Welp, I did get my blood test results back (remember that?) and sure enough: my Vitamin D level was quite low. So I’ve been taking a D3 supplement, plus I moved up to a higher dose of antidepressant, and I feel so much better now that I can’t believe how long it took me to notice that I was feeling so off. But that’s the thing about depression — it’s only after you’re back to feeling like yourself that you realize how much time you spent feeling like someone else, or no one at all.
Getting my emotions back in check and feeling like Myself, of course, makes me aware of how much other baggage I’m still hauling around. Yesterday I had my second-ever (routine, no worries) mammogram, and while it was a completely straightforward mammogram experience, it brushed up against a layer of Body Issues, a big clump of OMG BODY WTF that’s been hanging out just below the surface, and got it all stirred up and angry.
So I’ve been working on untangling all the individual pieces of that so I can work on them one by one, because if I don’t they all join forces into one giant Feelings Voltron, and Feelings Voltron is undefeatable. Here are some of the pieces I’ve identified, which you’re welcome to not read since Thar Be Feelings and really I’m only writing this for my benefit anyway:
1. I’m fat. I believe I’ve mentioned this here before. What I haven’t mentioned is that — I keep getting fatter. In my twelve months of working on eating intuitively, I’ve continued gaining weight at the same rate as I did when I was dieting (yes, I gained then, too), or when I was eating all my feelings. At this point it’s pretty clear my weight gain is going to continue independent of my eating and exercising habits, and my doctor, rightfully concerned, has referred me to an endocrinologist to try to figure out what’s up. My ability to accept the shape and size of my body is shaky sometimes anyway, and trying to develop solid body acceptance of a body that keeps changing is extremely emotionally draining — not to mention the worry that there may be something seriously out of whack that’s causing this. (My appointment with the endo isn’t until late April; I’ll keep you posted.)
2. Yoga is hard, y’all. I’m still going to yoga class at the Y once a week, and practicing several times a week at home, and can tell that I’m improving…but so many years of not exercising regularly, or exercising like crazy for a month or two and then quitting when it didn’t make me lose weight, have left me pretty wimpy and out of shape, and I’m continually caught off guard by how difficult it is. I already feel pretty vulnerable about being visibly fat at the gym (and by the way, this piece about being fat at yoga is AMAZING), and I’m having to step away from the class nearly every week to quiet my self-talk (“What are you even doing here, fatty? You should be home on the sofa, eating chips, because your body isn’t cut out for this, obviously” — my self-talk is a real bitch) and get my breathing under control. So it’s physically a lot of exercise, yeah, but a lot emotionally too.
3. The mammogram experience itself was a real challenge. I mean, it’s physically uncomfortable, sure, to have to stand perfectly still while your breasts are mashed between plastic plates; but I was caught off guard by how very exposing and violating it felt to have the tech picking up my parts and putting them where she wanted them. She was very sweet and super-professional, and I knew exactly what I was doing there, but it rattled me more than it did last time. Add to that having to put a number to how much weight I’ve gained since my last mammogram five years ago (necessary for my file, she said, so the lab doesn’t think they’re looking at someone else’s films), and especially having to detail my family history of breast cancer (mother diagnosed age 34, deceased age 37; maternal aunt diagnosed age 60), which bumps into grief over my mom’s death and concern about my own mortality — 34 doesn’t seem very far away at all anymore.
So there we have it: the disassembled, component pieces of my Feelings Voltron, which I now have to keep isolated from each other so I can wrestle with each of them separately and keep them from reforming. Here goes.
This was originally posted on my other blog, Closet Narcissist, on February 11, 2011.
Yesterday for dinner I made potato soup – partly because it was so very very cold outside, but mostly because I somehow ended up with two big bags of potatoes in my pantry that I didn’t want to waste. And potato soup is one of those rare meals that all five of us will eat.
Mmm, potatoes. So versatile. My favorite vegetable. (Are potatoes even, technically, avegetable?) So I dumped the potatoes out onto the kitchen counter, a few at a time, and I scrubbed and peeled and chopped and dumped them into my big soup pot, when suddenly –
– out of the bag rolled a Very. Large. Potato.
A Super-Sized Spud. A Tumescent Tuber. A Russet of Unusual Size.
It was not a conventionally attractive potato. It was so much larger than the rest of the potatoes in the bag. And it was lumpy and bulgy in places where the other potatoes weren’t lumpy and bulgy. I wondered if maybe I’d gotten a defective bag of potatoes. Maybe I’d been gypped. Maybe I should write the grocery store an angry letter.
