the eternal weight loss surgery patient

On Saturday there was a Chinese new year party at a friend’s parent’s house, and it was delightful, as their parties always are, and filled with excellent people who I want to talk to and good food and a lot of booze and I was very excited to go, because people! Conversation! Dressing up and wearing lipstick and socializing! It was all so exciting. I was careful all day, with my eating, because I did not want to embarrass myself with socially embarrassing gas or by getting sick. I wore red for luck, mascara and lipstick and it was all very exciting. E drove so that I could have a couple of glasses of wine.

The house was packed full of people, mostly around the food. I poured myself a glass of white wine, and hugged people and laughed and kissed and fed cheese to the pug and exclaimed and laughed and then had to excuse myself because I had started to feel hot, jangly-headed, flushed and nauseous. I sat down and it passed, and I got up again to circulate, had to sit down again. It passed; I had lost my drink somewhere. I bumped into the host on the way back to the kitchen but had to excuse myself in the middle of a sentence because the dizziness was climbing up the back of my neck and closing over my head, and I couldn’t breathe, and the sense of wrongness and terribleness was overwhelming. The bathroom was locked, and I sat in the dark bedroom next to it, on the floor with my knees drawn up, hoping that I wouldn’t make a mess on their nice wood floors when I expired.

When the door opened, I launched myself inside, locked it, and laid full-length on the tile floor and breathed slowly, waiting for it to pass, whatever it was. And I mentally reviewed every single thing I had put in my mouth today, every sip, every bite, every possible crumb that had passed my lips. I laid there and berated myself for being an ass, for ruining everything, for always doing everything wrong, because that is what I do. Self-Recrimination is my middle name, which makes it hard to fill out forms.

I laid there for a long time, listening to the voices go up and down the hall, until I thought I could stand up again without fainting. I flushed the toilet and washed my hands, in case anyone was out there monitoring my noises and wondering what I was doing (and as if taking an epic poop was less embarrassing than trying not to faint in the bathroom), and I went and found E, told him we had to go. He assumed that I was sick because of something I ate, which always makes him mad–he does not want me to be sick. He wishes I would stop making myself sick. “Honey,” he said. “What did you eat today? Were you eating junk?” But he touched my forehead, realized that I was, actually and for real, sick.

“Really?” I said. “You’re way hot,” he said. “What about my temperature?” I said, because even death cannot rob me of my comedy. “That too,” he said. He got us home, tucked me into bed and fussed around me until I fell asleep happy, despite feeling like hell. It is lovely to be taken care of sometimes, and even lovelier to know that something is not your fault. Less lovely–how my entire life revolves around weight loss surgery. Every thing that happens in my body, every noise and grumble and pain and itch and tingle and lump has something to do with weight loss surgery. Everything in my life goes back to the fact that once upon a time I had weight loss surgery. Some days it feels like my epitaph–Liked Pudding, Had Weight Loss Surgery.

I used to identify as a fat girl; maybe this is what has rushed in to take its place, to fill the void where the boobs used to be. That is a chilling thought. But it is one of the major facts of my self, and my self-identity, and of course, a lot of that is of my own making; body issues are interesting to me, and weight loss surgery has directly and unavoidably affected my body and my body image, and I think about it, and write about it, which means I think about it and write about it. But even with all the attention I pay to it and spend on it, it still surprises me to realize that it has become such an intrinsic part of my life, so intertwined with everything I do and everything I feel–again, sometimes that is my own making, but sometimes it is something that can’t be dodged–eating, thinking about eating, drinking, talking about going to get coffee, getting dressed, getting undressed, being touched, feeling guilty about not going to the gym, running after the dogs but not being able to keep up, taking a supplement every four hours. Sometimes directly related, sometimes peripherally, all of it adding up to feeling like I’ve remade myself in the image of The Eternal Weight-Loss Surgery Patient.

  4 comments for “the eternal weight loss surgery patient

  1. Sal
    February 2, 2009 at 11:42 am

    That sounds … a little oppressive. Since so much of it is physical, I imagine there will always be things that tie you back to surgery, but will some of those ties loosen as your body readjusts to your new, smaller form?

  2. February 2, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    I think a lot of WLS patients tend to define their lives by the surgery. For a long time I viewed my life as either before or after until one day I realized that new people I met never knew I used to weigh 310 pounds. One of our graduate students told me once that I had never lived life as a “large” woman and I didn’t know how hard it was to lose weight. I believe that the further you get from your surgery date the easier it becomes to separate yourself from it. But then again…with every burble or twinge that comes from my belly I’m convinced that the whole thing is going to burst open and someone will find me on the floor with bloody intestines lying along side. They’ll shake their head and say, “I told her the WLS was a bad idea. All she needed was a little more discipline.”

  3. Mal
    February 3, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It doesn’t hurt that you are an excellent writer, and I got completely drawn in.

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