[LONG post disclaimer, grab a cuppa and get comfy]
I’ll be the first to admit my relationship with food is unhealthy. I’ve been overweight since I was around 12 years old. Being an “early bloomer” (getting my period at 11) it kind of all went downhill fast. I was a very active kid, I loved football and played all sorts of sports; whilst this didn’t stop when I went to secondary school the kids I was surrounded with certainly did change. I can trace my self-awareness and “fat-shaming” to one particular girl in one particular game of rounders. I played after-school netball in the winter and rounders in the summer so its not as if I wasn’t active. But I was being bullied, every day. There were so few things to give me release or freedom from a world that literally forced me to spend 7 hours, 5 days a week, with my tortures.
At 16 (around 6 months before my G.C.S.Es) I was rushed to hospital with what they thought was a brain tumour. It turned out to be benign inter-cranial hypertension (essentially just really high pressure in my head) I was poked and prodded and told that my BMI was too high. Also for the first time comments were made about my facial hair. It seems unreal but I literally had never noticed it before and the feeling of shame and embarrassment that ran through me in that instant has been unmatched since. Instead of any of these doctors trying to figure out what these set of symptoms could mean I was left embarrassed and humiliated and with a very low opinion of the health care service and myself. Even now I have only been to a doctors surgery once in 15 years (because the cat punctured my leg and it became infected, I left it weeks before I sought help).
Some of you will recognize these symptoms; excess hair growth, difficulty loosing weight, irregular periods (I get one a year now). It’s text book PCOS. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out; if any of the doctors had taken the time to actually listen and help me that would have been lovely. Oh well, fast forward 15 years and I’m an obese 30 year old who has to shave her beard every day and has a mustache that rivals Tom Selleck. I take most things with a pinch of salt and have learnt to have a hard skin, most things will roll right off me. I genuinely don’t care what other people think, but every now and then something will get under a chink in the armour.
It has, ironically, been my education that saved me. During those difficult secondary school years there were two teachers who made time to specifically help me, I owe them more than I could ever express and think of them often even now. During my A-Levels, I got new wonderful friends and an amazing social life. This continued onto university (300 miles away from my “home”) where I found out who I was, I was able to be 100% me and be accepted completely; I found my own community and life was great in the big gay university bubble. University however is far from a reflection of real life.
My weight went up and down, I was at my skinniest (around 11 stone) when I met my future wife. Cohabiting with your first girlfriend is a wonderful, crazy, indulgent and at times darn right unhealthy occupation. Love and happiness often leave to over eating because its makes you feel good and you’ve already found “the one” so why’d you have to watch the calories? Doing this over a period of 10 years however has become exceptionally unhealthy. I’m around 15 stone now and somethings gotta change.
In retrospect, I had begun (around 1 year into our relationship) to see my wife [girlfriend] as an extension to myself. I thought we understood everything about each other, I thought she instinctively knew everything about me and that my thoughts were her own as we were completely on the same “wave length”. This was a foolish and youthfully ignorant thing to think and It came crashing down a year after we got married. We’d been in a relationship for 4 years, our wedding day was literally fantastic, the acceptance from our families (especially her father, who doesn’t say much but gave us genuine acceptance and well wishes) was astonishing and life affirming.
Even though nothing had changed (its just a piece of paper isn’t it?!) the one year itch in a marriage is a spectacular and very real phenomenon which we can testify nearly pulled our lives apart irreparably. We’d been in a relationship for 5 years, struggled to find work after university and generally had a rough time of it but stayed together and got married. Our work schedules were contradictory, I worked nights and she worked very early mornings in an airport. We never saw each other. We moved from a lovely affluent town on the outskirts of Belfast into one of the most deprived economic areas adjacent to her work [serious mistake number 1]. We spent less and less time together [serious mistake number 2]. I plodded along in autopilot and was very unhappy in our new home environment but didn’t really say anything [serious mistake 3]. We just didn’t communicate.
I had the naive assumption that this was just a rut, we’d find a way out and things would magically get better, but its true what they say its a long way down to the bottom before you can come back up. It turns out she’d been having an affair with a male colleague which she’d instigated around 3 months after our marriage, for the best part of a year. In black and white on this page here it reads pretty much as starkly as it sounds and there’s no sugar coating it. Its the reason why I actually don’t class myself as married for 5 years now, its only 4. One year was stolen from me and there’s no way to get it back. But I made the decision to forgive. Well first, I threw her out and listened to a LOT of KT Tunstall (Hold On and Saving my Face became my only salvation, without them I would of ran home to England and never looked back). But then I spoke to everyone that would listen, I’d cry, I let it all out. I got through it. We got through it, but I still don’t know how. I checked her phone for about 3 years, it took 4-5 years for me to stop thinking about it daily. I’m still suspicious to new acquaintances, staff nights out and work colleagues. Its not ideal but i’m getting there, I’ve had to learn to trust her again. Trust is such a difficult thing to get back. Somewhere along the line you’ve just got to jump in again and that’s physically and psychologically terrifying.
Getting back to the point of all this, the last 4 years I’ve put on more weight than ever. I know its in response to trauma; its the last comfort, food has always been there for me. Chocolate, that damn serotonin release is more addictive than any other drug when you feel so at a loss. But therein problem lies, it started with one mars bar, then a pack of four to 3 large bars of chocolate a day. Apart from almost giving myself diabetes, I’ve so little energy and my joints (ankles and knees) are really hurting having to carry this extra weight. Finally I’ve come to realise the temporary comfort of sugary food is NOT ENOUGH to counteract the real negative physiological effects of eating it. This underscores my whole relationship to food. I’m about a week into the new diet and I’ve slipped twice (a mars bar each time!) but there’s none in the cupboard now and I wont buy any more. The feelings i’ve had this week though are so positive. I thought its only processed sugar and chocolate that could give me a boost but actually fruit does the same thing. I’ve kind of jump started my body, I just needed to go cold turkey and throw away the past. It feels pretty good.