Monday, August 31, 2015

The Origins

Of note: I wasn't sure whether or not I should publish this; I thought it was just an indulgence rather than something worthy of throwing up on here for all the world to see, but a friend convinced me to. Trigger warning: I talk about a suicide attempt.

At seven years old, I decided to kill myself. I knew what to do, I planned it out, I waited in excited anticipation for the perfect moment to give myself the gift, the peace and stability, the stillness and permanence of Death. I'd personified death into being a sort of magical spirit that could take me out of the mess of anxiety and chaos that was my life. At seven, I saw Death the way other children viewed the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause, and was just as excited for its coming as my peers were about the arrival of their imaginary characters.

I sat on the edge of the tub; it was cold and pristine, my already-fat thighs stuck to it. I couldn't get the pills down- not enough of them, anyway. They were too rough and big for my seven-year-old body to swallow. I choked and gagged on them, filling dixie cup after dixie cup with water, trying to get them all down. Finally, I just chewed a couple, but the taste was overwhelmingly terrible. "I don't want to die with such a bad taste in my mouth," I remember thinking, frustrated and angry that things weren't going the way I'd envisioned over and over again: me elegantly swallowing the bottle of Clonazapam and slipping softly into Death's arms, the way other children slip into the water of a lake to float on their backs and stare into the sunshine.

I ended up just getting violently ill and sleeping all day. There wasn't anything romantic about it; there was no drama, no fanfare, no relief. No one even noticed. I was so disappointed.

People today view me as a body positive activist; someone who encourages people to love and accept their bodies as they are without qualifiers and exceptions. I post pictures of myself publicly, for the world to see and judge and critique. My fat arms, my cellulitey thighs, my fat ass are all out there on the world wide web, and I get emails and messages daily from people calling me inspirational and telling me how I touched their lives in some way by being so "confident and brave", to use their terms. I'm seen as a positive, smiling person who exudes confidence and self-love, and I am that, and so much more. My story is deep, and dark, and twisted, and private. As open as I am, there are secrets I'll keep caged up like dark birds in my chest, and their fate will be to die with me.

What my followers don't know about me is that I'm a survivor. I won't bore anyone with the sad and dark details of my particular life experience, but many things (and one person, two if I'm included) have tried to do me in, and I've survived it all. My sweet Death was within inches of me so many times, so close I could see It almost clearly whenever I closed my eyes, but It pressed its long, spindly, cold finger to my lips and whispered closely in my ear with the intimacy of a lover, "Not yet." And I lived. I lived, simply and with an impossibility that both under- and overwhelms me still.

I'm still here. That seems like such a simple statement; an obvious to you, but to me it's heavy and loaded, full of both impossibility and excitement. I've made it. I feel like I've been through it all and come out on top, the victor in a game I'd been forced to participate in my whole life. The page has been turned, and the future is blank. I can do whatever I want now, I've been freed.

I still feel Death tethered to me, but not closely; It is tied to me loosely like a balloon on a string, miles high up in a clear blue sky, a figure far away, full of helium and unknowability.

Having survived so many encounters with Death, how can anything like body image seem like a big deal? By being what others call a 'body positive activist', I don't feel like I'm doing anything exceptional or big and brave. It feels as natural as breathing, which is something I can finally easily do now that Death is miles away and I'm firmly planted on the ground. Now that I've overcome my former life, I don't get embarrassed, or feel silly, or let people's negative comments about my appearance get to me. I spent so much of my life dying that it's finally my time to live, and, goddamnit, I'm going to, without restraint or hesitation; unabashedly and fully.

I love myself because I was so unbelievably brave for being through what I've been through and surviving. I had to buck up, alone, and figure out impossible situations. I had to fight and claw and scratch my way out of a very dark place to emerge this person I've become. My life before was like an origin story, and  now I feel like an unstoppable force of nature, having risen up from the ashes of all I'd defeated.

Mental health and body positivity are so important and so inextricably linked, and I want to continue to promote both so that people can feel even a bit like how I feel now: powerful, positive and secure within myself at last, though still full of faults. I can be cold, brash and indifferent; I can be demanding, impatient and elitist. I spent so much time hating my body and feeling inferior that I feel like I'm entitled to a bout of elitism or over-confidence every now and again; I have many years of hate and darkness to make up for.

Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed or worrying about trivial things, I remind myself to look at the big picture. I remind myself of where I've come from, of the battles I've fought, and that, cosmically, even those fights that seemed enormous to me are nothing. Life is too short and precious a thing to waste hating yourself and your body. Choose to live, instead.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My Plus Size, Body-Positive Sex Life


     In the interest of full disclosure, I'm very sex-positive. I've had numerous sexual partners, men and women. We're taught as children that sex with multiple partners without marriage makes people "sluts" and devalues them. We're also brainwashed into believing in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the concept of 'virginity'; that you can be defined as pre- or post-dick, and that a penis has the power to take away some sort of intangible but valuable part of you and make you less of a complete person in some way. I don't buy into any of that. I definitely promote safe sex with trusted partners, but life is hard; get all the pleasure you can out of it.

     Now for my great confession: I was a covers-pulled-up-to-my-chin, lights-off, minimize-jiggling-however-possible lover. I hated my nude body. I used to think somehow that if my partner couldn't see the parts of me that I didn't like, (s)he'd magically not know about them. I specifically chose strategic lingerie that hid my belly and covered most of my ginormous booty, and I wore fishnet stockings not to be sexy, but to hide all my cellulite and to try to minimize my huge thighs. I never felt sexually satisfied, because I never allowed myself to be sexually satisfied; I was always too caught up in my own head and insecurity to enjoy myself, and I'm sure my partners could tell and that it ruined the experience for them, too.

     Then, I met a partner who finally called me out on it. I was in bed with a pleather chemise on and feeling the butterflies low in my belly that didn't come just from sexual excitement, but from being nervous about my the upcoming vulnerability and insecurity I was going to experience. He lit a ton of candles, ripped the covers off of me, and just stared at me. I've never felt more insecure and uncomfortable in my life. He stood there at the edge of the bed for what felt like an eternity, just staring at me, and when I got the courage to look him in the eye, I saw nothing but adoration, love and a hunger for my body staring back. I realized he was *enjoying* me, rather that critiquing me. He took off my tights, my garter belt, my lingerie, and loved me, just as I was.

    "Why do you hide behind all this?" he'd asked, removing my chemise slowly and kissing each inch of skin he exposed while doing so, "You're so beautiful without it."

     That's the moment I had my great epiphany: he knew I was fat. All my partners did. Wearing modest lingerie, turning off the lights and trying to hide under covers didn't somehow magically make them think I'm a svelte little size 2 vixen. People can obviously can tell that I'm fat, it's not a big secret that I'm hiding from them. My sexual partners, too, knew going into this that I'm fat.. and guess what? They still all wanted to have sex with me. There's no sense in allowing insecurity to hold me back from letting loose and enjoying myself.

     Now, I love freely and without apology, and the difference is night and day as far as how satisfied I am. Sex can actually be FUN. When I shop for lingerie, I choose pieces that I like rather than ones that I think would strategically hide my perceived flaws the most effectively. Not only has choosing to be unabashed sexually done wonders for my body positivity, it's also boosted my self-confidence and just generally improved my outlook.

     Feeling too embarrassed and ashamed to have wild, unbridled sex is a terrible feeling, and one that I never thought I'd overcome. The key to opening up (no pun intended) for me was to find a partner with whom I was comfortable enough to allow him/her to enjoy every inch of my body, and then try to see myself through their eyes. It also helped to realize that I wasn't fooling any of my sex partners by not allowing them to see me fully nude in the light; they knew I was fat, and they still wanted to love and adore me.

     Being fat isn't automatically a sex life death sentence; it's SO possible to have mind-blowing sex and be overweight. Go out there, be safe, and remember- practice makes perfect.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Why I'll Always Be Fat (And That's Okay)

     I've been 300lbs (+/-20lbs or so) since I was 12 years old. I've been very overweight my whole life. I have a hormonal imbalance that medication hasn't been able to control that leads to, along with extremely painful bursting ovarian cysts and infertility, weight gain and an inability to lose weight like normal people.

     I exercise regularly, eat healthier than anyone I know, and don't lose weight. I've consulted with numerous physicians and specialists over the years, and the consensus has always been that I'll never see any significant weight loss without lap band surgery or gastric bypass surgery. Even then, they said, there's a chance the surgery could be unsuccessful for me. 

     Many overweight people complain about their joints hurting, generalized and persistent fatigue, and of having no endurance physically. I don't seem to really have those problems. I can walk up 3-4 flights of stairs before feeling winded, I can jog a mile without stopping, and I don't have any noticeable weight-related aches or pains. My blood pressure is perfect, my cholesterol levels are perfect, and I have perfect blood sugar; my doctors are always shocked by just how healthy I am on paper; I'm just 'morbidly obese with an increased Body Mass Index'.

