There is a potential triggering warning for this post. I'm sharing it because I feel it is vital to discuss hidden stories to relate better and understand people. Also, I'm proud of the person who wrote it and yielded it to society. When I requested to share it, they said yes with some limitations.
If you empathize with the story below or find yourself in a similar situation, please reach out.
As a final reminder, these blog posts tie into my debut novel, The Human Zoo. It covers a wide variety of topics, and they all fall onto the large spectrum of humanity. This is my way to bridge fiction and reality.
A Reflection and Forgiveness of Myself
The pandemic has had an effect on all of us in one way or another. That’s a given. Some took the opportunity to start a new hobby, improve a skill, build healthy habits. Many people suffered at the hands of unemployment, illness, and eviction.
Personally, I found myself in a situation I had dreaded. A situation that I knew was inevitable, but nevertheless, struck fear into my bones.
I would listen to music at all times of the day. Cleaning, falling asleep, brushing my teeth, hanging out. Part of it was genuine love for music, the other was distraction from my thoughts. Lizzo found herself at the top of my playlists and often on repeat for days on end. It became a small obsession. At the time, I lived with my then-boyfriend. We didn’t share the same music tastes, to say the least, and when I showed him Lizzo’s music out of a genuine need to share my interests, his response was lasting. “That fat bitch?”
It wasn’t the first instance of fatphobia to come from him. It was one of many. A continual problem that, in hindsight, I don’t know why I tolerated. There were, and sometimes still are, many insecurities that tethered me to situations I felt I somehow deserved. I don’t need to justify my indecision at the time. I know that, at the root, my silence was born from fear.
Admittedly, my track record with men isn’t great. By age 12 I was wearing women’s clothing and a D cup. I had surpassed all of my peers in height, shoe size, and clothing size. To put it lightly, I felt like a freak. The grooming started early. Men outside of my family who had any semblance of power over me began to coax me in a direction that would have lasting consequences on my perception of myself and others. My musical theater director insisted on private dance rehearsals. The costume department suggested costumes to “compliment my figure” and at 13, a senior and legally adult classmate pulled me aside to grope me backstage.
This grooming planted a seed that made me crave approval from men, specifically, older men. At 15 I entered an online relationship with a 22 year old military man. This secret was kept from my loved ones as something I inherently knew as wrong, but I received the approval and affection I craved. On the downside, I would become the victim of a pedophile.
Pedophilia aside, and not lightly, this was also my first exposure to gaslighting, emotional and verbal neglect, and eventually, physical and sexual abuse. I’m thankful to be able to say there have been few times that I’ve feared for my life, but this man is responsible for most of them. The sound of breaking dishes or loud claps makes me panic. Later I would be diagnosed with PTSD, clinical depression and GAD.
When I finally felt brave enough and left the relationship, I had police stationed on lookout outside my apartment for weeks.
The next man to catch my attention was 12 years my senior.
He was sweet, quiet, creative. Doting in the first months. I didn’t see the anger until too late. He hid it well.
It started with little things. I’d find my ice cream containers in the trash on some mornings, melted and covered in fruit flies. I’d find my takeout with the same fate, too. Always the same excuse, “I thought they weren’t good anymore.” It would evolve into “you don’t need that.”
I stopped eating sweets.
Crawling into bed after a long day, clock striking sometimes midnight or 1 AM, I’d hear his voice from the pillows say “did you workout today?” To which I would timidly, and with shame, confess I had not. I became well trained. On nights when I answered no, I would receive the cold shoulder. A brief “hmm,” no goodnight, no kisses, nothing. On those nights I found myself doing burpees and squats in the living room by lamplight, crying, exhausted, only to come back to a warm and loving boyfriend who would praise my dedication to fitness with his affection.
I lost 10 lbs.
A much-awaited trip to Iceland ended poorly. After a day of trekking across the frigid eastern coast, I enjoyed two helpings of dinner. In bed, I was met with a similar coldness.
“I’ve never had a girlfriend who eats as much as you. It makes me uncomfortable.”
Silence. I faced the wall, crying silently, wishing to just be home. Instead of goodnight, he said to the silence “if you ever get fat, we’re gonna have serious problems.”
But we already did. I could now fit into pants two sizes smaller.
In 2020 his pressure led me to losing over 30 lbs. At just under 6’ tall, that much loss put me back to what I weighed at 13. I craved his approval. I hated him. But I was stuck. Financially, emotionally, existentially.
My face wasn’t as round in pictures.
Did I like being thin? Did I actually enjoy working out every single day? Did I enjoy denying myself my favorite foods? No. I hated it. I was depressed. I binged fast food alone in my car, out of sight, and threw it up before I got home.
I wore a bikini at the beach that year.
When I left him, I rehomed my cats temporarily. I feared for their safety while he moved out. I installed security cameras after watching him make drives past my house. He left threatening voicemails and texts.
“Chunky ass bitch,” one read.
On a phone call where I pleaded with him to leave me and my family alone, I was met with a harsh reality. I had relinquished his control. I had put my foot down. He didn’t like that.
“Fuck you. I hope you die. You ruined my life, now I’m going to ruin yours.”
Well, he already had.
He came back a week later with flowers, crying, apologizing for his poor behavior. Saying he didn’t mean it. He was just upset. I broke his heart. He wanted me back. He offered to buy me sugar free ice cream. And then I knew he hadn’t changed at all.
I spent the first half of the pandemic losing weight and building “healthy” habits. I’ve spent the most recent half unlearning those habits. I still feel the urge to cry when I look in the mirror. I feel uncomfortable in most everything I put on. I still flinch when I unload the dishwasher and the plates clang together. I still feel the need to be sick when I eat something I “shouldn’t have” and I envy small waists and defined jawlines.
I have, however, begun to meditate. To reconcile with my past self and forgive her. She did nothing wrong. I’ve come to terms with this life and moving forward. I’ll never be small. It’s not in my genetics. I’ll always have belly fat. My bra will always cut into my back and make rolls. My thighs have dimples and cellulite and my butt isn’t a shelf. I have stretch marks and blemishes. When I bend and sit and move, I have rolls. And that’s okay.
My doctor says I’m perfectly healthy. I’ve never medically been given the suggestion to lose weight. My heart is clear as a bell. My blood pressure is stellar. As long as I am healthy, I will work toward loving what I am and look like. All parts of it. I’ve preached body positivity in others but never myself.
I workout when I feel like it. I love Doritos and Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream. I’m a bitch for caramel iced coffee.
I’ve gained 40 lbs.