I have been waiting a long time to write this post. In fact, I started thinking about this post last April, and now that I am sitting here looking at it, I feel a sense a pride and accomplishment.
When Green Lantern and I came back from our trip to London, I happily spent a day editing and uploading all of the pictures of our travels to Facebook. I was so excited to share the details of our trip, and all of the amazing things we had seen with my family and friends. You can’t imagine my surprise when the comments I started getting back weren’t about all of the great places we saw. It was about my weight.
Now, it’s worth saying that I have never been a big girl. However, within my struggle of year-long chronic knee pain, I ended up giving up a lot of things I was accustomed to doing. This included most of my physical activity. Zumba, my choice exercise program was painful, and my passion, true dance, was excruciating. Even walking was difficult. Some days I could hardly do it at all, and spent many nights with my knee either wrapped in a heating pad or covered in ice packs. The six months prior to the surgery left me pretty much incapacitated. The trip we took in January to Rome was riddled with instances of me asking Green Lantern to let me sit, take breaks, even go back to the hotel room and sleep some of it off before we went out again for dinner. It was frustrating for both of us, and then it only got worse. I literally could not get through a day of work without a knee brace, and after I got off, most nights couldn’t stand.
I had the surgery in March, and my mobility went from 20% to zero. That was a nasty shock. I felt useless and angry. I hated the crutches and fought the pain miserably. London, which marketed the first full week that I walked on my knee the whole time after surgery, was a celebration for me. I assure you, it was not without its breakdowns, but it was an accomplishment none-the-less.
So you can imagine my utter shock and dismay when people started to ask me questions like “Are you pregnant?” or “Have you been feeling ok? You look awful.” Then, of course, the people who straight out said that I looked heavy and I needed to lose weight. My self-confidence and excitement about all of the wonderful things in my life went straight back to zero. As someone who had rumors passed around behind my back when I was a young girl in school about being anorexic or bulimic, and was told all through high school and the first part of college that I looked “too skinny” or “sick,” I was shocked and shaken when this was the reaction I received. In my head, I developed this idea that I must look like a scared, fully extended puffer fish who just ballooned really quickly when no one was paying attention.
It was shortly after this I had to give my first public dance performance in over a year. Now, I was nervous already, and struggling through recovery as it was. Movements that at one time had been second nature now felt foreign and difficult. It required not only the back and forth motion I had started to get used to by walking, but it also reintroduced spinning and a side to side motion that made my legs ache. During the performance, I hit that high. That adrenaline based thrill that I always got from performing that makes me feel like nothing else in the world. Like I could take on anything or anyone. I was so excited, so proud. So relieved that though I was limited, it meant that I hadn’t fallen into that category of “Never Dance Again.” However, afterward all I could see in the video and pictures were these rolls of fat and a bulkiness to my body I had never noticed before. Now… I’ll admit that some of this was a very poor body image. Even still, devastated would be an understatement for how I was feeling. Looking back, these feelings tainted the whole experience for me. Here I was trying to think about recovery, and now all I could think of was what people were thinking when they were looking at me. Was I like a cow now or something? Even, to my dismay, I found myself pushing Green Lantern away a little as my self-confidence went spiraling down. I was just positive that I couldn’t possibly even be attractive anymore… not only do I hobble and can’t walk correctly and can’t bend my knee or climb stairs or do most of the things I could do before, but I was fat too?
This started the counter-productive phase. I begged Green Lantern to buy me an exercise bike. I had been assigned not a single physical therapy appointment after my surgery, and I was determined that I had to do something. He did so, encouraged me and set it up for me, and what did I do? I immediately pushed too hard. What I intended to be a kind of self-taught physical therapy turned out just to be a way I could torture myself. I would ride until I cried from pain, and had to ice for two days just to start walking to the level I was at before. I couldn’t really see what I was doing at this point though. I wanted so badly to make it better and fix this awful image of myself I had created in my head that I got unreasonable. I felt like a monster. That, in turn, left me even more discouraged.
