Wednesday, February 7, 2024

How I lost 100 pounds by going toe to toe with toxic shame

Hello friends of this blog on how I lost 100 pounds without gastric bypass or weight loss drugs. In keeping with my Happy Heart February weight loss challenge, I've been unpacking a lot of emotional health issues related to weight gain. 

Toxic shame and chronic guilt have been in my life for as long as I can remember. Starting in childhood and continuing in adulthood and marriage, I've taken too much on myself and not made others responsible for their part. I've felt guilty for things I had no part in. I've been ashamed of others' behavior as if it were my own. It's so out of control that I'm haunted by dreams of having done terrible things I haven't done. This constant oppression exhausts my resources and I have behaved in ways I shouldn't. But, while being able to forgive others readily, without being asked, I cannot forgive myself. And it just keeps spiraling down. 

Just recently, I began to really look toxic shame in the face. I recently posted about how I'm listening to the voices in my head and it's helping me understand how false and deceitful they are. I always thought that my dreams were from God, trying to get me to see some error of my ways. God, for me, has always been very punitive. Our priest suggested that these dreams may not be from God but from the devil, trying to turn me on myself. This makes sense as I've always struggled with that toxic shame, self-hatred and even self-harm. And the devil is the father of lies. 

In going toe to toe with the toxic shame and voices in my head, I'm  seeing how they've been gaslighting me into a very distorted self-image. That I'm responsible for others' problems, that it's my job to fix everyone, that I'll always fail and must be shamed and beaten into submission to avoid harming anyone. 

So I've been creating safe spaces (more on that later) to meditate on what these voices in my head are really saying.  I cover it in prayer so that the devil, who is very convincing, can't pull me back in. I've been considering where all this toxic shame and chronic guilt stems. I realize that, beginning very young, a fragile house of cards was constructed in my mind, built on lies, exploitation, manipulation, abuse, neglect, cover-ups and gaslighting. 

These have caused a false reality in which to be burdened with inappropriate expectations and responsibilities was normal, healthy and God's will. Where bizarre situations and behaviors of adults were normal and I was the abnormal one if I questioned. As a child, I couldn't do much about it. And as it was done by adults who were supposed to love me, I didn't question. 

Now, with the eyes of an adult (and a parent myself) I have been examining these beliefs and practices. I ask myself, would I consider these things safe and healthy? Would I do or allow these to be done, to a child? Would I expect this of a child? And the answer is almost always, NO! It is not right for them and it wasn't right for me. 

By shining the light of reality on this illusory house of cards I was forced to live in, it topples. Truth shows up my experiences for the dangerous, terrifying, deceitful, unhealthy, unsafe, abnormal, immoral and unnatural things they were. It exposes them as not appropriate or what God wanted for me, but manipulation, self-serving lies, exploitation, neglect and abuse. 

Even as I write this, the voices in my head are screaming. They're telling me I'm lying and exaggerating. That by breaking silence, I'm being disloyal and wicked. I fear that by not kowtowing to the shame and guilt. By saying that I don't always fail and sometimes do good, I'm being prideful. 

But the peace of God, that passes all understanding, is there too. For the first time in 59 years, I'm beginning to accept that what happened was not God's will. I'm learning that secrets that hurt should not be kept. It feels really strange. But I'm going to keep on keeping on, as Alanon says and that with practice, I'll come to a healthier understanding of what's mine and what  isn't my responsibility. 

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