A Fleshy Form of Friendship

In January 2020, I posted the original version of this story, to my old blog. Since then, it has required some updates and additions, beyond an extra 20(ish) pounds…

It was happening again.

I was trying on my entire closet worth of clothing and, much to my dismay and embarrassment, truly little of it fit properly (again)…if it fit at all.

And another piece goes to the floor/donate pile.

Has it really been that long since I wore this? It doesn’t fucking fit at all. And this one, gosh, it still has the tags on…

More pieces go down to the pile.

Every piece of clothing takes a piece of me with it…

I knew this moment was coming, it has been building for months. I had been planning a more thorough purge but had yet to commit. And now here I was.

The panic attack accompanying this purge was nowhere near the that of the previous purge. I managed to internalize this one, swallowing the guilt and shame, then tucking them quite cozily in the bottom of my belly.

I looked down longingly at the pile of clothes, thanked them for their service or for just visiting, then scooped them up, so they could join the other giant garbage bag of ill-fitting items.

And made a list of what I needed to purchase (again).

It would be uncouth to walk around naked.

The Skin I’m In

I have NEVER been comfortable in my body. My earliest memories of self are negative and my issues with my body deeply entrenched.

I find getting dressed difficult.

Even if I am staying home. Sometimes, if what I wore Tuesday was manageable without too much issue, it will repeat on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…to avoid harmful thought.

If I know in advance of plans (fuck, if you know me spontaneity is not a strong suit), I will torturously peruse the closet of hours and days changing my mind several times before settling on what to wear.

Our bodies change, we all know that. And these changes happen for several varied reasons. Sometimes we can pinpoint the reason (growth, puberty, dietary changes) and other times alteration happens and we do not know why.

Beyond the mental illness that governs how I see myself are the chronic illnesses that have authority over what I put in my body.

For me, and my Type 1 Diabetes, a somewhat low-carb diet works best. It gives me the most stable blood sugars which does wonders for both my body and mind. I also have IBS/IBD and there are several things that do not agree with me, and they have been absent from my diet for years (anything fried or greasy literally gives me the bends).

I also struggle to process and digest animal proteins and dairy products. New medications have recently made those things easier to manage.

I often joke that when I am eating, I am doing so with consequence.

Sometimes I don’t even know which fucking one!

My healthcare team says I eat well. The things I put in my body are good and my portions managed.

So why the fuck did I gain 50+(ish) pounds over the two years? Where the fuck did all the extra me come from?

When I first noticed things in my wardrobe were snugger than I remembered I did a quick assessment of the big changes: I was no longer working outside the home, I was now on an insulin pump.

That was back in January 2020, with the initial 30ish pound gain.

Since then, I have stacked on an additional 20 pounds.

Even though I once again cut my portions and consciously sought more activity.

Ch-Ch-Changes

I had a job I really liked prior to going on the pump in 2018. However, at that time, my blood sugars were wildly out of control. I started having episodes of hypo-unawareness. At work. And once I ended up on the floor.

After leaving that beloved place, I returned to a company I had previously worked for (twice) and went on the pump. My health improved but the environment was toxic, and my anxiety worsening. It was no longer a safe space for me to be mentally.

A very frank discussion with my husband (and with myself) resulted in the decision for me to stay home. Shortly after that, due to intense bullying and inaction from the school/school board, it was decided we would pull our son and begin homeschooling.

So, not only was my body inexplicably changing but our lives were now unexpectedly changing. Logic told me that being at home, teaching and doing home things, found me less active than when I was (literally) running around at work.

A contributing factor? Maybe. Sole culprit? No.

Next, my thoughts turned to my insulin pump. I was taking less insulin than I was on MDI. A lot less. Like 10-12 daily units less…

And that did a big ole mind fuck on me.

I lived by the (dangerous) notion that a lot of insulin can make you gain weight.

In the past, I would let my sugars run high and avoid taking correction doses, as a means of losing weight. Sure, needle phobia always had a role to play (and largely contributed to higher blood sugars), but not when I was feeling bigger than what I had deemed normal.

But that was not the case. My insulin pump had made my life easier in that respect. It eliminated that fear and made properly dosing and managing my blood sugars much, much easier. And again, LESS INSULIN…so, why the extra poundage?

I made adjustment after adjustment to no avail. I had read about a drug that was given to diabetic folk to help with weight loss/management, so I went to the doctor.

I told him I was concerned about my ballooning size, and the extra 5-8 pounds I that would suddenly appear along with my periods. He looked over my recent bloodwork and said, one positive thing about having something amiss with your health is we are always checking up on you, your blood work must be done regularly, and all of this looks good but maybe we need to be looking for something else.

I left with a new requisition to have a few more things explored. But not the prescription I had been seeking.

Nothing ever came of that bloodwork, done back in March/April of last year.

I now have a new round of tests to be done.

Seeing as the gaining just will not stop.

What It Feels Like

I wish I had a small vessel to contain all those moments I felt good about myself, all those times I caught I glimpse in the mirror and smiled. The vessel would not hold much because they are few and fleeting, but I know there have been some.

One?

