Thursday, April 29, 2021

I Saw A Baby Today...

 ... and he was adorable and cute and cuddly and flirted with me. Nothing unusual about any of that. It was what I realized about myself that was somewhat unusual.

I haven't held a baby in at least 15 years. Now... some of that is just because I'm not around them very often. My adult daughter isn't planning to have kids; none of my nieces or nephews have decided to go that route just yet; and I recently moved and so I don't have any friends nearby who have grandchildren. The church I go to is made up of mostly older adults and we rarely have babies there. So I'm just not exposed to them very much.

But even if I did have them around, I know I wouldn't be holding them unless necessary (like someone just handing me their baby so that they can do something). 

You might think this is because I don't like children. However, it's the exact opposite. Until recently, my life centered around children - my daughter, her friends, and those I babysat, nannied, or taught. I played with dolls until I was about eight years old and my dream was to marry young and have lots and lots of children. 

I was one of those kids who couldn't wait until I was old enough to help out in the nursery at church and I was soooo excited the very first time a baby fell asleep in my arms. I started babysitting at home (with my mom nearby in case something happened) when I was nine or ten years old and then had a regular job babysitting by the time I was twelve. 

I never worked in food service or retail as a teenager - I worked in gym nurseries or daycares. I was a nanny right after high school and then part-time again during college. I taught for about twenty-five years, with most of those years being in preschool special education. I was a child and youth minister at several of the churches I attended.

So why won't I hold a baby now if the opportunity presents itself?

Something that I have recently realized about myself is that if something hurts me badly, I try to cut off those emotions within myself to save myself from the pain... and I avoid any reminders of that pain.

The first time I did this concerning babies was when I couldn't have children - at first because I was in college and my husband and I knew we couldn't juggle our schedules or finances with raising a child at that time and then later when I actually realized I was infertile and had to work extra hard to get pregnant.

During the time I wanted a baby with every fiber of my being, I avoided holding them. This was while I was completely in charge of the nursery at church so it was a real feat to work there without that close contact. I just made sure there were plenty of people who had none of my weird qualms about this issue and no one ever noticed. In fact, I think they were glad they got to keep the sweet ones to themselves.

Then I finally got pregnant and had my daughter. I was ecstatic - probably the happiest I've ever been in my life. My best friends also had daughters within a few months of the birth of mine so it was a babyfest within our circle of friends. During that time, the earlier issue I had about holding babies had completely disappeared. 

Then, about the time I thought that we were ready to have a second child, my husband left us. Since I had my daughter later in life, I knew that by the time I got remarried, I might not ever have another child, but I never completely gave up hope. In fact, I'm 53 now and only within the past few years have I totally given up the dream of having another baby, thinking that I might be one of those women who shares the pregnancy experience with an adult daughter who is also pregnant... that most people freak out about. 

It was sometime during the separation and divorce that I again buried that part of my heart. I just couldn't hold an infant without that longing for another child tearing me apart. So I avoided those situations like I did during those years of not being able to have a child.

So... exactly what was the revelation from seeing the baby today? It was twofold:

- I had not realized how many years it had been since I closed down that part of my heart, and 

- I do this with so many other things in life.

I am still exploring the idea, but I learned recently that one symptom of PTSD is doing just that - avoiding anything that reminds you of the traumatic event. It's something that I need to learn much more about and discuss in therapy, but I can't help but think it's not good. I've done this to myself in so many areas that it's no wonder that I feel very little joy in my life - I've shut it all down. 

Maybe one day (after COVID), I'll again be one of those people who ask to hold that cute, adorable infant instead of wanting to run the other way. Maybe one day my heart will be healed enough to take that risk and, instead of it causing pain, it'll cause the joy I had when I was that pre-teen who was beyond thrilled to have an infant fall asleep in her lap. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wait Before You Judge Someone's Weight

I am overweight... very overweight. The medical term is "morbidly obese" (which I hate) and the standard term is fat (which I'm trying to accept as an accurate description while ignoring all the emotional pain that word brings up). 

From the time I was young, it seems that everything that was wrong with me was because of my weight. I remember going to a doctor one time as a young adult because I had an ear infection and before the doctor even looked at my ears, I got a long lecture about the need to lose weight. 

For the longest time, more doctor's appointments than not included a lecture about my weight. It was like they assumed I had never heard that same lecture before, that I didn't even realize I was overweight, or that I hadn't ever tried anything to fix it.

Doctors have gotten more understanding over the years but I still walk out of every appointment with a new doctor amazed when I wasn't lectured about my weight - it is so ingrained in me to expect that.

Just to go on and clear this up, I have tried just about everything... fad diets, low carbs, high protein, Adkins, lots of exercise, fasting, diet pills, fiber pills, etc. I was on diets from the time I was really young until I finally gave up about 10-15 years ago. So, dear doctors of my past, I want you to know that I was trying. It was just that nothing worked.

For the record, I am now trying again. However, no more "diets." I realized I have an eating disorder/food addiction and I'm going that route now to deal with it instead.

