It’s Hard Out Here for a Wimp

It is HOT being fat. I don’t mean just hard, it’s HOT.

I am one of those unfortunate people who turns beet red and sweats profusely during pretty much any physical activity. When I was kid, it was only soccer that really made that happen, but these days, it’s just about anything. It is especially bad if it’s hot outside.

I just got off the bus and walked 10 minutes…not a hard walk, but when you are carrying around 300 lbs and it’s 28 degrees out (Celsius, that’s 82.4 F for the Americans), it’s HOT.

For some of you who may live more south, that probably doesn’t seem that hot, but let me remind you that this is Canada. Where I live, it can easily get to -40 C (-40 F) in the winter, so going from -40 C to 30 C is a HUGE change that usually happens very, very quickly. Just in April it was cold, wet and snowy…now it’s suddenly sunny and 30 C. I have never been good in the heat anyway, as I have super fair skin that burns with no provocation, but being overweight makes it 100 times worse.

Let’s also mention the clothes. Overweight people are made to feel that they cannot wear shorts, sleeveless tops or (god forbid) bathing suits in public. I think the last time I wore shorts or a sleeveless top in public was probably 15 or so years ago. As a result? I suffer. I sit, drenched in sweat, dying, because I am too self-conscious to wear shorts or sleeveless tops or even a bathing suit in public.

It’s something that I’m working on, caring less about what other people think, but it is, to say the least, very difficult.

Onwards and upwards.

Six Feet Under

Hold me now
I’m six feet from the edge and I’m thinking
Maybe six feet ain’t so far down

Have you ever been so low that, as you drive over a bridge, you envision yourself driving off? I have.

I told the boy. The one that I’m interested in. And guess what. He isn’t. He is dating someone else. Who he likes.

“He’s just a boy.” My friends say. “You’ll find someone.”

He’s not just a boy, though. He is representative of every single person in my life who has ever rejected me. He appears to want to stay my friend, but honestly, that doesn’t matter to me right now. It hurts too much.

I have never, in my adult or teenage life, felt attractive. Perhaps for one fleeting instant I felt pretty in my bridesmaid’s dress for my friend’s wedding, but that went away as soon as I looked at my legs, or my arms, or when people started taking pictures, or when I passed a mirror.

“When you find the one, he won’t care what you look like.” My friends say. “It’s about personality.”

It is. I agree. But there has to be an attraction there too. That’s the way we’re built. And I cannot believe or accept that anyone could ever find me attractive. The girl he likes? She is skinny and pretty. She seems nice, which makes it worse because then I can’t listen to the green monster inside me and hate her guts.

I am so tired of being heartbroken. I am so tired of feeling not good enough. I am so tired of feeling like I am unimportant. I am so tired of being the fat friend with the good personality. I am so tired of being unhappy. I am so tired of feeling worthless and that I am undeserving of love and affection. The older I get, the more difficult it is to believe that a loving relationship is in my future. And it fucking sucks, frankly.

So, those are the moments when you find yourself standing at a crosswalk on a busy road, wondering if maybe you should jump in front of the oncoming semi.

It’s my body and I’ll love it if I want to

Self-love. That’s hard. I imagine it’s hard for most people, but it’s especially difficult for me.

You see, I was an active kid. I played soccer, I danced, I walked to and from school every day. I was never a skinny child, but I was lean and muscular, partly due to my dance training and partly due to the fact that I take after my father, who is a somewhat stocky, very muscular man.

That changed when I was 14. I got my period at 12, like many other peers. It was pretty irregular, but my doctor assured me that it was just because I was young and that it would “even out” as I got older. It didn’t. In fact, I would go months without it for the next few years. But that’s later in the story.

I steadily began to gain weight, despite walking and dancing every day. During the summer between grades 9 and 10, I gained a bunch. I don’t remember how much, but enough that my grade 10 school picture was shockingly different from even a year before. I became self-conscious. I wore sweatshirts to hide, I didn’t draw any attention to myself in class and I kept gaining weight. I quit dancing because I was so self-conscious about wearing a bodysuit and tights in front of my fellow ballerinas, all of whom were long-legged and skinny. I no longer walked to school, as I went to a different high school. I found it difficult to make friends, and I began emotionally eating, which only helped the weight pile on. It didn’t stop and I didn’t know what to do.

