destination addiction?

I recently saw a quote about “destination addiction”. The term was used to describe the idea that happiness is a place that we can find and get to somewhere else than where we are now. I was curious so I dug a little deeper and another article I saw referred to it as people who believe success is a destination. The most relatable, was what I saw in a Psychology Today article when I read a little further and it said that destination addiction was “a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner.” The article went on to say that until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.

Man, that’s familiar.

I don’t consider myself as ever having been an unhappy person. I was always pretty contented in most areas of life, and the company I kept. A little bitchy, over opinionated, easily irritated maybe, but not unhappy. I would have been more comfortable in a smaller body and with a better job or a career path, sure, but mostly I was good. I was good right up until I wasn’t.

I remember sitting with the counselor at the hospital for the weight loss program I was entering, during the psychological evaluation she asked if I was married “not rolling down the aisle in an expensive dress in this body” I responded, or when she said are you planning to get pregnant (this is a no-no for roughly 18 months post op) and I laughed, I don’t think think I can add the weight of a baby to this body. These are just two examples of things that I wasn’t doing because I thought they would be better and make me happier if I wasn’t fat. (Turns out that’s not why I wasn’t doing them but that’s another post) 

I know, and know of many people who think that their happiness is still out there, that there’s just one more thing they need to do to complete the riddle and BAM- HAPPY! Well, prepare to have your dreams dashed, kids, ain’t gonna happen. I can tell you for certain that losing weight, whether it’s 10 pounds, 80 pounds or 180 pounds is not going to instantly change your life and give you all the things you think you want / need / deserve. I can also tell you that getting married or having a baby isn’t going to fix your relationship, a new job may help your bank account and even your self esteem, but it won’t make you happy if the other puzzle pieces are still strewn across the table of your life.

I just thought of something someone said to me awhile ago that was laughable, honestly … they said “You don’t understand, you always get everything you want.” I am pretty sure I gasped aloud. Me? Everything I want? I feel like it took me until I was midway through thirty to even consider what I really wanted, and by the time it was in action I was practically forty.

That wasn’t the part though, it was that I GET everything I want that slayed me. I asked for a clarification, I said ” What’s this everything I get?” They did not miss a beat. “You didn’t want to be fat anymore, you’re not. You wanted to go back to school, you are. You wanted a newer car that wasn’t rusty and dented, you got one. I mean ….”

Ain’t having it.

“You mean what? I didn’t just get those things” “Okay fine, but you got them easier than I get shit.” This turned into a conversation about the hoops I jumped through to “not be fat anymore”, the doctors appointments, the embarrassment, the waiting room practically public weigh-ins, the re-learning how to eat, the surgery, while minimally invasive, was still surgical. I went on a tirade about sure I am back in school but not without applying to several programs, tracking down transcripts from a college I went to twenty years ago for less than a year that tried to say I still owed them money, letters of recommendation and applying for even more student loans. The car? Gimme a break, I traded in my car for pennies, and put the rest of the down payment on a credit card. (former poor credit use also for another post!)

I think that this person and maybe a lot of people don’t want, or can’t put the effort into certain things because what if they fail? What if the desired outcome isn’t achieved (BUT WHAT IF IT IS?!)? I didn’t tell most of my family I was having weight loss surgery, because what if it didn’t work? Even the people I did tell had opinions (both positive & negative), how about when I decided to go back to school, the opinions or the pressure to “get it right” this time. That shit sucks, but really, not as much as being in your own way, relying on some other person or event to give you this euphoria.

People preach self-love and self-care and these are important, but you gotta like yourself first, and decide what’s important, what life you are going to create for yourself, and do it. There’s your success, your happiness.

Anyway, what I gathered from the destination addiction bit is that we always think there’s something missing, and that something will miraculously “fix” or improve life. I half buy into it, because my life has drastically improved since weight loss (my personal destination) but not as a direct result of weight loss. My doctor wasn’t like, “Okay, that’s eighty pounds, here’s a graduate program, a career path and healthy boundaries, go forth with the happiness.” I had to do that.

I think there’s an expectation for these things to present themselves and when they don’t, we become discouraged and/or depressed, so we assume there is another next thing that will do it. It’s a cycle that just leads to disappointment, comparison and feelings of low self-esteem and even failure. Why wait on something or someone to make you feel that way, when it’s the opposite of what you want?

If I had to define myself as happy or unhappy, I would say happy; but it’s more than that. I am comfortable, in my skin, my life, my career path, my relationship. I feel validated and accepted by the people and places I assign value. I don’t subscribe to a societal checklist that measures my success or happiness by the things I do (or don’t do). I have also known people who have the big house, the marriage, the kids, the fancy job, all the material possessions and invites to everything social and they aren’t happy either.

