Monday, June 2, 2008

a different me

I am truly not the person I used to be. And yet I have always been who I am. I can track the changes I have made through the years, look at my stupid mistakes and understand the lessons I have learned. I was once a catholic, church-going, individual who hid behind books and excess weight in order to avoid connecting, confronting, loving myself and those around me. Slowly, like an onion, I have stripped the layers away, become raw, tearful, fragrant and flavourful.

I can't recall my childhood without an inner cringe. And yet I am compelled to write about it, exorcise the demons, so to speak, that continue to haunt me. Twenty-five years have passed since I graduated high school, and I am still wrestling with the things that happened there, both good and bad. Why does it stay with me, buried in my marrow, unwilling to allow itself to dissipate?

I am my experiences. I cannot escape them, only learn and grow as I age. There are still lessons for me to learn, perhaps for others to learn. Not all is bleak. Some is poetry, small moments of wonder and joy that continue to resonate within my soul.

No matter what I did, how I learned, I could not shake the weight. Ballooned to the point that weight loss methods no longer worked, I blamed myself, my lack of will, my failure to come to terms with my past - after all, it is said that once you accept the challenges that life has given you, the weight will disappear. You are holding yourself down, holding fast to earth and afraid to soar.


It didn't happen. I tried everything and it didn't happen. I didn't gain, I didn't lose, and stayed at about 300 pounds forever. Had a baby, lost the baby weight and stayed at 300 pounds. My partner supported me through everything, even when my health began to deteriorate, even when I could no longer walk around the block with the dog because the herniated disc in my lumbar spine would not heal.

We are healthy eaters, but I recognize now that I was eating too much and for all the wrong reasons. Food was my outlet. When I was upset or afraid, I hit the fridge, and pulled out the most comforting carbs I could find - chocolate, bread, cookies, pasta. I couldn't even face my own desires. Food was an easy out, and it felt good to eat. So much did not feel good.

It couldn't last, not if I wanted to live. And I wanted very much to live. Not exist. I could no longer walk my neighbourhood. Camping an hiking, two activities I love, were absolutely out of the question.The closest I could get to being outside was my tiny back yard. I need the outdoors, I need trees to sustain me. I was depressed, angry, hopeless. This is not how I was supposed to live. I couldn't use the computer, or play the guitar because sitting was too painful, and my fingers would go numb.

Eight months ago, almost to the day, I had weight loss surgery. I resisted for years, telling myself that it was only a matter of willpower. I didn't want the slow recovery, the pain, the deprivation. A year ago, I learned about a new type of surgery - laparoscopic, minimally invasive, with a quick recovery time. I applied for and received health care funding - and went to Las Vegas for the procedure.

I hated Vegas. Absolutely loathed everything about it. It is completely contrived, constructed from nothing, gives off this grand illusion of being beautiful. The first time I saw the strip, I was impressed - lot of glitz, lights, things to look at. But I began to think about all the waste - fountains in the desert, irrigation systems in order to plant trees where they would not naturally grow. The true cost of the Hoover Dam. There are very few places to sit on the strip, unless you get in front of a slot machine. All that money going nowhere. I couldn't wait to leave. I'll never go back again. It gave me the closed-in feeling I get when I am in Toronto or any other city for too long. I loved the desert itself - but I only went once. While I recovered quickly from the surgery itself, my back pain was terrible, and I spent most of the week stuck inside our hotel.

Eight months ago I weighed 299 pounds. Now I weight 215. I have about forty more pounds to lose (I'm 5'8" and naturally big-boned, so I will never be tiny). I know that within the next eight months, I will reach my goal weight. I am having a lot of difficulty articulating to myself how much this has changed me.

Okay, I'm smaller, obviously. I am wearing the same size I wore throughout most of high school. Being smaller means that I finally need to come to terms with the issues that caused me to gain weight in the first place. Slowly, carefully, I sift through the layers and I learn. I learn other ways to cope when I feel anxious. I learn that my body and I have not been friends in a very long time. I was never comfortable in my own skin. The ugly girl. The fat girl. The girl who never had a date - not until long after high school was over. The girl who was really terrified of her own feelings, her body's natural responses, and didn't really want a date, so she found unhealthy ways to cope.

That's who I was. That's still how I feel sometimes. As I get physically stronger - I work out, I can exercise without sweating like a pig and I don't run out of breath after five minutes, so I've learned to love physical activity - I look at my body and I think "Wow! Is that really me?" I am strong. My body has power. I am powerful. I like that, and it scares me a little bit.

I was afraid people would treat me differently after I lost weight, and they do. But I think that it's because I am more open than I used to be, and people are responding to the change in my personality. I chose invisibility, I chose it for a reason, and now I have chosen something else.

For the first time in a long time, I am beginning to like, to love, the person that I am.

1 comment:

Rose said...

Loved this post. Love that you are aware of all of this and more.
Off to read the rest.