Saturday, April 28, 2012

At Any Size

I just discovered that I was probably unfriended by someone I mostly respected and was also deleted from their Facebook groups because of a recent status that I made mentioning that I had lost half my body weight (at my highest) and I was proud of myself for that and for many things I've accomplished, lived through and learned.

The funny thing is that these groups are about celebrating size diversity and I took pains to say in my status that I don't recommend any diet, any pill, any eating plan, nothing, nor do I consider myself a role model because the majority of the weight I lost was done so unhealthily, that I nearly died from complications several times.

How bad? I was hospitalized with malnutrition, I stopped producing blood and all my hair fell out. My body was covered in bruises and sores and lumps and while my metabolic specialist and nutritionist were high-fiving each other at my bedside over what an amazing weight-loss success I was, the head of my medical team was quietly telling my husband to make funeral arrangements because they didn't know how to stop a catastrophic complication that they couldn't even identify.

 Antibiotics were eating my blood vessels, it was discovered that I was immune to morphine, and my blood was pink (lovely shade). When I was coherent, which admittedly at the time was not frequent,  I threw the hospital nutritionist out of my room because she demanded that I eat at least 1000 calories a day and I screeched (rather incoherently) that I wasn't going to ruin all my hard work with so many calories and threw her out. She came back and asked me what it would take to get me to eat and I told her I would eat fruit. So she agreed to it. She asked me if I would just try to eat 1000 calories and I looked at her for five minutes so she asked me if I would just SAY I would try so I said yes.

 She told me every time I ate some protein or something else, I could ask for anything, never mind the menu, I would be rewarded with fruit. The problem was well, problematic. I loathed 'food as reward' but fruit was all I wanted so I put 'fruit plate' down for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then thought better of it and added soy milk and yogurt. That was my acquiescence, my temporary surrender so I could get out of the hospital and back to my mission to be treated like a human being. That's all I wanted, not to be thin but to be seen and respected as a fellow human rather than a living target of derision or an invisible but unwanted undesirable entity.

The purpose of my blog has never been about being fat. It's about me, my life's journey, my thoughts about many things, many of which has nothing to do with fat. That's why I don't post links to it on size acceptance groups and related sites, saying HERE'S MY FAT BLOG, because being fat is not all there is to me. Oh, maybe it is or was part of my identity, especially since I've never been thin a day in my life, but I've never dreamed of being thin. Not even when I was ignored by crushes in school, not asked to the prom, told by some unfortunate soul that he would marry me if only I'd lose 100 lbs., not even when I was at my heaviest and could no longer walk without strain or anxiety, or fit behind the wheel of my car. I didn't want to be thin. I wanted to be myself, only thinner.

 Thin enough to not worry about falling and not being able to get up (it happened anyway), Thin enough to fit into an ambulance, and on a stretcher, thin enough to wear the clothes, made for me, that I used to model, thin enough where I could see my facial features, thin enough where I wasn't waiting to die and asking my ex-husband, 'If I died, what if?" Thin enough where I could sing a song, and hold one note without losing my breath and coughing for five minutes, thin enough where I didn't have to pee every time I stood up, or wet myself when I laughed or sneezed and sometimes didn't make it to the bathroom, thin enough where people didn't look at me with pity and family and friends didn't look at me with fear.....thin enough.

I don't hide the fact that I'm losing weight. Here is the truth: I used to weigh 679 lbs. At the very end of '07 I was hospitalized with pneumonia and my first ever hospital stay was so traumatic that against my husband's wishes (that's another story for another day) I decided to have a gastric bypass, yes, the dreaded WLS or weight loss surgery. Something I had been totally against for years and now, deciding it was either that or die, chose to pursue it. I picked the best guy in New Jersey and by the time my appointment came around, I'd already lost 106 lbs. It was the first time I was weighed since the hospital and I was so shocked and delighted that I wailed.

 The surgeon was a complete dick and demanded that I get up on the exam table. There was no way I could so he had to examine me from a chair and told me he would do the surgery IF I lost another 100 lbs and get up on his exam table. Meanwhile, I was told to complete a list of requirements to have the surgery and like a good trooper, I did all of them, except for the last one and to set the surgical date. While I was losing that 100 lbs. I would check into his clinic periodically to be examined and report my progress and one day I fell.

 One of the specialists in charge of me, when she was told that five men were unable to lift me (my legs were numb from sitting on the exam table-yeah I made it) told them to call the paramedics or fire department and if they had to put a hole in the wall or get a crane to get me up they could do it. I asked who said that and the office manager didn't want to tell me. Finally someone else did and when I realized it was my own specialist, and the disgust on her face whenever I saw her was NOT imagined as I thought and truly wanted to give her credit that it was MY sensitivity and not HER, I grabbed the office manager and told him they had to help me up NOW and they got two more guys and lifted me easily. As soon as blood flow and pins and needles appeared, I was fine and in fact walked out of the clinic on my own, trailing my little oxygen tank behind me. I lost that 100 lbs. and told the surgeon and that specialist to go fuck themselves. I would lose the rest on my own.