Happiness isn’t a destination or posession, it’s comfort in knowing that you are living your best life in the moment it’s happening. Sure there are improvements you can plan to make, but they should enhance those feelings, not be responsible for creating them. So I say make yourself comfortable; not complacent and lazy, running through your Netflix queue hoping happiness will knock on your door. Truly comfortable with yourself; in your body, in your relationships, in your career, your family, your hobbies … get comfortable with who you are and what you want and see where that takes you.

ten

I was born at the start of the tenth month, and took my first breaths around ten thirty in the morning.

When I was about ten or so, my grandmother, in an effort to motivate me to learn my multiplications tables, promised me a “life sized” doll from the Woolworth’s on Main Street in Woodbridge when I could recite one through twelve.

I remember walking behind her one afternoon counting on my fingers for the ones I wasn’t sure of, and even though I’m sure she knew, that Walking Wendy-esque doll got buckled in next to me when we left.

I laugh a little thinking about how my grandmother also ended up being the person who picked me up from summer school after failing algebra my freshman year of high school.

Ten is also the number of years it’s been since she passed away. The morning of her funeral mass, as I limped, sobbing into the church held up by my father and someone else I can’t picture I made a pit stop in the vestibule bathroom. My aunt came in with me, and I choked out how this was the worst day of my life, she assured me it wasn’t, which was both comforting and frightening.

Ten is the number of months it has been since I have seen my parents; Ten is roughly the amount of years I spent living in Wisconsin with my family, (two thousand and) ten is the year I quite my job and weaved my way through ten-ish states to get to the apartment that I now live in and the person I have been with for ten years.

Ten has been a lot of little things that have contributed to a lot of big things for me.

Today, ten is heavy.

It’s sulking on the couch, taking forever to get out of the car, too much trouble to tie my sneakers heavy. It’s sports bra indentations hours after it comes off, dresses that won’t zip and shirts that ride up heavy.

Ten is the number of pounds I have gained in the last ten months, when I was still trying to lose ten more.

Ten pounds is nothing, I know, except it is the first weight I have gained in almost 5 years. I can make the argument, as others have for me, that my weight gain is related to medications and inability to exercise freely, or truthfully, even take the stairs more than one at a time … for months now. This doesn’t make it any less than ten and it doesn’t make it any lighter.

I just started a new medication that will hopefully lead to remission and I’ll be taking the stairs and walking around the park, hiking and yoga-ing and Zumba-ing my heart out again soon, but for now, I’m taking some solace in the fact that the first dose already has me feeling ten times better.

40.5, RA

Just over six months ago I turned 40. I was temporarily unemployed, buried in coursework and trying to secure an internship but feeling mostly optimistic about life. My parents had surprised me with a long weekend visit and treated us to meals and snacks and great company. I had no major life complaints. I mean, I couldn’t open the resealable Sargento cheese packaging without a struggle and I suddenly needed Steve to open what seemed like every jar or can, but mostly happy and complaint free.

Sometime around Halloween I experienced some aching in my wrist and hands that I attributed to more frequent driving since I had started driving for Lyft shortly before that. I used ice packs, heating pads, super duper extra strength tylenol, advil that’s generally off limits as per weight loss surgery and I got a little crabby about it. The pains and cramps came and went, sometimes I would wake up with them and they’d go away by lunch, sometimes they would linger all day, and invite my elbow or shoulder to join.

In November I clearly remember being bummed about how I felt and trying everything I could think of , including sleeping on my back so I didn’t crush my arms, or sleeping with my arms out straight when I slept on my side. Some nights Steve moved to the couch and so some mornings I felt even worse. I had definitely begun experiencing depression, which is not wholly unfamiliar to me, so one morning I got myself up and dressed and went to a nearby park. I walked about two miles around, up and down steps, listened to music, laid in a pile of leaves and confessed my depression to Instagram and felt like I was gonnna be just fine…. until 2 am when I was in excruciating pain now in my hips, legs, ankles, feet and I was home alone laying in bed crying and asking out loud what the fuck was going on and ice packing, heating padding and adviling myself back to sleep.

Before I knew it, it was December and now my feet hurt frequently, a lot like my hands. Both feet, in the heel and the ball and the arch, I was trying to figure out how to walk without putting pressure on any of those points. Well, I thought, you’re out of shape and maybe those sneakers aren’t a great fit. I tabled exercise and slowly anything that required me to exert much effort. I felt exhausted and sad and heavy and uncomfortable in my body. I started wearing the same pair of flats, to my internship interview, to Christmas with Steve’s family, to the grocery store all hoping nobody would notice how I was walking and that another advil might keep me looking normal. I’m not a hypochondriac, I truly believed whatever was going on was my doing, so I wanted to take all the steps to remedy it before I went to my doctor because there had to be something I was missing.

