The other day one of my friends posted about fitness as she does every day, but I noticed some of the language she used was particularly triggering for me. What she said (in a nutshell) was that we have a choice on whether or not to change our lives.
What I heard from her is that we choose whether or not to be fat and lazy. What I heard, while she was trying to inspire others to live better lives, was that I choose to remain overweight. That I choose to let my pain dictate how much physical activity I can accomplish and that I choose to give into my cravings so that I can remain obese. Really all she meant was that you can make the choice to start changing things--no matter what they are, big or small.
Now I have extenuating circumstances that make these choices much harder for me. I literally cannot do the kinds of exercises that she can, because most of the vertebrae in my spine are bone-on-bone. I have PCOS, which makes my body hold on to fat like it's going to kill me if it lets it go. I am bipolar, which leaves me sometimes out of control of my own emotions and sometimes of my own will. Not to mention the pills that I have to take, which cause me to gain and make it harder to lose weight.
These things aren't excuses these are reasons. These are obstacles that cause me shame. Why? Because most of the world sees them as excuses. Most of the world believes that a real woman is a million amazing things rolled into a perfect package, two of them being THIN and PRETTY.
My friend didn't try to shame me or anyone else for that matter, I felt shame because what she said triggered something deep inside me. I'm ashamed of my weight, which makes me ashamed of myself, which makes me hate myself. Which leaves me with zero empathy towards myself and that leaves me spiraling out of control... all because of shame.
So, in the past I would have put her on blast. I would have commented on her post telling her all the things wrong with what she said (and her, if I could think of anything), leaving her bewildered and hurt. Instead, I knew there was a chance that it was all in my head, so I took my problem to her privately. I allowed myself to be emotionally vulnerable and even though the whole time my hands were shaking and my heart was pounding, I let her know what I was thinking.
She handled it like a champ. She didn't have to explain herself, but she did. She didn't have to acknowledge that maybe she could use different language in the future, but she did. She didn't have to accept my apology, but not only did she--she told me I didn't have to apologize. She was happy that I felt comfortable enough to come to her so honestly. She gave me the space to be open and because of that I have so much more respect for her.
That's what this is about. Honesty. Vulnerability. Authenticity.
Shame is a killer, but it doesn't have to be unproductive. Because of the shame I felt over my friend's post, I have taken a deep look at myself and my choices. I decided that even though it's expensive, I have to start going back to the gym, because clearly we're not getting a heater for our pool any time soon. I have realized that while I may be too stressed out to deal with what I'm eating right now, I can still make little steps to building muscle. Somewhere I can be watched and trained by someone who knows how to keep me from hurting myself.
If I hadn't gone to my friend and expressed my feelings in as constructive a manner as I could possibly muster, I wouldn't have put myself in a position wherein I could actually be inspired by her.
I've been so down on myself for being so heavy when it's not my fault. I'm not just some fucked up food monster who is trying to turn herself into Jabba The Hut. BUT, while there are circumstances which may be out of my control, how I choose to handle those circumstances are not. I cannot allow myself to fall into a shame spiral, where all I feel are guilt and anxiety over everything I put into my mouth.
My weight doesn't make me unworthy. My pain doesn't make me useless. My moods don't make me a burden. I don't have to be ashamed. I just have to allow myself to remain vulnerable and be willing to take these emotional risks when life calls for it.
I will leave you all now with 5 incredibly inspirational quotes by Brené Brown. (If you don't know who she is, check her out--her advice is life changing, and life-affirming!)
If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.
4. Vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous.
5. The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.