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My Body Issues vs My Support System Them Zero Us One

I sit here with tears in my eyes still. Though I suppose it is better because they are a mixture of a bunch of emotions instead of the overwhelming sense of despair that I was filled with this morning.

You’d think after three sessions of Plastic Surgery I’d be more prepared for what this part of the journey offers me. False. It throws me curve balls constantly. Try having consults with 4 different surgeons and getting 4 different opinions with 4 different prices. Confusion? Trust me a blog on this and how emotionally unstable I feel sorting through the emotions associated with it are coming, but not today, today we are going to be talking about body image.

I hate my body. This is my problem first and foremost. In my mind, I want to look like that girl I always wanted to be and could not be because size held me back. You know how when we are big we joke about the “skinny girl locked inside us.” Well for ME, that skinny girl had a face, a body and I knew what she looked like. And guess what. I don’t look a damn thing like her now that I am slender and it just pisses me right the freak off. True story. 

I associate the skin on my body with something terrible that happened to me. I was sexually abused by my step grandfather at the age of four and it went on until my Grandmother passed away when I was eight. I had a family that was emotionally, mentally and verbally abusive. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and I wasn’t allowed to socialize with other kids much outside of school, I became a loner and food became my friend. I was chubby by the sixth grade and for the rest of my life I was the morbidly obese fat girl who was nearly invisible to the world and that very few people thought were worthy of their time and attention. Food stayed my friend, my addiction, my everything and it was a self sabotaging relationship that I felt was completely out of my control and I blamed it, 100% on the abuse I had endured through my life. I was malignantly obese because everyone else had hurt me so much that I hid behind my weight and had a relationship with food. But then I decided to take control back, to take my life back you know why? Because if I followed my line of thinking, I was now 430 lb., couldn’t wipe my own ass to go to the bathroom and was killing myself with a fork and spoon. I was miserable, because I had allowed what they did to me to push me to this miserable existence and you know what FLIP THEM. I won’t let them kill me, I can change this. I lost 260 lb. Then I looked in the mirror and what I saw looking back at me was “Ha Ha, you thought you won didn’t you, but really, you didn’t, I’m still here to remind you that you’ll always be that little abused girl who is somehow broken by what was done to you and no matter how hard you try you cannot get away from that.” – It’s a sad and mentally damaging thing to hear in your head when you look in the mirror, the people who abused you, laughing at you, but that is what I heard. True Story.

This is part of what drove me to exercise and part of why I love it. Because through exercise I feel like I can fight back. Let me throw some kicks, some punches, get out some anger towards those people who pushed me into a life of obesity with their abuse. It was a brand new outlet for my anger and I loved it. The first time my own personal Trainer Suzie Hamann put a punching bag in front of me I felt like I had just received one of the best mental health sessions of my life.

Today I sat here, asking myself what I needed to do to improve my mental head space on this skin issue, because I can’t fall apart and have a mental break down every time I get bad news from a plastic surgeon as I attempt to try to pick which one I want to use and figure out which one I can actually afford. And while I am ashamed to admit it… I was talking to my dear friend fellow WLS and reconstructive plastics patient Laura Van Tuyl, and I said, “I think this morning was the last time I have in me of breaking down and crying over it when it’s not the result I need. I think it’s time for me to stop chasing a dream I know I can’t get to right now and go home and salvage what my be left of my graphics design business.” Laura’s reaction was to ask me why I was considering this, and after hearing what I had to say, ended with this thought “Don’t doubt in the darkness (or the moment) what has been shown to you in the light (of discovery and wisdom).”

I left it at that, there was nothing else left for me to say, I don’t like being in this place mentally and today, for the first time in my entire journey, it had pushed me to a place where I just wasn’t sure I could go forward. I sat in my Godfather’s backyard for an hour crying and trying to catch my breath.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 10.19.58 PMI made a video trying to explain what I was feeling to this community because I’m not sure anyone gets it, heck I am not even sure if I get it yet… and then I looked down and my phone was ringing, I didn’t answer right away, I needed a moment or two to compose myself, so I let it go to voice mail.

