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Disappearing Acts

Curds 'n' Weigh: Disappearing Acts

Friday, June 29, 2012

Disappearing Acts

Sad Statue
(All photo rights © 2009 Steve Topper Photography

The funny thing about exercise is that somewhere in the midst of gasping for air and sweating like a roasting pig, there is a deep solitude and stillness that allows me to hear my inner voice's whispered screams.  I took the puppies on a two mile hike through the woods after dinner last night.  The solitude of nature, the sweet melody of sparrows serenading, the wind caressing leaves high above my head...all contributed to a resonant tranquility and forced my conscious mind to rest from her endless worries. 

I reflected on the path that I've started towards a healthier life, pondered my destiny as a motivational speaker and writer...eventually my thoughts rested on what brought me to this point.  While obesity is a major epidemic in the developed world, "normal fat" is gaining more acceptance, while "super fat" people are forced into the shadows.  What triggered my progression from "normal fat" to "super-sized"?

To be perfectly fair, I was always destined to carry a bit more weight than my peers...from a family of large people steeped in southern tradition, there was little that I could have done to prevent wide hips and thick thighs.  There were, however, several more profound events that I can pinpoint, which led to my chronic depression and, in turn, my weight issues.  In many ways, being fat was a way for me to disappear.  Thin people are considered gorgeous, sought after, wanted; while their larger counterparts are often discarded, written off and devalued.  My whole life I felt discarded, written off, gaining weight was simply a reflection of my inner struggle with Self.

I previously alluded to the fact that I was discarded at birth.  I was the child of two too-young-for-parenthood teenagers: a 14-year-old father whose deeply religious parents shunned my mother and declared emphatically that I couldn't be their son's child...a mother who battled her own depression and often-harsh upbringing.  I have heard several variations of the story, but this I know to be true: in the mid-morning hours on March 30, 1984 my then 16-year-old mother delivered me...alone in her father's house.  I can only imagine the panic and fear that overwhelmed her!  Unsure of what to do, she placed me in a duffel bag and brought me to the bayou where she placed me in a hole.  I was in the hole for little more than a week before I was found by two best friends who happened to be crawfishing.  As the story was plastered across every newspaper and television in Louisiana, my mother became very ill because, due to her inexperience with childbirth, she failed to deliver the after-birth.  It wasn't hard to figure out I was the missing baby she claimed to have never had.  Somehow I was placed back with her--either because the Divine has a wonderful sense of humor, or because there was a greater plan for my life and this was simply the road I needed to travel. 

I've heard that my mom loved me very much when I was a baby.  I remember hearing her tell me those words on occasion, but honestly...I never felt loved or wanted.  I was a very smart child and excelled at most things I tried, so I never felt lacking for praise and recognition, though when I wasn't "perfect" there was never a shortage of insults and criticisms either.  It was the affectionate, quality-time, "I am happy you're in my life" love that was missing; perhaps she never received it to give. 

By the time my mother was 20 and I was 4 1/2 years old, she had four children.  As is often the case with young mothers, she worked more than she was home so by six years old, I became the default baby sitter.  When she was home, we were reminded how hard we made her much of a burden we were to her...her frustrations manifested as welts and bruises on delicate skin.

Beginning at six years old and lasting nearly a year, I was molested by a middle schooler in my apartment complex; one instance, she decided to include her uncle.  For years, I harbored guilt and resentment.  I thought she was my friend...why didn't I tell anyone...why didn't I make her stop???  Home alone with no supervision, food became a solace for me at a young age.  The feeling of being stuffed seemed to momentarily fill the void left by the gaping hole in my soul.

I started injuring myself at ten years old...the first time, literally attempting to erase myself (which of course only led to eraser burn).  I wore the facade of a 4.0 student, young violinist, talented writer...only to mask the reality that I was a lonely, unloved and discarded child.  "Erasing" led to trying to cut pieces of myself away with scissors, which led to burning myself with matches and eventually cutting with razor blades.  I tried to make myself vanish by any means necessary.

My younger brother was my best friend and he was heart broken to discover that I had been hurting myself.  I was always his protector...his confidante...until I couldn't be anymore.  He always got the worst end of my mother's wrath, so she felt it necessary for him to move across the country to live with his father, whom he had never met.  Overnight, I went from having a brother to only speaking with him on his birthday.  There were no pictures of him in our was as if he only existed when he visited every few years.  My heart shattered the day my brother left!  (Thankfully, we are both adults now and have reconnected.  We speak several times a week, which makes my heart smile!)

In middle school, I began to suffer from an eating disorder.  The food that was such a wonderful comfort for me, became the target of my self-hatred.  I starved myself all day, claiming that I wasn't hungry when in truth I just didn't want others to see me eating.  Nobody could know the great joy that eating gave me...a joy that nothing else had ever rivaled.  After school, I would go home and gorge myself on whatever was in reach (which was always a secret because we weren't allowed to eat anything without asking first)...I can remember secretly baking cakes and sharing it with my sisters before my mom came home...trips to the convenience store for chips and candy to be devoured without any evidence.  I would force myself to throw up all of the food and then say I wasn't hungry for dinner.  Eventually my mother and grandmother noticed that I rarely ate--their solution was to force me to sit and eat in front of them (which I would only throw up as soon as they left the room).  This went on through high school and stopped around the time I discovered razor blades.

From high school to college, I tried to commit suicide three times (my mother's response is that I should ask her how next time so I could do it right and stop putting her and my sisters through hell).  My last attempt was in my dorm room with a pint of tangueray and a dixie cup of sleeping pills...I didn't tell any of my family or friends about this.  Three days and a deep spiritual awakening later, I woke up and knew that something in my life had to change immediately!  From that moment forward, I have pursued a life of gratitude and purpose...trying even on my darkest days to find something worth living for.  I no longer cut or force myself to throw up, though many of the same, unresolved issues bubble beneath my surface.  This weight loss journey is forcing many of these problems up like an emetic on a full stomach. 

There, in the still quietness of the woods...the solitude of nature, the sweet melody of sparrows serenading, the wind caressing leaves high above my head...I pushed past the discomfort of aching muscles towards a future of endless possibilities.  A future with no limitations on my potential.  A future where I really love all of me...a future where instead of disappearing, I can actually SEE myself!

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