I put a lot of time into trying to determine what I might have done or what I was doing that was causing my body to ache and rebel in such a frustrating manner. I did a lot of reading, a lot of trying supplements and diet modifications; I gave up keeping protein bars in my bag or buying them at all, I considered going dairy-free, gluten-free, seeing how many things I could hide turmeric root in, I started drinking tart cherry juice, I read about inflammation, bought plantar fasciitis braces from an Internet ad, cried myself to sleep, took stairs one at a time at the pace of a sloth and finally, at the end of January, when I took my flats off and my ankles were swollen, and there were visible deep lines areound my foot from my shoes and my my feet were swollen and misshapen looking I called my doctor the next morning.

The appointment was three days later and I was so hopeful that he would have an answer, because after all my trying and suffering I didn’t. And I didn’t know how to explain what I felt to anyone, it was a burning, aching, sometimes restless, sometimes felt like what I imagine a broken bone felt like pain that produced anxiety in the simplest tasks – getting out of bed, getting into and out of the car, any number of steps with out without a handrail. I didn’t tell anyone really, unless they saw me and I (felt I) had to explain myself. Coworkers at my internship who would end up in the back stairwell I was trying to hide in while doing my  toddler steps up or down – and hold the door for me (so nice!) but also watch me and make me more aware that this wasn’t normal.

The upshot of the whole doctor appointment, if you read the last post was he ordered some blood and xrays and said come back in a week. They did images to check for arthritis and he said everything looked normal and he wanted to move on. I pushed for a referral; a podiatrist, a neurologist, a rheumatologist, anyone who might have a different view or specialized eye. He gave me the name and number of a rheumatologist and had me come back in 2 weeks. I made the appointment that day but they didn’t have an opening for almost 2 months, “ Have your doctor call us and we can connect him to Dr.’s secretary and maybe they can get you in sooner” so I tell my doctor this at our next meeting, and he says “You should be fine” and let me tell you, I wasn’t.

It was such a dark time in my heart and my mind and I couldn’t even talk about it. I started to question how much pain I was in, and others didn’t see it or know it because I still worked and interned and cooked and grocery shopped and wrote papers and did all the things I had to do. As my appointment got closer I started to feel hopeful and then anxious, what if he couldn’t help me, what if this wasn’t something anyone could identify? I got sad, rather than happy thinking about the summer; I can’t walk a mile on a rocky dirt road to go to the car rally we go to, I can’t sit on a plane for 5 hours to fly to Colorado, or a few hours to visit my family. I would think about going to the gym, even for the treadmill when I would feel less pained in the evening, but in the morning when I had to hoist myself out of bed with the help of my dresser and penguin walk to the bathroom, I gave up the dream on Zumba.

This is long and if you’re still reading, let me tell you, I’m okay. The rheumatologist was the right referral; it’s nothing I did or could have prevented, it’s an auto-immune disease. He said it was a great catch by my pcp and juvenile as it may be, I had to take that credit for myself.

Seronegative Rheumatoid Arthritis, what a strange thing to feel relieved by; an incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease –  but after six months, having my pain validated and labeled, and told there was treatment was the first time I felt hopeful in months. I got three prescriptions and he told me in a a few days I would start feeling better, and that a year from now I probably wouldn’t even remember the pain from this time. I asked if he thought I would have be able to Zumba again and he said “Totally” I called bullshit in my head but was grateful, and optimistic that, if he sees Latin-inspired dance routines in my future I can definitely live a normal life.

It’s been five days and I can’t believe the relief I have already started to feel, the way my mood has elevated, the way I just feel like myself again. I didn’t care that I chipped a nail on a can of seltzer, because I opened it myself, or that the first night I experienced a little insomnia because in my awakened stated I walked to the bathroom less like a drunk penguin. Maybe I’ll give that treadmill a try soon after all.

 

 

can you hear me now?

For the last few months I have had a lot of pain in my hands and fingers and my feet and toes. It seemed to come out of nowhere and I assumed it was that I was sleeping funny, or driving more or not getting enough exercise. So, I got a mattress pad, changed my vitamins, doubled up on my iron supplement, drank more water, added turmeric to my diet, soaked my feet in epsom salt, googled all things rheumatic and arthritic, and at least a handful of other things.

