Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Slice of My Life

Cross-posted from my MySpace blog.

December 13, 2009 - Sunday 

Current mood:  pensive
Category: Life
I tend to be a pretty private person so writing about my own feelings is a stretch. I've studied psychology (worked as a psych aide for seven years) and journaling is supposed to help a person figure things out. Well, since I can't afford a shrink, I suppose that may be what I'm doing here, though the intent of this profile is really to help me promote my creative work.

I come from a somewhat dysfunctional family, though neither of my parents were physically abusive. I don't consider an occasional spanking to be abuse, particularly in the time I was raised. My parents weren't sexually abusive either, and they weren't alcoholics or drug addicts. However, from my father's large German and Russian family and my mother's side of the family (mostly German ancestry as well) I learned to love food early on, and I still do. I quit smoking (twice!) with no withdrawal problems. I rarely drink any more although I did used to be quite a "party animal." But food is another story.

I developed an eating disorder at thirteen when I started making myself throw up because I could no longer fit into my tiny Size 1 pants. It's ridiculous that a girl should expect that this would be a final size for her. My hips were far from finishing their development. But I was terribly upset and, believing that I was getting fat, I began puking after eating dinner. This went on for the next eight years until I became pregnant with my first daughter.

I had a horrible pregnancy, gained a lot of weight, most of it due to ballooning up with fluid from pre-eclampsia. My labor had to be induced and I ended up having an emergency cesarean section. It was hard for me to even begin exercising for a good six months afterwards. I lost the weight slowly. Married another eight years, two more kids--a son and a daughter--and meanwhile my marriage went to hell. Though the divorce was amicable and my ex husband and I were really better off apart because all we ever did was fight at that point, I felt incomplete without a man.

It was three years before I ever started dating again, simply because of having to pull my life together and get a job. I had been a housewife, picking up a little part time temp work here and there. I went on food stamps, got my CNA license, and started working in a nursing home. I ended up injuring my back pretty early on. Nursing home work is pretty much hell. I decided to get an emergency medical technician license so hospitals would take me seriously because they tend to want nothing to do with someone who has been working in nursing homes. At the same time as I was trying to get my life together I was trying to find a partner and was looking in all the wrong places for all the wrong guys. I think I went through the same stupid thing that a lot of people from a kind of fucked up family do. I looked for guys that needed fixing and as I was abused physically and mentally, exposing my kids to dangers that it really upsets me to think about, I became more and more bitter. Between bad relationships I would console myself with food and then a few months later start struggling to lose the weight. The older I get the more difficult the losing part becomes. I have also discovered that I have hypothyroidism, which tends to make weight loss difficult. It also contributes to feelings of depression. Well--at least there's an explanation. I really can't tolerate the side effects of either antidepressants or thyroid medication. I've found that extra B vitamins, vitamin D, and a natural thyroid supplement that doesn't contain the Thyroxin hormone have helped.

After a couple years not dating at all and becoming frustrated with my inability to get a job in either a hospital or on an ambulance (I was told by the person who interviewed me for the ambulance service that my personality was not aggressive enough although my skills were excellent) I left the health care profession for a while to work at a night club where I made the mistake of getting involved with one of the other bartenders, who was much older than me. Although he wasn't physically abusive he was one of the most manipulative people I have ever met. He was sweet as could be when he wanted me to help him with something but other than that was cold. After a night where I was down on my knees literally begging this bastard for a modicum of attention, and literally considering suicide when I finally left in tears, I decided that enough was enough. I quit my job at the club, got a job at another nursing home, and sunk into depression. I turned to my old friend food during this time.

I was lucky enough to finally land a position at the hospital in 2001, which raised my spirits considerably. I worked whatever shift they gave me on whatever floor, and I did it happily. During this time I was lucky enough to meet the man who would later become my husband, although I certainly wasn't looking, and neither was he. He is an emergency room nurse and a former paramedic, a Norwegian immigrant who came to the U.S. twenty years ago with his brother and sister. He had a great sense of humor and never pressured me in any way. Our relationship went from friendship to romance very slowly, literally taking three years before he ever mentioned having more than platonic feelings for me. His revelation literally shocked me. I am not young or pretty and by then I had gained 100 pounds since leaving the nightclub job. My crazy schedule didn't allow for exercise, and, although I wasn't eating for comfort as much, I literally wasn't thinking about what I was eating. I was always eating on the run.

My initial thought was that Nils wanted a green card and saw a sucker in the middle-aged fat lady. This, of course, is ridiculous. He is a naturalized citizen. I then began to think he was a "chubby chaser," a concept which disgusts me as much as guys who only date skinny women or women with large breasts disgust me. But thinking about it, during the time I had known and befriended him, he had dated several women of different sizes. None of these relationships had ever gone anywhere. He said that his schedule tended to drive away potential love interests.

When asked what the hell he could possibly see in me, he responded that he found me kind and smart and funny and beautiful. I can only hope that his optometrist is never able to correct his vision so he sees the truth about my appearance and that no shrink ever helps him see the truth about his delusions. He has been tremendously supportive of me, encouraging me to go back to school and get my nursing license and encouraging me to start taking my writing seriously. If not for him, I never would have done either.

Any problems in the romantic aspect of our relationship are caused by my discomfort with my appearance. I tend to want the lights off when things become amorous. He tells me that since he isn't a cat he can't see very well in the dark and prefers that I keep them on. I don't really know why he'd want to see what's there, even if he does like my personality. I see something horribly ugly. A fat, plain woman--265 pounds of flesh. I am strong and I am, for the most part, healthy. No shortness of breath, no high blood pressure, no Type II diabetes, normal cholesterol. I can move quickly. But pretty I'm not. My body has gotten way bigger than I'd ever want it to. And although I'm trying to manage my weight, it is, in fact, a difficult process. It isn't just a matter of suddenly, magically, eating less and exercising more. It takes time to change a lifetime of bad habits.

Once when I was particularly upset about my appearance, Nils asked me to write an objective description of him. He is, in my eyes, the most beautiful human being, but his request taught me a lesson. This is my Adonis, described from a purely objective view.
Tall, slim, ruddy complexion, short, very blond hair, receding hairline. Blue-green eyes, light eyebrows and eyelashes. Prominent nose. Ears that stick out slightly. Decidedly knobby knees. Has trouble finding pants that stay up over his almost non-existent tush.
But most of all, has the greatest smile ever.
This just happens to be a description of the perfect man.

His point was that real beauty is in the soul, not the body. And in truth, I've never seen myself as beautiful, even when I was thinner. My outsides can't determine my inner worth. I hope that one day there will be a bit less of me. But even if there isn't, I need to appreciate the qualities that make me the kind of person that others like. Those qualities matter far more than a perfect body.