My physician became concerned about my lack of periods, so she sent me to a gynecologist to find out what was wrong. I had been researching on my own and I was pretty sure that I had an endocrine disease called polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. When I mentioned this to the gynecologist, she dismissed me. She told me I was just fat and that I should lose weight. Then she left. No exam, no questions, no nothing.

The weight kept piling on. I began exercising excessively to try and “get skinny”, but I couldn’t keep up with the routine that I made for myself (1.5 hours a day, every day) and I soon faltered. So, I stopped eating. It began with no breakfast, then I slowly stopped eating lunch, only pretending to pack it and then taking an empty lunch box to school. I ate supper with my family, but I tried not to eat very much. I began to lose weight and people began to comment, so I kept at it. Nobody had any idea what I was doing to myself.

The weight kept creeping up and up and up. I tried Atkins, Weight Watchers, the South Beach diet, the cabbage soup diet, the all-fruit diet…anything you could think of. I bought magazines that screamed headlines such as “How to lose that stubborn fat!” or “Lose 20 lbs in 7 days!”. I tried all of the ridiculous things that I could find, then punished myself by binge eating when they didn’t work.

Cut to age 24. I decided that I wasn’t happy with my doctor (who I found to be very pill happy, which I dislike) and so I set out to find a new one. Luckily for me, a brand-spanking new female doctor opened up a practice relatively close to me, so I paid her a visit. Let’s call her Dr. A. When I went in for my first consultation, I told Dr. A my suspicions about PCOS. Instead of brushing me off, like my previous doctors had done, she asked me a bunch of questions and immediately ordered an ultrasound. A few weeks later, lo and behold, I had a diagnosis. PCOS, just like I had thought, 10 years before. (For those who don’t know, PCOS, in a nutshell, affects a woman’s hormones. It causes the body to have an irregular balance of estrogen and testosterone, and it affects insulin levels. Symptoms include irregular periods, unexplained weight gain, increased acne, excessive body hair (primarily on the stomach and face, but thankfully I haven’t had that), thinning hair/male pattern baldness and it increases risk of heart disease, diabetes, ovarian cancer. It also makes it much more difficult to get pregnant, due to the body not ovulating properly, and it makes miscarriage or premature delivery more likely, along with other complications. There is no known cause or cure, but it’s estimated that 10% of women have it. Delightful!)

The battle isn’t over. I am still struggling with my weight and I probably will for the rest of my life. Now, however, I have some people in my corner: a GP and an endocrinologist. I feel hope again, which I haven’t felt in a long time. But there is still something missing: self-love.

I spent a lot of years waiting for my life to start. I said to myself “When I lose the weight, I’ll start dancing again. When I lose the weight, I’ll travel. When I lose the weight, I’ll do X and Y and Z.” What a waste.

I follow a lot of larger women on Instagram. I no longer have a “goal” weight or size and a lot of that has to do with these women, who are happy and beautiful and full of life, regardless of the number on the scale or on the tag in their shirt. But self-love still hasn’t come quickly. I am better than I was, and I am trying hard to limit the negative self-talk, but it’s still hard for me to look in the mirror and find beauty in the cellulite, the stretch marks and the rolls. But I’m trying.

What pisses me the hell off though, are companies telling me that I don’t deserve to be happy with myself at my current weight. I am sick to the back teeth of being bombarded with ads telling me that I should want to “look great” for a wedding or a high-school reunion or what have you. Why can’t I look great the way I am now? Why shouldn’t I love myself how I am now? I don’t, yet, but the truth of that is because I’ve been told my entire life that I am only valuable if I am skinny and beautiful.

People who criticize the self-love/body-positive movements really piss me off. “You’re glorifying obesity! You’re telling young girls it’s okay to be fat!” Yeah. We are. Nobody is saying “YOU MUST BE FAT” but it’s telling the women who are “fat” (and let’s be real here, when someone like Khloe Kardashian is called “fat” and talked about as if she weighs 700 lbs, “fat” is an objective word) that they CAN be happy with themselves as they are. That they do not have to hate themselves until they reach a certain weight or a certain size.

