September 27, 2010- I was a nervous wreck. I woke up after about 2 hours of sleep and thought about the day ahead. Mostly, how much of it I wouldn’t remember. My joints ached and my thoughts raced as I pulled on my 3x pajama bottoms and 4x tee shirt. This was the day I’d cross the point of no return. Really, the point of no more binges and nights alone with just Papa John’s and me. No more thoughts of what someone would shout as I crossed the street. I spent countless nights sinking deeper into a cage I’d created for myself. I wouldn’t look forward to spending nights alone in my own thoughts. I’d look forward to the relief of knowing I wouldn’t have to be seen or share them with anyone else.
“How am I going to lead these girls up a mountain hike?”- Me
September 27 was the day I went in for a life changer called a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. I’d tried numerous methods of weight loss and, as statistics seem to reflect, I spun the needle on the scale back and forth all while exhibiting symptoms of early heart failure and diabetes. I was 26. I was not ready to die so young.
9-27-10- The day of no return- Still clearly not into looking at cameras.
I was told countless times all the ins and outs of the procedure and what it would require going forward. I was excited and so completely ready. Soon after recovery, I was able to start walking more comfortably and slowly began reintroducing healthier foods in smaller quantities. I took any chance I got to keep moving as the excitement of melting out of my clothes took hold. Once I could walk a full mile, I decided to try running a lap. Then 3. Then more. I had the support of my friends and family and a particularly headstrong coworker who ran with me. I felt lighter and physically able to do much more. I started buying all of my clothes in thrift shops because I actually could now. Gone were the days of hiding and fielding unsolicited rude comments by anyone who felt entitled to share.
For a while.
Two months of progress- Two more months of still avoiding cameras.
I had a new body still covered in the skin from a 200 pound prison that had disappeared. I learned to dress myself differently to highlight what felt good to me. Most of all, I learned to embrace that I was about to become a patchwork quilt and a story in organic form. I named it my Franken-body.
Still- The comments trickled but still existed. One particular evening, I approached my car post-grocery shopping and a lady with short blonde hair, a blue Geo Metro and a camel between her teeth urgently requests to me, “Walk faster, fatty!” as she waited for my front row parking spot. I obliged without saying a word. It didn’t hurt so much as it shocked me. I was no longer a size 28. I was a size 12- One size smaller than the national average. From that moment, I started to really pay attention to how differently people treat others based on appearance only. My size no longer mattered to me as much as my reflection of how one should be treated did. I vowed at that moment to always pay attention in every way I could.
A year passed and I had entered the world of dating. I was 28 and hadn’t ever experienced such a thing. It was exciting and uncomfortable in the best way! I learned more than I ever thought I could about life through stepping all over the edge of my comfort zone. I’d been hidden away by several in the previous years only to be acknowledged privately. I was relieved I didn’t have to hide.. But more relieved I didn’t have to be hidden. It was an interesting experiment in the handling personal relationships. I learned to forgive more and stand up for myself to those who suddenly treated me differently than they had before. I learned to develop what I wanted and how I wanted to achieve it. I learned that it was okay to trip and fall all over my decisions because they didn’t hurt so badly anymore. They were supposed to be there to teach me.
In the past 7 years, my life has introduced me to greater love than I ever imagined, greater loss than I was prepared to experience, and the greatest lessons along the way. While I’ve lost count of how many scars I have or how much weight I’ve gained or lost, I have started to view it all as a part of exactly who I am and who I’ll become. I embrace each curve these scars take just as I embrace the new ones that fluctuate with the weight I gain and lose. Through heartbreak or happiness, they are still there changing right along with me. I’ve had numerous doctors ask if I’d like something to lighten the dark lines where the stitches were or to cover them up. I knew I’d reached my purpose when my first question back to them started being a genuinely confused yet poignant, “Why?”
I’m reminded of them each time I pull on my favorite dress and actually like that it reveals part of the patchwork quilt I’ve become. I’m reminded of how far things have come each time I wave and my beloved bat wings keep waving long after my hands have. I have my moments of regret and insecurity. Somehow though, I’ve been able to use my experience to pull away from the dark pages and into the silver lining of the entire book. I have no idea how I got so lucky, but I’m constantly learning why I did.
I’m reminded that I have a story to tell and I’m reminded of how lucky I am to tell it. I am still judged harshly just as we all are in different ways. I’m surprised, though, at how beautiful our imperfections can be. The jagged edge of what used to be a fuller body is now quite literally the signature on the work of art. We don’t often get those opportunities in life. The body I had once created as protection has become one I’ve gotten to remake as a canvas. It serves as a personal daily testament to the power of progress and it’s a constant reminder to keep using that.
Thank you for being a part of my story. How do you tell yours?