I also went to my doctor who ordered blood work and x-rays and questioned my low iron (full disclosure that’s when i realized i had missed it way more doses than i thought!). My primary doctor is a wizard; he basically saved my life on two occasions, so when he calls me and says “Uh, this all looks good” I’m deflated.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want anything to be wrong, but something IS wrong, I’m not making it up, it’s obvious to the naked eye that there’s some swelling and redness, and sometimes the fingers and toes are tender as shit. Like bump a knuckle on the handle of the kettle and sob tender – wake up and wobble to the bathroom like a penguin tender. He refers me to a rheumatologist, who can see me this year but not for weeks.

I made the appointment and had a follow up with the wizard today. He started the visit like every one has stated in the last five years, “What do you want to talk about regarding your health today?” I start to tell him about my low iron probably being my fault, about my vitamin change and no longer taking gummy supplements. “Interesting” he stopped me, “Let me tell you my theory here”. He goes on about recent link in low iron and colon cancer “I don’t think you have colon cancer” (ok, good!) He says thee screening age has been lowered from 50 to 45 recently and “You’re pretty close to that” – I don’t think in the moment to say that I’m just as close to 35 as I am 45 – but he’s the wizard so I let him continue “let’s just get it off the table so we can focus on your other complaints”.

I’m not afraid of the endoscopy and colonoscopy that he wants to schedule – I get the itch for surgeries and procedures like other people do for tattoos (I’m aware this is weird). It’s that it’s not one of my complaints – hands and feet, let’s talk about my hands and feet! – when I googled (and you know I did) colon cancer and the risks, I don’t have a single solitary one of them except for this low iron bit. It’s also that it seems too thorough, even for him. He sent me for a head CT because I had several headaches in a short period, one of which lead to a fall – but it showed nothing. He also was very thorough about a lump in my neck that I thought was a swollen gland and ended up being a 3 cm nodule that needed an ultrasound and needle biospy (I’m fine) so his old school thorough approach isn’t silly. I agreed to go along with the tests, scheduled an appointment for April and left after what was only a 13 minute visit.

I got in the car half mad, half sad. I furiously texted Steve a novel about the appointment, I then texted a lot of the same info to a girlfriend. Why was this bothering me so much – why did I feel so frustrated when I left there. I drove to the grocery store and sat in the car trying to process the whole thing. Both Steve and my friend say better safe then sorry, humor him blah blah blah. And yea, of course they’re right. But, then what’s the problem ….

I ruminated …

One of my favorite things about my doctor, the wizard, is that when I first met him five years ago he was the first doctor in all of my then thirty-five years of living that truly listened to me. He didn’t dismiss my concerns or reduce my experiences or feelings down to my weight or high blood pressure like so many others had, he heard me, and he helped me. Today I felt like he was only listening to what I was saying so he could respond, it felt very much like an ‘Okay, but I’m the expert here’ moment – especially when referencing my tight weekday schedule and him saying ‘it’s one day out of your life, your health is the most important thing’ – when I’ve spent years making my health the most important thing. (It was reminiscent of the lady who tried to shame me into paying a shit ton of money for personal training by saying I didn’t want to invest in myself when there were still visible scars on my body from having more than half my stomach removed)

I got home still feeling UGH about the whole thing, I could feel it starting to seep its way into my mood and potentially my whole day. I just felt like some fat lump who couldn’t possibly know what was best for myself so I should just nod and agree and do what I was told. Maybe I should consider finding a younger doctor, or a doctor who sees more younger patients, or maybe, it’s not lost on me, that I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed.

Either way, I still have plenty of hours left to enjoy the day, so I am going to.

‘surgiversary’ is a made up word, but here we are

To be honest, I didn’t even think much about the anniversary of my vertical sleeve gastrectomy yesterday. Previous years have been loaded with comparison photos, follow up appointments and little celebrations treating myself to smaller size things or bites of foods I don’t indulge in often.

I woke up on December 1, 2014 and headed to the hospital with my boyfriend and parents. I remember weighing myself one final time before heading out (two seventy something) and being nervous we would hit traffic or something would derail my scheduled procedure. I can’t tell you much else. I remember waking up very tired, there was an incident where my catheter betrayed me and I wet the bed a bit, I barfed some black colored shit after my swallow test and I could barely stay awake any time Steve or my parents were visiting. I don’t remember any pain, and I left on the third day, but not until I could drink some sugar free carnation instant breakfast with a room temperature skim milk. I remember it was vanilla (yuck) and I waited until I could ask someone to track down any other flavor. Oh, and the drains were removed – weird (like, really weird) but not painful.