Do I want to lose weight? Sort of. I do want to become more fit, as I love to dance and to hike and I am just so out of shape right now that neither of those activities are enjoyable. And I won’t lie when I say that losing weight has lots of non-aesthetic advantages, like not being scared that a chair will collapse when you sit on it, or not having people yell things like “HEY FAT ASS!” at you out their car window. (Which happened, by the way, when I was 17. I was planting flowers in a garden with a co-worker in front of our office building, and a grown man felt it was appropriate to shout that at me as he drove by.)

But being a certain weight or looking a certain way is not my goal anymore. I love sports, I love swimming, I love skiing and being active and outdoors and the truth is that my fitness level is too low to enjoy any of those things, so I would love to be more active and to get there. If I lose weight along the way, which I probably will, then great, but I am working on the self-love thing, which means that I am trying to be happy with myself as I am right now, in this moment. I should exercise and eat right because I love my body and I want to nurture it, not because I hate it and I feel that it needs to be punished.

It’s a complete 180 from how I have felt about myself for almost my whole adult life and I won’t lie, there are times when I look in the mirror and think “Gross. I look disgusting.” But I am trying my hardest to banish those thoughts, to find beauty in my stretch marks or my belly. It’s a long journey, and it won’t be linear, but I will be damned if I let another company tell me that I shouldn’t be happy with who I am, no matter what I weigh.

It’s my body and I’ll love if it I want to and damn the torpedoes! (Or weight-loss industry, as it were.)

“It’s always darkest before the dawn…”

The above is from “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine, although it’s an idiom that has been around for a very long time, well before Florence.

My anxiety has been slowly getting better, but it’s an up and down process. Most mornings I no longer wake up with a sense of dread, but these days it seems that my anxiety has been replaced with sadness or, some days, numbness.

All I want, at this point in my life, is a baby. I have baby fever, constantly, because I am terrified that I will never have one. All of my romantic pursuits thus far have either fizzled or imploded in spectacular fashion and it rather dampens one’s spirit. Yes, there is still the guy that I currently have romantic feelings for, but his behaviour thus far suggests that he doesn’t have any romantic interest in me. I don’t know, since I haven’t asked him, but I’m frankly tired of having my heart broken, so the idea of pouring my heart out to yet another person who doesn’t love me back is almost as unappealing as plucking out all of my eyelashes, one by one.

I deleted my Facebook a few weeks ago. I tell most people that it’s because it’s a time-waster (which it is) but mostly it’s because I cannot stand that all of my friends are getting engaged or married or having babies. Three are pregnant as we speak, one just had a baby girl last week, six had babies last year, three got married last year, five are going to be married in 2017 and two will be married in 2018 (so far!).

I feel like I’m not a real adult. I spent most of my twenties either travelling or doing temp jobs, meaning that my resume is full of gaps. I don’t own a car, I don’t own property, I’m not in a relationship (nor have I ever been in one), I live with my parents, and the pitiful sum of money in my bank account is set aside for tuition for next year. I’m hoping to get scholarships for this next year, but if I don’t, then I will graduate with approximately $0 to my name at 29 years old.

I look at the people that I grew up with and it seems like everyone else has their lives at least somewhat together. Most are in careers by this point, not jobs. Most are married, or at least dating. Many have children. Most own their own property. All of them have lived away from home at least once, for a decent amount of time. I don’t have any of those things, not to mention that I am a) overweight and in a perpetual cycle of self-loathing because of it and b) am a disorganized mess, but every time I look at all of the stuff I have to do, I get anxious and overwhelmed.

I feel like I’ve failed. That I have slipped up somewhere along the way, and that my punishment is that I won’t be able to live a normal life, to get married, and to have kids. I thought, when I was younger, that I wanted to be a nomad and live in exotic places, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that really, all I want is the house in the suburbs (or the country, even better) with a picket fence and a big yard and four children and dogs and cats and maybe some chickens. I don’t want to be a housewife, per se, as I do very much love the career that I am pursuing, but if I had to pick between my career or children, I would pick the kids every single time.

