What I saw there sent me into a panic. An overwhelming sense of "I can't...." What, precisely, I cannot, I do not know. I just know that I can't...something.
I went to work and cried for the first two hours as I steadily plugged away at my duties. Just before 9:00, I called my former therapist to make an appointment. I left a message for a callback.
On my first break, I tried again, but got voicemail again. This is not particularly surprising. I called TB. "Tell me everything will be okay?" I asked him. "I called my therapist to make an appointment, but I thought, in the meantime, what with you being a formerly fat kid, maybe you'd have a minute...."
"Yeah, I mean, I can't talk because I'm on my way to OKC with a group of sleeping high schoolers in the back of my van, but you're doing great. You'll get through this. And, you know, if you need to talk, I can certainly listen right now."
So, I cried, because I needed to and because I felt safe and it was good. And then we chatted about his trip to OKC and his impending week as a camp counselor, and he teased me about my use of gender neutral language, and just as I was about to ask my classic question ("Why are you so mean to me?"), I realized what he had done and I said, "Thank you for being mean to me."
My timer went off and I headed back to work.
About an hour later, my phone rang. My therapist was calling back. I high-tailed it off the floor and answered. "Do you do work with or can you recommend someone who does work with anxiety and body issues?" I asked.
She could work with that.
This is what is hard: My body feels different. It moves differently. It takes up less space. It requires less force. My legs literally move in a different way and my foot falls more softly as I walk. It feels foreign, alien to me. I am not at home in my body and this is terrifying.
Even this I might have been okay with. Even this I might have managed to handle. But....
I look in the mirror and I cannot see any changes, though others tell me it's obvious.
I know that I am a smaller size because I've had to purchase or dig out of my closet smaller articles of clothing. But when I look in the mirror, I still see myself as I was 86 pounds ago.
Except.... On Tuesday, my collar bones showed up. And I panicked. At work, I avoid looking at my hands because I know the changes in them are prominent as well.
I was already upset and frustrated and struggling, oh Lord, struggling with the way people treat me. "What did you do? Stop eating altogether?" one woman at church asked. "What do you eat?" inquired another. "Do you ever bother to eat all?" asked a woman at work.
"I eat every day!" I tell them. "I eat vegetables and legumes and lean protein every single day." I turned to another co-worker, pleading for an ally. "She sees meet eat regularly! We share meals a few times a week! She can tell you I eat!" I declared.
"Hmmmmm.... Yeah, I can only say that I see you eat about once a week," she replied.
Completely alone to justify my weight loss. Why!? Why do I have to justify my weight loss to anyone? I eat fresh vegetables. I eat hummus. I eat baked fish and chicken. On occasion, I eat steak, medium-rare with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onion and blue cheese. I eat real food. And I walk at least 6 miles a day, at least 6 days a week, at a moderate level of intensity. I walk because it helps reduce anxiety. And in the last week, I've added a 25 minute weight routine 3 days a week.
Yes, the weight loss may appear significant to others, but I do not see it at all. But 86 pounds in more than 9 months is not that much. It's about 2lbs a week. And recommendations for healthy and effective weight loss is 1-2 lbs a week. I'm right there.
The constant interrogations would have sent me to therapy eventually, but it was the mirror. Those collarbones. I just.... I looked at my reflection, and I began to cry. "I can't...." I do not know what I cannot. I only know I can't.
The next night, Wednesday as I awaited my appointment the following morning, I began to question things.
What happens if I get down to my goal weight and I'm still not enough? What happens if I never do any better at work than what I'm doing now? What if I can't perform? What if I can't meet someone's expectations?
What does it mean that my sense of accomplishment is currently tied to my weight in a very loose fashion such that I see the two as linked, but recognize that they might not be linked the way I want them to be?
What does it mean that when I worry I won't be enough, what I'm asking is, "What if being thin isn't sufficient to make me good enough for the love and validation of a man generally, and probably of a particular man specifically?"
What does it say about my relationship with a particular man and my emotional boundaries that my weight loss at times is linked more to a desire win him over than about my desire to be healthier and to run again? Even if my primary motivation is health, even if 98% of the time it's about being able to do the things, physically, I want to do (because I really want to run again), what about that 2%?
What if no man ever loves or validates me as a woman no matter how thin I get?
What if 129 isn't enough? What happens if 126 becomes the next best thing? They say when it comes to weight loss people should set an unrealistic goal because people become lazy and settle for "good enough." What if I don't settle for "good enough" at 150 or 162? What if I truly do become determined to beat my fucking body into submission if it's the last God damned thing I do?
What if, no longer made invisible by my fat, I really do strive to become thin enough to disappear entirely?
With a history of abuse: verbal, physical, emotional, sexual; with so many people who have so abusively used my body; with so many instances of being robbed of bodily integrity and the right to body autonomy; with so many moments in which someone who did not have a right to know my body, chose to steal that knowledge of my body, at the very fucking least, I should know my body. I have should have that. I should be able to know my own body. And I don't. And it's terrifying.
And with a history of witnessing profound abuse during my childhood from those who used their physical size to intimidate and attack those weaker than themselves, I have a sense of being more physically vulnerable the smaller I become.
With so much else going on in my life: six deaths in six months in the past year, changing roles and inconsistent expectations at work, interrogations by congregants and co-workers, changes to my body that are terrifying as my own physicality feels like a stranger to me.... Is it any wonder that I am so rigidly controlling of my diet and exercise?
But.... With food and exercise being the only things I can control, what if, at some point, they start controlling me?
"Oh, hey!" she exclaimed. "You have collarbones!"
"Yep," I told her. "They showed up three days ago and became fairly prominent this morning."
And when I got home, I went for a walk.