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Sometimes There Just Are No Words

People ask me often what I believe in. This is a hard question for me, but what I do believe in, without a doubt, is unconditional love.

Unconditional love is a rarity in our world, it is not something that everyone is capable of giving and in truth I am not sure it is something that I ever would have understood had I not had the opportunity to experience it with my Father. My Dad loved me unconditionally, there was never a doubt in my mind, no matter where I went, what I did or what mistakes I made, my Dad was always there to ask me if I wanted him to beat up someone or if I needed anything. We assume that this sort of love exists between parents and children, sometimes we like to believe that it exists between spouses or partners, but really, the truth is, this sort of love is rare and usually, we all have a breaking point and a place where, if we feel strongly enough about an issue, we would walk away despite how much we love someone.

But this blog isn’t about unconditional love, I just feel that it is important that you understand my definition of such and understand what I mean when I say that I have been blessed to be loved unconditionally not just by my Father, but by a man who didn’t have to be my Father, my GodFather, Tom Geiger.

f18e71eeb8d711e2ac3122000a1fb77a_7The first time I remember this man saving my life I was 18 years old, living in a one bedroom apartment with a man who decided that I needed to lose weight in order for him to love me. He had convinced me that smoking meth and snorting speed lines was a perfect appetite suppressant and would help achieve this goal. I was so determined to lose weight that not only was I doing meth, but I was seeing a weight loss doctor and getting diet pills from him too. I was with the most attractive man I had ever been with in my life, I wanted him to want me instead of starting at the TV and watching porn when we were intimate with one another, and I was desperate to lose weight. I also, was completely destroying my life and didn’t know it. When he finally started physically abusing me, because at 18 the mental abuse wasn’t something I understood or took seriously, Tom helped me move out and find a new place to live.

A year later when I was living with my next abusive boyfriend, had been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder and my life truly started to fall apart at the seams, Tom saved me. I was a mess, the abuse I had gone through as a child had damaged me so much, I wanted nothing to do with my family because of the abuse I had went though. I was in and out of mental hospitals and mental institutions, I was a self mutilatior that cut herself just to know she could feel anything, and the man I was living with liked to throw things at my head when he didn’t get his way, my favorite was the vacuum cleaner. I had left home at 16 and except to call and talk to my Father, had never looked back and I had nobody healthy in my life at that point; other than Tom.

It never mattered what I needed, groceries, someone to fix my car, or a place to live when my latest boyfriend left me high and dry and I didn’t want to go home and live with my Family. It didn’t matter what it was, Tom provided it for me in an effort to help improve my life. Now everyone always asks, where there strings attached? Yeah there were. But whatever those strings were, they were put in place to make sure that the quality of my life improved. Tom’s conditions were always things like, you have to go to therapy twice a week and get help so that you can heal and have a happy life. This man loved me and supported me so much that when my life feel apart and I came to live with him in Central CA and the therapist I needed to see was in LA. He drove me to LA and back every two weeks, and made sure that I got the therapy I needed.

As I grew up, because let’s face it, as at 18 I was a kid. Things never changed, He treated me like his own daughter and I always knew without a shadow of a doubt how much he loved me. He stood beside my Dad at my wedding and they gave me away together, and my own Dad, knowing how much Tom loved me and had done for me, didn’t mind at all.

When I first left CA to start my life in OR I had a car, $5000 to get me started, and no clue if I was going to fall on my face or not. I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I had spent years and years in therapy trying to make sure I was a whole person, and that I had the coping skills to move forward. I had just met Jason, the man I was convinced I was going to marry whether he wanted me or not and I had lost nearly 200 lb., doing Atkins and was at the lowest weight I had been my entire adult life. I remember pulling out of Tom’s driveway that morning, leaving home to start a whole new scary life where I wasn’t sure what the future held. But I knew I had Tom and that no matter what happened, I always had a home to come back to if I needed it; Tom was my safety net.

