This week I’m pleased to share a guest post from my dear friend, C. Yvonne D. It is an inspirational post about self-acceptance and determination. I hope you find it as uplifting as I did.
Thank you for sharing your words, C. Yvonne D.!
I’ve been fairly silent about my journey. It has been a long, arduous journey, and I’ve finally decided that it’s time to break my silence. I spent twenty years of my life living as a plus-sized woman. I look back at photos taken over those twenty years, and I see the misery and pain. Yet, what I’ve realized from losing this weight is that there was also an armor, or shield, that came from that plus-size number. It’s finally time to tell my story.
At my heaviest weight, I tipped the scales at just over 325. In fact, my doctor at the time joked about calling the Broncos to add me to their roster if gained any more weight. I bounced from diet to diet, trying to lose weight, while secretly sabotaging myself.
When I went to see my kidney specialist (nephrologist) in February of 2012, I had been seeing a therapist for over a year. I knew I was sinking. I knew I needed help. As I sat there that morning, I received some hard news. My nephrologist looked at me and said, point blank, “If you don’t lose weight, you’re going to die. You are killing yourself, and only you can fix it.” He then wrote out a referral for a dietitian, and a surgery consult. I was suddenly confronting a fear bigger than the one that had kept me heavy.
I spent hours in fear and agony while making the choice to follow through with the dietitian. I felt I was now working on paying someone to humiliate and laugh at me. The tapes of being bullied throughout my formative schooling years had led me to a lifetime of self-ridicule. I learned how to beat myself up better than they ever had. Even today, some of those words haunt me.
I finally went in, and I’m so grateful I did. My dietitian didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know, but she did become a vital player in my weight loss; she became my first cheerleader. I also followed through with my surgery pre-op appointment. The nurse in the gastro office informed me that I qualified for the surgery, but would have to prove over a six-month period that I could follow a diet plan and become healthier. I asked if it was possible to lose enough weight to no longer qualify for the surgery. She told me that at my current Body Mass Index (BMI) of 33, it would not be possible to get under the 28 BMI requirement in six months. I thanked her, because in that moment she became another vital player: she had given me a goal.
Somewhere around my fourth month of weight loss, I was no longer dieting. My health was at risk and I didn’t want my children motherless. I had gained a voice, a piece of self-worth, a morsel of self-satisfaction. I can’t give specifics of what changed; I can’t tell you that I started pumping iron, or working out crazily; none of those things happened. I did work out for thirty minutes, almost every morning, on the Wii Fit. I ate proper portions and began walking more. It wasn’t that I was suddenly trying. It was that the weight loss had finally found its hold on my heart. I discovered the missing connection.
I overcame my first challenge at the six-month mark. When the nurse called back for my next surgery appointment, I proudly told her I had successfully lost seventy pounds—enough weight to no longer qualify for the surgery. The extra pounds magically vanished and I no longer engaged in stress eating. That was until a gentleman at the store noticed me. He smiled and said hi, and while I know he was simply being friendly, I reeled into a familiar, dark place. I lost my shield and I was no longer invisible. Thankfully I remained in therapy, because the next weeks would prove challenging.
What nobody tells you about weight loss—the taboo part of the whole challenge—is that no one talks about what put you at that weight. It took weeks for me to realize my weight had become a shield. Part of it was a false sense of security. You see, I had been raped when I was thinner. My weight gain had become a double shield. I felt invisible when I was heavier, and in being invisible, you feel safer. If they can’t see you, they can’t hurt you. There was also a part of me that believed if someone tried to hurt me, I could stop them because I was bigger, heavier. If nothing else, I could sit on them. My weight made me miserable, but it also protected me.
I still have those moments of fear and anxiety. It’s not that I never stress eat anymore; instead, I have learned to limit what and how much I eat. I haven’t had to fight to stay thinner; it happens because much of my life has truly changed. A year ago, I started T’ai Chi. It has been a tremendous help. Also, I took up bike riding a month ago — something I never thought I’d do again.
Recently, I overcame one of my final challenges. I became overweight. You might wonder, “What? How is that good?” When you start at morbidly obese and move to simply being overweight, it becomes a celebration. I still have weight to lose, but I’m no longer actively trying to lose weight. Instead, I’m learning to be happy and healthy.
The best news is that I went from stage four kidney failure down to stage two. My nephrologist was right—only I could change my life and my future. You can, too. You can become bigger than the bullies and the rapists on the inside. You can also overcome the outside.
What people sometimes forget is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are people out there who can, and will, help. All you need to do is ask. Everyone’s struggle is different, yet at the core we are all the same. You can face the hard work and challenges, because you’ve faced worse and you’re still here, still kicking. Find your voice, your passion, your zest for life, and overcome the pain of your past. You are the only one who can do it, and you can.
A mother of three and a grandma to three, C. Yvonne D. was born with a kidney disease called IgA Nephropathy. Her condition was exacerbated by a medication cocktail given to her in her thirties that was supposed to help her cope with the painful onset of fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. In her words, “I have spent 42 years afraid of almost everything. I’ve been defined by my titles, pain, diseases, and mental health. I am in an ever-evolving journey to push through these definitions, for they are such a small part of who I am. I am learning to be me and I’m ready to share a piece of my story.”