Today is another anniversary.
One year ago today, I stepped off the bike.
That may not sound like a big deal, but it was. Up until June 5th, 2011, I was absolutely chained to my exercise bike. I had to burn off every calorie I ate before I ate it, then keep going into the night until I hit a predetermined, ever-increasing number of calories burned, or passed out. Some days, even if I’d hit the requisite number of calories, I’d have to keep going, sometimes until 3 or 4 in the morning. That was my whole day.
One day, when I was touring with my last show, we had a drive from Toronto to Ottawa, with a stop to do a show in between. I left my house at 9 am, and we didn’t get into our hotel until 11 that night. For the last hour of the drive, I’m pretty sure I didn’t shut up: “Do you think the hotel gym will still be open? Sometimes they close at 11 . . . Can we call to find out? Do you think they’ll have a staircase I can run up and down if it’s closed? Maybe I can just run back and forth in the hallway if I’m quiet . . . ” I was beyond caring if I sounded crazy. I NEEDED to make up for the day in the car. (The gym was 24 hours. I didn’t see much of the city that trip, but I could draw you a very detailed picture of that hotel gym.)
WGT would regularly challenge me to just step off the bike x number of minutes before my predetermined calorie burn. She was met every time with a flat out “NO”. I wasn’t budging on that one. I couldn’t imagine it. How could I?
Finally, one Friday night, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. The bike was driving me crazy. The only way I could NOT get on the bike was to sleep the whole day and not have to eat anything. The next day, I would just keep myself asleep. Every time I woke up, I’d take more medication and go back to sleep. Finally it stopped working, and I had to get up. I had to get on the bike. I was never going to be able to stop.
The morning of the 5th, I read my meditation of the day. My friend Dawn had recommended the book The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie about a month before, and a lot of the passages really resonated with me. June 5th’s was titled, “Combating Shame.”
Watch out for shame.
Many systems and people reek of shame. They are controlled by shame and may want us to play their game with them. They may be hoping to hook us and control us through shame.
We don’t have to fall into their shame. Instead, we’ll take the good feelings – self-acceptance, love, and nurturing.
Compulsive behaviors, sexually addictive behaviors, over-eating, chemical abuse, and addictive gambling are shame-based behaviors. If we participate in them, we will feel ashamed. It’s inevitable. We need to watch out for addictive and other compulsive behaviors because those will immerse us in shame.
Our past, and the brainwashing we may have had that imposed “original shame” upon us, may try to put shame on us. This can happen when we’re all alone, walking through the grocery store or just quietly going about living our life. Don’t think . . . Don’t feel . . . Don’t grow or change . . . Don’t be alive . . . Don’t live life . . . Be ashamed!
Be done with shame. Attack shame. Go to war with it. Learn to recognize it and avoid it like the plague.
I knew by that point that my eating disorder wasn’t about the weight, really, but couldn’t figure out what else was keeping me chained to my behaviors. This put a name to it: shame. Being so ashamed of everything about myself meant that I couldn’t stop exercising. Exercising was something I should be doing. That’s what the media tells us. I was so ashamed of the thought of anyone finding out that I wasn’t exercising anymore, I couldn’t stop it. I was ashamed, too, that I couldn’t stop it.
People kept asking me what I was afraid would happen if I stopped exercising, if I started eating, if I started gaining weight. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s because I wasn’t afraid, per se, I was ashamed. Shame is what dictated that my food be chopped in a certain order. I wasn’t afraid of a mis-chopped apple, but I was ashamed that I hadn’t chopped it correctly. It’s what dictated that nobody see me without my make-up and hair done. Not afraid, just ashamed.
Shame was something I could fight. I may still be ashamed a lot of the time, but it’s easier to live with than a nameless fear.
It’s been a year. I never got back on the bike. In fact, I sold it over Christmas. Yes, I still exercise. Yes, sometimes it’s more than I’m “supposed to”. But now it’s at a healthy weight, and without being chained to it. Yes, I’m still ashamed, but I’m choosing to live with the shame rather than kill myself trying to erase it. I’m told there are other ways to get through it. I’ll let you know if I find them.