Things you probably don’t know about me which you will learn from this opener:
- Yes, I was really fat growing up
- I get migraines and have to take medicine for them
- I suffered from ridiculous panic attacks
- I’m going to do everything I thought I never could
- This blog is about doing the things that go against my grain
The Migraine Research Foundation stated that every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the emergency room with a headache or migraine.
At 10 years old, laid up on the couch, the closest I got to a doctor was Doogie Howser banging out his sorrows, triumphs and hopes in his electronic journal. My debilitating headaches have followed me into my teens, twenties and now my early 30’s. Thankfully, I’ve found a medicinal solution, but sometimes they can’t compete with the stabbing ice pick feeling driving itself into my right temple. It seems to be the only long minutes, hours, days in my life that I absolutely have to be patient and wait something out, which for me is a big deal.
Cool rags, dim-lit rooms and complete silence do little to ease the intense pain. To help cope with the lost time I experience during these escapades I’ve made a list of “I’d rather…” The alternative is a bargain with myself that when it’s all over, I’ll attempt whatever simple, ridiculous or irrational thought I have proposed. Since I have never really followed through on any of these ideas, I figured the time is now.
In order to understand, though, you must have a little background on me. I grew up in upper middle class suburbia – nice house, hardworking parents and an older brother. My childhood was anything but normal and being overweight helped me develop a nasty insecurity, which stifled my ability to ever challenge myself.
This insecurity about my weight hindered me from ever really doing anything that I wanted. I was the little, fat kid in P.E. on scoliosis check day (which also included an endurance test in front of the entire class – how many pull ups can you do…ridiculous), bent over with the other kids, the “coach” walking behind each of us, running her fingers down our spines checking for any abnormalities.
“Can you bend over more? Touch your toes,” Coach P. instructed.
“Sure,” I thought…no problem, touching my knees was already a task.
“Nope, still can’t feel your spine,” Coach P sighed annoyingly and moved on to the next kid.
“Dear God, what if I have scoliosis? I’ll never know because I’m so fat,” I thought. Oh, did I mention jumping to ridiculous conclusions was also an amazing talent I have? This never deterred me from eating Luby’s Luann platter of chicken fried steak, corn, mashed potatoes and a buttered roll after church on Sunday mornings. My very average sized parents constantly argued about my weight, too. At dinner I was always racing for seconds (only in competition with myself), my dad taking immediate notice, “Why do you let her eat seconds,” he scolded my mom.
I started to develop red lines that spanned like spider webs across my stomach. My parents scratched their heads, puzzled. Looking back, though, any moron that’s ever been pregnant or has known someone pregnant would realize these were stretch marks. My parents, I think, were just too embarrassed to tell me, “Hey, fatty, it’s because you’ve consumed too many Twinkies and cheese tots.” My skin was trying desperately to grow at the same speed of my appetite.
I pleaded with my dad to take me out of public school and home school me so I could pursue my love for acting (and escape torment of rude kids at school) – NO WAY, my dad said- there was no arguing with Dad; that was not going to happen. He did invest a healthy amount of money toward my acting classes, though, which I thought were bringing me one step closer to Thomas Ian Nicholas.
It never occurred to me that the most popular guys in school may not have any intention of wanting to date me (I know, right?). I seriously believed that I had as much of a chance as any rock star cheerleader at our school. My diary entries were more delusional than Doogies’.
I no longer could shop in the juniors section for clothes. Trips to the mall ended with me sitting pant-less on the floor of the changing room, knocking on the door, “Are you okay, honey?”
My gorgeous, perfectly sized mom had a solution, though: She found a seamstress that would make me a pair of my favorite jeans. We picked out the most fashionable threads of the season (stonewash, of course – it was all the rave) – and this lady fashioned me a pair of pants…elastic waisted jeans. No zipper meant I’d have to get creative changing in the girls’ locker room. I’d always wear a t-shirt that covered almost half of my body. I’d quickly pull off my pants and roll them up tightly, being sure the elastic waist wasn’t exposed, and slide on the purple gym shorts. Almost home free – still needed to wiggle my way out of this bra and shirt. I’d pull my arms in the sleeves, unclasp my bra, bringing it through the sleeve, Houdini style. Getting undressed was laborious and I always got a few stares. I was showing up tardy to the gym because of my 10 minute changing routine, so I had to start changing in the showers, until I was told that wasn’t an option.
