Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Black Cloud

That's me with some Hill Tribe women.  They were actually Chinese, not Thai, but they were so gracious and sweet.  I was self-conscious just to be standing next to them, how absurd!
A little momento from my time in Thailand surfaced the other day, and it started me thinking about how much of my joy has been stolen from me by my obesity.  Granted, Thailand wasn't a vacation for me, I was working really hard, long hours in high heat and humidity(talk about a hairstyle killer), but there was plenty of opportunity to socialize with the rest of the team members and our hosts.  I did the scheduled excursions, the elephant riding and visiting temples in Chang Mai, and street markets at night, but the people who bonded the most, were the ones who went to the pool after we returned to the hotel.  The hotel had flown in a bartender from Bangkok to be at our disposal to make "American drinks" and serve them to us poolside, and the hotel kept the pool open til midnight for us, it normally closes at 8pm, but most nights we didn't return from our clinic/dinner until after that.  We were accompanied by some of the most powerful people in the country, and shuttled around by the ministry of health.  We had festivals thrown in our honor, compelte with dancers bussed in from various parts of Thailand, Laos, and Burma.  We ate dinner at the governors mansion and had police escort wherever we went.  We were treated to foot, neck, and body massage at our clinic site.  Lines were opened just for us at the airport.  We were showered with gifts and ceremonies reserved only for high dignitaries. It was the first time I had been out of the country, and I was surrounded by people from all over the globe who shared the same passion to preserve eyesight as I did, I should have been having the time of my life.  But all I could think about was how, there were only a few other overweight people there, and even then, they had better skin, better hair or better personalities than me.  So while everyone else was forming fantastic memories and friendships, I was wallowing in self defication about all that I was embarassed to be, and all I was ashamed not to be. 
And Thailand is just one small example of a lifetime of events I have allowed my own mind to ruin for me.  I have always been extremely shy, but after the age of five, it isn't "cute" anymore, it's just seen as abnormal and disrespectful.  And, people stop wanting to be around you or try to get to know you.  I know now, that since the age of 12, my shyness ( or more appropriately, my being withdrawn) is due to my complete lack of self-esteem.  And my lack of self esteem is owed to my being overweight. 
I have had some periods of success with my weight, brief though they were.  I remember I was thinking of joining the Army when I got out of high school (wanted to be a paratrooper! HA!) and they told me in order to be considered, I had to lose 10 pounds.  I never ended up doing it, not because of the weight, which I thought I could starve myself and go jogging to get off, but because my mother expressed her displeasure in my decision.  So, those 10 extra pounds compounded.  And multiplied.  My self-esteem taking blow after blow.  And I went through what most overweight folks do, yo-yo dieting.  When I wasn't dieting, I was bingeing, using food to self-medicate and escape.  Most of my paychecks were spent on food, until I was old enough to be able to drink.  That is another story entirely, but it did add a lot of empty calories and packed on even more pounds. 
My weight has always been a black cloud hanging over my head.  All major events, and even the small ones, have been overshadowed by the negative thoughts I am shouting inside my head.  They all add up to feeling completely unworthy.  And when I think back to those events, I feel sad at how much I missed out on.  And most of those losses come at the cost of relationships to others.  And when I look at it from where I am standing now, I think it is so absurd that I let my body determine my worth.  I would never hold anyone else but me to those ridiculous standards, would never judge a person by how much they weigh.  The other heavy people that were with me in Thailand, I didn't think of them as unworthy or fat, I saw the beauty in each of them, laughed at their jokes, admired their skin, found them interesting.  Why did I allow myself to be so self-deficating?  It is difficult to change your self-image, but not impossible to see yourself in a more positive light.  Even if you don't think you have anything to offer the world, others are seeing your light.  We are humans, we are fascinating for that very fact.  It wasn't my weight that made people disinterested in me, but the fact that I withdrew.  And withdrawing from others only amplified my feelings that they didn't want to be by me, when in reality it was the other way around. 
I can sit and wish I could have a do-over for all the major events in my life, to treat them differently, be outgoing and enjoy them to the fullest, but that would be a waste of time and energy.  For now, the best I can do is go forward armed with this knowledge and learn from my past mistakes.  I may never be the life of the party, but at least I can allow the party to breathe a little life into me.  I can finally breathe a sigh of relief, and for once, relax and enjoy things.  And not because I weigh less, but because I know I am priceless!

4 comments:

  1. There is no point in regretting things that are past. You imagined that people withdrew from you but everyone is self-concious to an extent and those who aren't are nearly always overconfident and obnoxious. You don't have to be the life of the party but you can still enjoy it. Other people see you differently than you see yourself.
    Sorry, I'm starting to sound a bit like a horoscope.

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  2. You don't sound like a horoscope, you sound wise. Thank you for your comments!

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  3. The people, that you have..."let in"/let see the "real" you; (inside, & out ;) *THINK THE WORLD OF YOU!* 0;) <3 Not sure, if you'll ever "fully," KNOW...how much you've meant to me...&, my life! <3 YOU! ;) :)

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  4. Thank you Bittersweet! You have always been there for me, thick and thin (pun somewhat intended)!

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