I never thought I’d be writing this post, but I came across this story today and it set off an avalanche of memories in me, deep rooted feelings that I realise will always be there even though I’m now comfortable in my own skin.
The year was 1986 and a classmate of mine, let’s call her MS, found out my middle name. No problem there except that she realised that abbreviating my middle name made for some prime teasing material – Fat.
And so it was that a cruel taunt started up which resulted in her no longer using my proper name but resorting to the ‘name’ Fat whenever she wanted to refer to me. I was lucky, in the long run, because a very caring teacher realised what was going on and handled the situation brilliantly, to the extent that MS apologised to me, stopped the taunting, and even eventually became one of the classmates I enjoyed having around. And yet, despite the resolution, I came to hate my middle name with a passion, to the extent that for many, many, many years after I kept it a secret, refusing to divulge it to even my inner circle.
Decades have passed and I now accept the way my body is. It’s been a long and winding road to get here, and a new upcoming challenge is probably going to upset the apple cart again soon (more on that later).
I’ve never been a small girl, the smallest dress size I ever managed to get down to was a respectable UK size 12, but only by being on diet 24/7, no treats allowed, and walking 2 hours a day. Ah the joys of student life, when responsibilities are nonexistent and all daily chores are taken care of (in some cases) by your parents! Except for that brief period, my weight was a constant source of battle, yo-yoing doesn’t begin to encompass it, I seriously own clothes ranging from size 12 to size 24 – I should open a thrift shop!
And yes, I am a foodie. I love my food – check out my blog! I love the whole process, from shopping for the ingredients, to searching for the recipe, to wondering what to tweak, to actually creating the dish and serving it to some very satisfied friends and family. But of course, it is more than that. I do recognise that food is also my defense mechanism, more so since I quit smoking. Should I work more on that? Undoubtedly, yes. But this isn’t a point in my life where I can do that and I’ll explain why.
I have now been taking steroids since 2008. Now anyone who has taken steroids will talk to you about the hunger pangs one experiences. They are unbelievable. It is literally like you have a gnawing hole in your stomach that you simply cannot fill, a monster that needs to be fed that cannot be assuaged. No matter what. Try as you might.
To add insult to injury, your weight balloons when on steroids even if you practically don’t eat! (Apparently it’s water retention.) You can also develop something called ‘Moon Face’ which is quite disconcerting. Basically, your face becomes as round as a full moon and somehow flattens out, with features being lost, sort of becoming 2-D. That happened to me and it was so surreal to look in the mirror and just not recognise myself anymore.
And steroid weight is near impossible to shift. I know. I tried dieting while on steroids. And believe me, I’m very strong willed so when I diet, I go hard core. So yes, I lost 15 kilos straight off but then that was it. No matter what I did, nothing, there it was to remain. But guess what, now I’m ok with that. I’m fighting a much bigger battle so things really do become relative. When just getting out of bed is in itself a challenge and a half, well, weight issues kind of take a back seat.
But it’s taken me close to three decades to get to this point (as well as a particular life experience). I doubt that MS had any notion that her gibe would go on to mark me as it did – but yes, it did. We really know nothing of the demons that rage inside each of us on a daily basis, we would be best served to remember that everyone is on their own path, at times harder than others. Why is it that we can appreciate diversity in other species but not in our own? Let’s teach our kids to value difference, to celebrate it, to embrace it, to question it so it no longer remains different, unknown, misunderstood. And let’s always be vigilant against bullying, in whatever form. Speak out. Stomp it out. You never know which one word or action will be enough to push someone over the metaphorical edge.