Except I lost my way. No...I didn't gain it back. Well, I gained a few back, but according to statistics, even with that bit I gained back, I'm still over the five year limit, so I'm considered a success but still fat and not happy fat. Happier with myself but I wanted to be able to walk around a mall, a supermarket and run up and down stairs. Even maybe hike and do some sightseeing.  My regular doctor told me that I could try going back to work, and I did and complications began to worsen so I had to stop which caused a war in my house with my husband thinking how grossly unfair it was that he had to work and I didn't.

 Nevermind that I was collecting permanent disability, he thought it was NOT FAIR and he didn't want me to lose weight in the first place so he set out to make my life a living hell and he did a damned good job. He would only talk to me if it was about food. He would only touch me to hand me a plate. He would only make eye-contact to, nothing is wrong, why do you ask? and then make a hasty disappearance to the basement or out with his best buddy. I was miserable and lonely. I began to gain again. The only 'love' he gave me was food and I took his crumbs literally until....

So angry that I was not the woman he said that he wanted so big, so dependent on him that I could never leave him, he injured me. What he did, when he did it, how he did it, is so unspeakable but it was enough for me to hold a bottle of Percocet in my hand and consider swallowing it and at the last moment I said no..he was not worth me taking my life. I was worth more. So I talked to a friend, who got me in touch with a domestic crisis center, got myself an advocate and an attorney, talked with my doctor and his staff, and I began to line up my ducks in a row. I had to leave a lot earlier than I was ready for, but I had some clothes, my laptop, cellphone, jewelry, my car and my cat and I drove off into the sunset. I still haven't returned and it's my house, but I'm free.

A funny thing happened. I had a meltdown as soon as I got to my dad's and back to the doctor I went. He asked me a few protocol questions, closely watching me and rather than hospitalize me, he got me in touch with a therapist. The same therapist, it so happens that my advocate at the shelter had been talking to about taking me on. We arranged a pay-schedule and I met her but I knew I would love her from the thirty-second phone conversation we had when I was visiting the crisis center.

 It turned out she was Dutch and someone I loved and trusted was Dutch and somehow it was like a sign from God (or Odin, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster) that we were meant to be and we started to work in earnest. I began mediation too. I also started to get my health back in order and before I knew it, I'd begun losing weight without trying. Oh, a newly developed ulcer helped but it wasn't the only thing. Okay and a broken heart, but that eventually died down too and I was still losing weight and before I knew it, I had lost 100 lbs. from the time I left my ex. In fact, now I'm closing in on my elementary school weight (still no featherweight) but this is the thinnest I've been as an adult and now am in uncharted territory. Is my weight, my size, my bulk, part of my identity? Will I feel like the me I was when I was 700, 600, 500, 400 lbs?

I've got news for you. I'm the same person. I've been through so much hell and back that had nothing to do with weight that I changed for the better as I learned from my experiences but the core person inside, is still me. I look in the mirror and marvel that I have a dimple in my chin that I've never seen before IN MY LIFE but I look in my eyes and see, like the Lost Boy said and saw in Peter Pan's eyes in Hook, THERE YOU ARE!  It's still me. Still always going to be me although maybe a better me because like wine and whiskey, I get better with age.

But then there's the new dilemma; where do I fit in now? I still believe in size acceptance. I'm still fat. I'm just smaller. Do I belong? Am I allowed to say, I lost 350 lbs without offending someone enough where they delete me because they believe I've betrayed them and the cause? I believe in the cause, but does the cause believe in me enough to die for me, like it seems it asks of me? Don't diet or you're betraying us all. Diets don't work, you'll put all the weight back on....well...I never said I was on a I fully admit I struggle with an eating disorder but I've also kept the weight off for over five years whatever is going on did work. Does that make me better than anyone? Hell no. In fact, I'm sad because I feel like I've been kicked out of my favorite club and well, it appears that slowly, I am. I'm in a kind of limbo. My friends either support or tolerate me (or a healthy combination of both) but for the most part, haven't abandoned me. Does it make a difference if when I talk about it, it's not that I'm bragging but that I'm so stunned I've gotten this far?

I have this really expensive skin serum that I put on every morning and night and to tell the truth, I would rather go without lunch than to do without that particular product. Every time I apply it, whatever is leftover, I gently rub on the back of my hands because hands age too and I'd like them to match my ever-youthful glowing face, but sometimes I'm short some serum so only one hand gets it unless I make an effort to save a little bit for the other hand. I remember that my hands are the same age and have been with me from the beginning and I need to take good care of them. They support me, literally. And it makes me think of disenfranchised people who were once fat, or fatter and for whatever reason and by whatever means, lost that weight. The Size Acceptance movement talks about body autonomy but does that only mean that you must love your body exactly as it is and are not allowed to change it even if to you it's actually because you love it? Does free will and love for self allow former and smaller fatties a place at the table? Are we allowed to protest unfairness, sign petitions, and join groups or are we marginalized and rejected from possibly the only place in the world where we ever thought we would find acceptance?  I wonder.

Meanwhile, I'm taking care of me, the same me I always was. I hope when I reach the point where I feel my best (and I will get there) I hope the people who I've always inspired and encouraged will still be there with me, because they inspire and encourage me. At any size.