On this particular December first in 2018, I can’t tell you how much I weighed, I haven’t stepped on the scale in at least a week but my weight has been the same, give or take five pounds for the last few years. I had coffee and some bacon and a cheesy scrambled egg covered in everything but the bagel seasoning with a blob of ketchup. I did some homework, stayed in my sweats until late afternoon and then headed into the same area of the city for a comedy show. I had a cider, most of a slice of pizza from some joint on the corner of the steeet where we parked and then ate a piece (okay, two) of peppermint bark when I was back in my sweats. We stopped to look at Christmas trees because our prelit one ( also 4 years old!) moved to the dumpster after a few hours of tinkering with the lights. I didn’t really do anything special, and to be frank, that’s the very best thing about the whole process.

The one intentional thing I did was decide to revamp my Instagram account. For the last four plus years it has been riddled with comparison photos, nonscale victories, and all the weight loss surgery things. How many photos do I need to hold on to comparing a me that doesn’t look like me now, to another me that doesn’t look like me now? Or wondering if I would have lost the last twenty or so pounds I’d like to, if I kept doing Zumba like that post, or yoga poses in the other post. I can’t discount the role it (and all the people!) played in my journey and the success I’ve had but it just can’t be all I talk about anymore.

I was never trying to “get skinny”.  I wanted to be thinner, healthier, feel better, have more energy and be more active but I was so tired of obsessing over it for what equaled most of my life. I am all those things now, without having to drive myself mad and I still got to eat pizza. That’s something to celebrate.

have a seat.

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I sat down to share anything here. If it isn’t the email from WordPress to remind me that my annual billing was coming, it was definitely a conversation last night that brings me back.

We like art around here. Not mass produced posters from IKEA or Bed, Bath & Beyond or the generic bowls of fruit and flower arrangement art; creative, funky, dark, and let’s be honest, horror themed art. We have an acrylic Marion Crane piece and a canvas of Michael Myers in our bathroom and an amazing (almost complete) gallery wall of the best movie related art.

If you’ve known me for a while you might remember a story about a one-of-a-kind airbrushed welcome sign that has a skull and spiderwebs and a rose on it that used to make the old lady who lived upstairs cry every time she saw it. We took it down and it floated from room to room for awhile before landing itself in our storage closet.

I didn’t buy the piece, Steve did long before I even came to this apartment as a visitor and at that same time, or not, he also purchased an airbrushed toilet seat cover from the same artist. It was awesome. It was black and sparkly and the coolest thing in the then white bathroom with faded pink and white linoleum. The toilet seat itself cracked years ago and we couldn’t find one to match the cover, which ended up in storage and then eventually the trash. (Who keeps a toilet seat cover they can’t use?)

It was a mystery, the cracked seat. We had gone out somewhere and when we came home it was cracked and ready to pinch our thighs until we replaced it.

Every time a conversation comes up about Ruth (the old lady) we laugh about the crying from the skull sign, and then talk about the sign in general and Steve brings up the toilet seat. The mysteriously cracked toilet seat and how cool it was and what a bummer to have to have gotten rid of it.

Last night we were putting some things in storage and brought it back up to hang in the kitchen. Steve gets it up and we talk about how cool it is, and laugh about crying Ruth and the time my parents visited and it was on the bathroom door, clinking a bit every time you open or close the door and my mom saying at least a dozen times “you should put some tape on that!”. Then, inevitably he says “Remember that toilet seat cover I had? Man that was fucking cool”

And I cringe.

Silently.

I take a deep breath and then say the thing I had not said for the last six or so years since it had cracked.

“I broke it!”

“What?”

“I broke it, I was in the bathroom before we left and it cracked and I didn’t tell you”

He stares at me, kind of stunned

“Why wouldn’t you tell me? Why would you keep something so stupid from me?”

Silence… us staring at each other.

“I can’t believe you wouldn’t tell me, it’s like you lied for years about it, what the hell?”

I actually got tears in my eyes

“I feel so bad every time you mention it but I couldn’t ever say it, I never told anyone it even happened”

Now, he looks at me more quizzically

“You went out to the car ahead of me because I was in the bathroom, and it cracked … …. ….  I was too embarrassed to tell you that”

He laughs a little, “How did you break the seat though? Did you stand on it?” (so sweet!)

“Dude, I was almost 300 pounds, I had to lift my leg like this (lifts leg and adds in wiping motion) to wipe and I put all my weight to one side and it fucking cracked UNDER THE PRESSURE!!”

He laughs again. Kind of.