There must be, right? I must have felt some moment of body joy at some point…even if it was the briefest of moments…right? Though, none come to mind…

None of my healthcare team has ever been as concerned about my gains as I am.

My endo barely batted an eye, in the beginning. But now she has taken my concerns to heart and ordered up a new round of tests, and a requisition for a specialist.

According to them, I continue to do everything well. All my bloodwork comes back normal. I have been in perimenopause for years, so I always wonder if there have been changes there, but my hormone levels remain unchanged.

So, WTF?! Maybe all the new tests will garner different results.

Naturally, I blame myself for this dramatically bigger me. There is no thing I can pin this on, this one is on me. ALL ME.

And now, there is a fucking lot of me, so that is a crap ton of blame.

The trouble with my personal struggle with body dysmorphia is the havoc it wreaks on daily life. For me it has a dramatically negative impact on my mental health and oftentimes triggers an increase in my PDD symptoms.

I spend a lot of my day focused on my body. And I hate looking in the mirror (unless picking at my face when a breakout happens). I deliberately avoid seeing myself naked because it can (and will) break me.

I have lied to friends and cancelled plans because I simply cannot accept what I see in a way that will allow me to walk out the door. At least once a week tears are shed because of what I see when I look at myself.

I have been unkind and abused my body through starvation, self harm, and improper management of my chronic illnesses.

All that imagery causes me to go to war with myself. My logic informs me of what is going on, but it is not enough of an effort to silent the screams of unworthiness. Sense and reason come together, up in arms, but it is not enough to overthrow the disgust and sadness that reign over my body.

The look on my husband’s face, when I am drowning in it, makes me feel like there is something truly skewed about my perspective. In the least, I wish I could fix it, so he would not look at me like that.

Because that look, that mix of pity and helplessness is almost unbearable.

The Grind

I share my body image issues (semi) openly on my social channels. And whenever I do, I am flooded with messages from folks who want to help me…

By signing me up for shakes and exercise programs.

This idea that larger bodies are unhealthy, or out-of-shape is so out-of-date it is laughable. And, while those messages may arrive with good intent, they are quite triggering for me.

I do move. I walk everyday, I garden, I ride my stationary bike, I hike… I fucking move, okay?! Do not assume that I am laying on the couch stuffing my face and blaming the world! Don’t.

I dislike exercise. Always have. My biological mother was (maybe still is) obsessed with working out; she was a beauty queen and an aerobics instructor. Her childhood comments still linger in my brain… I was never good enough for her and her constant want to “improve” me will never go away.

Do people even still do aerobics? Like, is that even a still thing?

What I am currently struggling with is enjoying movement in this new body, this new form. I am really finding it difficult to navigate and feel good while I am doing it. And I certainly struggle with feeling good after I am done, because that seldom (if ever!) happens.

I am self-conscious when walking the dog. I garden alone. I stopped doing yoga because I was struggling to relearn poses in this different shape. And I struggle to be comfortable on my stationary bike. I just find it all so hard and disheartening.

And the lack of result (which I know does not occur overnight, we are talking about a decades long battle) is heartbreakingly difficult to take.

And it certainly is not motivating.

These struggles make me feel as though I am a failure, that I am not doing enough to effect change. Even though, somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I do know that there may be nothing that I can do.

Until we discover what and why my body is doing this.

Sizing Me Up

Some people can truly get behind themselves. They believe in themselves. They ooze confidence and security and that makes them so beautiful. Regardless of what title the world has given them.

But not me.

Truth be told compliments make me squirm. If someone says something nice to me, I am overwhelmed by the notion that it is done so out of obligation, that it is not a true thought or feeling.

Instead, it is something they must have said because they are such a nice person. And that means it has little to do with me.

Fucked up, I know. But that is me being honest.

After tossing 65% of my original wardrobe, I was left with a few concert/freebie t-shirts, three sweaters and a lot of leggings.

I love leggings! But I also wonder if they are part of the reason, I did not originally notice I was growing like a fucking radioactive monster. They always seemed to fit, those fuckers.

Until I recently found they did not fit as comfortably as they once did. Or even like they did after my initial, um, growth spurt.

This second and most recent purge of clothing saw me toss a lot of those leggings. And more clothes. To make room. For things that fit.

And hopefully make me feel good?

In the Spring of 2018, I was a size 4/6 and almost the thinnest I have ever been. I am currently a 10/12 (closer to 12). And while the number on the tag really should not hold value, I cannot shake that it does. Whether or not that is society’s fault or my own remains to made clear.

My entire wardrobe now contains items that fit. I shed EVERYTHING that did not allow me to move comfortably.

In fact, just this morning I pulled a bouse from my closet and discovered that I could barely move my shoulders in it. I purchased it in the fall of 2019 for a friend’s 40th birthday celebrations and had not put it on since… oops. #donation

I am trying extremely hard to wrap my head around these new mindsets. I am trying to exorcise those feelings of guilt. I am trying to be grateful for what I do have, and I am trying (so desperately hard) to be kinder to my physical self.  

And though a complete embrace of my body (regardless of size or function) is unlikely to ever happen, I can say that I am truly trying to do that.

And the presence of that effort means a lot.

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