The call was coming in from Bobby Whisnand, a Personal Trainer that I met at the OAC Convention in Dallas who has sort of taken me under his wing a little and has been helping me pursue my dream of becoming a trainer. A former Copper Institute Graduate, Bobby was part of my decision to attend the CI Course, he was also, the one that supported me and told me to go when I second guessed myself and whether I should attend the course back in April or wait until June as I had originally planned. I’m a huge fan of Bobby’s “It’s All Heart,” Program, not just because I am a fan of Bobby and everything he has done for me, but because it is the first program I have seen that I truly believe is centered around making sure EVERYONE can exercise, no matter what level of fitness they are starting at, and understands some of the physical limitations that morbidly obese people face. It is also to my knowledge the first program out there that actually has section included on Bariatric Nutrition. I could go on, but trust me I’ll be talking about It’s All Heart a lot when it comes out; the point here is the program is amazing, but Bobby Whisnand, the man behind it, is even more amazing.

The first thing Bobby said to me was ‘Pandora I want to tell you something and I want you to hear me out.” Which was exactly what I needed right then because I could hardly talk without sobbing. I listened as Bobby explained to me in great detail, how much he personally believes in me and in what I want to do, and be, and how much he is willing to help me get there. I wish I could tell you word for word what Bobby said, but honestly my head was spinning. What he said specifically isn’t as important as the message though, it was very clear to me after the call from Bobby, that whatever doubt I was having about where I am and where I am going, need to be gone. That is the one solid thing I have right now. I may never be ok with my body and what I see in the mirror, that is something I have to figure out for me and a very difficult part of my weight loss journey. But I do need to separate that from my future as a personal trainer, because I know that the only person doubting whether I can be a trainer or not because of how my arms look is me, and I’m not doubting my ability, I’m doubting my self-confidence.

I do not know how it is that I have been so blessed that on the days when I have fallen, and I mean fallen hard, on the days that I am so close to giving up, throwing in the towel and curling into a ball and screaming “you win, you win” to those nasty little body image demons that haunt me so much, I have the most amazing mentors in the world to reach out to me, take my hand and pull me through the darkness back into the light.

This excess skin, body image issues and my mistake of associating my body image with something unhealthy is a battle for me, I am fighting it hard, and I’ve had the blessing of having some amazing people there to pick me up and help make sure I “fall without failing” – people like Chris Powell, Heidi Powell, Bobby Whisnand, and some of the women in this community, I am a very lucky to have such an amazing support system filled with people who somehow know just when they need to reach out a hand to me.

As sad as this is, as I sat outside crying over this today, there was a moment where I felt sorry for myself and the thought entered my head that maybe I believed in my potential far too much, I mean what qualifies me to become personal trainer, I don’t have a normal BMI, I’m scared to take the test because I don’t believe I know it and I don’t think I have studied enough, I’m not a YouTube Superstar or a Marathon Runner, and then I looked down and there was Bobby Whisnand calling me. Alright Universe, I’ve heard the message.

I don’t know what lies ahead with this reconstructive surgery thing. I have a couple good ideas of where I am going, and right now, I think that includes right back to my own surgeon for an honest one on one about how confused I am right now. But what I do know, is that I am going to Dallas for a month where I am devoting 100% of my time to studying for my test, working with Bobby, and making sure that I utilize all the tools I can to pass this test, because what I want more than anything is to be a personal trainer and help others in their weight loss journeys. The excess skin and the surgeries to correct that might come before, during or after, but like my Father used to say, I will cross that bridge as I come to it. The next part of my journey is a month in June in Dallas focused on my future, and who knows, maybe when I am back in Texas, the rest will work itself out, my journey has a way of putting me in the right place at the right time and when I started second guessing this trip my mind was changed fast.

Next stop Dallas, next goal PT Certification, everything else I turn over to fate, destiny and whoever out there I am so blessed to have watching over me. This is my fist victory over my body image issues, it’s a small one, but I’m claiming it. My body image issues vs my Support System. Them zero, us, one.

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How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye

This isn’t going to be your usual WLS post. Unfortunately today I have something else to share with you.

Most days I am happy to stop and do anything I can to help someone along their journey. Most days I am happy to share my life experience with someone in order to try to make their journey a little easier than mine might have been. Usually I do so with an eagerness I can rarely explain to others. Today however, the journey I must share is one that fills the heart with an overwhelming sadness.

Yesterday as I ran the fastest 5k I have run to date, I listened to old country music as my Dad and I ( Yes I still speak to him when I run ) had a conversation where I sought the answers to one of the most complex questions I’ve ever posed to myself. Suddenly as I ran my second mile in under 12 minutes listening to old school country music I heard not only my question but as usual when I turn to my Father for guidance, the answer as well.

