I remember a time where my family gathered at the dinner table. It was not the standard gathering of parents and children, who pass the salad and spilt bread, like we see on tv shows. I never had that. Instead, we had our own version; the dinner table where my parents were almost always absent due to their line of work, and where my grandma was the one in charge of feeding us. Whether my parents were sitting with us at the table or not, I distinctly remember always having my siblings around me. We would share our school stories between us and most often, have my older sister help us with homework once supper was over. That was over 10 years ago, when we didn’t have jobs or odd sleeping/working schedules. Today, I’m lucky to even see my own twin brother more than twice in 24 hours – despite living under the same roof. I eat by myself most times or in the company of my dog, who only joins me to beg for a nibble. I miss the times where I heard their stories and shared my own.
Dr. Starla Fitch’s 2015 TEDtalk on human relationships talks about the importance of human contact. Her message is impactful in the simplest form as she merely suggests for us to give hearing, seeing and talking to each other a chance. Her message is brilliantly important: We are social beings and when social contact is denied we threaten our own lives.
Humans. We are odd creatures. Brene Brown, renowned author, speaks about human vulnerability in her 2010 TedTalk. As I heard the words coming out of her mouth, I began to question my own shame and heartbreaks and struggles. For many years, my weight has been my biggest challenge to overcome. In school I was briefly treated by a school psychologist for bulimia. Prior to treatment, I had already accepted my binging habits as a part of who I was and I did not see myself as being out of control. So much so, that I only attended therapy a few times, believing I did have control. As any teenager would, I promised my mom that to start anew and dedicate myself to school as an emerging freshman in high school. Yet, my disgusting tendencies continued well into high school and not much changed.
It was only at the end of my high school career that I’ve learned to contain my anxiety and fears through reflection and healthy eating. You can say I’ve transformed from a chocolate binging addict to a broccoli obsessionist. I had to let go of my shame, my past hurt and embrace a new me. I had to change for me, not for my mom, not for a school psychologist, but for me. I had to be okay with not knowing this new lifestyle I was to embrace would guarantee a positive change, instead as Brene Brown says I had to accept my vulnerability as a way of life and sought comfort in knowing she was right.
Here’s why: people who were unable to accept their vulnerability become numb and turn uncertainty to certainty. I numbed my pain. I ignored my therapy sessions. I ignored my mom’s pleas and dove into school work as a distraction. Out of stress, I became rude and out of frustration, my reality became terribly skewed. I was certain my family hated me when they looked at me. I was certain I was meant to be fat and forever ugly. So I became mean. I refused to attend family gatherings and made a point to have them know I didn’t want to be around them. I pretended that my struggles were my own problem and that it didn’t effect those around me. I saw how my mom looked at me, in concern, but pretended she looked at me in disgust. I pretended I was fine. I pretended I was okay and didn’t need any help. I isolated myself from family and friend and in parting ways with human connection, I ultimately paid the price.
Human connection is built on love and compassion, and one cannot receive it if one does not practice it. All those years I felt alone was because I made myself lonely. So when I learned to love myself first, I was able to shred the blame and rage I had felt for so long.
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