He walks over and hugs me. I’m half crying, thinking about all the times I’ve told a story about shitting my pants or the time I threw myself behind a boyfriends car so he couldn’t leave, or barfing on the altar in church. I never told anyone I broke a toilet seat. It wasn’t funny, and I like to make everything sound funny even when it was sad or painful … just couldn’t spin this one.

A weight has been lifted, literally! We joked about it the rest of the night and it still isn’t funny (yet) – but at least now I’m just a person who was so fat they broke a toilet seat, not a liar.

 

 

brave-ish

A few months ago, after hearing my tale of woe as the struggling fat girl turned weight loss success story, the woman I was speaking to sat, mouth agape, finally saying “How brave!”

In my memory of this afternoon I cocked my head like a dog does and she clarified “to go through all of that, just to be happy in your body, that takes bravery.” I smiled and shrugged so I didn’t comment in a fashion that seemed ungrateful for her acceptance, or her pat on the back.

Brave is hardly the word I would use to describe my experience. Without sounding like a poor me, self-deprecating kind of gal, I have never walked into a burning building to save anyone, battled cancer or worked in a job where I put my life on the line every day in a way that would show some kind of bravery. I was fat and now I’m not, I don’t think there’s anything brave about that.

I forgot about this instance until recently, in two separate conversations with other losers who have also had plastic/skin removal surgeries, I admitted that not only did I not feel brave about the whole thing, but in fact, kind of sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to no longer be battling a weight nearing 300 pounds, or questioning every piece of food I put in my mouth. I don’t weight myself two and three times a day after eating or going to the bathroom, I’m more comfortable in my skin and body than I have ever been but I don’t see that as an act of bravery. Necessity, maybe. Cleaning up a mess, definitely.

In one of the conversations where I am talking about my occasional lackluster feelings toward my arm scars (and maybe, depending on the day, the results in general), I say – that in my frustration about this, I am more mad than anything. Mad that I was even in a position to need all the things I’ve done or had to do to have a “normal” body. Mad that maybe it could have been prevented some how, mad that obesity is a thing that happened, or I let happen to me. Mad that in the last four years I missed a total of  14 weeks of work to recover from surgeries. Mad about how many hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars disappeared from my bank account to fully cover one of those surgeries, and part of the others, and co-pays and pain pills and protein bars and vitamins. Mad when I think about what things and experiences could have taken place in those weeks off or with that money.

Maybe, swimming in my usual sea of unpopular opinions, I don’t think of the word grateful to describe how I feel now, but that doesn’t mean I am not. I see other weight loss surgery patients, or people who didn’t have surgery agonize over their loose skin and how they wish they could afford it, and I know that I am lucky I was able to do any of these things. I have gotten messages from people asking about the process for weight loss surgery itself, for the future, because they don’t have insurance right now, or a job that allows them time off.

I know that I am fortunate.

I revel in my size medium shirts, my ‘normal’ store clothes shopping, my belly fat and floppy arms not holding me back from things. I still do a double take when I see myself in photos taken by others or see my reflection in something new. I am proud of my transformation and the correlation between my confidence and accomplishments is not lost on me. The life I am living now feels like the one I always wanted to be living and I am in awe of that all the time.

I’m more than happy to field emails and phone calls from other patients going through the same program at my hospital, and I tell them in no uncertain terms that I would do this again and again to change my life for the better.

I don’t regret the decisions or the results, in any way. I just sometimes wish it wasn’t something that even had to happen. Who knows, maybe there’s a little bravery in admitting that.

irony.

A couple of months ago I sat in the very same examination room where I had first met my primary doctor a few years prior. I was here for my yearly physical and I had been having some headaches, which I wasn’t overly concerned about but mentioned, since I had a dizzy spell and fallen the week before.

It was no big deal, and in retrospect, probably my own fault. I was handing out prizes during a Q&A session at the weight and wellness expo I was participating in and did a sort of squat to not be a distraction and ‘walked’ backwards in my chunky heeled shoes in said squat position until my feet went out from under my throwing me down and back into a table where I hit my head and bruised my arm.

Embarrassing, but I survived. So much for not being a distraction.

Anyway, here I am with good old Potter telling him about the previous year and everything looks good and oh what’s this about headaches. He immediately insists on a brain MRI, which makes sense because he is old school and very thorough, and he leaves to let me get dressed. When he returns he says that he noticed a lump in my throat and could he check it out. Oh, what, not just an MRI? An ultrasound of my thyroid now?

COOL.