I am afraid of the future, that I won’t get what I so desperately want. I think that’s the root of my anxiety, to be truthful, or at least it plays a huge factor: I am terrified of being alone. The thought of living on my own is appealing, but it also brings about crippling anxiety. The idea of never getting married and never having children is one that makes me cry almost every time it crosses my mind and these days, it seems like I can’t escape it.

I’m seeing my therapist on Thursday, so I’m hoping he can help me work through this, but right now the world feels really dark and lonely. Here’s to waiting for the dawn.

 

When life gives you lemons…

I have been doing pretty well lately, I think. My anxiety is still a huge problem, but I have a great therapist and I am slowly learning how to better handle my emotions, mostly by recognizing when I’m having a panic attack and calming myself down.

Healing, however, is not linear…and today was shit.

So, there is this guy…

The last time there was a guy, he broke my heart into a million pieces. We spent a ton of time together, just the two of us, and we talked every single day about everything, leading me to believe he felt the same way. He did not. And he knew it. He misled me for months until I finally got the courage to tell him I wanted a relationship, at which point he told me that oh, by the way, he knew the whole time that I was in love with him and he liked spending time with me because I am “awesome” but that he doesn’t want a girlfriend. Ever.

So, needless to say, I am very hesitant when it comes to dealing with men. It took me months to get over THAT BOY and I don’t care to ever repeat that situation.

Fast forward 10 months and I meet this guy at school when we are paired up by our professor. I wasn’t attracted to him at first, to be honest. He is an attractive guy, certainly, but there wasn’t really anything…until we started talking. And then I figured out how much we have in common. So I thought, hurray, I found someone new and I wasn’t even looking.

Today, however, I’m not so sure. I am beginning to be concerned that he has a drinking problem. More than once he has failed to show up for get-togethers that he assured me he was attending, with no explanation, because he was drunk. These were group plans, mind you, so it’s not like he left me sitting alone in a restaurant. But still, it rubs me the wrong way and I find it deeply concerning that alcohol is a reoccurring theme.

Yeah, okay, we’re in college. And yeah, okay, he likes to have fun with his buddies. But something doesn’t feel right and my heart is breaking because he isn’t the person that I thought he was…and because I am very concerned for him right now.

Has anyone ever dealt with someone with an addiction? I feel like I don’t know him well enough to ask him about it, and I don’t want to say anything until I have more information, but I am alarmed and very sad, frankly.

So…cue the anxiety. Cue the panic attacks. Cue the idea that he doesn’t really like me and that he is getting drunk because the thought of spending time with me while sober is just that awful. I know it’s probably not about me, but when someone that I really care about doesn’t show up for plans we made, I immediately assume it’s because of me. That I’ve done something, that they secretly hate me. I know it’s ridiculous. I know it’s irrational. But self-loathing runs deep.

Slow and Steady…

You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!

King Lear, Act II, Scene iv.

I love Shakespeare. I know many people don’t, but I love it…watching it, that is. Shakespeare is meant to be watched, not read, that’s the huge mistake that the education system has made. But I digress.

I did a Shakespeare acting class a few years ago and one of my classmates was given King Lear’s monologue from that scene to perform. I could not quote the rest of the speech, nor anyone else’s, for that matter, but I remember that one line because it speaks of that which eludes me…patience.

I have a really hard time waiting for things. “I want what I want when I want it” is something that I find myself saying a lot. I think that’s probably the reason why I am such a control freak perfectionist, I want things done exactly how I want, exactly when I want, and I dislike waiting for things that I want. Weight loss is a biggie.

I have spent many, many years trying to lose weight. Almost 20, in fact. I would bet that I have tried to lose weight hundreds of times over the years, in many ways: the cabbage soup diet, the all-fruit diet, Atkins, Whole 30, no sugar, no carbs, no gluten…so many. In high school, I alternated between killing myself on the treadmill every night to going without food almost all day to try and lose weight. Did some of them work? Sure. For a short period of time. But none of those lasted, nor did the results. None. Why? Because I wanted a quick fix. I wanted to lose 20 lbs a week. I wanted to “be skinny” by such and such date and so I didn’t want to wait, I wanted results NOW. Had I been patient, had I worked out consistently (and at a reasonable pace) and slowly changed my eating habits, maybe I wouldn’t be here now. But I am, so I’m trying to learn patience.