But things were good. At least they were on the outside. My job took off, I was making great money, I was blowing through it like rice paper, but I was making it. I was paying all the bills, living the high life, and anytime I could I paid it back to Tom, I did, because I was eternally grateful for the love, guidance and stability he had provided. I credit those things and him getting me the mental health care that I needed as the primary reason that I was able to heal, move on and move forward with my life.

When things took a turn for the worst. When Jason lost his job, when we couldn’t pay the rent, when we were drowning in two car payments. As always Tom came to my rescue and made sure that the basics were covered and that I had a chance to dig my way out. He drove from CA to OR to “buy” my jeep from me to get me out from under the car payment. When that wasn’t enough he paid the rent, helped me move out of the house we were struggling to afford and back into an apartment where we could spend a few years rebuilding. And when that didn’t work, he loaned me the money to pay off the credit card bills we had racked up living on credit trying to survive to give us a fresh start.

It was about a year later that I went to Tom and asked him to help me pay for a Gastric Bypass and for the first time in my life he said no to me. At first, it hurt me, I was asking for something I KNEW was going to save my life and Tom said no. He’d never said no to me before and the spoiled little girl in me really didn’t know what to make of it. All these other things he had done for me, and here we were, at this moment that I needed help to save my life, because at 420 lb. I was literally scared to death that I was going to die, and Tom said no. Not only did he say no, but no matter how desperate I was, no matter how much I cried, and no matter how many times my insurance denied Bariatric Surgery, Tom held his ground and did not waver in his decision.

In truth, it hurt our relationship a little, I was angry and hurt that the one person I always thought I could count on other than my own Father had turned me away. But, the entire time this was going on, Tom made it very clear that while he would not lend me the financial support to do this, he would give me all the emotional support I needed. People have asked me why I think Tom refused to help me then and in truth I think it was two-fold even if neither of us realized it. I think there was a part of Tom that didn’t support the surgery and didn’t want me to have it because he was worried about the risks involved, and I think there was a part of Tom that was practicing parental tough love and knew that if I was going to do this, I had to do it on my own. It had to be something I did for myself and not something that was handed to me or that someone else gave me, because I needed the self-confidence and I needed to learn that I could do this and that I could win this fight against obesity without anyone else helping me. After all, he had watched me lose 200 lb. on Atkins and gain it all back again.

Though we had drifted apart a little and I had a hard time accepting Tom’s decision he was always the one that I turned to when things got bad. When my weight loss journey started and life started through obstacles in my way he was the one I called and cried too. When my marriage started falling apart, he listened to me cry. When my Father was sick and I needed to be on a plane to get home and was still too big to fit in one seat, he bought me a first class ticket to LA to make sure I was where I needed to be without being uncomfortable, scared or embarrassed. When my Dad passed away and my Mother didn’t have a dime to her name and there was no money to pay for cremation, Tom has it covered. When my Father was gone, and it felt like my world and shrunk and I had just lost the only person that had ever loved me unconditionally was gone, I looked at Tom an I realized that wasn’t true. I still had a Father, I still had someone who loved me just as unconditionally as my Dad did.

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Since my Dad passed away, Tom has been the only Father figure in my life. He has been the one I ran to when I needed a good cry, needed to let out some steam or just needed to vent about life or rant about some injustice in the world. He’s provided me more guidance in life than anyone else ever has, including my own Dad. Every big decision I have ever had to make in life, Tom has lent me council on. Even times that he couldn’t tell me what to do, or didn’t want to, because when it comes to relationship stuff, you don’t really want to tell someone what to do or give them advice, he would listen, let me cry, let me get it out, and a lot of times, let me talk until I found the answers myself.

The relationship a lot of women have with their mothers, I have with my Godfather. I can call him up, complain about my Family and with 20 years of history behind us, he understands every single emotional I feel. He probably knows me better than anyone else in the world, Jason, Heather, Debby and my own Family included. He has been my emotional pillar, and in times where there simply was no light and no end of the tunnel in sight, he has held my hand and guided me towards the exit of darkness.

