May 26, 2016
Fabulous By Forty
Last week I turned forty. As I celebrated, friends kept saying the same thing, "You did it - Fabulous By Forty"! As a recovering perfectionist, and someone who has trouble accepting compliments, I can't even begin to tell you how uncomfortable that made me.
After my birthday, I had my last regular appointment with my therapist. After two+ years of weekly and bi-weekly appointments, I'm transitioning to "therapy lite" (my phrase) where I have check-in appointments every couple of months. In my post-birthday appointment, The World's Greatest Therapist helped me unpack my, let's call it, less than gracious, reaction to the Fabulous By Forty accolades.
She was not surprised to learn people said loving and supportive things, nor was she surprised that I was surprised. She told me for the past two years, I've been climbing a mountain, and the entire time I was climbing, I kept my head down. I didn't look up to see how much farther I had to go; I didn't sit down to rest, and I didn't let myself get distracted. When people tried to compliment me, or comment on my journey, I shooed them away - 'Leave me alone; I'm climbing'.
She asked me, "You climbed Everest, and now that you've reached the summit, you're surprised people noticed"? I am surprised. I had no idea anyone was watching me. I just had to climb that mountain.
In 2013, when my nutritionist gave me the goal of Fabulous By Forty, I had no idea what that would look like. I just wanted to lose weight. Because of course I thought all of my problems would be solved by obtaining the body I was "supposed" to have.
That year, I did lose weight. I also lost my mind. I had a terrible job and an abusive boss, who was eventually fired after months of mediation and victim blaming. So I was skinny-ish and my boss got fired. Everything should be good, right?
One of the directors I worked with was a therapist, and a great human being. About a month after my boss was fired, there was a shooting at one of our facilities and I got triggered. I was talking to him about it and he calmly started questioning me about smells and sounds, and if I had ever talked to anyone. I said no and then said I honestly wanted to talk to someone, not about 9/11, but about why I kept ending up in jobs with abusive bosses - that the only common denominator was me - maybe I was attracting these people. Saying this out loud opened up something that had never been opened and I spent the next few days in a dark headspace. A few days later, he came by my office to check on me and I asked if he could be my therapist. He couldn't, but he gave me the name of a therapist that he thought would be a good match for me. Spoiler alert: she was. I called and she saw me the next day. I've been seeing her ever since.
In hindsight, I'm pretty sure I had what Brene Brown calls a "spiritual awakening", or what Lifetime movies call a nervous breakdown. Regardless of what happened, I'm glad it did. I'm lucky that I don't have a diagnosed mental illness. I went into therapy because I woke up one day and saw that I was the only connection between what was making me unhappy and causing me pain. And once I saw it was me, I couldn't un-see it. You can't self-help yourself out of that. You need someone to come in and offer you perspective and options for evolving past it - a sherpa, if you want to stay with the Everest analogy - someone to guide you up the mountain and help you hold your shit when it gets too heavy.
I'm forty (I just kicked my legs into the air). Am I fabulous? I don't know. That's a weird word and it doesn't suit me. I am something though, and I'm something I wasn't three years ago. I'll leave you with the mind map I created two days before my fortieth birthday.
I do what I want
Thank you for watching me climb a mountain. I didn't know that's what I was doing. I just knew I had climb up out of whatever I was in.