I remember leaving the office and my eyes were teary, but not because I was scared, but because, THIS is how my luck worked. Fat for years without a single real health concern but some high blood pressure and snoring, and the taunting of the onset of diabetes… lose nearly ninety pounds, have excess skin removed, have consistently normal blood pressure, take all your vitamins, need no medications for anything but oh hey your brain and your thyroid might wanna fuck shit up for ya.

Please hold.

Also, please postpone that arm surgery you have scheduled temporarily, it’s not a priority if, you know, there’s a tumor.

I had the MRI which I hope to never have again because one Ativan was no match for that tube and the headphones they gave me barely covered the noise and I swear I was in there for three hours (it was 30 minutes, maybe). I kept thinking, what if someone comes in and shoots the place up and I’m in this tube and can’t get out and calm down you watch too many movies.

I also had to have the ultrasound of my thyroid, which was no big deal at all, except they kept asking me to stop talking. Story of my life.

The results of the MRI come back with no issues regarding my brain. Looks like I have full sinus cavities, and a partially empty pituitary something or other which means there is an endocrinologist in my future. Okay, sure.

Oh, and that lump he felt? A three centimeter nodule on my thyroid, we’re gonna need to biopsy that. Wait. What? Why?

To determine if it’s cancerous.

“Do you think I have cancer?”

“I have treated patients with thyroid cancer for over thirty years and they’re all still alive, so let’s just get that biopsy scheduled.”

”So, you think I have cancer.”

:deep grandfatherly sigh:

“What I think doesn’t matter without the biopsy”

”And, my arm surgery?”

”let’s just wait on that…”

”..because you think I have cancer…”

”You’re one of my favorite patients, you know that?”

He proceeds to give me his personal cell phone number so I can text him later that day or weekend when I inevitably think of something I need to know or forgot to ask.

I have the strangest moment of my life, as if I’m watching a movie and I wonder if I have cancer. What the fuck. Is that why I have these headaches, is it related? This lump in my throat feels like a soccer ball and no, I don’t have any pain when I swallow, right? I’m hyper aware of this teeny mass and I just cry thinking about how fucking sad it would be if I died.

How morbid, I know.

How ironic though, that I’m finally in a place where I feel good, I feel like my life makes sense, I’m ambitious in a way I never was, I’m doing things, I’m happy …. and maybe I don’t get to be after all.

I’d be a damn liar if I didn’t say I spent the rest of the afternoon laying on my bed weepy and overthinking all the possibilities like always.

I’m extra emotional because we’re going to my parents for Thanksgiving a few days later, I cry about that. I cry about what Steve will eat for dinner when I’m dead, who will know how to make his coffee, will he be too sad to move on, will my parents survive this possible tragedy… what will people say about me when I’m gone, do I need surgery …what will happen … am I overreacting, probably, what if I’m not, what the fuck kinda shit is this anyway.

Then I cry about all the people I’ve known (and not known) who had afternoons like this being scared or feeling sorry for themselves and not living to tell about it. Then I cry for their parents, and their Steve’s and I text my cancer riddled actively dying neighbor who talks me off the ledge and offers me some xanax.

I get it all out of my system and stop feeling sorry for myself for something that’s nothing so far.

I have the biopsy,  which is done by needle, and I hope you never have to have one. They took multiple samples with a long thin needle and I watched it on a screen, neck bent, not allowed to talk (you’re killing me here!) wondering what the different colors and flashing things meant. The same woman who did the ultrasound resting her hand on mine to keep me calm, she knew there was something there before any of us.

I get a phone call the week before Christmas, 2 weeks before my arm surgery and it’s Potter. “Merry Christmas, it’s benign! You don’t have cancer”

I’m driving and I’m so relieverd, I cry. “And I can have my arm surgery?”

”Why would you want to have arm surgery with full sinus cavities? Make an appointment with an ENT first…”

I see an ENT a few days before my brachioplasty … she hardly seemed concerned and I said “Dr. Potter insisted…” she prescribed some Zyrtec and antibiotics “That makes sense, he’s old school.”

Like I said, he’s thorough. And two-for-two on saving my life, I’d say.

 

parking lot shuffle

Parking lots are one of my least favorite places in the world; people are walking anywhere they want, backing out of spaces without looking, leaving carts all over the place, whipping into spaces to beat someone else to it, staring at their phones while they stroll  (or drive!) and sometimes pushing their carts too close to your ankles.

The parking lot thing that has always bothered me most is that weird two steps forward-three hops back thing you have to do on your way to or from your car; when someone is letting you walk, but then they’re not … then they are … then not …  and nobody can decide what’s happening and everyone is watching to see what happens next.

Okay, maybe everyone isn’t watching, but it has certainly felt that way.