Maybe I was getting ahead of myself.
So I started to peel the giant potato, experimentally.
And in fact, the potato didn’t look any different on the inside than all the other potatoes.
Even in the bulgy parts.
And when I tried cutting it up,
it worked just like all the other, smaller, more conventionally attractive potatoes.
So I chopped it up
and put it in my soup.
And it was delicious.
This was originally posted on my other blog, Closet Narcissist, on February 5, 2011.
In my absence from this blog, I’ve been reading and thinking and learning. Were you aware of the Health at Every Size movement? That there’s a whole community of interneters working for fat acceptance? That there are people who are actually standing up and saying, Yes, I *am* overweight, and I am also healthy and I love my body, so what of it?
This boggles me. Blows my mind. It never even *occurred* to me that there would be fat people out there — people my own size — who are not ashamed to be who they are, who aren’t hiding their bodies under layers and layers of bulky clothes, who are not just accepting of their bodies but *proud* of them, who love themselves.
And slowly, I’m becoming one of those people, too.
I wear a size 24. I have dieted and dieted for months and years at a time, I have lost and gained, and inevitably, this is the size I keep coming back to. What’s that cliche about the definition of insanity? I’m beginning to make peace with the notion that I am never going to be physically perfect — not by some arbitrary, external definition, anyway — but I am going to stop making myself insane trying to measure up — or measure down — to someone else’s ideal me.
I’m going to love and nurture and celebrate my body, not abuse and deprive it. I would never withhold food or affection or sleep from one of my children — I give them healthy food, plenty of it, and treats every now and then in moderation. I give them plenty of opportunities for fun exercise. I make sure they get plenty of sleep. I defend them when other people say cruel things to them, and I do not allow them to say cruel things about others; I teach them to treat people with dignity. I love them and snuggle them and tell them how special and wonderful they are to me, how God made them to be perfectly them.
And I am going to love myself the same way. I am God’s child, and He expects me to treat my body with healthy love, not unhealthy abuse. So I’m going to love me, all of me.
Just because I can write all of this, of course, doesn’t mean I really believe it yet. But I’m getting there. I’m working on being more mindful of what I eat, of making sure I’m getting healthy fruits and vegetables and just the occasional bit of chocolate, of paying attention to how different foods make me feel. Not bingeing, and also not denying myself when I’m hungry and my body needs fuel. I’m exercising, going to the campus gym several times a week to walk the track and listen to my iPod. Once I overcame fear of being a fat old(er) woman in a university gym full of thin perky 18-year-olds (a serious exercise in systematic desensitization), I’ve actually been enjoying it. I feel better when I’ve exercised, stronger, more energetic. I sleep better. It’s a surprising feeling, this exercising-to-feel-better instead of exercising-to-get-thin.
So I’m getting there.
I’m working hard at remembering all of this, controlling what I’m putting in, seeking out writers who are uplifting and positive about body and size and self-esteem. There seems to be an absence of Christian voices on this topic, though; I’ve only found one so far, and what I’m missing is the company of other writers who are writing about body-love from a Christian perspective.
We’re not very good at love, we Christians. Most of the time, we’re better at judgment – towards others and towards ourselves. And when it comes to body image, we pretty much fall back on two verses: the bit about gluttony, and “Your body is a temple.” And we all know there are certain things that are off limits for our temples: drinking, smoking, premarital sex, and being fat.
I was hung up on the body-as-temple image for a while. If I’m remembering right from all my years of Bible classes and Sunday schools, Solomon built a pretty freaking amazing temple to honor God — all gold and jewels and fancy statues, opulent and expensive, a place worthy of communing with the Most High God. If that temple were a human body, it would be Angelina Jolie. Is that what God wants from me? Because I can never live up to that. My body-temple is more of a shack, with shag carpets and crummy wood paneling. My body-temple belongs in a trailer park, not a palace.
But then. It’s not saying I’m supposed to build this temple of my body — it’s already built. I had no control over the construction, the materials, the workmanship. I have to trust that God built this temple of mine exactly to the specifications He wanted, out of exactly the materials He wanted, fearfully and wonderfully. I’m not the architect here — it’s just my job to keep the carpets vacuumed and the furniture dusted, to light the incense and burn the candles, to make this temple welcoming and warm, a fitting place to honor God. To nurture and love and care for this temple, not take a sledgehammer to the walls and try to make it something else.
So that’s a very lengthy summary of what I’ve been thinking about lately. What about you?