A 45-year-old fat man trying to find his inner skinny dude.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


It's not what you think.  This is about therapy.

I am nothing if not well-counseled.  What I have learned is that childhood is very important, that the injuries you suffer then are injuries you carry with you for life.  If you are self-aware enough, have some help, and do the work, you can get beyond them.  They still happened, but they don't have to continue to cause you anxiety or rule your behavior.

I take this on faith, because I'm not there yet.  My inner second-grader guide me more than I think.  I'm trying to be aware of these things.  I've been thinking about that kid lately.  As a kid, I felt pretty bad about who I was.  That hasn't changed.  As a kid, I ate to medicate.  Some people do drugs.  Some drink.  I ate, mostly.  My parents sent me to my first shrink when I was ten or eleven.  His goal was, I think, to make me thin.  I am pretty sure he was a Ph.D.  I'm sure he came highly recommended.  I went one time.  Here's what he did:  he hypnotized me.  I kid you not.

I had to look at a flickering light, then close my eyes and concentrate on whatever flickering I could see through my eyelids while he convinced me that I wanted to be thin enough to wear a new, blue bathing suit.  I think he suggested that I ride my bike for 30 minutes a day.  I remember being antsy.

The guy was not unkind.  But even then I thought it was bullshit.  I thought hypnosis was silly, and I didn't feel as though I was in whatever trance I was supposed to be in.  What I knew was that I was supposed to be serious about the process.  It was for my own good.  My folks were concerned.  I have always been a pleaser, a good do-bee, and I was there, too.

There are two things that strike me about this now, more than thirty years later.  First, I figure my parents thought it was bullshit, too, since I only went one time.  Second--and this is probably of primary importance--I wonder why the shrink didn't explore why I was overeating so much.  It seems so obvious.  I was eating as a kind of medications.  Think about the line in Mean Girls, when Tina Fey's voiceover is itemizing the various lunch groups in the school cafeteria.  One table is full of (fat) girls "who eat their feelings."  It's funny because it's true.  It's also heartbreaking.

My reading about depression tells me that the concept that kids can be depressed is a recent development.  The idea was that depression is rooted in childhood injury and that children cannot develop depression while still children.  Something like that.  That belief no longer carries the day.  I assume that's why the guy didn't ask about my eating.  I am appalled, though at what passed for therapy.  Mostly I ended up feeling like a disappointment.  I hope my parents didn't pay too much. 


  1. My inner second-grader pops up a lot too :) But you know, there are some good things I get from that child-I-was: that person was a lot freer, less frightened, more creative, bolder... a lot more what I want/think the "true" me to be.

    It's hard for me to track when I started feeling depression. One incident stands out when I was about 20, where I couldn't "shake it off," and I was really scared that I had gone insane. But when I reflect on my childhood, the earlier years from maybe 8 to 12, I now wonder if I was having some sort of a trauma experience that led to a bit of PTSD, more than clinical depression.

    I dunno. But I do find that I've been able to treat a lot of emotional and psychological stuff in physical ways, which is kind of cool.

    p.s. I think hypnosis is silly too, but maybe I just haven't seen a good example. I can self-hypnotize pretty darn well, but I use it more as a tool for reflection and exploration than trying to achieve anything.

  2. And by the way: I've used several DVDs from this place (totally unpaid endorsement) and I really like them, they're quite helpful. The only ones I have are narrated by Naparstek herself, so I can't speak about the other "brands." In her early ones the sound quality isn't brilliant, but even so they're worthwhile.


    p.s. my verification word was "balls". How awesome is that? :)

  3. Thanks so much for the link! (And sorry it took me so long to say so.)