Not being defined by our struggle

Thursday, October 19, 2017 Permalink

Last year I had weight loss surgery. I’ve talked about it briefly here and there and I temporarily opened a separate Instagram account so I could share stuff and follow similar accounts. But – before starting I knew that account would be short lived. I know myself pretty well you see and knew that it would take over my life if I let it. And I did not want my life to be about my weight loss surgery, as it had been (perhaps still is) about food and weight and so forth. (Indeed, I eventually ditched my Diet Schmiet blog for that exact reason!)

I DID NOT WANT IT TO DEFINE ME.

My friend Denyse has been battling with cancer and recently talked about this very issue. And – even though my weight issues (the anorexia that started in 1983 to the binge eating that still sometimes plagues me today) are my own doing, and not foisted upon me – I could kinda understand. She wants her old life back, as much as possible. She wants normality.

defined by our struggle

My aunt’s recently undergone chemotherapy and grappling with life-after and knowing she’ll be on all sorts of medications forever. I can see she’s trapped in a world focussed on her health. And I get it. I really get it. But I can also see (and kinda know first hand) how damaging it can be. When you’re there, it feels almost impossible to crawl out. I mean, how on earth can you think about anything else when you’re confronted with something like that?! It’s far too easy to become defined by our struggle.

It won’t surprise you to know I don’t have answers. When you read advice from those in the know they’ll talk about therapy to help accept (rationalise as much as possible) what’s happening, or to assist us in grieving. They’ll also recommend doing things to take your mind off it. Finding a sense of purpose outside of your illness or whatever is taking your thoughts captive. It’s suggested you do things for others, often in the hope we’re reminded that – in some ways (though it’s hard to remember in that moment) – you’re fortunate. Perhaps more fortunate than others. Perhaps not.

On that note (and in my usual self-obsessed way) it occurs to me I’m actually less likely to feel sorry for myself and play the victim when I actually have reason to. When I’m reminded of the preciousness (or finite nature) of life I’m more likely to bunker down and get the fuck on with things. I do look around me and remember that others have it WAAAAY worse.

It’s when life is going swimmingly that ‘poor Deborah’ emerges.Β And yes, What the actual fuck?! Perhaps it makes sense. With nothing to distract me I have too much time on my hands to overanalyse every element of my life. And come up short.

Anyhoo… that weirdness aside, at a time (of late) when I’m talking balance and learning from the past, I’m kinda glad I decided not focus too much on my weightloss surgery, or let it become who I am. I’m more than happy to (continue to) be defined by my sparkling personality and amazing wit. πŸ˜‰

Have you let something (in your life or that of those around you) define you?

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

29 Comments
  • Jodie
    October 19, 2017

    And your sparkling personality and amazing wit are quite incredible, Deb!! Because as much as we “see” people from the outside, it’s truly their inner beauty that ends up winning us over. Even though it takes us 50 years to realize that about ourselves…LOL!
    XOXO
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com

    • Debbish
      October 19, 2017

      True…. I think about the friendships I have now (and those I’ve retained over the years) and it’s people’s personalities I’m attracted to and make me want to spend time with them!

  • LisaD
    October 19, 2017

    This is a great post. It’s hard, really hard, sometimes for people to talk about whatever struggles they face. Or events that change their lives. I linked a blog post I made this year back in May. I had event happen in my life that did change it in many, many ways. It’s hard to talk about. But I think sharing trying times with others does help. Sharing helps us by allowing us to sort through feelings – even sometimes long after an event, in my case twenty years later. Sharing helps others by making us all feel like someone out there is rowing the same boat.

    • Debbish
      October 19, 2017

      That’s true. And I like that Denyse’s post commented on how much sharing her cancer journey had helped her but she wanted to not let it continue to be the focus. I was a bit the same re the short-lived Instagram account. I knew I’d need advice from others or to get pointers or have conversations in the early days but knew that I’d wallow in that world OR (the bigger problem) compare myself too much to those in the same situation. I was already doing that before I stopped checking the account – comparing my loss to theirs or what I was eating etc… And I could see that there were some people who years on were still really entrenched in the ‘weightloss surgery’ (wls) world – what they could couldn’t eat etc..

      Of course then there’s the balance of being in denial etc as well. I know people who’ve gained weight after they’ve lost it and have all sorts of reasons but in reality it’s because we revert to old behaviour and that’s the case for me. I know I’m eating more unhealthily than I should be some of the time. So, I’m still working on that balance.

  • Vanessa
    October 19, 2017

    Very interesting thoughts. I think we all go through phases of accepting who or what we are/have/are going through and part of it can be defining yourself by it – until you realise you don’t want to. I guess it depends which way you learn what you want?

