Victims and heroes

I had coffee with my friend Elyse yesterday to chat about where she is on the gastric bypass surgery journey. It was a surprising and rather sad conversation.

Her intent is to go through with the surgery at the time. Despite the fact that she still struggles with her impulse control with regard to eating and has little desire or discipline toward exercise. These are not assumptions I am making; these are admissions she stated to me during our conversation.

Vast majority of the time, I do not want to judge other people. It truly is not my place, unless their decisions and choices have some sort of an impact on me. But I have to admit being very dismayed and distressed by our conversation. Gastric bypass, from what I have read about it, is a very serious procedure and requires a significant lifestyle change to be successful. From my own ongoing experience, I know very well how difficult it is to make that commitment and stick with it. While I have enjoyed significant big and little victories over the course of the last several months, I only consider myself about 70% successful in the sustainable lifestyle implementation and I am not facing gastric bypass surgery.

Our conversation was somewhat contentious, because I cannot now and could not in the moment understand why Elyse was even talking to me. We are not close friends, yet I have compassion for her in this struggle and absolutely no desire to see her undertake this dangerous procedure without being fully prepared to take the steps to ensure it is successful.

Throughout the course of our conversation and coffee, it became apparent Elyse sees herself as a victim. Life for her has been difficult, challenging, a constant uphill battle to achieve the accomplishments she has thus far in life. She hates herself, she hates her body, she hates her life. The surgery is her lifeline.

I called bullshit and I could not figure out how to do so in a kind and gentle manner.

Everyone has had tough times, tough breaks, and uphill battles are part of life. I have a near perfect understanding of eating her feelings, her hurts, her frustrations, and the consequences of those actions with chronic conditions and diminished health. These are things I understand completely. I also can feel her desperation and her hope that this drastic step will make her life better.

But if she cannot yet make herself stick to an eating plan and even a modicum of daily movement, it seems like doing so after the surgery will be so much harder.

Elyse was extremely kind about my near hysterical reaction to her news. She referred to me as a hero for being so honest about my own struggles. Trust me – I felt/feel anything but heroic. I walked away from our cup of coffee with a headache and a stomach ache, either from the black coffee with stevia or the turn of the conversation or both.

Or that I saw myself in Elyse’s desperation, attitude, and victimization. Self-pity is so unbecoming. Self-loathing is so much worse.

I am not the bigger, better, smarter person in a head-to-head competition with Elyse. I am not interested in competing with her on who has had a tougher life or more reason to feel like a victim. Anymore, I am not interested in competing with anyone on any front. My objective is to be better tomorrow than I am today in at least some modest measure.

Truly, I have no idea what will happen with Elyse, but I am hoping for a positive outcome. She is a kind, decent, caring person, and I cannot do anything further to help her in this journey. Maybe coffee was to thank me for being there when she needed someone to chat with, but her situation is something that I will continue to think about, care about, well into the future. And I have no idea how to turn that emotion off completely. If there was a way to turn the emotion off, would I do it? It is an eternally perplexing question, but I think not. In theory being able to turn my emotions off and on at will would make my life simpler in the moment yet so much more complicated the longer we live.

Meeting with Elyse and talking about her choices and ongoing struggle reminds me there is no shortcut or easement to improve health, or at least not for me. I just hope she will be okay with the surgery and beyond.

As for me, it seems anymore that there is something every day that reinforces that I am on the right path to all around better health. Gym this morning. Then work. Then off to find a replacement pair of gym shoes. After 4 stores and trying on 15 different pairs of shoes, I walked out with another pair of my existing shoes with a slightly different color scheme.

Finding my balance – progress.

5 thoughts on “Victims and heroes

  1. You have made amazing progress. But you chose that road and maybe in a perfect world you would be able to try the gym with you or seek other help. It is a hard surgery and hard to recover from and you need to make a major lifestyle change. She is in my thoughts and I hope she does well. But you as her friend have done all that you can do, in fact more than a lot of people would do.

  2. I was so sorry to read this. It is a shame that she has decided to go the surgery route right now. While at the end of the day surgery may be the right answer for her and she could use it as a stepping off point for improving her health – at the moment it clearly isn’t the answer. Because she isn’t ready to do what is necessary for it to be successful. Which is not a knock on her in anyway – it isn’t like i stared this journey 15 years ago when I should have. I’m sure it must be frustrating and worrisome have the conversation.

    I understand about life being hard. But the hating herself – and her body and her life. Successful surgery isn’t going to change that – that is inside her and all the weight loss in the world won’t fix that. I wish she was able to see that and spend the time/money/energy on working with a skilled therapist.

    Glad you found new shoes – you are more patient than I am – 4 stores!

    • Exactly. It’s so hard to sit across the table from her and not see myself in aspects of her attitude and turns and flow of our conversation. My hope is that her doctors wake up and recognize the signs that she’s not ready, but I am losing faith in their abilities to really see what is right in front of them.
      To be fair, it was stores we were going into anyway – M was on the hunt for some new running gear. But I have gotten so picky about gym shoes! At least I am back to having 2 pairs to rotate.

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