June 12, 2015
Besides the obvious potentially life changing fears that come with having multiple sclerosis, some of my fears are much less significant. Fears that started out as being mohills somehow turned into mountains.
Starting around the age of eight or nine, I have developed an awareness of weight and size. I had two slightly older cousins who were naturally thin. They were the type that can eat anything they want and not gain an ounce. Though I was still a typical skinny kid, I naturally have a larger bone structure that overshadowed their more frail builds and I felt self-conscious of that. Several times I was called “fat” by them though I was still fairly thin. It was something that I was able to “ignore” by not saying anything back, but it still stung.
Having a mother that constantly obsessed with dieting and loathe at the weight she gained from the stress of working nights as an ICU nurse in a pediatric hospital, going to school during the day to become an RN, raising two young kids and dealing with a severely alcoholic husband didn’t help my perception of size and weight. I saw her go on those ‘80s low-fat diets, Weight Watchers, liquid diets and even diet pills. She would look in the mirror with horror, hated dressing up, constantly dig through her closet in search of the the perfect outfit that “camouflaged” as much as possible and so on.
Sometime in my early teens, I discovered something called purging. It wasn’t something I practiced daily or even weekly, but I saw it as an “out” in case I overate too much of the “wrong” foods. Going through puberty at a relatively young age and sporting a nice C cup at 14, I saw my body developed in ways that pleased me during this time in my life, but I still feared the “F” word. Dieting wasn’t in my vocabulary at this time in my life, but I remained aware of the possibility of needing to cut back on french fries and doughnuts. Having five impacted wisdom teeth removed right after I turned 15 helped me lose about 15 lbs on a two week juice and smoothie diet which I couldn’t be happier to let go of even though I didn’t need to.
Fast forward five years PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) decided to set up shop in my body causing me to gain at least 40 lbs in a short period of time – not to mention several other unpleasant symptoms. Though it was something I wasn’t happy with, surprisingly, I didn’t obsess. I guess at the time, I thought this was par of the course when it comes to becoming an adult. I knew very little about PCOS and didn’t realize that for me, diet and lifestyle can play a huge role in my recovery and managing this syndrome. Most of the women in my family are overweight if not obese. My late paternal grandmother was close to 400 lbs at her death (though she was 6’5”) and most were getting close to that point, except the two non-blood related cousins. I thought this was my destiny.
Time goes on and so does life. Marriage, divorce, job loss (several times), loss of a baby, health issues associated with PCOS and I become more and more unhappy with my body. The purging still goes on, though it’s not chronic so no one not even anyone I have a romantic relationship with notices.
Dating and general socializing again after the divorce made me aware of my size. I became unhappy by not only how I look, but how I felt. I was tired, lethargic, in physical pain from complications from PCOS and the weight didn’t help. Long story short, in an effort to improve my health and looks I dropped from a size 14 to a 6.
Since the weight loss, my life has changed. Men are nicer, more helpful, gracious and generous with me as shallow as that may be. I can go shopping for clothes in the “regular” size section, I dont feel like I have to cover any part of my body, going swimming is less traumatizing, I even look dramatically different. My own brother didn’t recognize me when he saw me in a store once. He looked right through me and stared at me for 10 seconds before he knew it was me. Looking at my “before” pictures, I can see why. It doesn’t look like me since most of my weight was upper body, stomach, face, chest, etc.
Though I feel and look better than I did before, my awareness of my size has increased. I thought confidence was supposed to come with age, but it seems the older I get, the more I fear my body expanding.
With my current symptoms, running is out of the question (at this time). I exercise using a spinning bike (no risk of falling or running into something) and hand weights though my strength has diminished but until I get a rowing machine, that is it for now. My diet is still in check. What if I can’t exercise and stay toned and in shape? How can I be happy with my body at any size? I know I can recover and do some of the things I enjoy but it’s still uncertain and there are no guarantees with MS.
“The best thing you can do…”
…is to rest! You need to take as much time off work as you can at this point.” Dr. Friedberg
I guess that was the last thing I wanted to hear, yet at the same time, it was a relief. He just happened to see me on my worst day last Thursday and it was almost like he felt my fatigue. I still don’t know how good of a Neurologist he is, but he is one of the most compassionate doctors I have ever had of any specialty. That is saying a lot when it comes to the typical Neurologist.
Friday, I saw my Naturopathic Doctor who gave me a list of supplements to take and the reasons for it some nutritional guidelines – Ill give more details later. Thankfully, I was already on the right track, but she gave me some additional suggestions.
Saturday was spent doing some light house cleaning, working on budgets and hanging out on College Avenue shopping, sitting at a cafe outdoors (despite the weather, we were in good company), buying salmon and other goodies for V-Day dinner.
Sunday and Monday was spent at home hiding from all of the (very much needed) rain we are having in the Bay Area. There is a water pump in the basement of our home and every 15 minutes, I heard it churning out all of the water that kept passing through at night. I silently prayed that it doesn’t stop working! The house is on an in-climb and I worried about flooding, falling trees and mudslides as what was going on in other parts of the Bay, but everything held together. Everything was fine.