While I disengaged from my physical body and pretended not to notice the damage I did to myself over and over again with food, the most destructive manifestation of my denial was the detachment I felt from my conflicted misery in my role as wife and mom.
It’s extremely difficult for me to admit, even now, how unhappy I was about being a full-time caregiver. As anyone who’s had that role knows, the word caregiver fails to capture the depth and breadth of your immersion. It is a complete consumption of your mental and physical energy. In my case, it overwhelmed me. It swallowed me. I surrendered to it voluntarily—I chose to become a wife, mother, nurturer, volunteer, and homemaker—yet it slowly suffocated me. I was unable to resolve this fundamental conflict in my life: I had chosen my circumstances willingly, yet their very nature left me desperately unhappy. I was isolated, I was desolate, and, in fact, I was deeply depressed.
Certainly not everyone who makes the same life choices I did ends up depressed and obese. And plenty of people find themselves depressed and/or obese who made life choices that were entirely different from mine. But among emotional eaters runs this common thread: we feel hopelessness about changing our circumstances and are unwilling to admit the deep-seated conflicts we face.
By nature, we find ways as human beings to protect ourselves from threats. And calling into question the validity of major life choices, especially those we feel hopeless to change, is a threat. After all, if you can’t change it, why look at it? Better to keep your head in the sand and deny it. On some level, then, denial makes complete sense, at least as a means of self-preservation.
Although I had a life that looked perfect from the outside—perfect husband, perfect children, perfect house, perfect job—on the inside I was desperately unhappy yet unable to face it. That inability to face my circumstances, that denial, could have killed me.
I don’t do anything half-assed. Including drowning in denial.