The hardest decision I’ve ever made

Trigger Warnings: Eating disorders, WLS (weight loss surgery), Poor Medical Care

Sharing this is hard. Which is weird, since I am, by nature, an oversharer. I share because writing things out helps me process my feelings. I share because I remember when I was 15 and in a eating disorder unit and realized during group therapy, for the first time in my life, that I was not alone in some of the “crazy” thought processes I had. That feeling of someone understanding where I was coming from was priceless. If I can give that back to someone who is struggling, I very, very much want to try.

I hope people will not knee-jerk react to this and will read through my thoughts because I feel there are always many sides to a story and it’s easy to get caught up in our own feelings about someone else’s story, without giving them their safe space and chance to share. It’s a lesson I’ve learned slowly over the past decade or so, but a valuable one. No one is responsible for my feelings but me, and people are allowed to share whatever they want in their own spaces, even when I disagree. If they are respectful I will even try to put aside my personal feelings and not just listen, but hear the other person’s point of view. That is easier said than done, and I am stubborn and thorough in my decision making process. That means my beliefs and opinions are not easily swayed. Which is why, in part, what I’m about to share will shock so many people.

On Tuesday, March 6th 2018 I did something that seems to, on the surface, contradict all I stand for and believe in. I had a procedure called vertical sleeve gastrectomy. During this surgery about 80% of my stomach was amputated. Yes, I said amputated. This is a word that people who have WLS will likely find offensive but it’s also accurate. My stomach was a healthy organ and I chose to have most of it sliced away and removed from small holes in my body (the surgery was laparoscopic).

Why would I do this? I said for years that WLS was off the table for me. My body doesn’t have a great history with surgery. I’ve had complications from all three past surgeries I’ve had. I’ve spent over a decade as a non-dieter, happier and – in many respects – healthier than I’ve ever been. I’ve been working at body positivity, at promoting body acceptance, fat acceptance, body diversity… so why would I join the “dark side” and undergo a risky, possibly deadly and definitely life-altering procedure? The simple answer would be “to be thinner,” but few things in my life are ever simple.

In October 2016 I fell while on vacation. I was leaving a crowded little cafe in Minnesota. There was a rather high step down to the sidewalk I had somehow not really noticed on the way in. A large crowd had gathered by the door and crowds make me anxious for two reasons. First, I just hate people and I get claustrophobic. Secondly, when you’re my size getting through a crowded space is not easy. So given my anxious state I was definitely not paying attention and before I knew it I was on the sidewalk. My poor instinct to try to hold on to the door led to a massive injury to my right bicep. It was suspected I tore it, but there was no way for me to know for sure.

Why? Because in our fucked up culture, despite fat bodies existing (and based on the media hysteria, taking over the planet like some kind of zombie apocalypse), medical accommodations are not made for them. I could not get an MRI to see the extent of the damage. There are those who will say, good. People like you shouldn’t be accomodated, as a response to this statement. To those I say, fuck off. No, seriously. You don’t have the right to tell a fat person they don’t deserve proper medical care because you find their body size whatever negative thing you find it. And you can’t turn it around and say it’s about concern for health when you start from a place that wants to deny fat people the very healthcare they need, the same healthcare given to a thin patient, so don’t even try spinning it into that old “it’s about their health” yarn.

I won’t get into the details of what my life became after that injury, but suffice it to say that it has been a brutal and often humiliating 18 months. I lost so much mobility. It was impossible to treat my injury properly when they could not diagnose it properly. It made me realize that if I ever got cancer (which there is quite a lot of in my family history), or if I was ever in a much more serious accident, I’d be screwed. I would probably die and then, because of how twisted this world is, I’d be blamed for my own death… it would be my fault for being too fat to get proper treatment, and not the fault of a medical community that has failed fat people.

I had already researched WLS for many, many years. First when I was dieting, as another option – the “quick” option. The “easy way out,” is how it was often perceived by myself and fellow Weight Watchers forum members. Let me just tell you, as someone who has since had 3 surgeries (unrelated and not counting this one), surgery is never an “easy” option. I had already come to that conclusion before my gallbladder surgery (which was the first) in 2010 and I certainly didn’t look down on people who had WLS the way I did when I was dieting and doing it the “hard” or “right” way.

If you think WLS (or any surgery) is easy you need a massive reality check. Doubly so if you’re considering doing it yourself.

