here and now and then

It came up at a party, the fact that I had had weight-loss surgery. I’m not even sure how, and I’m a little ashamed that I was tempted to deny it, and say no no, it was exercise and a lot of protein! I’ve been feeling pretty defensive, lately, about having had it, after reading in several spots, in a relatively short period of time, how it is the easy way out, and plastic surgery, and deadly mutilation, and cheating.  But I owned up to it, because none of those things are true. Yes, I said, surgery. Almost a year and a half ago. This is the amount of weight. I know, I can’t believe it either. I know, it’s crazy. Here is a brief explanation of the surgery, here is how it works, here is how I live. I know, it’s crazy! You can’t imagine me weighing that many pounds? Oh, I said. Ha, I said. You betcha.

I felt like she wanted me to say “Thank you! Isn’t that so great?” I am relieved that thank you was not my first instinct. That I am still loyal to that person I was, all these years, and who I became, and how I got there. I gained a lot of weight because of biological issues, and psychological issues, but also because of choices I made, over and over. I am responsible for my physical being, the flesh I inhabited. And that body of mine is responsible for the person I became, everything I am and who and how and why. My body and what I think of as myself–I act, all the time, as if these are separate entities, completely unrelated, but I know they are completely inextricable. To suggest otherwise is dishonest, and lazy and feels, to me, treacherous and unfaithful. I am treacherous and unfaithful, though. When that woman said “I can’t imagine you weighing that much!” I realized that I can’t imagine it any more, either.

Not in a shocked, I can’t believe I let myself get like that! way. But
I look at pictures from all over the weight spectrum, as high as my
highest and as low as the lowest I ever got before surgery–somewhere in
the two-teens, I think–and I don’t recognize myself in those pictures.
My face looks different, and my body looks different; how I hold
myself, my gestures, my expressions. I can’t find myself in them. I
have no idea who this girl is, and I don’t remember being her–I have
no sense memory of my body. I think I remember being fuller, rounder,
firmer, feeling stronger and more firmly rooted. Solid and steady and
sure. I think that’s how it was. I don’t remember at all, and suddenly,
it feels like my whole fucking life has gone missing. A terrible,
embarrassing amnesia.

Sometimes, though, I catch myself in what might be a kind of physical
memory. I will catch myself sitting in a way I used to think minimized
my thighs, or hold my hands in a way that I thought would hide my
stomach, or automatically grab a pillow to keep on my lap when I sit on
the couch. I will lean on my side and suddenly think that I can’t do
that because I thought my rolls were hideous and would turn you to
stone. My hand will fly up to cover my terrible flaws or I’ll start to
move, or grab the blanket to duck under and then I’ll realize that no,
my body is not the same and it doesn’t bend and bulge the same way (I
have traded in for other terrible evil flaws to cover up, now).

In that moment, though, that split second of horror that I could be
showing something I don’t want anyone to see, some kind of
vulnerability that could get me killed, I will remember that palpable
sense of shame. It used to accompany me almost everywhere I went. It
was as big and repulsive as I thought I was. And in those moments of
flashback, I am, for the briefest moment, glad I don’t really remember
what it was like to be any size than the size I am now, and for longer
than a brief moment, it feels like a betrayal.

Maybe it means that I am getting better at living in the body I have, and becoming more comfortable in my skin and it is a good thing, in the end. That’s possible. Actually, I’d think it were possible if I recognized myself in the pictures that are taken now. I am almost surprised I show up on film at all, I feel so unmoored and unreal. I can’t remember what I used to be like, and it’s like I can’t figure out what I’m like, now. Starting to wonder–starting to worry–if I ever will, and what that might take.

3 Replies to “here and now and then”

  1. I had a gastric band placed two years ago last Friday. This Friday coming I will have it totally loosened and for the first time in 2 years I will be able to eat a meal.

    I’ve lost 110lbs and I’m not yet at goal weight – but I love my body right now and I work out and I want to be able to eat enough to fuel this healthy body. Maybe I’ll never reach “goal weight”, but I’m not hiding anymore.

    And yes, I TOTALLY get the stranger in the photos. Who was this girl who thought her cheeks looked slim if she tilted her head?

  2. I totally understand. It is unsettling not to recognize yourself in the mirror or in photos; or, in my case, to only recognize the flaws that have not gone away despite weight loss. From what I can tell, the only way to get past this is with positive thinking as a way to ground yourself in your new body.

  3. I wrote a long reply to this and then I just couldn’t post it. I think I would have felt too naked. So I’ll just say, Yeah, I hear you. It’s hard, Anne, but I hope you can make peace with yourself and with your body. I think many feelings that we often associate with weight and weight loss actually have nothing to do with our physical bodies at all and very much to do with our (sometimes wacky) brains.

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