When Green Lantern left on deployment, I realized how unreasonable I was being. I wanted to be better, and I knew that I had to make a better plan to get there. I took it upon myself to make a real, more level-headed, and all around better effort. I set up categories of things I wanted to do, how much weight I wanted to lose, and set goals and prizes for particular levels within my massive program, and slowly I started to work. I started first with biking primarily. From there I added some basic dance in, trying to help me get my body used to movements I wanted so badly to find again. I employed my gaming system in with the Wii Fit program. This one took a fairly long transition in as a lot of the movements and exercises I couldn’t physically do yet. The last section I added in was Zumba, which was the most challenging. Because the program is so high impact, and normally last a longer amount of time, that was a rare occurrence. Slowly, I started getting more comfortable. Soon, I was able to do multiple kinds of exercises and play more than one kind of game in a day. Most recently, I also added a regiment targeting abs and a stretching set to help me bring back my flexibility from before.
I used all of this in varying levels to try to change my hurt feelings into something productive. I decided, as any good Batgirl would, that I needed to prove them wrong. Those people who had made me feel so low, and so self-conscious needed to see that I could overcome obstacles. It didn’t matter the reason I put the weight on. I was gonna have that spark and love for my body again. I was going to find that sexy-ness I had possessed when I was still dancing, and I knew I had the moves and confidence that could get people’s attention. I vowed to myself that by the time I saw Green Lantern again, I would be beautiful again. I would find a way to be perfect.
It is honing in on 4 months since Green Lantern left, and as I sit here I can proudly say that I have lost 20.6 pounds. I have been hitting goal after goal, annihilating everything (so far) that has come into the my path. Even with all this weight loss, I still have goals to hit that will keep me working through the whole deployment. Though I admit I hoped it would work faster (I had a very slight drawback that lost me some time. Silly Thesis Project), I literally worked my butt off to get to this point. And you know what? I don’t plan on stopping now. I’m Batgirl; I don’t do anything half-assed. I want to be better than I was before. I want to be recovered enough that I can dance for hours on end again without stopping. I want to be able to do it every day if I want to. My recovery is slow, but I am testing my limits every day, and working harder than ever.
Just some food for thought:
I can see and understand at this point how hazardous it was for me to let what people said to me and about me get under my skin. Yeah, I will be the first to admit to that I put on weight after I hurt my knee. It is completely logical. But I would never say some of the things that were directed at me about someone else, so I’m not sure why I got to be the butt of the joke, so to speak. I learned that changing for other people is an AWFUL reason to try to change your body. I realized that in my counter-productive stage. The only time you are going to be able to go through the ordeal of weight loss and make it out the other side is when you find a way to actually commit everything you have to it. You have to be ready; if you aren’t you will fail. You have to be willing to decide that you are going to put aside the time and lose the weight for you.
Besides that, I also found that you really have to learn to love your body at all stages: For what it is and what it isn’t. This is a very hard concept for me, and I still struggle. I can’t help it sometimes; I still look in the mirror and pick apart every little thing that is still wrong with my body, even 20 pounds lighter. But I try to remind myself everyday that I am just knit-picking. Green Lantern tells me I’m beautiful. He tells me I’m perfect just the way I am. So any improvements I manage to make are just bonuses to the fact that I love who I am, and make the best effort to love everything about the body I’m in too.
As I said before, I have been called too skinny and too fat. I have been criticized and ridiculed and called many names. But you know what? I don’t really care what other people think anymore. I want to be beautiful and strong and healthy for two people: Me first and foremost, and Green Lantern second. There is no other reason in the world that makes sense to me.
Find your priorities, believe in what important to you, and do it. That is the best advice I can give to someone who might be struggling either with weight loss or low self-esteem problems. And if you are in a situation has similarities to mine, know that you aren’t going through it alone. I know it’s cliché, but I really do think that everyone has beauty in them. They, like me, have to figure out how to see it in themselves first.
Til next time,