There is nothing in the world weirder than revisiting your past in great and glorious Technicolor surround-sound. I am working on a project about my weight loss surgery, about what came before and what came after, and I am spending a lot of time sitting down and looking through things I want to call relics–my old blog, my body of work posts on elastic waist, the countess emails I wrote when I was thinking about it.
Pictures, lists of measurements, a Word document I found on my computer that listed all the ways my life would change and all the things I would do that spoke more of the great bone-deep unhappiness I was filled up with than any determination or hope or ambition.
I was such a different person, two hundred pounds ago, three years ago. I am also exactly the same. But what I’m missing, what I’ve lost, is the sense of unhappiness and inadequacy and constant awareness of every physical flaw I perceived myself to have. It was all-pervasive, oppressive, endless, all-encompassing, and it got to the point where I just didn’t notice it any more. I moved through my life as if it were perfectly normal and ordinary to hate yourself and everything about you, to be absolutely flummoxed as to why any one would ever think you were beautiful or worth loving, or worth any time at all.
In pictures, I was a beautiful girl. I looked like I knew that I was beautiful, too. That was a lie. There are pictures of me at my absolute highest weight, three days before my surgery, and I am laughing, dressed up like a Devil in a Blue Dress, with flaming red hair and bosoms for acres and I look beautiful, unselfconscious, as if I am happy and full of ineffable joy, confident in my loveliness.
That was not me–not the me I felt like on a daily, hourly, minute-to-minute basis. I could struggle out of my unhappiness for whole moments at a time, but I’d always collapse right back in, more exhausted than I had been before. I went home from that Halloween party relieved to be leaving, excited that my surgery was in only a few days.
I was not healthy at my highest weight–my blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, they were all fine. But I couldn’t breathe when I walked, and I could barely walk. My knees ached and my hips throbbed and my chest felt tight, always. I scratched myself raw and bloody from the never-ending yeast infection. I peed when I laughed or coughed. My heart fluttered. At my highest weight, I was desperately unhappy and uncomfortable, and because of that, I was unlovely, crouched down out of the way, head ducked like I was prepared for a blow, shoulders rolled forward, slumping, miserable. I was not beautiful at my highest weight because the self-loathing had ground me down and the disgust had worn me out.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably go on saying it–I wish I could have found a way out of that. I did need to lose weight, because 316 pounds did not feel good, was not something I could carry around for the long term. But I had been weights all the way up and down the scale, between 200 and 300 for practically all my life, and I had been healthy, and I had been beautiful. And I could have been happy, maybe, if I had tried harder.
Instead I bowed out of the game completely, ran fast and far away, as quickly as possible, and only when I stopped and caught my breath was I able to turn around and see where I had been, and how small it all seemed from here. It took so much to gain a sense of perspective.
photo by StuffEyeSee