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5:10 pm - Posted by Gregg

Old Haunts From Our Past JustStopEatingSoMuch.com

As a grown adult who has not only survived child abuse, but thrived in spite of it, I never imagined I’d suddenly be dealing with the pain (and even shame) all over again at this stage of my adult life—especially since I spent a lot of time examining and processing the goings on and then even writing about them in my recent memoir.

So imagine my surprise when similar issues cropped up anew—in this case at the hands of my father—and I’ve found myself having to once again defend and explain my position to strangers, even though I (and my sister) are the ones who were abused for years and years.

People who’ve read my book often ask me what my father, who’s still alive, thinks of it, given that he’s not portrayed in a positive light (albeit a very truthful one). My answer is simple: My father, who is a textbook definition of a narcissist, hasn’t read my book. And he never will. This isn’t because he’s bitter. It’s simply because he’s just not interested in any subject (or tome) in which he’s not the central character.

Although initially blaming most of the horrors of my sister’s and my childhood on our mother (a textbook definition of a monster), with time and growth, we can now see that my mother was mentally ill (her claims to her second husband, who enabled her up to and even after her death, included that she was a French princess who escaped her country to escape tyranny and later adopted me from Iran and my sister from Germany). For the record, my mom was born and raised in Florida. Oh, and neither my sister nor I were adopted—despite everyone believing we were; and then thinking we were the pathological liars because we tried to convince them otherwise (even when we were young, school-aged children).

This hindsight about my mother is important because, in my humble opinion, it makes my father and my mother’s relatives more culpable for my mom’s sins against her children since they left us alone with her and never interceded—not even when her flights of delusion went public. Then and now, my father was only interested in serving his own interests.

I once joked to my sister, it’s amazing that she and I can tie our own shoe laces given some of the horrors we’ve lived through. Many of the events were so horrific that people think we’re exaggerating to this day. Thus, despite my recent book that shares my story, my sister and I don’t talk about our childhood often. And thankfully, there’s usually no need to. That was then—this is now. And through insight, self-love and inner strength, my sister and I are both not only able to tie our shoes, but are living very happy lives and even have very contented marriages (despite the suggested mold offered by our parents).

But recently, our father has once again put my sister and I in positions in which where we’ve been forced to explain to strangers why we aren’t closer to him and why we don’t have all the information they’re seeking. My father (still a narcissist and still stubborn) was in an accident (a result of his own ignorance) and ended up in a far away hospital, delirious. Out of the blue, we received phone calls from caseworkers (who had to initially hunt us down via internet), needing to know why my dad was in the circumstances he was (at the time of the accident) and why we weren’t able to answer more questions in regard to such and beyond (inquiries regarding his health, contact numbers, etc.).

After a couple phone calls with the hospital caseworkers (who I must admit were very understanding and nonjudgmental), I admitted to my sister that the pain, humiliation and shame of being an abused child had all come rushing back. There I was, on the phone with strangers, trying to get them to believe me when I explained why circumstances were what they were. These calls brought me right back to a time during my teen years—when I called the local police to report my mother’s abuse. Because most of what I was reporting wasn’t physical abuse, they didn’t take me seriously and never responded to my call for help.

Because of these recent incidences with my dad, my sister revealed that she was feeling the same kinds of things I was. And although we live in separate parts of the country, my sister and I were connected by an unspoken bond of emotional numbness for several days after.

I suppose that carrying the title of an adult survivor of child abuse never really goes away. There are always going to be circumstances that bring issues up—especially when the abusers have never admitted their wrongdoing or asked for forgiveness. This can apparently happen even after we have forgiven the offending parties in our own minds (and for our own benefit).

It wasn’t too long ago that my sister and I got word that our mother had passed away—long after her actual death. We hadn’t been notified at the time. We hadn’t been asked to attend the funeral. We hadn’t been considered at all. It became a little clearer why this was the case when we tracked down her obituary online, which stated that my sister and I were [still] “adopted” children. The real kicker to all this is that a few of my mom’s relatives—who know we are not adopted—not only attended the funeral, but also did not question why we hadn’t been invited to attend or even wonder aloud about the obituary full of untruths.

So it seems being a “survivor” of child abuse would be a verb rather than an adjective. And the biggest reminder my sister and I take away from these recent events involving our father is to never feel guilt or shame—not only when describing circumstances, but also (and especially) if people don’t understand or even think we might be being dishonest when talking to them about such.

No matter what any of us has survived in the past, the fact that we’re able to talk about it, find understanding in it—and eventually freedom from it—is worthy of a gold medal of courage. And it seems there will be times when, even after we’ve moved on, people who haven’t (perhaps even our abusers) will force us to once again get mired down in the process that requires us to extract ourselves from otherwise horrific situations (even if just memories from our past).

