Eat a Sandwich. That was almost the title of my blog site. It is a phrase that has been hurled at me more often than I care to remember . From a homeless man in Bend while on a walk. A woman standing outside an AA meeting as I ran past. And a lady at my son’s lacrosse tournament as I strolled by, with ironically enough, a sandwiching my hand. Then there is my brother in law. He was known to toss that line my way on more than one occasion.
“I want to tell them to F*%k off,” I often vented to Karen during our therapy sessions. “The guy sleeps on a park bench and yet he’s concerned about my carb intake?” I snarled, my words dripping with sarcasm.
“So, what stops you from responding?” Karen asked calmly, trying to keep me focused.
What does stop me?
Anyone who knows me is aware that behind my friendly, witty (and humble) demeanor, I have a temper. An Italian/Scottish one that can be sparked without much warning. Although I manage it much better now, back a few years ago, at the height of my illness, I was unable to control my emotions effectively. I would stuff them until something like a crusty cereal bowl, traffic, or poor service, set me off. So, when a comment was made about my body by a random stranger, one might think it would ignite a response.
But it didn’t. Despite the increased frequency of comments made about my appearance, whenever I was struck with one, it caught me off guard. When I got, “honey, you are too skinny” from the women in a spa dressing room, I made me beeline for a bathroom stall. And with “you should get off that treadmill and go get a burger,” from an elderly guy at the gym, I suddenly became engrossed in the infomercial on the big screen above, pretending not to hear. I was rendered speechless. I was incredulous on how my body became open for public comment. From perfect strangers, no less. Why? How?
Don’t get me wrong, I am totally guilty of judgmental thoughts about other people. What I think they should or shouldn’t be eating, wearing, or saying to their kids. But to say it out loud? To someone’s face? To a person, I know nothing about? I just wouldn’t. So, when I found myself on the receiving end of such words, I froze. Only when lying in bed at night or in the shower would I fantasize about what I could have said;
Get a job.
Back away from the fries.
Nice hair. What’s left of it.
“I want to say SOMETHING to these people when they stare or comment,” I said to Karen, anger welling up inside of me. I was tired of feeling ashamed. Like I was doing something wrong by being out in public.
So, during our sessions, we practiced. Role played. Brainstormed responses, I could whip out of my pocket quickly, like a gunslinger in an old western. Don’t think, shoot. I couldn’t see myself saying some of the things we came up with, but damn it felt good saying them in that office.
“Bottom line is these people are not saying anything I don’t already know; they don’t’ have to tell me!” I said frustrated.
“So, say that,” Karen said softly.
And with her words, my body eased, and my mind cleared, revealing the response that fit perfectly.
I know, right?