My Godfather’s downfall is that he is a pack rat, which leads him to a house of chaos and clutter. It breaks my little OCD, neat freak brain, but we all have our shortcomings. Last January I made a promise to Tom that I would come to California in the beginning of April and help him get his house in order. While I had every intention of doing just that, life tends to make other plans for us and my needing to rush off to help my best friend get through the traumatic experience of loosing her Mother to advanced cancer in a matter of weeks and then rush back to Heather’s home town in Ohio to help her Mother get through the passing of Heather’s step-father changed things and we ended up arriving in California weeks later than we should have. Tom wasn’t angry though, as always he understood that life had plans for me and that these were things I had no control over.

We’ve spent the better part of month here in CA – in the middle of that we’ve attended the annual car Rally that Tom holds each year. We’ve traveled down to LA to pick up my Father’s ashes, gone to the Extreme Weight Loss Finale and met my hero Chris Powell. We’ve spent a day here and there visiting with old and new friends, and we drove to Vegas to attend the 2013 Mother of All Meet & Greet that the WLSFA put on where I consulted with different plastic surgeons about the remainder of the skin removal surgery that I need to have done in order for me to feel ok with my body and move forward with my life.

In my last blog, I shared with my readers the pain felt as I fell apart over my body image issues, the reconstructive plastic surgery I want, my inability to pay for it, and the overall confusion that I have trying to figure out what surgeon to use and which expert opinion to follow. Several of my readers told me that their hearts broke with mine as they watched that emotional break down unfold on my blog.

Last Monday as I left California to head back Oregon for a few days before I rushed off to Dallas for this month that I have promised to spend devoted to myself and my studies so that I can take the test to get my certification to become a personal trainer Tom rescued me once again. I am not sure I will ever be able to accurately explain how mentally damaging the excess skin that I see on my body when I look in the mirror is to me. But as I leave, I leave once again feeling like Tom has saved my life. This horrible feeling inside me when I look in the mirror, this thing that could very well have held me back from pursing my dream to be a personal trainer because of how self-conscious it makes me, has been taken care of for me. I leave CA with a check to cover the costs of this finally skin removal surgery and to insure that this skin doesn’t hold me back from the dreams I have right now.

I have no idea how Tom saw the potential in the broken and damaged young girl that I was nineteen years ago when he first met me or what made him decide to take me under his wing and treat me like his own daughter. But he was truly the first person in my life that ever saw the strength and potential inside me and helped me find it within myself. But this gesture, it goes beyond anything anyone has ever done for me, There are no words. There is not enough gratitude. There are some times in life that the words “I love you,” and “thank you,” pale in comparison to what actually needs to be said. While this may seem cheesy to everyone else, this song has history for Tom and I, and it is probably the closest thing I can get to expressing what I need to express.

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For all those times you stood by me

For all the truth that you made me see

For all the joy you brought to my life

For all the wrong that you made right

For every dream you made come true

For all the love I found in you

I’ll be forever thankful baby

You’re the one who held me up

Never let me fall

You’re the one who saw me through through it all

 

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ‘coz you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

 

You gave me wings and made me fly

You touched my hand I could touch the sky

I lost my faith, you gave it back to me

You said no star was out of reach

You stood by me and I stood tall

I had your love I had it all

I’m grateful for each day you gave me

Maybe I don’t know that much

But I know this much is true

I was blessed because I was loved by you

 

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ‘coz you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

 

You were always there for me

The tender wind that carried me

A light in the dark shining your love into my life

You’ve been my inspiration

Through the lies you were the truth

My world is a better place because of you

 

You were my strength when I was weak

You were my voice when I couldn’t speak

You were my eyes when I couldn’t see

You saw the best there was in me

Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach

You gave me faith ‘coz you believed

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

 

I’m everything I am

Because you loved me

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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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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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