But just as it was during our healing periods in the past, the mental work—and belief in ourselves—is worth it.

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September 2, 2015

Still drinking soda?

12:07 pm - Posted by Gregg

Fun fact: When I weighed over 450 pounds, I was drinking 6-12 cans of diet soda a day. Today, I weigh around 175 pounds (and have for well over a decade) and I don’t drink any soda — ever. Still think soda can’t harm you? Check out these statistics on soft drinks and disease from the Harvard School of Public Health (click here), which includes findings such as “People who consume sugary drinks regularly—1 to 2 cans a day or more—have a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who rarely have such drinks.” Giving up soda and replacing it with water is one simple thing you can do to have a lasting effect on your physical (and even mental) wellness — even without drastically changing your eating or exercise habits. What are you waiting for?

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August 10, 2015

On and off the couch

12:50 pm - Posted by Gregg

As someone who’s often on the run (well, on the power walk), I often “read” books by listening to them via audio book. So it’s always a treat to find time to sit down and read a “real” book (even if I’m not actually turning pages since they’re usually on an e-reader… Ah, technology). Recently, I went “old school” and read a book that required me to actually turn the pages (how many calories did I burn per page, I wonder…). Lucky for me, this tome was a real page turner and, in fact, had all the qualities of an actual audio book since even though reading, I felt like the author was speaking directly to me.

Wisdom From The Couch (2014, Central Recovery Press) was written by clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Jennifer Kunst, who also writes an online column for Psychology Today. Her approach to the often tricky subject of finding inner peace is tackling it from the inside-out. In other words, she examines why we’re constantly plagued by various mental maladies and does so with entertaining examples that include references to pop culture and even children’s stories.

Only an author with Ms. Kunst’s talents could write about these subjects with a refreshing “Tell it like it is” take — without ever being too in your face or too morose. She fully acknowledges that life is full of challenges (and that it always will be). But her terrific approach offers humor, solace and (ultimately) a quiet understanding that let’s us know it’s okay to not be okay. Or, more accurately, to not be our perceived definition of “okay.” As I read the various chapters, which cover everything from thinking we should be living an entitled life to the old adage that slow and steady wins the race, I found myself nodding, laughing and being overcome by a tranquil state.

Suddenly, while reading, I felt less like a patient on this doctor’s couch and more like I was dishing with a friend about the human psyche (my own human psyche as it were). Could it be I’d found a salve for my worrisome thoughts that didn’t come in the form of some high calorie treat? (Heck yeah, I did — which begs for a heartfelt thanks to Ms. Kunst.)

This is the fun, whimsy and major innovation offered in Wisdom From The Couch – Ms. Kunst entertains with her expert take on the human mind, which in turn helps one to gain a greater understanding of their own thought patterns and why we sometimes become our own worst enemy (whether when trying to lose weight, achieve career success, find love, strengthen relationships or whatever we might be facing). Ms. Kunst’s overall message is that we’re okay even with our so-called foibles. In other words, we are made up of all of these challenges and can actually turn the table and view them as gifts that have come to us as a result of experiencing life at many different levels.

The message might sounds simplistic, but that’s only because Ms. Kunst delivers her prose in a way that soothes and nurtures. We’re not only left knowing ourselves (and even others) better, but also loving ourselves in this moment for being the human creatures that we are. With this renewed insight to the human condition, we can face everything (even life’s next round of challenges) with gratitude. And this is true wisdom that one can carry into every situation life has to offer (whether on or off the couch).

As someone who is often wanting to be reminded that “everything’s okay,” I found a real sense of peace and solace in this book’s pages. Thus, I wanted to share my find with other Just Stoppers. After all, if I’m okay, you’re okay… And with this book, Ms. Kunst offers us a sure footed path to not only know that, but to embrace it.

Have you read this book? What’s your take? Or do you have another recent book that you’ve read that you want to comment about? If so, all comments are welcome, below. (Thank you!)

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January 13, 2015

The love you save

4:58 pm - Posted by Gregg

Quick question…have you dared to begin a love story with yourself? Don’t laugh. Don’t blush. And please, don’t scoff. The more we think of ourselves with affection (no matter what we weigh, how we look or which goals we have yet to accomplish), the more we create an atmosphere that can initiate and foster real change. All we have is today. All we have is now. So why not love ourselves even as we work to change our eating or exercise habits?

For years, as I struggled to take off over 250 pounds of excess weight, I thought of myself as a lowlife loser who didn’t deserve any kind of happiness as long as I was wearing a 60-inch belt around my waist. But until I started to be gentle with myself and think of myself as a friend, I didn’t achieve my goals of true and total health. This includes our mental states. So remember: Real success (no matter what the goal) starts with real love…and that begins with you loving yourself. (True story!)

Photo Source: Spark People

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