I have always been afraid of dying. It is such an ingrained fear that when I found out not everyone worries about dying on a daily basis, I was shocked. For me, the threat of death is a constant spectre. I am better about it now. But I still worry. Doubly so now that I am a mother.
When my sons look at me adoringly, my warm mommy heart tries to stay in the moment, but a voice, likely the voice of my lifelong anxiety, whispers, "Oh God, they will be devastated if I die."
Suddenly my own death isn't just terrifying for myself. It is life-changing for two little people. On a fundamental level, their lives, their outlook on life, their worldview, would change. And that thought terrifies me.
Suddenly the unconditional love sons have for their mothers feels sinister and fraught. I don't want them to love me so much because of what it will do to them if they lose me.
Of course part of the nature of fear of death is that it is the ultimate thing out of our control. We can do all the things we think to ward off death--buckle up, look both ways, check for (skin) moles, chew carefully, don't dive in shallow water, drive sober, lock the doors at night, carry pepper spray, knock on wood until our knuckles are bloody--the list goes on and on into absurdity.
But, in the end, death is uncontrollable.
Except when it isn't. And one thing that is hammered into the public's consciousness is that OBESITY KILLS. Obesity increases the risk of death. Obesity harms the body in untold ways.
I have known this for all of my life. I remember being a "tween" (we weren't called that then), sitting at a doctor's desk with my mother. I don't know why I saw this doctor--he wasn't either of my childhood pediatricians. I don't know what brought about this visit. But in the course of it, he said it would be good if I lost some weight (duh). "Carrying around extra weight is hard on the heart." (Oh.)
So on top of my deathly fear that I will die and leave my sons motherless is GUILT. For all my wood knocking and precautions and "be carefuls," I am NOT doing all I can to keep myself around. See, I am eating a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup instead of considering how this extra weight is harming my heart with every single beat it takes to get the blood to every corner of my obese body. I must not care THAT much. GUILT.
But I do care. I care so much it terrifies me. I care so much that before I learned to manage my anxiety, I would be crippled by worry, leading to things like a racing heart, leading to worry that I was actually having a heart attack, leading to a visit to Urgent Care (later marked in my patient portal "anxiety state"), and ultimately leading to a little comfort eating and thus the cycle continues.
I understand that even a healthy weight doesn't guarantee you will not have a heart attack. How many of us shake our heads in shock and wonder that the gym rat died from a "widow maker" [nice] as the treadmill whirred next to his lifeless body. I understand that even this is out of my control.
But that doesn't mean I should just give up. In fact, this entry is at the top of my lose list. There is nothing more important: Live as long as I can for my children. And my husband, of course. And myself, sure. But my kids most of all.
This item on my lose list is the one that needles me the most. The one that makes me most frustrated with myself. If I can't even eat healthy for THIS, what hope do I have? But see, even death is so abstract. I had a high cholesterol blood test in 2016 and it didn't change my eating habits. Because the voice that rationalizes such things (a different voice from anxiety, possibly the one that works so hard to fight the anxiety) says, "This one French fry does not matter. This dinner out won't affect your health THAT much. High cholesterol isn't SO bad."
I am working to keep this item on my lose list at the fore. I am working to remove the guilt from the last 6 years of eating. I am working to cast it in a positive light--Be as healthy as possible--rather than a negative--LOSE WEIGHT SO I DON'T DIE!!!! I am working to feel proud of myself when I make the good choices, and this week I've made a few, so that I can hold onto that and get myself to a healthy weight so if I did happen to find myself on my deathbed (God forbid, knock wood, salt over the shoulder), I could know that I DID do everything I could.
My body is worth treating well. My kids are more important than the taste of mayo. My heart deserves to be cut some slack.