I’ve been very outspoken against WLS in the past. Some of you reading this will probably think I’ve now become pro-surgery. Nope. But I’m pro-choice, and I think people have the right to make their own decisions for themselves. As far as WLS is concerned, I think it is pushed very quickly on people that don’t have a real need for it. I think a lot of surgeons prey on a marginalized group and offer them false promises and hope of a shiny, thin, healthy life post-surgery. I think the risks are often downplayed and that the benefits are overhyped, especially for a person who isn’t really that big. I think the surgery is often given to people who are not even remotely ready for it psychologically speaking. I think self-pay patients – the ones who don’t need insurance approval – are those at greatest risk of not getting thorough psych evals beforehand, and also the most at risk of being pushed to do something that maybe isn’t such a great idea for them. When you consider these self-pay patients are shelling out anywhere from $8k – 25k, however, it’s hardly surprising doctors will try anything to get them to sign up.

Just like the diet industry, weight loss surgery is a highly profitable industry. It’s business, and business and medicine often make for messy bedfellows. The funny (not in a haha way) part is that weight loss surgeons are often the only doctors willing to be honest about how dieting fails the vast majority of people. Go to any surgeon’s website and you’ll likely see the statistics, often even with citations posted, on the decades of research that have demonstrated this fact. There’s also no denying that WLS works better than conventional dieting… but long term results are still not necessarily stellar, so it’s a huge decision to make and if you go into it expecting or hoping to be thin or to have a “normal” BMI weight there’s a good chance you’ll wind up disappointed.

When I went to the surgeon’s office last summer I was about 517 pounds. My body used to settle around 350 – 375 when I’d diet (this was the point at which I’d “plateau” and stop losing weight). I’m the ideal “candidate” these surgeries were originally intended for, before the obesity epidemic bullshit made people panic and it became evident that doctors could push much, much smaller people than myself into a surgical “solution” for their “obesity” problems. My surgeon has done over 6,000 surgeries. That’s a lot of fucking money, and while I trusted him as a surgeon I disagree with a lot of his viewpoints. I made that very known to him during my consult, and to his credit, he accepted my criticisms and feelings with grace. He was also willing to accept my caveats (like no, I’m never sharing a before or after pic with the office and at some point I may stop viewing my weight, if it becomes problematic for me). When he said a goal of 240 pounds was “reasonable” for me I quite literally laughed in his face. I’ve been over 300 pounds since I was 15. I’m not viewing this through rose colored glasses.

So here are the things you need to know about how I feel about WLS, and specifically my having had it.

1. I don’t think having had WLS will neccessarily make me healthier. In fact, it may very well cause health problems I didn’t have before, so it could maybe help some issues but replace them with new ones. I’m diabetic, but between PCOS and genetics, I likely always will be, and even if WLS seems to “cure” it, that is going to be temporary. I have multiple genetic risks for diabetes (and I can say that with absolute certainty since I’ve done DNA testing) and long term studies have shown that many people who are “cured” of diabetes post-op redevelop it later on in life – and this has been true even in people who maintain their weight loss. My blood pressure is always good, my cholesterol is normal and so there was no need to “fix” any of that going into this.

2. I don’t expect to be thin, nor is that my goal. In fact, even if I got to the weight I gave the surgeon as the weight I’d like to be after having done this, I will still be “morbidly obese” if you use the BMI charts (which, btw, you shouldn’t).

3. You will never hear me talk about how much weight I’ve lost, at least not in a celebratory context. There may be a factual context where I mention it, so I won’t say it will NEVER come up but it won’t be an “omgilostsomanypounds” sort of way. This doesn’t mean that I expect YOU not to share your own weight loss in your own space, whether you’re dieting or have had surgery. But I am not going to comment on it or congratulate it, either for reasons I’ve previously discussed on this blog.

4. You will also never see me post an unflattering “before” picture next to a flattering “after” picture. Just as I won’t give them to my doctor’s office, I won’t share them in my personal space. Any pictures of myself I share I do because I’m having fun in said pictures, whether they be silly selfies, makeup selfies, vacation pics… etc.

5. I really, really don’t want to hear your “compliments” on my weight loss, no matter how well intended they may be. That’s not my goal and I don’t intend to let myself be sidetracked into, what is for me, a negative headspace where I let it become my goal.

