And now for something completely different.
In the lead-up to my gastric sleeve surgery, I wanted to write about my journey for just a bit. I’ve been intending to do a bit more writing on this blog, but it makes me feel very vulnerable and I’m afraid to do it. Yet, I decided to share some old photos, and dig through my feelings.
Trigger warnings for this post: ED, sexual assault, abuse, suicide, drugs, etc. (nothing graphic.) Skip reading further if coming across these things is an issue for you. I totally understand.
The header photo is of me in a family portrait when I was a freshman in high school. I guess now that photo studios aren’t at department stores, people don’t really do these anymore. I remember adjusting this scarf while walking out of pre-algebra class one day, and for some reason, that’s why I can recall what year it was.
This photo was taken was before I was sexually assaulted for the second time, but after I had started having mental health issues. I was battling what could have turned into a full-blown eating disorder.
Growing up, I don’t remember ever having had issues with my weight, but I would put a little weight on before having a growth spurt. It’s a normal thing, and my own kid does this too.
Right before I hit puberty I put weight on again, but this time the makeup of our household had changed. Dieting was now a focus in our home, and there were people who told me that I was too fat.
This really messed with my head so I would desperately try not to eat and also over-exercise. I even snuck out of my house at night to go running. I had no self-esteem, but I had adults telling me that I looked better as I lost weight.
In high school, I ended up having a complete nervous breakdown. There were a complex set of circumstances that I will clumsily summarize here. I dropped out a few months into my senior year after I asked my father to take me to a doctor because I was actively considering suicide. I worked up the courage to ask for help because I lost hope that things would ever get better on their own. Instead of getting the help I needed, I was told that what I was going through was totally normal and that I should go to church more and let Jesus work on my heart.
I know now that I had undiagnosed ADHD and untreated PTSD. I also now know that the home I was living in was emotionally abusive.
Classic ADHD symptoms like emotional dysregulation, trouble with sleep cycles, hyperfocus on things of interest, and an inability to maintain interests – completely took over my life. I was also an extremely toxic person. I had few models of healthy relationships in my life. No matter how desperately I wanted to have friends and good relationships…I was completely incapable of not destroying them. I hurt people I truly loved, and I destroyed myself in the process.
Finding out a year ago that I have ADHD really changed my life in a lot of ways. Now have a better understanding of what I could control and couldn’t, and what it is I need help with and how to get that help. What happened to me was wrong. I deserved to see a therapist and psychiatrist and get treated. I would have had a chance at a normal life.
Instead, I turned to eating. I think part of it was that it was something that I could control, and I think another part of it was that eating provides dopamine – something my brain was desperately lacking. I was unknowingly trying to self-medicate dopamine in other ways like drinking tons of coffee, engaging in risky behavior, and spending way too much time on the internet. I started gaining weight, and in a way, the stress of realizing that made it so much worse.
As my life unraveled my weight spiraled even more out of control. I put on close to 100lbs in about a year. My weight was growing so fast I skipped sizes. I went from a size 12 to an 18-20. The family doctor became alarmed and tried to prescribe a diet instead of helping me with my anxiety over lumps that I was forming under my skin. He was more concerned with my diet than with understanding why a 17-year-old would suddenly go from the high end of the acceptable weight range to absolutely obese.
On top of the abusive home environment, general emotional distress, and psychological issues – I was also navigating suddenly being in a fat body in a world that to this day has a tendency to treat fat people like shit.
My family started encouraging me to diet. Belittling me was not beneath them. I remember one instance of a sibling getting a ride home but when the car passed me on the street it had been decided that I needed to walk instead. When I was 20, a sibling suggested I try cocaine. This was not a supportive environment in which people were concerned about my health.
So as you can see, this was a difficult time in my life….and I wish it was the only one. But this picture of me as a freshman in high school makes me feel a certain way. I was so hopeful that somehow I was going to do well in school, and make friends, and go off to college and escape my home…I had no idea how bad things could get. There were still so many possibilities.
As I’m getting ready for surgery I want to keep her in mind. Nothing can change the past…but I can work on my future. I can provide the things for myself that the adults in my life had failed to provide for me. I thoroughly believe that we all deserve to be treated with care when we ask for help. It’s so hard to do it. I have to heal and allow myself to grow so that I can offer the helping hand to my own son that I did not receive.
It’s got me thinking about what that care looks like. For me it’s involved getting myself into therapy, going through the process to get this procedure done, working on my self-esteem….etc. I wonder what looks like for you? I know not everyone has these kinds of things to reflect back on, but we all struggle in some way – so I’m sure there’s self-care that could help anyone out there.
Until next time,