don’t bake them a cake for their birthday, or encourage them to splurge one night at dinner because they “deserve it”.  I know you mean well, but you’re hurting them.  Respect their boundaries.  It may be that they hit a spot where they can have that teeny tiny slice of cake once in awhile, but only they know when they’re ready for that.

Take food out of their celebrations and personal rewards.  Pile up some strawberries, or some other favorite treat that works in their eating plan.  Want to reward a milestone? A gift card for some smaller clothes.  Get a photo frame for a “before and after” reminder of how far they’ve come.  Join them on a walk or bike ride.

Most importantly, love them through the process.  There will be setbacks, there will be failures, but keep pushing and supporting and cheering them on.  Just don’t give them a break with a Kit Kat bar.

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A Knight in Shining…erm….Perfectly Pressed Khakis

A Knight in Shining…erm….Perfectly Pressed Khakis
A Knight in Shining…erm….Perfectly Pressed Khakis

 

 

Last Sunday, I wheeled my little psychedelic flower patterned carry on luggage into my “home away from home” hotel in Houston a little after 9 pm, anxious to get my room keys and get settled in.
“HEY! Terese!” A big smile from the man behind the counter, and not just because I’m a Platinum Elite member. The last time I heard him say my name, it was not with the jovial brightness that was now standing in front of me.
7:15ish on a Thursday morning, and my hotel room phone rang. I was running late (of course), and it took a second for me to comprehend what the sound was. The hotel room phone? When was the last time anyone had called me on a hotel room phone? Even the hotel now sends text messages to me after check in to let me know they’re glad I’m here.

“Hello?”

“Terese.” A solemn statement, not a question, short and hard.

“Yes?”

“It’s John, downstairs. Just say yes or no. Do you need help?”

“Ummmm, no. I don’t think so?”

“Are you alright?”

“Ummmm, sure?”

Audible release of breath. “OhthankGod! OK, I have your keys down here. Just stop at the desk and I’ll explain.”
My keys? Thoroughly confused, and with a half of my hair straightened (which makes me look kind of like this)
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i headed downstairs.

That’s when I found out I’m an idiot.

I was greeted by a very pale, nervously laughing Laura (desk agent), and a semi-wild eyed John (manager).

“Hey…where’d you find the keys? I didn’t even know they weren’t in my purse.”

“They were in your car.  Which was running.”

Running?  I’d gotten out of that car 12 hours ago.

Laura had come in for her overnight shift, and after a bit noticed that there was a car in the parking lot with the headlights on.  After an hour or so, she determined someone must have just left them on.  Since they only have one person at the desk overnight, it was policy not to leave the office area, so she didn’t go out to turn the lights off.

When John came in, she told him that the lights had been on all night, and she was really surprised that the battery wasn’t dead.  When she pointed out the car, he recognized it as the one I was driving that week.  (I am, after all, an Elite Platinum member.)  He went out to see if the car was unlocked so he could turn off the lights.

“I got about 5 feet away, and realized it was running….and that’s when I went cold.  The car was unlocked, so I opened the door, and saw your security badge laying in the passenger seat.  I turned off the car, and tried to think of the most likely scenarios.  The most logical one was that someone had taken you.”

I let that sink in for a second.  These poor people thought I had been abducted.  No wonder Laura was the color of a fish belly.

I thought back to the night before.  I was at the office late, then stopped to pick up some chicken wings.  I had called my daughter to catch up with how her week was.  I heard myself tell her I was going to jump off because I had just gotten back to the hotel, but then remembered ‘one more thing’ I needed to tell her.

“No purse, so maybe it was a robbery, but that still didn’t explain where you were.  I realized I needed to check the trunk, although it wouldn’t be likely that someone would have parked you here and then shoved you in the trunk.  Anyway, as you know, you weren’t in there.  So, I was back to abduction.  I went back in to call the police, and another scenario hit me:  What if someone had taken you out of the car and into your room?  It was possible that you were being held against your will.  I decided to call your room first, just to make sure.”

“How far down the list of scenarios was the one where the stupid woman got out of her car, gathering her briefcase, purse, and carryout dinner while yacking on the phone with her daughter and just forgot to turn it off?”

“Didn’t make the list.  We actually have training classes on guest safety, and abduction scenarios are covered.  I never thought I would need that training.”  I realized his hands were shaking.  I had terrified these poor people.

I don’t know how much I tried to simultaneously thank them and apologize, but it was a lot.  I couldn’t believe I had done something so careless.  I gathered my keys, ran back to my room to finish my de-frizzing activities, and headed to work.  All day, I was bothered by the thought of how much I’d upset Laura and John, and incredulous that I’d left a car running all night without it being stolen….AND only sucking up 1/4 tank of gas!

There’s no way to sufficiently thank people for caring about you, or apologize for scaring the holy hell out of them.  My poor attempt was a box of fine chocolates for Laura, and a giant coffee mug adorned with pictures of superheroes for John.

