I'm Still Me
I’m five foot eleven inches tall. I have blonde hair, usually, and bluish eyes that change with what I wear. My face is diamond shape and I have the opposite shape on the bottom. My hips are wide and curvy and my legs are long and strong. Throughout my life, I’ve gotten compliments on my hair and my fingernails, because people always say they are “pretty.” But that’s my outside.
My whole life I’ve been sick. Not with a sickness that you can see from the outside, but things that happen on the inside. An autoimmune diseases that has crippled so many facets of my system I can’t even begin to count them. From my GI system, to reproductive tract, to my overall physical and mental health. I’ve fought the cycle of these diseases year after year trying to take back my life each and every day. It’s a constant battle that I’m willing to fight for, in order to have the wonderful life that I have, the one I’m grateful for.
A couple of years ago, after my Celiac Disease diagnosis, I worked hard for years to be healthy. This means eating right, exercising and general overall well-being. It was the best I had felt in years physically and mentally. Emotionally, I was a mess. Strange right? Not really.
Each morning I looked in the mirror and told myself that I could do this. I could make it another day fighting the demons in my head and the demons in the world who treated me different because for the first time in my adult life, I was thin. I was a more normal size. Before, I was scared every day to leave the house and hear the things that people were saying to me. People I came into contact with every day.
From comments about my always looking in the mirror, or just wanting the attention of men, or the whispers behind my back in the office and the lunch room because people were jealous. It made me sad. Because the other side of the coin is people that I had come into contact with for years, in many aspects of my life, now talked to me. They actually saw me. These people didn’t look through me or past me like I didn’t exist. They actually saw me as a person and wanted to talk to me.
Stop. The. Presses.
What the hell was happening? People who I had worked with for years, and never gave me the time of day, now wanted to talk to me and be seen with me. This was something I could not even fathom. Do you know why? Because every morning when I looked in the mirror, I still saw the same old Heather. The fat Heather. Not the skinny Heather. Nope. Just the fat Heather. The only time I saw the skinny Heather was when I looked at pictures and I compared old and new.
I’m not sure if it’s self-preservation or part of the process that goes with weight loss, especially when it’s a conscious choice and a slow process, but the mind doesn’t always move at the rate the body does. I asked a therapist why this phenomenon happened and she didn’t have an answer for me either. But she supported my healthy movement and wanted me to remember that no matter what I looked like on the outside I’m the same on the inside.
At the beginning of this piece I described what I look like to you. But I didn’t tell you who I am. I’m a daughter, sister, and friend. I’m a world traveler on a quest for knowledge. I’m a born Texan who loves Upstate NY and left a piece of my soul there. Refinishing old furniture brings me happiness and helps me to remember the before and after in life. High heels, hot pink, books, coffee, cupcakes and fall are all some of my favorite things. Flowers, plants and fresh veggies make me happy. Farmers markets hold amazing secrets. My friends are my family. Music keeps me sane. Television allows me to not think. Cool, fresh air makes me want to run. Not fast but slow like a turtle through peanut butter, but run none the less. I’m a giver and I want to take care of those in my life.
All of those things I used to tell you who I am have nothing to do with what I look like. But all of those people who looked past me or through me all those years didn’t know that. They only wanted to get to know me when I looked like what they deemed acceptable. That makes me sad. It didn’t then, mostly because I had no idea how to deal with it. I spent many nights crying wondering why they couldn’t see me for who I really was, when in reality it wasn’t about me. Not really. It was about them. Maybe they had issues. Maybe they hated fat people and didn’t want to know or attempt to understand their struggles. But I’m not going to own it. That’s them, not me.
I’m sitting here now recovering from major surgery and trying to apply these same thought process to things the way they are now. For the last couple years, I’ve been back to the Heather prior to exercising and eating right. The Heather who just floated around taking up space and living. Mostly because I knew that there was something organic going on with my body again and I couldn’t get anyone to listen. When someone finally listened, I broke down and cried. I cried so hard my body shook and responded with a quiet “thank you.”
You see, for a couple years when I asked for help trying to figure out what was going on, I was told I needed to be medicated, and I was crazy. But I knew different. I wasn’t crazy, but I was hurting, in pain, and struggling to figure out what was going on inside. Now, I have answers. They may not be what I wanted to hear, but they were answers.
So now, when I look in the mirror I see a girl who is faking it until she makes it. A girl who’s attempting to love herself even though she’s gained a bit of that weight back. A girl who is still all of those things described above and still on the path to get healthy again. And even more so, a girl who has realized that when someone looks through me, it’s not about me but about them. Each day, I put one foot in front of the other, and work to be a better me.
I still see the fat Heather in the mirror when I look at myself and I’m okay with her. Because inside she never changed. She’s a good person and I love her. So while you’re on your journey to be a better you, remember that YOU are a good person. You live, love, feel, cry and breathe no matter your size. Take a moment and write down the good things about YOU. Not what you look like, but who you are on the inside. Then when others ask you about yourself, don’t describe your physical characteristics describe YOU! During this process you’ll start to believe all these wonderful things about yourself the same way I did!