I am in the process of purging so I decided to check out the definitions to see what the true meanings are. The entries include:
- to rid of whatever is impure or undesirable; cleanse; purify.
- to rid, clear, or free (usually followed by of or from )
- to clear of imputed guilt or ritual uncleanliness.
- to clear away or wipe out legally (an offense, accusation,etc.) by atonement or other suitable action.
- to remove by cleansing or purifying (often followed by away, off, or out ).
When I study those definitions, what I keep reading is cleanse. When I think about purging, I conjure an image that resembles a ritual of purification. It feels liberating and results in clarity and refinement. But those are just words without any emotions intertwined.
Over the past year I have been engaged in, both consciously and unconsciously, an ongoing purge. I have been actively trying to purge extra weight and fat from my body, replacing it with lean muscle and strength. I have been purging negative emotions such as guilt and anger that have traditionally held me back. I have purged toxic relationships from my life to ensure that I am surrounding myself with love and positivity. At the same time, small pieces of me that I may not have intended to be flushed with the cleanse have disappeared as well. When we go through such cathartic and intentional processes to help us advance in our lives, there is often collateral damage that we don’t necessarily recognize until long after the dust settles.
What I have found most interesting about my purge is that I am missing aspects of my personality and psyche that I did not actually want to hang on to but, nonetheless, the absence is felt. As a child of abuse, I recognized long ago that once I removed the abuser from my life, the need for abuse did not end. I could not understand how I would need to be abused when I worked so hard to separate myself from the toxicity. However, it was familiar and, with that, came a form of comfort. Despite the pain I suffered through and my deep and desperate desire to no longer be emotionally entangled in an abusive relationship, when the ties were severed, I was somewhat lost. There was energy that was expelled to either manage the abuse, deflect the abuse, absorb the abuse or heal myself that was now stagnant and needed to be redirected. My immediate and unconscious response to this was to abuse myself mentally. While I purged the perpetrator, I was still the victim and did not immediately know how to redefine myself.
In recent weeks, similar experiences and feelings have arisen related to the changes in my body. For my entire life I have had perceptions about myself and made excuses for myself as a result of how I viewed myself. I was not pretty enough so therefore I could not accomplish____________. I was not thin enough so therefore my life was lacking ______________. I was not athletic so therefore I could not be expected to _____________. I have used my own shortcomings as scapegoats to prevent me from feeling and processing certain disappointments in my life or to hold me back in order to not feel vulnerable and exposed. As I have been shedding layers of my body, revealing something that looks very different from what I have become accustomed to, I am suddenly unfamiliar with what I see and feel. The person that was locked behind extra weight and excuses is now becoming more and more visible to the world and it presents me with a new set of challenges to confront.
When I set out to change my life from a physical standpoint, I imagined that every pound shed would be a liberation of sorts. Every clothing size that melted away would bring me closer to a reality that I have longed for. And, to a great extent, that has been true. I feel strong in ways that I never have before. I feel like I stand on much more solid ground. I feel proud of myself. At the same time, there is a part of me that feels unfamiliar and insecure. Things are changing so rapidly that I feel like the momentum that is leading me to a destination that I desperately want to reach is also giving me whiplash.
Over these past few weeks I have been undergoing a process of purging my closets, removing clothing that no longer fits my body. Some items I had been wearing were remarkably oversized and were continuing to hide the leaner and fitter body that was beginning to reveal itself underneath. I spent one afternoon sitting on the floor in my bedroom closet and went through piles of clothing items that had been a part of my life for years. There were memories packed in with them that were very hard to let go of. Some of them felt like old friends I had to say goodbye to. Coupled with that was the fear of what would happen if I let these go and then gained the weight back. Would I then have to go through the most painful process of buying larger clothes? Should I just keep these locked away in storage containers in my basement or garage? I shared my feelings with some friends who mostly encouraged me to complete the purge and not hold onto the clothes, removing the possibility that I would think of them as waiting on me to return to their respective sizes. I imagined them as a group of mocking naysayers who were taunting me from inside the large blue boxes. They represent the insecurity and uncertainty in my head that does not believe that I can accomplish my goals. And, without my excuses and scapegoats, I am completely vulnerable to their attempts to take me down.
While I am excited about the prospect of buying new clothes that are smaller, more stylish and look great on my ever-changing body, I am also very overwhelmed. Some months the weight comes off faster and the sizes shrink more rapidly. It feels like a state of flux that will never end. It feels like the minute I get used to my new clothing items I will have to say goodbye and move on to something new. There is no ability to grow attached and develop a meaningful connection. It feels scary and lonely. Last night I walked around in my closet again, filling up several more large bags with clothes that I had not yet been able to detach myself from and I felt sad. The feelings were so confusing because my rational brain told me I should be jumping for joy that I was so much smaller than I had been even 6 months ago. But instead, I was lost. I looked around at the growing vacancies on the racks and shelves and longingly wished for some comfort and stability. Equal parts metaphor and genuine feeling, there was loss and pain and suffering.
I woke up this morning with a feeling of emptiness after a restless night filled with dreams of self-sabotage. I feared that this change in my life was only temporary and that I was teetering on the brink of reversing all that I had worked so hard for. Fortunately, those are just feelings and don’t necessarily represent reality. My life has changed. I have purged lots of excess weight but have not yet cleansed myself of the baggage that accompanied it.