My Journey, Pt. 2: Rock Bottom
On a day like any other, I woke up from a long nap, slightly delirious, in deep thought about where I was in life and where I wanted to be. I began to feel something inside of me rumbling... it was my stomach, but also a fire. I cannot describe it as anything other than like a volcano erupting through my veins that told me in no uncertain words that this was ENOUGH. That I was going to change, and I was going to change NOW.
I was living in Dallas, TX, and had finally moved away from my home state of Louisiana with a fresh start on a big dream. I was attending photography school for Commercial Photography, to which I had transferred from a Fine Arts program back home. I hated it. The classes weren't inspiring me. I knew it wasn't my calling, but I had a couple of good buddies in the program that I'm still in touch with today. In the 6 months or so prior, I had been experimenting with a vegan diet for the first time in my meat-and-potatoes life. I had lost about 30-40 pounds. It was the kind of weight loss that you'd see here and there until it slipped away somehow. I was so overweight that the 30-40 pound loss wasn't crazy obvious. But overall, life was on the up-and-up.
I think I must have been about 27, maybe 28? I was trying to ride the wave of opportunity that came with moving further away from home than ever (a different state, even!). With this move came many changes, especially in my circle of friends and entertainment. I had gone from a party-every-night-until-you-pass-out girl, to a work-then-home-now-what? kind of girl. I'm sure I still drank wine every night, but my social life came to a tremendous halt as I had few close friends and an even smaller budget.
It was that very day after that very nap that I committed to a dream I couldn't yet see. I committed to the life that I was worthy of. I committed to the life that I was born for... whatever that was. It was like a fury inside of me for all of the things that had brought me to that point of obese misery, and that fury was D-O-N-E.
The last time I remember stepping on a scale was probably almost two years prior to this point. I was playing Wii in my living room and was secretly excited because they had some sort of exercise function... until I saw the weight that I rang in at. 305. 305. It was like a flash that surely couldn't be real. I'm pretty sure I didn't eat much the rest of that week, but drank my dinner each night instead.
Drinking my dinner was pretty common those days. I had ended my terrible first marriage and was struggling to find myself. The ex had begun dating my (former, obviously) best friend, pretty much the moment I left. At my largest and darkest point, I was very disconnected from my family, but thankfully supported by a circle of friends that was very accepting, supportive, and, well... very fun. Before this, I had gained weight exponentially thanks to a 9-month round of birth control shots and a few more months of just eating terribly with my also obese husband who was probably more depressed than me? If my rough calculations are anywhere close, I packed on close to 100 pounds in the swift year and a half that my marriage lasted, right after I finished college. Talk about spiraling.
Now prior to this year I definitely had struggled with my weight throughout high school and college. I am thankfully tall, so I sometimes did a decent job of looking proportioned, but I was never the size of the other girls at school. While they were athletic, I was smart. I was put into special "gifted" class programs starting in the First Grade. I took my first IQ test at age 6, and the ACT for the first time in 7th Grade. This became a large part of my identity, and I was ok with it as it gave me somewhere to fit.
Basically since birth, I had been a sickly child. I was in doctor's offices so regularly that I think one of the first words I learned to spell was D-O-C-T-O-R. I lived on steroids and antibiotics, had weekly appointments at the ENT and/or allergy shots or specialists to visit 6 hours away in Dallas. Knowing what I know now about the effects of these medications, there is no big surprise that I now live with multiple food allergies, have raging digestive problems, and had my gallbladder out at the age of 31. But we didn't know any better back then. My sweet Mom did everything she could for me to not feel sick, to comfortable and happy. My doctor visits were so frequent and so maddening that they were often soothed with a treat, namely Hostess cupcakes and a Coca-Cola Icee. My mouth still waters for these... I learned to soothe my feelings with food, and definitely avoid any physical activity (especially outdoors) because allergies and low-key asthma. Great. So while the other girls became track stars and cheerleaders, I became jaded. I learned to push the envelope with my clothes, hair, and makeup to detract attention from the fact that I was “big boned” and probably the biggest nerd in school.
Fast-forwarding back to my breaking point... my last roommate had been vegetarian, so naturally I gave it a shot. I remember reading Dr. Fuhrman's Eat To Live and being completely mind blown by everything he said. After replacing my regular diet with what sometimes looked like vegetarian to the tune of cheese toast at 3 am, I decided to give it half a try. I began to learn how my diet affected my mood, energy level, and ultimately weight. Interesting.
When I decided that day after my nap that I was not going to let myself spend the rest of my life in that miserable shell, that was it. I began what most people would consider a crash diet. Things were extreme but manageable. I found in myself the willpower that I'd always needed. There wasn't really a time that I can remember doubting if it could be done. I wondered what I would look like and feel like, but I knew that I would get to at least a "normal" weight. Normal as in able to wear cute clothes sold in normal stores; normal as in didn't have to cringe as I squeezed into a seat in a crowded restaurant or God forbid an airplane. Normal as in maybe could walk a normal distance without being embarrassingly out of breath. This was all I wanted. Not to be thin. Not to be anything else but normal. I convinced myself that if I could get down to just a size 14 I would be thrilled.
As the weight began to come off, and I began to resemble some of the other people I was surrounded with, I wanted no sort of congratulations or encouragement... I was very strictly clear that I wanted this part of me to be a thing of the past as FAST as possible, to put it so far behind me that it felt alien. Mission accomplished.
I've come to the realization recently as I prepared for a photo shoot (with the same ole' vegetarian roommate by my side!) that I'm quite literally a different person. It's difficult to articulate how it feels. The best way I can describe it is that I am the same person who was trapped in the wrong body for a few years. I can totally relate to stories of people who identify as transgendered, because I know exactly how it feels to look in the mirror and not feel like you're seeing the right thing. It is horrifying.
Over the past couple of years, I have spent a lot of time and energy healing past hurts and clearing out the emotions that go along with much of this journey, and it's crazy how effective and necessary this healing is. I have finally come to a point where I can look at these pictures and acknowledge this journey as a part of who I am. While this is personally very satisfying, I have felt a strong calling to share my story now in hopes of inspiring and encouraging someone else. Whether it's weight loss or a million other things, I truly believe that you can do whatever it is that you set your mind to do. The mind is such a powerful thing, that it can tell us who we are and how to behave. Once you find that GRIT, that fury inside, to do whatever needs to be done, you can direct your thoughts. You can direct your life. The most important step is to connect with your own self-worth. It is so necessary that you spend time each and every day reminding yourself that you are loved, that you are God's perfect creation that behaves imperfectly but are no less capable of achieving whatever is in your heart. It really doesn't matter where you find yourself waking up today or how you got there. It can all be turned around.
You see, on the afternoon that I woke up from that nap, I had the first of many very clear conversations with God. He told me that all I had to do was choose to believe that I deserved a better life. It's that simple. All I had to do was believe for just a little while that it was POSSIBLE that my future wasn't doomed to a life of misery. That He didn't create me for that end. That He put gifts inside of me that the world needed. That I was far too special to be hiding in depression and hating life. I made a deal with Him that day. I agreed that I would try. I would give it all I had. So that is exactly what I did... I began. I woke up the next day with my game face on. I can honestly say that the next several months were some of the easiest "diet days" of my life. I hardly felt tempted; I really rarely "cheated" on my plan. He gave me the strength, and He gave me the results. I learned one of the most important lessons of my life, that I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.