When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with a visual impairment that would require surgery and massive doses of oral steroids to save my eyesight. Legally blind, I was suddenly unable to participate in PE (depth perception is sort of important, especially in sports). The result: I weighed 100 pounds by the time I was in third grade.
From that time to this, I’ve struggled with my weight. I remember feeling downright cute in high school when I’d managed to get down to a size 18. My choir uniform never did fit quite right. And back then, finding a “plus size” prom gown in a small town was next to impossible.
As an added complication, I developed a pretty formidable case of generalized anxiety and I love me some comfort food. New Mexico born and raised (and with a Mexican grandmother who made the best enchiladas on earth – as well as everything else), I crave beans and rice and chips and tortillas. Yum. As you may have guessed, none of these foods figures very heavily into a low-carb, low-calorie diet.
When you’re overweight, you sometimes feel like you have to hide. You hide behind baggy clothes, mistakenly thinking they make you look slimmer. You stay out of public places, or you put yourself in a corner, trying to stay mostly invisible. It can be a lonely life. Luckily for me, I’m an extrovert and I love people. It’s hard to become a recluse under those conditions. But I’m definitely human and I’ve had my feelings hurt by strangers and loved ones alike. Being told I have a great personality and then having a loved one explain to me that that’s the kind of compliment people get when they’re fat. (Yep, that happened).
It wasn’t until last year, really, that I finally came to a place in my life where I decided that I was ready to get healthy. Not thin, mind you, just healthy. I have kids and I want to grow old with them. Now, in some cases, it takes a health crisis to prompt this kind of decision. Not so in my case. I’ve always been pretty healthy, except the vision problems of course. And I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to make progress. But losing weight, for me, has been all about attitude.
It hasn’t been easy. Some days I look in the mirror, and I feel GOOD. Some days, I retreat to my office with a box of cookies (that I know I shouldn’t have bought and definitely shouldn’t have with me, alone, in my office). Sometimes I am strong, reaching for a bowl of fruit instead of a bag of chips. But sometimes I falter, and in pretty spectacular fashion.
I had a conversation yesterday that put me on the defensive and made me feel bad about myself. Today, I’m making a choice. Two choices, actually. First, I will accept myself just as I am. I may never be thin. But I can be healthy and happy. If thin happens, great. If not, I think I’m pretty stinking awesome (yay for self-affirmations!). Second, I’m redoubling my efforts to be mindful of the words I speak. It’s so easy to say something that is unintentionally hurtful or demoralizing and, quite frankly, we get enough of that crap. I don’t need to add to the pot. Who’s with me?
April Fool’s Day for me this year is April 3. This morning I woke up and realized it’s the 3rd day of the month and I’d completely spaced – and I mean, entirely forgotten – to get started on the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Luckily, I’d decided to talk about feelings this month and guess what? A is for anxiety. A perfect segue into today’s blog. Yippee!!
I suffer from anxiety. Not the passing “roller coasters make me nervous” (though they do) or “ack! I have to sing in front of how many people??” (I get this one every single time I perform) anxiety. My anxiety is chronic and has made it difficult, at times, to function normally. After my daughter was born, I realized I was having crippling panic attacks every time I breastfed. As it turns out, there’s an actual reason for this having to do with fluctuations in lactation-related hormones. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time and the anxiety was so bad that I had to lie down so I wouldn’t pass out (not exactly ideal when you have a newborn to tend to). People with anxiety are faced with many choices. During my daughter’s infancy, I chose to give up breastfeeding so that I could function more normally as a parent. I wasn’t thrilled, but given the information and resources I had at the time, I think it was the right decision.
Over the years, I’ve thought quite a lot about how my anxiety has affected my choices. For instance, I love to travel. But for a while there, I wasn’t sure I could fly again. On one flight, I spent the entire time in the air with my head pressed against the seat in front of me, struggling to regain control of my insane thoughts. And because I come from a long line of anxious women, there were moments when I resigned myself to my fate: a quiet life keeping my anxiety in check.
Fortunately, I crave adventure. As I get older, and my kids grow up, I realize that there are a million things I want to do, both on my own and with them. And as a writer, I need and want to have adventures. To experience new things that I can write about. To put myself out there in the world and see what happens. And in order to do that, I need to conquer my anxiety. Actually, I’m not sure I believe in “conquering” my anxiety as much as I believe that I must learn to work with it and around it. The truth is, I still experience anxiety daily. I have a whole arsenal of coping tools and I use them faithfully, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anxiety. I’ve just learned how to deal with it more effectively.
What I find interesting is that, the more I share about my experiences with anxiety, the more I hear similar stories. Anxiety is one of those conditions that makes you feel isolated and alone, and yet, it takes almost no time to find lots of kindred spirits in the fight against anxiety.
Feel free to share here. You (WE) are not alone.
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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