    • Debbish
      October 19, 2017

      I think it’s a hard balance – between accepting something and trying to ‘deal’ with it and moving on so that it doesn’t suck the joy out of everything else. And far easier said than done.

      Of course I just then thought that sometimes the stuff that happens can be good (having a baby etc).

      • Vanessa
        October 26, 2017

        It’s a good point you bring up though – none of us would judge new parents for being consumed by this literal brand new thing to care for – so why do we judge if someone needs to spend time in the negative and not the positive? Is it the internet cult of happy that judges us for how long we need to spend “down” to process something to our own needs?

  • leannelc
    October 19, 2017

    I love your “sparkling personality and amazing wit” Deb – and the fact that you are constantly pushing yourself to be positive when it would be so easy to focus on the less fabulous stuff. I’ve just started tackling the 30 Days of No Complaining Challenge and finding it has been a good way of looking at those snarky, whingy thoughts that constantly float around in my head and turning them to something more cheerful.

    • Debbish
      October 19, 2017

      Oh that would be hard Leanne. I’ve tried to do the ‘3 things I’m grateful for’ thing at the end of each day in the past and wish I’d kept it up. I think I’m a lot more positive about life than I used to be. By nature I’m cynical and pessimistic but think I’m more pragmatic and accepting of the bad stuff now.

  • seizetheday20
    October 19, 2017

    This is a great topic Deb. My mother suffered bad health all my life and although she was a pretty tough cookie, illness eventually defined her. Her life revolved around the last operation, the medication, the next operation. My brother told a friend that we virtually grew up in hospitals … it’s sad but true. I just hope and pray that my health continues to be strong because I can see how quickly and stealthily it can overcome you. x #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      October 19, 2017

      Ah yes, my dad had a heart transplant and for a very very long time it was almost impossible for him to have a conversation with someone without him telling them that – almost as a starting point. It wasn’t as if he was worried about his health at that point, it just very much engulfed his life for a long time. I feel bad that it annoyed me so much…. he’d start talking to someone and then point at his chest and say he had a new one. (Meaning heart – but it got really repetitive for those of us around him.) And – for a while – he was obsessed with his medication and seemed incapable of understanding that others really didn’t want to know the specifics of the zillion of drugs he took.

      Of course the thing he probably didn’t talk enough about (or perhaps couldn’t) was about the emotional side of it all. He did get better over time, but IT WAS his life for quite a while.

  • kathymarris
    October 19, 2017

    Good for you Deb. It’s a great thing to move on with your life. I used to be defined by keeping up appearances and having all things material in my life. I was in the company of a competitive bitchy group of women who I felt I needed to compete with to be popular. I soon realised how superficial all of this was and moved on with my own life and setting my own standards. I am a much happier person for it. #TeamLovinLife

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      I’m probably far more superficial than I’d like Kathy – well, I guess I appreciate ‘some’ material items. I like to feel ‘at home’ in my house and comforted by what’s around me. Having said that I’ve got an old TV that could have been updated 5+ years ago and I probably don’t go for some of the usual luxuries. Some of the ‘art’ I have on my walls are $20 paintings from second hand stores or posters I’ve printed and framed myself. I think though I do have a better idea of what will make me happy now. And it’s more about the value of something to me, than others…. if that makes sense?

  • Sydney Shop Girl
    October 19, 2017

    That is so true about the ‘playing victim’ thing, Deb. Like Kathy in her comment above, I’m at a point where I’m setting my own standards and living life on my terms.

    SSG xxx

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      I think I’m still getting there in that respect but, even though I still need to work on my resilience, I think I’m better at confronting myself about those feelings and snapping out of it than I used to be. I think I used to wallow for far longer!

  • Emma
    October 19, 2017

    It might not surprise you to hear the word “work”. For so long, I let who I was at work be who I was out of it – I used management speak to try and reason with a 7 year old! I realised, not that long ago, that it was a way of hiding from the fact that I was completely unsatisfied with life. I know it isn’t an illness but I did feel out of control and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix things. Sometimes it about accepting where you are and deciding where you want to be and letting the past go so you can move on – if that makes sense?

    Linking in for the first time today πŸ™‚

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      Thanks for linking up! And yes I absolutely know what you mean. When I first finished full-time work 5yrs ago I realised I’d defined myself and my life by my work. Who was I if I wasn’t a project manager or executive officer…. kind of thing?! I used to look at people who’d go to work from 9-5pm and then just leave it at the door and not think about it until the next time they went into the office. I realise that’s not my personality so no matter what I do it absorbs me far too much. But, hopefully I can recognise that now and pull back a bit. Hopefully!

