Katie came to work with me originally because of depression and an eating disorder. Her mother was concerned because, at twenty-three, Katie was obese. She had a good job but was plagued by high absenteeism that threatened her employment. When she was at work, she was meticulous and thorough. But there were just too many days when she couldn’t seem to make it in. Her weight never seemed to go down. It would plateau for a time, but then Katie would have a “down time” and up it would creep.
Her mother wanted Katie “fixed” so she could be happy, attractive, and able to enter into a dating relationship, which somehow had eluded her during all of her high school and most of her college years. These were things Katie wanted also. She thought if she was more self-disciplined and went on a diet, this long-awaited relationship was sure to follow. What Katie came to realize was she couldn’t have a healthy new relationship until she worked through some old, unresolved ones.
When Katie was eight, her parents divorced. At the time, Katie was both devastated and relieved. She was devastated at the loss of her life as she knew it and relieved at an end to the yelling and fighting between her parents. Over and over again, her mother told her this was for the better. Her mother assured her they would all be much happier. Katie attempted to adjust as best she could, learning how to act when she visited her father and doing her best in school so he’d be proud.
The older she got, the more strained her relationship with her father became. He remarried and started another family. It was more difficult to go over to visit because Katie and her sister no longer had him to themselves. They became just another kid in the home, except they weren’t really like the other kids who actually lived there. It didn’t seem right to her that she spent less time with him than his stepdaughters did.
In middle school, it got even worse. Katie began to make excuses for why she didn’t want to go see him. Her mother completely took her side and intervened on her behalf. As much as she thought she really didn’t want to see him, it devastated her once again to realize he didn’t try very hard to change her mind.
From that point on, her relationship with him faded out to obligation and form. There were obligatory holiday get-togethers and cards around her birthday, but that was about it. Katie moved on with her life — or so she thought.
Inside Katie was furious at being abandoned so quickly, so effortlessly by someone she’d once loved with all her heart. She thought he had loved her but decided his love was mainly one of convenience. When it was convenient for him to love her and have a relationship with her, he did. When it became more difficult, he jettisoned her like so much excess baggage. That’s how Katie came to feel about herself — excess baggage. If she was “convenient,” she was lovable.
Stung by this view of herself, Katie turned to something else convenient to love; she turned to food. With food, she found a relationship she could control. Food was always there, always satisfying — at least for the moment. Whenever she felt fearful or stressed or inadequate or angry, she could always eat to feel better.
Tomorrow: Katie’s Story, Part II
SOURCE: Chapter 7: “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?” in Every Woman’s Guide to Managing Your Anger by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.