Thursday, February 16, 2012

Direction of Growth

I am a full-figured, plus-sized woman. I am six feet tall, enjoy the genetic predisposition toward skin that makes me look ten or more years younger, have thick, somewhat curly light-brown hair falling mop-like around my face, and, on good days, I laugh full and loud letting the slight crossbite and slight overbite show. I am a woman of sensitivities and extremes with either tears, or a light in my blue eyes. Given that people used to use a nickname derived from my middle name of Jean: "Jeannie", "Jeannie with the light brown hair" is a fitting picture.

I have not accepted being overweight. Nor have I done well with fighting against it. I have begun (we humans have a long time to learn) to see others differently than when I was an athlete, walking in the grocery store or other public place, seeing someone ....maybe like I am now... and thinking, "Hey, just eat more fruits and veggies like I do and just MOVE around more~! It's not hard to lose weight!"

But the cover of the book does not tell the story. And human stories are often complex, and, as long as we live, ever-changing.

Part of my story began with being hyperactive (controlled...ish ;p). As a young child, I helped my Grandfather with the outdoor chores, learning and yes loving to do things like cut wood, split wood, and do things that mostly *boys* did like mow the yard. Once my Grandparents moved away and my brother and I lived solely with my mother and her husband, we each found ways to employ the 'flight' of the 'fight or flight mechanism'. I biked all over Long Island. If there was somewhere I needed to go, I'd walk there. And if I just needed to get away, I'd bike or walk.

As time went on into my late teens, I developed what I might call "controlled anorexia". No one noticed. And on Long Island, image is everything; I fit the expected image of thinness. The year following, the institution I was attending controlled the diet and schedule, and my thinness got severe--I even developed the 'furlike' hair on my abdomen that is classic of anorexia. I knew nothing of what was happening to me, or what to do about it. I knew that I was hungry.

Leaving the institution and moving as a young adult to where my Grandparents lived, and then to the small city of Ithaca on my own in an apartment, I worked and continued my pursuit of exercise, but this time the constant push upon me was not just my energy, but the all-encompassing take-one's-breath-away-beauty of the Fingerlakes, and Ithaca proper. On a summer day I might take a walk in Cornell Plantations during my break. Home, I might bike to Buttermilk Falls, hike the gorge, and, if lifeguards were on duty, swim before biking home again. And anywhere anyone goes in Ithaca, it's both beautiful, and it's a hike. I still had most of the ripped and formed type muscles all over my body, but I was also developing a bit more as a woman. I was financially poor, and knew nothing about how to dress to compliment who I was, but I was pleased to look in the mirror most days.

Marriage came, and two children. Many of the nights were sleepless not only due to having a small baby to feed, but because my body longed intensely for the movements of before. I'd be doing stretches and whatever quiet exercise I could do in the small apartment in the middle of the night, while taking long stroller walks with my first son. I couldn't get time alone, so we exercised together. Turns out, that little guy got my need to move too. I loved our times together---and as time allows, I hope to share many stories of both of my little guys (now both over six feet tall).

With elementary school for both kids, I could get back on my bike again. And bike, oh, I did: most weekdays before the end of the school-day, and sometimes once on the weekend, with hopes of getting past 20 miles at a clip. Great pace and speed too. Of that in my life, of that thing which I could control and enjoy: I was happy.
But then: 2005 and hard things, harder things coming to a head, and changes coming full-force: loss of three loved ones in a sudden car accident; grief; marital separation; moving; moving again and the divorce; re-starting my education to attempt to finally get my Bachelor's degree. By 2008, even my primary physician said that I had accumulated enough 'life-change-stress-points' to be dead more than a half-dozen times. Instead: I started getting sick.

Which brings me to what I wanted to make sure to say last: I have a medical condition which, besides perhaps 10-20 pounds of initial "grief weight", is the cause of my (I do not want to own it with a possessive) obesity. I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, which, for most people, includes a symptom of weight loss; for others like me, it can go the opposite. For a year, my endocrinologist and I kept careful track of how my body reacted to it. With the medication, I seemed to go in remission. But less than another year later, all of the symptoms returned, and so my thyroid needed to undergo radioactive iodine treatment---ablation, or killing of the thyroid.

February 2009 my metobolic brains and control panel, my thyroid, was destroyed. With no metabolism except for a beginning small pill once a number of weeks had passed and doctors were sure my thyroid was totally destroyed, I was bedridden.

And on and off, with many more illnesses and a number of injuries included, much of the past three years since have been bedridden. I'm about to turn forty-two. I have felt near eighty at times. I've been near-death more than once.

I have to face my weight. I have to face these illnesses. It is right to do that with a positive outlook and in the reality that I have to lower my expectations in regard to the pace and power of weight loss. At this time in my life, I cannot be an athlete. I can walk for exercise some days. Some days I can kayak and hike. Many days I am still bedridden.

I think, too, that I have to face the grief that surrounds all the factors surrounding weight, even concerning the times of anorexia. I have to face the sting of the pain of misunderstanding people telling me to 'just exercise more'. The stares. And, I need to dismiss what a counselor told me, "You'll get your thyroid meds adjusted and you'll be yourself again." Instead---well, yes: take my thyroid meds, check in with my endocrinologist (and all the other specialists), but begin the process of seeing all humans, including myself, as whole-beings, not bodies. Begin the process of accepting what IS, now, currently, not looking back yearning, waiting. And understanding that the steps will be slower, move toward a future. "You'll be yourself again"? Maybe I need to keep being someone more compassionate. Someone learning. Someone seeing the world with open eyes, ears and mind. Maybe that's the right direction to grow.

1 comment:

  1. I never entered a ....number... and I wasn't sure I should. But at the height / depth of the 'deadness' of the thyroid and lack of thyroid meds, I was at 260lbs on my 6' frame. At points I've tried to get under 220, but those times have been when the meds were making my heart race too much and had to be adjusted. For the past few months I've lived around 240lbs.