Lithium and Peanut Butter

When I was 18, I spent, I don’t know, a week, maybe more, maybe less, in a mental health facility. I spent the first night on a stiff cot, in a barren room, with a video camera staring me down and a bright light on. After earning my own room with a bed and a nightlight, I spent the remainder of my time in therapy sessions (individual, group, family), accepting a slew of male visitors including my physically and emotionally abusive boyfriend (I don’t think I had a single female friend at the time), conversing with a depressed addict about Ecstasy, and eating a shit ton of peanut butter. I was diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorder (of which the latter diagnosis did not hold), given a prescription for Lithium and ushered home. Over the next two months, I gained 60+ pounds—Lithium and peanut butter to be blamed.

As you might imagine, a 60+ pound weight gain did not aid my attempts to thwart depression, to conquer my low self-esteem, or to grapple with my co-dependency issues. Sadly, the hospitalization, the meds, and the dramatic physical ballooning only drew me even further into the dark tunnel in which I was residing at the time. But, dear world, look at me now! There was light! There was light!

Now, after seven weeks of sobriety, I must note that I have turned to peanut butter again.

But, let me be clear: I am not depressed. I am not manic. No bipolar stint here. Nothing to worry about. It’s just that without the carbs and sugars in alcohol (and I should’ve finished writing this a week ago when I was in a virtual Jiffy haze because, thankfully, it has gotten better) I am constantly hunting for and many times consuming sweets. And what better sweet than the smooth comforting protein-packed goodness of a spoonful of sugary peanut butter? Unless, of course, you add a Hershey Kiss.

Watch it, girl! Watch it!

When I was a little girl I was very creative, but I was not an inventor. I wanted, desperately, to be an inventor. Not necessarily of the gadget-inventing variety, but just an idea-sparked soul that had a halo-like light bulb cloud plastered above her head. I wanted to show the world that I, too, was worthy of a patent. My mother tried to persuade me to write a party planning book for kids as my talents lay in the realm of imaginative story-telling and play. Because I had both the writing skills and the great ideas, she thought I’d make a mint. But, I suppose I didn’t see that as a grand enough scheme. Didn’t see that as inventive. And, I was a bit short in the task commitment department.

So instead, I developed Yippee-Yippee-Yum-Yum.

YYYY (as we will shorten it for the rest of the evening even though I still want you to say Yippee-Yippee-Yum-Yum in your head) was a brilliant culinary adventure. A little pinch of this (chocolate syrup to be precise), a dash of that (sweet clover honey), and equal parts peanut butter and marshmallow fluff and voila! It was golden brown and super tacky and made your cheeks sort-of tighten and tingle. And, it was my creation! In an era when it was acceptable to eat four bowls of Lucky Charms in one sitting (okay, maybe it was just my household and not an entire era), I was doomed. My sweet tooth and my expanding stomach were constantly being driven by desire and being fed by such delights as YYYY.

So, slowly, and it wasn’t until my teen years, I transformed from a bean pole to what my male college friends referred to as “thick.” Even at my thinnest, I was thick. And at my thickest, I was probably still—occasionally and in the middle of the night—eating YYYY. Or, at least some facsimile thereof.

What we do for comfort! Or, at least, some of us. (I know some of you run for comfort instead of slugging bourbon or filling your face with a sick, sweet putty-textured concoction. I admire you. I really do. And, I am working on it.)

Obviously, I am not adept at filling the hole that is deep within me with anything worth filling it with. I am constantly seeking outside relief, something concrete to put inside my body. It’s tangible and metaphorical and sensory and, well, toxic. Consequently, I am always seeking more. Then more. Then more. And, I am not the better for it. Ultimately, I am not seeking YYYY (a coping mechanism that I learned early on), but am, I believe, looking for my soul. I am, if I daresay, looking for God.

Yeah, I made that leap. I did. And, I didn’t even know I was going to do it. That is the beauty of writing sometimes. You never quite know where you are going to land. And, here I am, landing on the divine.

The divine. Hmmm. I am reading a book called Recovery—the Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice by Rami Shapiro. This book, while focusing on the twelve steps (you know of AA fame) and the more tangible addictions, spends quite a bit of time speaking about humanity’s addiction to the perception of control. In fact he maintains that the reason most people are addicted to something, someone, some philosophy even is “to distract ourselves from the suffering brought on by our failed attempts at control.”


You see, the reason I picked up the book is because I am consciously trying to broaden my spiritual base. I am trying to will God to present herself/himself (remind me some time to tell you a story about the Peruvian language that has no marker for gender) to me. Did you catch that? To will God! Talk about an addiction to control. I am not just trying to harness the outcome of situations say, but am trying to force God to speak to me. If I do X, then of course God will do Y. I am totally mad!

And, this seeking. Seeking. Seeking. It also is maddening.

In this same book, Shapiro makes reference to a Zen proverb about searching for the ox while riding on the ox. You see (and you probably already know this, oh running type), the divine is already there. I can stop looking and just be. I don’t even need to fill “the hole” as there is no hole. I only imagine that there is a hole. I am filling myself with junk just to create an illusion of control which is, in fact, completely out of control. Whoa!

God is in the cracks of my distorted sense of broken self. Because, God is in everything.

This may seem very obvious to you, but, as you can see, I need to remind myself of this over and over and over and over. Especially lately, when I haven’t been feeling it. (Although, I see it as no accident that the day I decided to quit drinking was the anniversary of my grandmother’s death—a woman who has comforted me more times than I can count.) I am too much in my own head. I am trying to think through everything when, in actuality, maybe I need to just let be.

In Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, he discusses the fallacy of Descarte’s “I Think, therefore I am” and Sartre’s understanding about that fallacy. (Sartre said “The consciousness that says ‘I am’ is not the consciousness that thinks.”) Basically, Tolle uses these two viewpoints to discuss awareness and the idea that if we were nothing but thought, if thought was what made us, then we couldn’t possibly be aware of our thinking. That awareness and thinking are two different states of consciousness and thinking is more of the ticker-tape variety of being.

I have practiced “controlling” the ticker-tape. I have managed, mostly, occasionally, at times to alter some (I said “some”) of the negative and/or obsessive track that has been known to play on what I have referred to as my “cerebral turntable.” I understand the techniques of thought stopping and replacement, but that obviously hasn’t been enough. It’s been a lot. I am grateful. Especially to have the capacity to problem solve and create. But, there is more and I have been seeking it. Seeking something that already exists within me, within you, within the antelopes and the atmosphere.

I have been so much in my head that I haven’t been able to see what is in front of me. I am driving through life much like I drive on the road. One day, on the same route that I have driven a gazillion times, I will notice a building or landmark that has apparently been there all along. I just never saw the friggin thing and I’ll ask myself “When did that pop up?” but I know better than to ask someone. I know, by the look of the storefront, that it has been there since at least the 80s. I am that unobservant. It is embarrassing. It is sick. No wonder I have trouble with directions. I am on auto-pilot—physically and spiritually.

So, what to do next? I guess just open my eyes. Turn my head from side to side and notice more than just the traffic. Because, I am convinced that there is more out there. And, I have to find a way to lay off the peanut butter.

Thanks for witnessing my process.


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