Whenever I go to the doctor’s office, the first thing they ask is for me to get on the scale. They type the numbers into their computer. Then we go down the hallway to the office. The nurse takes my blood pressure, which is fine, thank you. My pulse, due to my medication is always on the slow side. After a few minutes the doctor comes in, she talks to me about how I am feeling, or whatever brought me in for my visit. Then she talks to me about my weight or gives me a pamphlet about weight loss. Neither of which I asked her about.
My weight is not the root of my problems. My weight is the result of my problems. My body is hidden behind a safety fat suit. It is a protective layer that keeps me from being attractive. It keeps people from flirting with me. It helps me to feel as though I am an asexual being, not attractive to anyone. This all exists in my head. Or so my husband tells me. The weight itself is not the problem. The problem is all the underlying fears that allowing my body to be healthy and fit bring up for me.
This has been a hard topic for me. I want to address how I hide in my body and the fact that I have lost the strength that I used to have. I loved the feeling of strength in my body. I loved that I could swim, run or even just walk for what felt like forever. Once I started hiding behind the fat suit I gave up all those things. Anything that might draw attention to myself was left behind so that I could quietly move through the world.
When my father died, I started to put on weight. I stopped doing things that would draw attention to me. I pulled into myself. I was not outgoing before this, but to me, it felt even more of a withdrawal. Before he died, I had stopped taking care of myself when I was eleven. I stopped brushing my hair. I tried to be as small as I could. Teachers would sometimes notice, but usually, they left me alone. Once, one of the teachers saw my carefully hidden bruises. She never said anything to me. It was more proof that I was on my own and I tried even harder to be small and invisible.
People noticed me anyway. There were the usual bullies who took all the opportunities they could find to make my life difficult. I rarely stood up for myself. I didn’t tolerate other people being picked on though. There was a young man on my bus being picked on by the bus bully. This was after my father had died and I was trying to take care of myself. I felt a little empowered by the new feeling of freedom his death had given me. When the bully said. “Make me,” after I told him to stop picking on the young man, I punched him in the face and sent him falling over the seat. The bully didn’t pick on the young man again while I was on the bus. I never defended myself. Even though I was perfectly capable.
I have rarely defended my self. I always tried to protect my sister and brothers. It was really a matter of what I valued, and I never valued myself enough to defend myself.
Recently I have felt an awakening of a need to be seen, a need to feel strong again. Whether I ever get to be a thinner woman or if I stay this size forever is not as important as my need to feel at peace in my body. Something that the years of abuse and torture derailed.
Society sees me and my size as something that needs to be pathologized or shamed. I am beginning to see my body for the warrior it was to fight and withstand the years of pain. I am finding that until I fully recognize the efforts of my body to protect me, to recognize all the places that my body has stored all the pain I will not move forward. Recently I began to dance again. I have begun to move my body in all the ways that I enjoyed. I sway my hips and move my arms. I feel the beauty of my body as I move to the music. I grab my children as they move through the kitchen and try to get them to dance with me. Some dance and some don’t.
Each day I feel my body growing stronger. I feel the muscles start to wake up. I can only do so much before I become so exhausted I have to sleep. Some of this is my body getting stronger and some of the exhaustion is my body coping with a thyroid that is struggling and a heart that goes very slowly.
I still want to be invisible to people. And I am longing with all my heart to be seen. I want to be seen by people who will accept me for who I am. I found a quote the other day, I don’t remember who said it or how it went exactly. But what it said to me was that I needed to make sure that I kept the center of my power within myself and that I didn’t let others control how I felt about myself. When I put the power to control how I feel in the hands of others I will never be happy.
Today I am out in the world. I am doing my writing. And soon I will walk down the street to the library. I will walk slowly and deliberately and I will feel strength return to my muscles. No matter how large I have become I know that I am grateful for the healing time my body has given me by protecting me from the eyes of the world. And when today is done I will go home and dance in the kitchen, wave my arms and move my hips.