     I've struggled my whole life with being fat. My earliest childhood memories are of schoolmates calling me names and making fun of my weight. Before I hit puberty at 9 and subsequently found out about my hormonal imbalance, my parents took to me to dietitians and nutritionists to figure out how to make me lose weight. Nothing worked. My mom bought me every diet pill and supplement she could get her hands on that promised miraculous results that never came. Being sent to a camp for overweight kids to lose weight ("fat camp") was brought up every year, but I didn't want to go and socialize with other kids, even if they were fatties too.
     I was miserable to the point of being suicidal. I used to daydream of having liposuction done, and would beg my parents for some sort of surgery to force my body to look differently. Doctors started suggesting that I consider Gastric Bypass surgery when I was in middle school, and though I was terrified of surgery, I begged my parents for it. I hated my chubby stomach. I hated my fat arms, my touching thighs, my enormous ass and huge breasts. My little double chin and chubby cheeks made me want to cry whenever I looked in a mirror, so I avoided mirrors almost at all costs. I didn't wear makeup regularly until my junior year in high school simply because I didn't want to look in the mirror long enough to try to improve my appearance because I was so disgusted by what I saw. I wanted to be flat, normal- I wanted nothing more in the world than just to blend in and be like everyone else.

     Finally, when I was 23 years old, I decided to have serious conversations with my OBGYN, psychiatrist and physician about having some sort of lap band or gastric bypass surgery done. They all encouraged me to, saying it was my only option. 
     I wanted to be thinner SO BADLY, but something didn't sit well with me: I'm healthy. I don't feel tired or like I'm unable to do things because I'm overweight. I hike. I kayak. I have cardio and leg days. It struck me then that I couldn't think of a single thing that my fat was physically preventing me from doing, except for going on certain rides at amusement parks, but being able to go on rickety amusement park rides with weight limits somehow didn't seem like a good enough reason to go through invasive and dangerous weight-loss surgery. I remember taking out my most current documented extensive blood work results and seeing that everything indicated that I was in above average health. I sat on my bed and stared at it for a while then had an epiphany: I realized my body isn't stopping me from being happy. I am. 
     My negative perception of my body was harming me more than being 300lbs was. The big problem wasn't with my weight, but with the way I saw myself. 
I decided then that I didn't want to have invasive, risky surgery with an uncertain outcome; I took weight-loss surgeries off the table that day, and instead felt angry at all the professionals who'd told me that going under the knife was my only option for ever being happy. 

    A journey lay before me, and I wanted help to figure out how to go about becoming more positive about my body and loving it as-is. I excitedly told my psychiatrist about my newly-discovered revelation, and all he did was repeat that I needed to have weight-loss surgery. I was so disappointed and angry, but I wasn't discouraged. Learning to love my body felt like the right thing to do; I could feel deep in my bones that it was the way to go for me.

     I decided to start out by making a list of all the things I liked about myself physically. It looked something like:

-nice boobs
-white, straightish teeth
-okay eye color

     It was pathetic. I stood naked in front of my dreaded full-length mirror and tried to see myself from every angle, searching for something to find pretty or attractive. I remember hating my fat, squishy stomach, the light flecks of cellulite all over my thighs, the roundness of my upper arms. 

-nice butt, but too big

     I added to the list. Then I crossed off the 'but too big' part, and decided that that's where I'd start: cutting out negative self-talk. No longer would I look in the mirror and think, "God, I'm ugly today" or "I'd be pretty if only I could lose some of this fat on my arms" or "I wish more than anything I didn't look like this." I vowed to compliment myself instead whenever I slipped up and mentally bullied myself. 

     "Ugh I hate how round and big my forearms are... but... my ass looks great in these jeans," basically became my inner monologue. It felt stupid and cheesy at first, but it felt more natural after a while. 

Eventually, I started to see my beauty. I started experimenting with fashion and wearing clothes I actually wanted to wear, rather than what I felt was most flattering on me. I realized that I don't owe anyone "flattering"; I owe myself happiness. 

     It's been about a year since my big revelation, and I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life, even though- you guessed it- I'm still 300lbs. I have a husband who adores me, I'm hit on constantly out in public, I have thousands of followers on IG and Tumblr and people tell me all the time how inspirational my self-confidence is. I went from a sad, fat, little kid who regularly considered suicide because I hated the way my body looked, to this body-positive, confident fat babe. I am so proud of myself for finally becoming body-positive and realizing that my physical body wasn't preventing me from being happy- my negative self-image was. I'll continue to eat well and exercise, but I'm done obsessing about things I dislike about my body. My fat is here to stay, and I am who I am. Anyone who doesn't like it can go lick a cactus.