Posted by Pattie on 8/09/2011 09:04:00 AM

I am not healthy. I have not been healthy for years. Now you know the obvious. In 1987, I was healthy. I had beautiful metabolic numbers. I walked and jogged a lot. I played tennis regularly. I was 30 years old and most people thought I was under 21. I rarely smoked or drank. I was profoundly unhappy, however. I was in a bad marriage and I was sure I was going to die because I weighed 260 pounds.

Instead of helping me see that I could enjoy my life and my body if I uncovered my own wants, desires and happiness, I got bad advice. I was told I could only be happy if I shed the weight. I was told that my unhappiness didn't come from bad choices or from unresolved past issues or from simply not taking the time to know who I was and what I wanted to be. No, my unhappiness was because I was a thin person living in a fat body.

So a doctor gave this healthy body two prescriptions. Tenuate, which is a synthetic amphetamine and a diuretic to "jump start" my weight loss. Then I went on a 800 calorie diet that I faithfully followed for 2 years. I took my love of movement and turned it into a regimen of running 2 to 4 miles a day. I took my social life and ditched it for a fear of eating. And it turns out I took my healthy body and ruined it's metabolism.

In 1989, I was more messed up that ever emotionally, though I only weighed 130 pounds. I was divorced with no idea of what a good relationship could be. I was suicidal. Oh, and I was addicted not only to the Tenuate but to valuum that I started taking to sleep at night.

I've never been really healthy since that experience. But, hey, I was "success." My "after" picture was taken and I wrote a nice rendition of "my story" that was placed in a book for anyone walking into the bariatric clinic to see so that other's could be sold the path I had taken.

By 1993, most of the weight had come back on, though I was beginning to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be. By 1997, my health got worse and I have been disabled by my chronic conditions every since. So it is hard to say that I am healthy in the normal sense of that word.

The prevailing wisdom would say that it is the weight that created my ill health, but I know better. I know I was healthy at age 30 and that I did things to my body in the name of weight loss that led to disability. I dieted my way into disability and now I have to live with the body those behaviors and bad advice produced.

My first decision to love myself came in December 1990 while in a hospital because I had made a half-assed suicide attmept. I looked around at my surroundings and said, "I'm not crazy and I'm not going to choose to be crazy." I didn't fully understand what that journey meant, but it was definitely a first step towards loving myself because I rejected other people's definitions of me and started seeking my own.

My second decision to love myself came in November 1992 when I was fired from a job I hated and I decided I was never going to work full-time at a job I hated ever again. This decision eventually led to my getting my Ph.D. in Sociology as well as choosing to write, produce and create multi-media, rather than take a traditional academic trajectory.

My third decision to love myself came in August 1997 when I was misdiagnosed with lupus. The diagnosis was wrong but the prognosis was the same, I was facing life with chronic illness. I had to find a way to live that life fully.

The final decision to love myself came in January 2001, when I decided to give up dieting. I decided I was going to be the healthiest and happiest fat, disabled, aging person I could be. The transformation was complete. I loved my mind, I loved my talents, I loved my body.

But here's the thing. I am happier than I ever was. I do more healthy behaviors than I ever did. I love the skin I'm in. I love being me. I don't get up in the morning hoping that the day will be over. I don't dread my work. I don't hate my life.

I have aches and pains, and sometimes, I don't really recognize my aging body with its new wrinkles and new ailments. But I love my body and I care for it and treat as wonderfully as I can.

Life is struggle, but there is a difference between a struggle that feels like it is oppressing you and a struggle that holds the potential for growth and discovery. I prefer the latter.

So I'm fat. I'm disabled. I'm old. I'm not a poster girl for any particular cause. I live outside those boundaries and cannot hold myself up as a shining example of any particular success. But I'd rather be who I am today, than who I was at age 30.

That was my journey and it is one that I have to reaffirm in many ways almost daily, but it is also one that comes as naturally to me now as believing that if I just got skinny life would be okay came to me then.

I tell my journey often not because I necessarily need to do so, though it does help me to share it. I tell it often because it saddens me when I see young people falling for the same lies I fell for. It angers me to know that there are still "helpers" out there who are telling people, "you are not okay, let me sell you this to make you better." But I also tell my story for selfish reasons, because I know that if the market went away for these products, then my life would be easier. I could go through a day without being told how wrong I was. Loving myself would be respected. The more of us who love ourselves and accept ourselves and don't fall for the sales pitch, the easier it will be for all of us.

I wish you a pleasant and adventurous journey.


vesta44 said...

This! Been there done that. And yes, it's important that you keep telling your story. More and more people will either see themselves, or parts of themselves, in it and maybe realize that they don't have to continue on that road of self-hate and starvation to meet an unattainable "ideal". That, in itself, is a worthwhile goal.

Jan said...

Thanks for telling me your story Pattie. I am taking the wisdom from it and trying to shape my own life in a similar fashion. I still have a lot of work to do until I am at your stage, but with role models such as yourself and the many others I have met in the fatosphere I can't but make changes for the better.

Thanks :)

JeninCanada said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm a fat, aging woman, approaching 30, and I struggle sometimes with wanting to recapture my glory days of my late teens. I love the skin I'm in and I have a lot to love and be proud of. Thanks again!

keystone said...

Loved reading this and loved your honesty and bravery for sharing with those of us who can learn and perhaps help ourselves and others.