It's Not Me, It's You -- An Excerpt.

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by Stefanie Wilder Taylor

 

For my column this week I decided to give you all a chance to glimpse a bit of crazy from life in the form of a chapter from my new book It's Not Me, It's You that comes out July 7th. I will also be on the Today Show on Thursday July 9th talking about the book and my ex-love alcohol. Join me won’t you?

 

HITTING THE BEE

 

I broke my therapy cherry at the tender age of seventeen. My first therapist’s name was Irma and she was maybe sixty? I wasn’t an excellent judge of age at this point despite the fact that Botox was years away –but besides the wrinkles I had a few hints; the woman was wearing bifocals and the most useless clothing item ever invented -a shawl - so that was a good tip off that she was probably eligible for the senior citizen discount. I worried that a woman in her sixties wouldn’t be able to relate much to a teenager’s problems but I tried to keep an open mind.

 

I was having “food issues” as well as “I hate my stepfather issues” not to mention that I could not go on more than two dates with a guy without feeling suffocated and things were not going well at home. I was a simmering stew of teen angst, anxiety and anger. My mother, who was a mental health professional, felt strongly that counseling could cure everything from multiple personalities to third degree burns. Maybe I should have known better than to consider her advice as gospel, considering my less than functional upbringing, but, hindsight is 20/20 and given the time I’ve spent in therapy, hindsight would have saved me enough cash over the years to be driving a Bentley Continental home to my own Malibu mansion. So my mother made the decision that I needed help –in fact, she made it a condition of my staying at home that I go talk to someone about why I couldn’t get along with my stepfather.

 

Besides being about five generations away from me and reminding me not so slightly of a cafeteria lunch lady, Irma’s bifocals magnified her eyes to such a cartoonish size that when she looked at me quizzically over the near sighted top half, it made me think of one of those creepy big eyed kid lithographs. It was disconcerting, to say the least. But the real deal breaker was that Irma was more than pleasantly plump and, unlike me, didn’t seem to be agonizing over it in the least. She’d long ago given in to the allure of polyester pants suits and who could blame her? The woman was probably not packing up after a long day of doling out compassionate nods and hitting the nightclub circuit, she was more likely going home to rearrange her Hummel figurines and knit a tea cozy. How was I possibly going to tell her that eating two cookies made me feel like I may as well get in the car and drive through every fast food joint within a five mile radius because fuck it I’ll always have a huge ass and no self control! without having to add, “Not that there’s anything wrong with it!”

 

My appointments were every Saturday morning and they usually followed a Friday night keg party which brought with it a mean hangover so most sessions I spent running back and forth to the bathroom or begging for Tylenol. Luckily, most of the time I saw her was during flu season so she didn’t think too much of it. But I didn’t start getting along with my stepfather any better either.

mrsncook
07.07.09

What a great story! Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I didn't know whether to laugh or cringe. lol

I remember my aha moment where I realized it's really not me. I grew up hearing about how everything was me, even when it wasn't. My family would get together regularly for a "discussion" about what my problem was and how I needed to fix it, five of them to one of me. I learned early on to sit in a corner so it wouldn't come from every direction. They entered me into therapy, which I resisted. I only got worse as I got older. (Looking back, I wonder if they ever thought about trying love instead of criticism.)

My self esteem was nonexistent, and I never understood why some people said I was harder on myself than anyone ever was on me. I became self abusive, and I spiraled out of control. It wasn't until I had my first child and got married that I began to get a grip. Having a child whom I was determined to be a good mother for and having a caring husband who wanted me to be the best I could be worked wonders. Over the years, I improved by leaps and bounds and found the self confidence I never had as a child.

When I was about 30 years old, I started to notice things more and more. A neighbor told me they remember how harsh my father was. I was shocked, because my family said my father was kind and loving, never harsh, and it was all in my head to think otherwise. My family had me convinced I was crazy until the outsider told me what they remember. So it wasn't me! Someone else pointed out how skinny I was as a child when they saw my picture. All these years I believed my family when they told me I was fat, ate too much, etc. I felt cheated. A dozen years of eating disorder thinking I was fat, and I wasn't.

Slowly these little things added up, and I kept seeing again and again how wrong my family was. Then one day it hit me. I was obsessed about the formula for a successful visit. I had the fruit plate, veggie plate, tea, soda, etc so they would have what they needed. After the visit, they told everyone how nice it was to visit me and went on and on about the food. They hardly had two words to say about visiting my children and me! I thought about the last time I had a party with a plate of cookies, chips, two kinds of soda my husband and I don't even drink, two kinds of tea, coffee, water, and Koolaide so everyone had something they liked. We were so poor at that time that I had to send my children to school for breakfast and lunch, and I didn't eat some days so my kids would have plenty to eat. Nevertheless, I put out some food and hosted a birthday at my house.
My family made disparaging remarks about how I didn't have more to offer when they could have very well afforded a few dollars to bring something.

I thought about how my friend invited us to a birthday party a week before and had a few snack bags of chips, 1-2 pizzas for everyone, and 2 sodas. Not one of their family had anything to say about there not being several bags of chips, a veggie and fruit tray, several different drinks, etc. Her family enjoyed their visit and discussed more important things than the lack of food. When one person was hungry, they quietly went and got something to eat and came back.

I thought about several other times I had gotten together with other people besides my family and how not once did any of those people ever say anything about food or consider food the most important part of the get together. Not once did any of those other people say anything to the hostess if she didn't serve something or enough of something. IT WASN'T ME! IT WAS THEM!

All of these years I've thought *I* was the dysfunctional one! All of these years, my family convinced me I was crazy! I bought into it hook, line, and sinker. Now I see it's not me! 30 years of wasted emotion. I finally feel so liberated! And the best part is that I've taught my children better, so they have a head start on a healthy life. Thank goodness, because 30 years is a long time thinking something is wrong with you when it's not you, it's them.

Thank you for sharing your story. It's nice to see it's not just me. :)