  • Kate W
    October 19, 2017

    Great post, Deb. I think I’ve narrowly escaped letting ‘things’ define me – and I say ‘narrowly’ because sometimes, when life is heading that way (being defined by health/ work/ parenting etc) I make a radical change and try to shift MY focus (not so worried about everybody else’s focus…couldn’t really care!). It’s not always easy to do that but the important and meaningful things stay the same (friendships, family relationships, self-care).

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      I thought about the parenting thing after someone else’s comment Kate. I don’t have kids and am pretty sure if I did they would be my life – which is how it is kinda supposed to be. But I guess we all know those people who completely lose themselves and their identity in their children (or partner) and guess – again – it’s about some balance. There will always be a point when kids leave home or become more independent and I guess that’s a bit of the problem with the whole ’empty nest’ thing.

  • Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit
    October 20, 2017

    Great post Deb.

    Back in 2007 and 2008 I left my fibromyalgia diagnosis define me. Big time. Every thought and every decision was based on whether or not I’d be well enough to actually follow it through. “Shall we do lunch next week Leanne?” “It depends how I’ll be feeling”. It was almost like I was walking around saying to the world “Hi, my name’s Leanne and I have fibromyalgia”. It took me a while to realise this was my new normal and I needed to live my best life within that new normal. To stop playing victim and just get on with it. I was definitely defined by it for far too long ….

    Not anymore. #teamlovinlife

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      Ah yes… I’ve not had any huge health issues (weight stuff aside) but I remember my coeliac diagnosis feeling like a big thing. Life changing. And it kinda was and it wasn’t. I remember though, at the time (over a decade ago now) a coeliac colleague telling me she’d stopped eating out EVER because she couldn’t be assured she mightn’t eat something with gluten in it. I understand that and have suffered the consequences, but can’t help but think that it seemed really restrictive – her whole life was being dictated by her allergy to gluten. I wonder if that’s changed at all for her now…

  • unclutteryouruniverse
    October 20, 2017

    I sure can relate to being defined by a medical diagnosis. It all started back in the mid 90’s when It was discovered that I had PCOS, when having difficulty getting pregnant. For 2 1/2yrs my life was consumed by blood tests, charts, internal examinations and surgery. Stupidly, i thought that winning the prize and getting pregnant would set me free from the medical diagnosis that I had become and I would be able to enjoy a pregnancy. But it was another 10mths, and after my beautiful boy was born that I finally said enough was enough and this PCOS was not going to define my life. Yes it takes over at times, but there is more to me than that. I removed myself from the support groups, email subscriptions and only seek info on PCOS when something has changed. I struggled with the whole keeping a gratitude journal thing, even though I knew the benefits of doing it. So I have changed the concept up a bit and have a sparkle book and note down things in my day to day living that make me sparkle. I’ve found this is great for letting me see the positive.

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      Ah yes… I went through fertility stuff, artificial insemination etc in my 40s in an attempt to have a child. I still remember ranting to my closest friends (after returning from a visit to a shopping centre) about all of these other bloody people who seemed to find it so easy to get pregnant and those that had a partner didn’t realise how good they had it etc… One of my girlfriends responded to say she was ‘disturbed’ at how bitter I sounded. That was really confronting (and hurtful) at the time. She went through similar stuff many years later and I wonder if she could relate a little more, but it probably impacted on some of my relationships at the time – I didn’t want to hear about others getting pregnant or their parenting issues. I was absorbed with being able to have a child. And in reality – after a few years when I pulled the plug on the attempts (and IVF) it was because I realised I HAD to move on rather than put stuff on hold in the hope I’d have a family.

  • Natalie
    October 20, 2017

    It’s easy to be consumed by a major or long term health issue, Deb. Glad you decided to go on with your sparkling personality and amazing wit.

    • Debbish
      October 21, 2017

      Ah yes, and I think with the weight loss surgery thing, it’s reminding myself it’s still just a tool. I’m still responsible for what I eat and drink and how much I move etc… I’m conscious that I’d liked to have achieved more weight loss but it’s my own doing – too much unhealthy stuff. I know a few people who have had subsequent surgeries cos the gastric sleeve hasn’t worked, but think it’s a bit about reminding ourselves it doesn’t define who we are. It’s not the answer or a cure. Just another tool we have at our disposal.

  • Jo
    October 20, 2017

    As indeed you should be defined by your sparkling personality & amazing wit πŸ˜‰

  • celine
    November 20, 2017

    Touched..!! Life is a synonym of pains and struggles but with a strong belief and thought process everything seems to fall in line. After all life is all about moving on. None of us can imagine the amount of pain a cancer survivor goes through but I am sure the love and care of near and dear ones help soothe all the pains..

    • Debbish
      November 21, 2017

      Oh yes… I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday who was feeling down – waiting for more rehabilitative treatments following a cancer diagnosis. She talked about that balance of wanting to ‘move on’ but still being kinda ‘stuck’ in recovery mode.

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