“Through the back window of a ’59 wagon
I watched my best friend Jaime slippin’ further away
I kept on waving ’till I couldn’t see her
And through my tears, I asked again why we couldn’t stay
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same

And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?”

July 5th will be the two-year anniversary of my Father’s passing, one of the most horrible moments of my entire life. and here I am sitting on a plane as I go to help the best friend I have in the world, embark on the same journey.

Sometimes I’m a little surprised how much our lives parallel one another and as I watch my best friend struggle to find her way of  saying goodbye to her Mother, I’m saddened by how much Cancer has taken from her in such a short time. In a matter of days they have gone from stomach pain to the possibility of surgery that was pretty much a gastric bypass to cut the cancer out of her stomach to a six month to live prognosis to just a few days of in home hospice.

Every time she had a moment to catch her breath they cut the time she thought she had left in half on her. And when she asked me “How do you say goodbye if she does know she is going?” I had to take off on a run to try to find the answer for us both.

“Sitting with Mama alone in her bedroom
She opened her eyes, and then squeezed my hand
She said, I have to go now, my time here is over
And with her final word, she tried to help me understand
Mama whispered softly, Time will ease your pain
Life’s about changing, nothing ever stays the same
And she said, How can I help you to say goodbye?
It’s OK to hurt, and it’s OK to cry
Come, let me hold you and I will try
How can I help you to say goodbye?”

We’re never prepared for something like this. It’s never the right time. For me; I had expected the call for years because I knew my Father was getting up there in age. ( He was almost 85 when he passed away ) .. but still the first thing I thought when the call came in and I hung up the phone was “This isn’t fair.”

It took me awhile to find my Father through exercise. To be able to get past the pain and hurt of him not being there for me and realize that he was still there in my heart and that he lives on through me as I share the lessons that he taught me with the world. But as I offered my dear friend the comfort that she too would find a way to still feel connected with her Mom, I realized how hard that is to have faith in right now.

I think of my two-year old Nephew and I wonder how I can ease the confusion he’ll experience when he realizes Grandma won’t be there to play with him or help take care of him anymore.

As my friend, her family, my chosen family and I begin this journey together today, I can’t help but think of how similar we all are. How many things we have all experienced and I am reminded of a lesson that a wise man once taught me…

In life we must understand that sometimes we have to reach out for help from those that are a little bit farther along in the journey than we are and let them show us the right path. My friend did that when she asked me to come to Dallas and help her with this journey. Other times, we need to know when to hold out our hand and reach out for someone who we know is a little bit behind us and try to help them.

This is the very reason that I devote so much of my time to helping other people with their weight loss journey and why I am focused on a career change as a personal trainer, to make sure that I am working on always reaching back to help others step forward.

Today I am reminded that we need to appreciate the present. Do what we can with it and make the best out of it, because we’re not guaranteed a tomorrow. Whether it’s kissing the person that you love,  saying “I love you” or getting out for that walk or run that you’re just not extremely motivated to do, you’ve got to enjoy what you’ve got and appreciate the people you have to share it with.

So Tora, my soul sister, when you read this. Please know that I love you, that I am sorry that our lives have paralleled here and that you are having to find a way to say good-bye to your mother. I’m not sure I can help you find the words to say good-bye, but I can hold your hand and comfort you while you do and I can share with you the experiences that I had so that you might learn from them and know what to expect.

I have no sage words for you that will help you find yours but I can tell you one thing, without any doubt, this isn’t good-bye, it’s the beginning of a different journey with your Mother, one where her presence with you is spiritual and you’re tasked with the oh so important job of making sure my nieces and nephews know their grandmother through you.

As for the rest of us, I think it’s important to remember that our weight loss is just another life journey, one that I want so badly to help you with. So as this heavy topic embraces my loved ones in its grasp I just feel the need to remind you all to live life loud, to love hard, and remember to appreciate the special moments. Be kind to each other and most important live today as if tomorrow is an uncertainty, because it is.

I’m planning on taking my niece and nephew for a walk tonight, after I get a little nap in. Exercise is an amazing way to process everything going on around you and a natural anti-depressant. Making sure my chosen Family utilizes that outlet is on the top of my to do list. Who wants to support us and get their fit on too?

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Author of Desperately Seeking Slender
Jaime "Pandora" Williams

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