At my age, I don't expect to ever be what the charts say is an ideal weight. When I was young and working out all the time, I never got there, so I know it's unrealistic to even imagine that now. But even if I do end up losing a great deal of weight to become closer to "normal," I know that the battle inside my head will probably continue on.

This battle is what my mind automatically tells me that everyone is thinking about me when I differ from the norm. Let me give you some examples:

- Sweating... I have several medical conditions and medicines which, combined, tend to make me sweat. A LOT. I can be sitting at my desk and the temperature creeps up to 76 (which is really mild for most people) and I break out in a sweat. But if I'm outside and I'm pouring sweat, I automatically assume that everyone is thinking, "If that woman would just control what she puts into her mouth, she wouldn't sweat like that."

- No booths, please...When I go to a restaurant, I always ask for a table. Yes, I could technically fit into most booths out there, but it's highly embarrassing the times I can't. Plus, it's uncomfortable most of the time even if I fit. So I insist on a table. The majority of the time the hosts are very accommodating but I've had a few times when I felt that I was inconveniencing them by my preference. 

- Injuries... I recently had an ankle injury, a bad one. Well, I use the term "injury" very lightly, as it was caused by overuse while exercising. (Ironic, huh?) Since then I've had to use a walking boot, an AFO (a stiff ankle brace), a walker, a knee scooter, a wheelchair, and sometimes a combination of several of those items. If anyone else uses these accommodations, I feel that no one thinks twice about it and assumes it was from an injury. If I'm using them, I feel that everyone is thinking, "She did it to herself by eating too much."

- Second helpings/desserts... Depending on what type of meal plan I'm on at the time, I might be able to eat dessert or get a second helping of some type of food. I always feel that I'm being judged for my food choices. Keep in mind that there are those of us who are doing something to work on this weight issue... but it's just not healthy to "be good" all the time. My mental issues and stress levels combined with some past and current life issues mean that I honestly can't deal with the stress of "eating healthy" 24/7. In fact, the first doctor who I ever felt cared more about me than my weight told me that severe depression had a higher chance of killing me (through suicide) than my weight did. So if you see someone overweight getting more food or different foods than you think they should, hold back your judgment. You don't know what's going on in their lives and how losing weight might not be the priority you think it is.

- Saying no to invitations most would automatically say yes to... I'm sure some think I'm stuck-up or don't like them because I don't attend certain activities I've been invited to. There are some places that have a high potential to be embarrassed so I avoid them (and it's embarrassing to admit why so I just leave it to the imagination of the one who did the inviting). Some examples: 1 - An outdoor wedding could mean those little wedding chairs. Those terrify me. How incredibly embarrassing would it be to break one at one of the most important days of a couple's life? 2 - Theme parks could mean sitting and watching while the others go on a fun roller coaster that you just can't fit into. 3 - Fun times at the beach can be embarrassing as you try to walk in soft sand and sink much lower than everyone else. These are just a few examples of things that someone really overweight thinks about that the normies wouldn't ever even imagine are issues.

- Travel... Seatbelts in different cars are different lengths and the receptacle sometimes is almost buried either between the seats or in the back of the seat (in the car's backseat). Airplane seatbelts are never long enough. And back to amusement parks... some rides still use regular seatbelts, which are also usually not long enough. I've mostly gotten over the stigma of having to ask for a seatbelt extension or using a seatbelt extender myself, but there are times I would rather not go out with friends or try to ride an amusement park ride just because I don't feel up to dealing with it. One way I've gotten around it is to offer to drive so that the seatbelt isn't an issue. But for those who work in air travel or those amusement park rides, please be discreet when asking about or giving out seatbelt extensions. You can make an overweight person's day by taking that extra step and saving him/her some embarrassment. 

- Conferences, training, or learning opportunities... Don't even think about me being able to fit in a typical student desk. I've walked into the breakout rooms at some conferences held at high schools or colleges and there was absolutely nowhere for me to sit. The same holds true with classrooms or meeting rooms that only had one size of chairs, with arms, that are not one-size-fits-all. I've learned that it's more important for me to suck it up and go find a chair from another room that will work than miss the information that I planned on getting with my attendance. 

- Theatres, auditoriums, and concert halls... Similar to my last point, many theatre seats are not built for plus-sized people. Older theatres, especially, terrify me because it's not even that I'm uncomfortable in some of those seats - I literally won't fit. I've learned to ask for handicapped seating. Again, it's embarrassing because the other audience members can look at me and think, "She's not disabled." (Oh, but if only they knew the physical and mental issues I deal with...) But I've gotten over that concern so that I can enjoy the wonderful musical, movie, or concert the same as every other person there. Also, to be honest, the other audience members will enjoy it more if I'm not spilling out of one of those tiny seats. (To this same effect, handicapped seating is also great for social anxiety, as I am not sitting in the middle of a group of strangers.)

I could include more examples but these are some that affect my life every day the most. I'm writing this to increase awareness and hopefully to decrease the judgment and stigma that those of us with weight issues deal with frequently. Please keep in mind that a person is not his/her weight - and just like someone who is very tall, or short, or has other physical features that aren't "average," we just want to live life the best we can.