When you’re fat … well, I can’t speak for everyone, but when I was fat, I was sure that people were looking at me almost all the time. I’m sure they hardly ever were, but I felt eyes on me every time I left the house in an outfit I wasn’t sure of, or was eating in public, or oddly enough since it’s a positive thing, exercising. I digress …

I used to run as fast as I could (think: turtle speed) when a car was letting me cross; I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to honk at me or draw any unnecessary attention to myself. I’d usually make it to the other side virtually unscathed. Out of breath, a little sweaty or red faced, but no real embarrassment. As long as I didn’t make eye contact with anyone while trying to catch my breath on my way in to what always seemed to be the grocery store.

Today I came out of the store and a car was coming toward me, then slowed and waved me on. I sort of ran, maybe more like jogged across the lot to my car.

Wait, what?

I did it because it was raining and hailing and sleeting seemingly all at the same time and the wind had blown the hood of my coat off twice already and I hate wet hair more than anything – I was just trying to get to my car! But, yea, I jogged across a parking lot, effortlessly and without even thinking about it until I was pulling out of the lot and saw the old two step parking lot shuffle going on with someone else.

Of all the times I could swear someone was paying attention to me, or feasting their judgey eyes on my every move, I’m pretty sure nobody even noticed my personal ray of sunshine coming through the cold, gray day.

more than just coats.

My winter coat is too big but I keep wearing it anyway.

It’s nothing so special … your average knee-length, quilted pattern, insulated jacket. Columbia, packable, light, warm, black, size XL.

I bought it in 2015, and it’s probably been too big since the end of the following winter, if I’m honest. I bought it one cold afternoon when the threat of snow reminded me that I had thrown my last coat in a donation box earlier that year because it had gotten too big.

I spent years wearing heavy sweatshirts fleece jackets and scarves to avoid the winter coat situation. No coat was flattering, at all, and I hated feeling constricted, bulkier and just overall uncomfortable – I always felt ridiculous – think Randy a la Christmas Story! I broke down and got a not-too-puffy puffy coat at Burlington Coat Factory at some point before moving to Massachusetts and I wore it to death, out of necessity mostly and believed that it looked good – for what it was.

Fast forward to the winter of 2013, Steve decided he wanted to get a new winter coat and I thought that I could probably stand to replace mine as well. We went to REI where they were having a huge sale, and Steve said if I found a coat I liked he’d buy it for me. We split up and went to our respective departments where I tried on easily half a dozen winter jackets and coats. Every style I liked I tried – the largest sizes in some only went up to XL and they wouldn’t even zipper halfway. He walked over with about 4 jackets for himself that he was trying to eliminate and I must have looked like someone ran over my dog, because he started asking what was wrong, what happened.

Embarrassing to admit nothing fit.

In an entire department of winter coats and jackets not a single one fit.

He didn’t believe me, or pretended not to for my benefit, and picked out a few more for me to try on. I tried them on to the tune of nope, no way and get the fuck outta here girl this will never fit you.

Maybe the men’s department has something? Who cares where you get it if you like it and it fits?

I oblige the suggestion and roughly twenty more minutes of taking jackets and coats on and off, sweating, being frustrated, probably being hungry, because why wouldn’t that be the way when I couldn’t jam myself into any clothing I was trying on? Men’s jackets were either too tight or too big, and the too big was sort of a nice feeling until you acknowledge that the tag is a 2x.

Not being large enough to fill out a men’s 2x was not the silver lining I needed.

I gave up.

I got mad.

I got shitty and we checked out and left. Steve with two new jackets he would try out and get down to one and me with nothing but a reignited hatred toward winter coats.

I guess I still wear it because is kind of special in the sense that after hating all things winter jackets and coats I walked into a store, picked it out, tried it on and it fit. No asking if they carried it in a large size, or had anything in the elusive “back room”, I didn’t have to choose another style because this one wasn’t flattering. I didn’t have to take a gigantic breath to try and zip it, it just fit, just like that. I didn’t need a men’s jacket, or a  special order from a catalog or specialty store. I just made a decision and walked out happier than I had ever been in the winter coat arena.

I think we reminisced about it once since then, maybe when I hit the fifty pound weight loss mark or got my new coat; at a point when it was less sad, and just factual. In the end though, this jacket is too big and it will be the last winter I wear it. On the upside, I’ll be able to go into a store and pick a new one right off the rack, and that’s a pretty sweet trade off.

I asked him earlier today if he remembered that night, and he thought for a minute or two and said “Vaguely … I know I couldn’t decide and bought myself two coats and then had to return one … I offered to buy you one but you couldn’t decide” – bless his heart.