Flexibility is another, as I am a perfectionist. I never expect perfection from others. In fact, I would say that I am very forgiving of others’ mistakes. But mine? No way. So sometimes I give up. I can’t do it perfectly, so I just stop doing it. I can’t tell you how many times I have vowed to exercise for 30 days in a row or 6 days a week for 60 minutes at a time and then I failed…so I got frustrated and quit. I’m not proud of it, but that’s the reality that I have to deal with.

The biggest thing that I have learned along this journey is not about calories or exercise or weight loss or health. It is to be kind, to be patient and to be forgiving…of myself. I am trying to work out at least 5 days a week and to make the best possible food choices I can, I really am. But am I going to beat myself up if I skip a workout? No. Am I going to starve myself the next day if I “slip up” and eat a burger or a cupcake? No. Because this has to be a realistic change. There is no way that I will be able to go the rest of my life without drinking a Coke or having cake and ice cream or eating french fries and a cheeseburger. No way. There is also no way that I will be able to work out 7 days a week for 60 minutes for every single week of my life. I certainly want to live a healthy lifestyle, but I also want to have children. If I workout 7 days a week for 2 hours a day, no doubt I will lose weight, but can I do that with a baby? No. Could I do that if I decided to go to graduate school? Probably not. Maybe some people could do that forever, but not me.

I have had a lot of problems with anxiety lately, so I’ve started seeing a therapist to help me work out my problems. One of the issues that has come up is my perfectionism. I hold myself to an unattainable standard, meaning that I am constantly disappointing myself, leading to depression and even more anxiety. I have started to learn how to take care of myself when this happens: reading a good book, watching a funny tv show, snuggling with my cat…all that stuff. Taking care of myself also means that I forgive myself when I “slip up”: miss a workout, have a “treat” more often than I should…all that. It’s hard. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Loving yourself, treating yourself with kindness…it sounds easy.  But for me, it’s really not. I’ve spent so many years hating myself, being mean to myself and holding myself to unrealistic expectations that it’s become a habit…and habits are hard to break.

So, I say again…”You heavens, give me that patience, patience I need!”

One step forward, two steps back…

So…I have come to the realization that I do not have to be skinny to be happy, that I do not have to be 130 lbs to be beautiful, and that no number in the world should dictate my happiness.

Easier said than done, however.

I suffer from chronic, debilitating anxiety. Usually, it’s enough under the surface that I can handle it by breathing or talking to a friend or even just having a nap. Sometimes, though, it gets so bad that I feel like I can’t breathe. I can’t stop crying, I hyperventilate, my stomach is full of knots and I feel like I will either lose my mind completely or die.

Most of the time, to an outsider, it’s irrational. Lots of people get nervous or anxious about everyday things, but I bet that most people don’t understand what it’s like to let your imagination truly run away with you…it’s terrifying. Horrible images play in your mind, negative thoughts run through continuously, and you feel like you will never be happy again. You almost want to die just to make it stop…I’ve had those thoughts before. I’ve never attempted suicide or even made a plan…but when my anxiety is bad, there are times when I think “If only I were dead, then this would all be over”.

It’s an awful, awful place to be. Exercise helps anxiety, in fact, it’s one of the most effective treatments for it. However…it’s really REALLY difficult to motivate yourself to exercise when you feel like utter garbage. When you’re lying there wishing you were dead, usually the thought of putting on gym clothes and sweating on a treadmill ranks next to strutting naked down the busiest street in your city.

I’ve been exercising relatively regularly these days. Not as much as I want, but usually at least twice a week. I also got a FitBit for Christmas and so I’ve been trying to get in 10,000 steps every day, but it’s difficult sometimes.

So…we’ll see. I’m searching for a new therapist at the moment, as I don’t think that mine is working out very well. We just talk…which is okay, but I can do that with my friends. I need more.

Does anyone else deal with anxiety and depression? Have any of you ever tried CBT or DBT or meditation? I’m hoping to find something that will help me…