I was in Mr. Egbert's fifth grade class, carefree and happy, when I had an experience that, in hindsight, was a course changing moment. I was bounding down one path of life and even though I didn't recognize it then, I allowed one experience to throw me onto a course of anxiety, pain, self-doubt and self-hatred.
I was late coming in from recess and didn't really notice that the class had quieted as I entered and tried to quickly make my way back to my desk. We sat in "teams" of five so that it could help foster learning but that day it only helped foster cruelty. As I got closer I noticed my team all had their heads down and were hiding smirks and as I got to my desk, I saw it - written diagonally with big letters, in pen, " 1-800- Jenny- Craig!" I looked up a little stunned and they started to laugh and as the laughter spread to the tables all around us, my friend who had written it, looked over at me with what I can describe now as malice mixed with glee, and told me I should make sure my parents got me into Jenny Craig so I could stop how fat and disgusting I was becoming. I didn't even know what to say but was saved by Mr. Egbert coming in and trying to quiet everyone down as we moved into geography. I pushed back the tears that had begun to sting my eyes and willed myself to not cry.
I will never know what compelled my so called friend to do that to me but it's been interesting as I have run into her over the years, the first thought that enters my mind is what she wrote on my desk. It goes away and we talk pleasantly about our lives and part ways wishing each other well. I can honestly say I hold no anger towards her, but I always walk away wondering if she knows what that one act started for me in my life. I then hope that I never was the catalyst for someone else's pain and sorrow and I silently plead in prayer that if ever I was I can somehow try to put it right. We all make mistakes; we don't get out of this life without hurting someone (intentionally or not). Sadly, sometimes the person we hurt the most is ourself. The sad part to me is that this is what I looked like in fifth grade:
I can now see that I wasn't this huge gigantic monster I began to tell myself that I was. Before that day I had never worried about my size because I was just a kid. My brothers and I lived on our bikes during all seasons and wore ourselves out trying to get every last minute out of daylight: playing soccer, baseball, night games or just crazy tricks on the trampoline. Oh, the tears that would come when we had to come inside. I was active and happy and words like "fat" or "skinny" or "diet" didn't even crossed my mind.
But I was a shy kid, an embarrassed kid, even with my own family. I never told anyone anything. I liked to have fun and do things with friends but I was the listener, I hardly ever talked about me. That year began my battle with myself as it came to what I looked like. I began to watch other kids and frantically wonder if I was bigger than they were and if so, how much bigger? As the days and weeks and months went by I continued to go careening down the wrong path until it was my well worn trail that I never got off.
What does all this have to do with the last year of my life? Well, it's the reason I finally decided enough was enough. I didn't want to lose weight for everyone else in my life who lovingly thought it would make me happier; or so that I could finally feel like I fit in and was just like everyone else; or even that it could maybe improve my dating life – I wanted to do it for me. I was tired of living like the only thing that made me a good enough person was how much I weighed and with the state I was in I could never judge myself a good enough person. I wanted to be healthy, to play soccer again, to finally stop hating who I was for everyday of my life. It might sound a little dramatic but really, under the smile I tried to wear, these were the true emotions.
I started last year on March 1, 2012 and to date I have lost 75 pounds. My first step was to get rid of the guilt; if I wanted a cookie I would have one and I wouldn't hate myself for days because of it. I began to slowly try to exercise a particle of will power in watching what I ate. I tried to chose better but not act paranoid. I began to walk, like I have always liked to do and then the craziest thing – I stayed away from a scale. I only really weighed myself every couple of months.
Every day was hard. I had to tell myself everyday that I was doing this for life not for a diet. I still have to say that. I still have to ask myself if I'm hungry or if I'm letting my emotions control me. Sometimes the emotions win but I stop there and try again the next day. I realized a person's value is not found in a number on the scale, whether too high or too low. I used music to help – "I want something to live for" by The Rocket Summer became my own personal anthem. I realized I had been living the shell of a life not the real thing and I needed to stop fearing things like failure or pain or embarrassment and live!
I debated even sharing this with others because the honest truth is that I might have been able to change my weight a little in a year but the way I think about myself is a whole other story. I haven't even come close to fixing the years that negative self-hatred can do to a person, but I'm trying. I still look in the mirror and see the same person from a year ago staring back at me. I thought I would be instantly happy as I lost weight; I thought I would be dating like crazy . . . but so far, neither of those things has happened. I guess what I am learning is the cliché old way of thinking: happiness comes from within, from liking yourself. I'm not there yet but I've decided to use this last year as another course correcting experience – who knows what hindsight will bring me in twenty years?
So I just want to say to myself and to whomever might be reading: be nice to yourself, be nice to others.
|February 2012 - - - - - - - - - - - - - February 2013|
Moments from the past year that I want to focus on and maybe in a year I can be talking about finally liking the person I am - inside and out.