The names here may or may not reflect the person’s real name. If someone wants to remain unknown, we will choose a different name for that person’s story. The goal is to help people, and anonymity is a valid personal choice for contributors. I will use a person’s name only if they give permission to do so.
This week I am pleased to share the story of another friend. It is written in her own words, and she submitted it earlier this week with her permission to share it as a part of the series.
Here is Trust Your Gut: Rebecca’s Story
440 ….Yes, you read that right. I know it’s a crazy huge number. This is what the scale was screaming at me just about three years ago. 440 pounds, it was the heaviest I have ever been. I remember when I saw that number how ashamed and helpless I felt like the entire world was crashing down on me all at once. I was seeing the girl from the health supplement store talking, but I couldn’t hear a word. It was like my ears had stopped working and I was temporarily deaf. I finally shook myself back into the moment and fought back tears the entire way home.
I couldn’t believe how bad my health had become. I mean I felt great, I was going on walks all over town with my husband and they would have us out all day. I could even run up a flight of stairs. So this really bugged me. I cried all night until sleep finally won the battle, and I gave into it like some sickly sweet relief.
I have always been a bigger girl, most of my childhood photos have documented my gradual gain over the years. I grew up in a small town just outside of Fredericton NB where everybody knows you…or thinks they do. My mother had left my abusive father when I was just 3 years old. I remember turning 4 in a women’s shelter and I still carry those memories with me. I had to grow up fast. I remember seeing my woman’s look so exhausted and when we all settled into bed on our first night in the shelter, hearing her cry herself to sleep because of the decision she made. This has stayed with me the most because I had also made a decision that night. I decided at 3 years old I was going to make my mom happy and help her the best I could with raising, my younger, 2-year-old brother.
Mom used to starve herself when we were low on food and she was scared she wouldn’t have enough to feed us another night, but she always seemed to get by. She would even burn her books in the winter when we had run out of oil for the furnace and wood for the stove. Later on, in my early teens, I discovered this and was truly heartbroken. I had failed at keeping my promise, but I would make it right. I know it sounds crazy but that’s what I thought I had to do. So when things would get tight I’d stop eating. I’d go all day at school fighting off the hunger pains and the dizzy spells, just knowing mom and my brother would be able to eat and we could get by. All I needed to do was to push through. I had managed to rewire my body to survive on 3 hours of sleep and maybe 1 meal a day.
As the years progressed and the sizes of my clothes increased, I had a lot of hard moments that were emotionally draining. The time I was maybe 9 or 10 and had to wear a 2XL. Or the time in 5th grade I had to wear a woman’s bra because my chest had developed faster than the other girls and because I had gained so much at this point. Other milestones, the girls I went to school with, were so excited for, I dreaded with a fuming passion. I hated the way I looked and they all knew it. Countless times I was bullied to the point where I just wanted to never wake up. I hated going to school and fought with my mom for hours to make her keep me home. I would fake being sick or just not go. I would stay up all night just so I could sleep the day away to avoid going to school the next day.
Finally, after high school, things got better for a while. I was working and even dating. I had no interest in seeing a scale but I kept the number 250 lbs in my head since I was 16 and prayed I’d never see it go higher. Almost 6 years later, boy did I get a wake-up call. Standing in Herbal Magic seeing that 440 lbs on the scale was my rock bottom.
I was trying to stay active and I was really sure I’d walk off the weight. I tried to change my diet and eating habits, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, the rock bottom fell out from under me and I ended up losing my ability to stand, walk and even sit for any length of time. It seems in a pure fashion that when I was trying to fix my body; my body was giving out on me. My doctor told me that I had Degenerative Disk Disorder and in about 10 years I would be confined to a wheelchair. Little did he know it was actually just bulging disks. So after a few CT Scans and blood work and even seeing the “specialist”, They all said the same thing. I knew this couldn’t be it. I mean yeah, my back pain was excruciating ALL the time, every day, and sure I couldn’t stand for 5 minutes or my feet would go numb but NO! I could NOT accept this. No one seemed to want to help me. They all said lose some weight and it will get better. Okay well, how do I do that? I’d ask, “I have been trying to I can’t do this alone” I’d say, but their response was “Well, diet and exercise”
I finally switched Doctors and now he has been helping me by setting me up with dietitians and said I should exercise more. Yes, this all sounds so simple, like common sense, but I was so overwhelmed with the thought that I’d end up in a wheelchair, I couldn’t think of anything but “PLEASE TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!!” I was doing well with losing a little weight at a time but then another blow to my bubble came when my knees started giving out.
The doc said that dreadful, poisonous statement I had heard before…” in 8-10 years you could be in a wheelchair; unable to walk at all’” and as my faith and hope started to shatter apart like a piece of fine china, he said, “But I have an idea.” “OK, his I can deal with, lay it on me doc, what is the idea?!?!” He suggested referring me to the Bariatric Surgeon for Gastric Bypass surgery.
Oh great, another doc focused on telling me I was fat and eating too much; keep in mind I’m still eating maybe twice a day. He gently explained to me that it wasn’t to focus on just my weight. He had every confidence that I could lose it, but not a fast as we needed me to. He said that with the help of this surgery I could ease the strain on my back, knees and also lose weight to help make myself stay active and be able to live my life again. He had to stress that he wasn’t saying this because he just saw me as another big girl but, that he was worried this would be my only option. After a long emotional episode in front of my doc, he reassured me he wasn’t going to give up on me as long as I didn’t give up on myself. I tried to get him to rethink not sending in the form to the surgeon, but he did anyway. He said keep your options open, just meet with the surgeon and ask questions. Then if you still don’t want to do it then don’t. He begged me not to cancel the request and I am so glad I didn’t.
After seeing two dietitians I found out that eating once a day was probably the biggest factor to my weight gain. Now I am trying to focus on eating the right things 5 times a day…yup 5 times a day!! I found out that the wait list for the surgeon was 4-7 years long. OK fine, I’ll just keep this out of my head and forget about it. 1 year after my doctor sent in the form, I get the call from his office talking about the binder they are sending me and that I had to fill out a form and send back. This past May (2016) they were calling me. So I took a chance and filled it out and sent it in. Then I had to pay to see his specific dietitian. She’s great and very helpful and has been trying to help me stay on track with a food journal and eating 5 times a day and what not…but she told me that I was basically on the top of the surgeon’s list because he sees that my physical condition is at serious risk. I went from waiting 4-7 years to see him but in the run of 4 months preparing to meet him. I still haven’t got that far yet but very soon. I may be going through with this, late summer to early fall. Yes, I’m terrified and don’t really know how I will handle it. I’ve even met a really great friend who has done the surgery who has been a wonderful blessing in my life.
I am gradually climbing back up out of my hole. I have been walking on my treadmill to keep my feet from swelling too much and eating better throughout the day. To me, that’s the start of something amazing. I’ve even got a job that I love. For the first time in 5 years, I’m working and focusing on myself and trying to make me healthy. I have woken up every day this past week without being in severe pain! I still struggle but I am staying positive and that’s all I can do right now, and you know what? I’m OK with that.
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your story here. Your honesty and personality shine through your words. It is hard to hit rock bottom, and many people never make it back up out of the hole they find themselves in. You should be proud of yourself for what you have accomplished, and I look forward to an update when you are ready to share again. Keep going, that is the most important part. There is always a reason to hope, and you are an example of what a person that keeps optimistic can accomplish with hard work and determination. It seems like you have chosen your path, and I wish you great success on your journey.