Riding the bus was also a nightmare. As I grew larger the aisle to make it to the back where the cool kids sat seemed to grow much smaller. The first three rows were my only option. “Hey, come back here,” my friends would yell. “Oh, no…it’s okay! I’m gonna stay up here and chat…with the bus driver.” If there was a class trip that involved riding the bus, I would have my parents write a letter to excuse my absence. Over time, I just stopped doing a lot of things that would attract any attention.
Luckily, I used my wit and personality to win friends. I had a wonderful group of friends growing up that I’m still close to today, and they never made me feel different or left out.
I lost a lot of weight in college (my Weight Watchers support group cheering me on the whole way), became pretty and popular (as you could be in a pool among 32,000 other kids), dating the guy of my dreams, sitting in a leadership position within my sorority when on Tuesday, April 2, 2003 at 5:56 PM in my HR Management class the fear of life came crashing down. My heart started beating out of control as I sat at my desk and my hands, arms, head and face completely went numb. I picked up my cell phone, deserted my books and ran into the hallway, frantically dialing my mom who didn’t pick up. Then my boyfriend who was busy at work. I ran outside to the courtyard, amazed that the world was continuing on as normal (I’M DYING!!!), as I debated on stopping passerby’s to see if they could help me. My phone beeped in my ear alerting me that it was low on battery, “Please come get me. I’m dying,” I pleaded with my boyfriend as the phone went dead. I ended up going to the hospital, my resting heart rate 144 BPM, my blood pressure reading well over normal, strapped to an EKG machine and thinking: I wish I wasn’t so scared to live…how the hell did I get here???
I had never heard of a panic attack until that day, and it ruled my life for six more months. I dropped 20 more pounds, never hungry, chugging water from all the dehydration the medication and anxiety seemed to cause, and my mom had to sleep next to me in my bed, and sit on the toilet lid while I showered. At 22 I was afraid to be alone. The thought of going to school alone scared the hell out of me (what if I have an attack and people see?) and my hardworking, beautiful mom would sit outside of every class in the event I’d have an attack. I could see the worry in her face even though she reassured me everything would turn out perfectly. She was right, too…it just took 6 months.
Luckily I got over everything, graduated from college, started a great job, moved into trendy apartment near downtown and ignored that the event ever happened. Then it struck again in 2006 except this time I was in the working world. My mom would drive in from San Antonio on the weekends to comfort me. I drew away from my friends who tried desperately to help me. My mom would always quote FDR: You have nothing to fear but fear itself. Curled up on the floor in a ball, my dad held me like a baby, and I was back to where I was in college. I remember the worried look on his face: You can make it through anything.
You might be asking yourself how fear and fat are aligned. A doctor once explained to me that being overweight could be linked to fear. That anxiety and stress were causing me to crave carbohydrates…seeking that “comfort” within. Really, though, was my anxiety/fear causing me to be fat? Even though I had lost the weight the “fat kid” in me stays strong; right beside me always cheering: You can’t do that…people will be watching. You can’t do that…you’ll have a heart attack!
I lead a very healthy lifestyle – working out 5+ times a week and practicing clean eating habits (thanks to a health nut hero of mine – who I’ll call The Pillow Snake – who has taught me so much about life). I love my job, my family and have the greatest friends. I never regret the fact that I grew up overweight, but people think that my life has always been perfect. The truth is I still struggle with a few “what ifs” and doubt, and I don’t trust that I can do things I’m perfectly capable of doing.
This blog is not a bucket a list – it’s simply a blog about a girl who missed out on a lot of life because of insecurity. I get frustrated when people immediately take one look at me and think I’ve never had it hard, I’ve never had to suffer, I always get what I want, etc…
This blog is dedicated to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone; to experience and explore everything on my Migraine To Do List from riding the Metro solo to skydiving.
Sweet 16 — Size 18.