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Tonight, I grabbed a couple of diet Pepsi’s from the refrigerator in the Pantry section, and asked him to put them on my room.

“What are you doing here on a Sunday night?”

“Someone called in sick, so I had to step in.  Saw your name on the list, and figured it wouldn’t be a dull evening at least.  Got your keys?”  Big smile.

“Eh, maybe.”

He handed over the keys to a room on the second floor, and upstairs I went.  Except, somehow, the security latch was deployed on the door.  To an empty room.  Which is kind of impossible.  I hauled my little suitcase back downstairs.

“Oh, no.  Now what?”  I explained.

“How did that happen?  Nevermind, I’m switching your room.  I’m putting you downstairs next to the office.  It’ll be easier to keep an eye on you.”

Thanks, John.  Elite Platinum has its rewards.

When You Love Someone With Depression

When You Love Someone With Depression
When You Love Someone With Depression

Whether it’s a spouse, a child, a parent, or a good friend, chances are you know someone who is battling depression.  Sharing a portion of your life with someone who is dancing with this insidious disease will be an experience like no other.  Like being on a rollercoaster that constantly changes speed.  And direction.  In the dark.  Without a pre-determined track.

Like many other diseases, severity and symptoms can vary widely.  Is it curable?  Yes, but its rate of recurrence kind of discourages the word “cure”.  Is it fatal?  It can be.  Is it contagious?  It sure feels like it.

Unlike other diseases, there are no real tried and true treatments.  Or causes.  There are a GAZILLION treatments, and absolutely no idea which one will work for your loved one.  There are also a BAJILLION (yes, I can make up words…shut up about it) professional opinions about those treatments.  PROFESSIONAL.  As in, this is what they specialize in.  Yet, if you see 3 of those professionals, they’re likely to propose 3 different types of treatment. That’s really reassuring.

At least you’ll be able to tell right away when you’ve found the right path to managing / beating this thing.  Oh, wait….no you won’t.

It’s messy.  And scary.  And emotional.  And frustrating.  And you’re not even the one suffering!  Well, yes, you are.  But you’re not the patient, and I’m pretty durn shure it’s even worse for them.  Pretty durn.

If you love someone with depression, you already know all this, and you don’t need to hear it again.  So what I really want to tell you is that it’s ok.

It’s ok.

It’s ok that you sometimes say you have to go pick up something from the store just so you can go sit in a parking lot and cry.

It’s ok that you never know when it’s time to be silent, when it’s time to be reassuring, when it’s time to encourage, or if you’re enabling.  It’s a crapshoot.

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You’re allowed to become frustrated.  It’s hard trying to be the strong one when you don’t feel like you are, or even can be, anymore.  You’re allowed to mourn the loss of the relationship that you shared with your loved one BD (“before depression”).

It’s perfectly normal to think that you either A) caused this, or B) can fix this, even though you’ve read all the books and know that neither is true.

It’s ok to have the occasional panic attack.  No, you’re not the only one who goes into full blown hysteria when you text twice with no response, and then, God forbid, have a call go to voicemail.  An hour later, when you finally reach them and learn that they were napping or left their phone in the car, you may WANT to slap them, but you should restrain yourself.  Also, extra points to those who have perfected silent hysteria.  Just keep driving, or working, or trying on clothes like your heart isn’t pounding out of your chest.  Good job!

You’re allowed to put some responsibility on the patient.  Listening to Enya while lamenting that everyone would be better off without them is not ok.  Go ahead and temporarily confiscate that iPod and suggest a walk in the park. Just make sure you keep in mind that the real bitch of this disease is that it inherently makes the patient not want to recover.  Thank you, limbic system, for this little twist!

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It’s ok that when Robin Williams died, you had a major meltdown.  Just remember that for every Robin Williams, there is also a Charles Schulz or Winston Churchill or Mark Twain, all of whom battled depression but lived full lives.  While that doesn’t help when you wake up in the middle of the night terrorized over the thought of losing this battle, it will help you talk yourself down once the sun comes up.

It’s ok to get angry.  When you’ve had those good days that turn into good weeks and (dare I suggest it?) good months, then out of nowhere, in an instant, you see the physical change in their eyes and expression, and know that the slide has come…it’s ok to cuss and rant about how life is unfair.

It’s ok to continue to live your life.  While your loved one may not be able to face the neighborhood pot luck, it’s ok for you to go.  Depending on the circumstances, it may even be a relief that you go.  Nothing piles guilt on your loved one more than feeling like they’re stealing your joy and ruining your life….and no matter how bad the food at that potluck is, they’ll truly feel like they’re a burden and keeping you from happiness.

You never know what life is bringing.  Embrace the good, acknowledge the bad.  Be patient.  Appreciate each day for what it is.  Let them know that you’re in it together.  Depression sucks, but life doesn’t have to.

It’s ok.