Life After Loss
Today would have been my stepfather's ninety-ninth birthday. He entered my life when I was six years old, three years after my father died. I learned a lot from him, especially a strong moral code. Among many lessons he imparted on me was the need for learning patience. I thought very little of his tutelage back then but I am so grateful that I have come to a peaceful place of patience in my life.
When we think of life after loss our mind goes to the death of a loved one. There are so many other types of loss. Loss of a marriage, identity, career, home, health, and friendships to name a few. What about weight loss?
Many years ago I had two bariatric procedures a few years apart. Bariatric surgery is also known as weight loss surgery. I used to weigh two hundred and seventy pounds. I was grieving multiple losses in a short span of time, including my husband and Aunt that I wrote about in “The Last Joy Ride”. I was healing from a total hysterectomy and trying desperately to lose weight, with no patience for the journey.
I thought I was sufficiently motivated. I had a great diet coach and personal trainer. I read countless books and practiced a strict regime. I only dropped thirty pounds from all this hard work and expense. I didn't realize at the time that emotional and hormonal imbalances were blocking me. Iwas in menopause and suffering from Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid. In my desperation, I decided to have the gastric band procedure, also known as the lap band. After surgery, I struggled daily with pain and swallowing issues. I only lost twenty-seven pounds and felt like a failure. Since the medical field labels, a person "morbidly obese" the patient's psyche is exposed to a negative imprint that for me was nearly impossible to shake. I tried hypnosis and meditation, still, no significant progress was made.
After a few years, I had the band removed. I was angry and desperate to lose more weight. I thought becoming thinner would make me happier, wouldn't it? I was one of the first to have a newly approved procedure called the gastric sleeve. In spite of nearly dying from a reaction to anesthesia, the procedure was successful. I rapidly lost over one hundred pounds. My chronic back and joint pain disappeared and my thyroid stabilized. Unfortunately, I experienced jealousy, lost friendships, social anxiety, and new complexities around eating and drinking.
When a person has surgery to restrict the amount of food they are able to take in, side effects like vomiting can happen. This side effect is not always related to taking in more food than you should. I compare it with nausea a pregnant woman may experience when they smell a specific food they normally like. This eventually resolved itself. After surgery, you can no longer eat starchy foods like pasta or rice that expand in your stomach. Your esophagus makes all kinds of fun noises that everyone can hear when you drink or eat. I ate in isolation to avoid this. Once you wake up from your surgery your previous eating behavior that was numbing or soothing, is suddenly and quite literally cut from your life.
If your pre-surgery behaviors went untreated you may replace them with something else like I did. I developed bulimia about nine months after surgery. It took me quite a while to admit to myself that I had a problem. I found a clinician who treated eating disorders and she helped me heal. I'm thirteen years beyond my first procedure. Even though I have gained back about thirty-five pounds, I am happy, whole, and healthy.
I attribute my happiness to the deep inner work I have done. Healing past trauma and grief were the beginning steps to my success. Deep healing is an act of self-love that takes courage, commitment, and time. My journey was long and bumpy with many detours. My personal experience, coupled with my training as a coach has armed me with an arsenal of tools. It really is a battle.
I hope sharing my story results in increased awareness of the emotional weight we carry. I highly recommend you be brutally honest with yourself and address your inner work before you engage in surgery. You will never regret healing the past so you can embrace your future.
Till we meet again.
Kristine Callahan, CPC, CSA, CDP
411 Route 6A, Bldg. 5, Suite E
Yarmouth Port, MA 02675