6. I still don’t want your diet “tips” or “tricks” or “suggestions.” If I think you have information that might be beneficial to me, I will ask you directly. Otherwise, please consider it unsolicted and unwanted advice and just don’t. I have never deleted someone simply because they had WLS surgery or they are dieting or eating in a certain restrictive way, but I have removed/unfollowed people who cannot seem to talk about ANYTHING else because that’s too much for me to deal with personally, given my ED history. I’ve been that person and I don’t want to go back to that place. It was deeply unhealthy for me and I have to do what’s best for me. You get to control your content in your space, so I’d never, ever ask someone to change what they talk about… but I reserve the right to remove someone from my life if what they talk about is simply too harmful for me – and I respect your need to do the same.

7. I will NEVER tell you that YOU should do this. I won’t ever push anyone towards this surgery. I won’t push anyone towards dieting. I’m more likely to tell you the reasons not to do it, in fact. But only if you asked, of course. Otherwise, it’s just not something I’d ever bring up.

8. I most definitely will not speak of this in safe spaces that have been created for fat people to be themselves without pressure from the outside world.

So what are my goals? Why did I do this? I know people will wonder, and while I don’t owe anyone explanations, I like talking things out. So I’ll share on my terms, in my way.

I’ve already explained the medical shit. Sort of. I explained the logistics of it. What I haven’t really explained are the emotional feelings that came with that injury. Not being able to do some very basic things because of that injury really robbed me of my pride and fueled a sense of helplessness. But it wasn’t just from that fall. In the past 7 1/2 years I’ve had 3 surgeries, two broken bones that kept me off my feet for 8 weeks each time and a number of other minor injuries that, when combined with the others, add up. All of these things resulted in decreased mobility, which resulted in weight gain despite the fact that my eating habits remained the same (and my weight had previously been stable for several years), which then further reduced my mobility.

You never know what your “breaking point” will be, or if you’ll have one. But I did. It came about 18 weeks after my accident, when I realized my bicep was as good as it would get. That was the time my doctor gave me to heal, while I (yet again) restricted my movement. I felt a lot like I did when I stopped dieting in 2007… I was desperate for another way, whatever it was. I took my years of research and began investigating sleeve surgery because it has (so far, at least) demonstrated the lowest complication rates of any of these surgeries. I also picked it because it was (ultimately, after I heal) going to be most compatible with Intuitive Eating. In theory, I eventually will be able to eat pretty much anything I could before, just in amounts that work with my altered physiology. With my history with binge eating disorder this was absolutely critical to me. Deprivation/restriction and I don’t mix well together.

Ironically, had I gone into this process from my dieting days I’d have been in an absolutely horrible place for the consequences of this surgery. Psychologically speaking, it would’ve been devastating for me. It was the 10+ years of eating disorder therapy, working on mindful eating, learning to recognize when I was eating for emotional reasons or boredom that led me to a place where this was an option that wasn’t potentially life threatening from an ED standpoint.

I’m still me. I still stand by all of the statements I’ve made in the past about WLS, or at least the ones I’ve made since I stopped being an asshole and stopped claiming surgery was “an easy way out.” I was not superior to anyone for losing 25 pounds through Weight Watchers, trust me. I may have wanted to believe I was at the time, but I definitely was not. Nor would I have been in any way morally superior because of following X (insert keto, paleo, raw food, vegan, Whole30, Jenny Craig, etc here) diet (or “lifestyle”) plan. I look back at the person I was when I was dieting and I cringe. I was a person who told a dying friend that at least losing 100 pounds because she had scleroderma was a “silver lining,” and I did not understand how she could possibly mean it when she said, trust me, Jess. No one wants to lose weight this way. Because I sure thought I did. I’d have done anything to lose weight and, more importantly, be thin. “Healthy” never entered the equation, though I certainly claimed it did.

When I stopped dieting, people said, but your health! You’re going to die young because of your fat! My response to that? Even IF that’s true (and that’s questionable, as there is much contradictory research/evidence on the matter), I’ll die happier and mentally healthier. That matters more to me.

Well, that still matters more to me. Maybe the surgery means I’m less healthy and maybe not. Only time will tell, and frankly even then I likely won’t really know for sure what has made me healthier (or less healthy). But if it gives me a chance to do more of the things that the extra weight I gained because of health shit over the past 8 years has robbed me of, it will be worth it. If it means the next time I fall I can get an MRI and not have permanent damage and lifelong pain because of an injury I couldn’t get proper treatment for, it will be worth it. If it means I can get treatment should I develop cancer, it’s worth it.

I plan to continue to be a warrior for fat acceptance and for changing the world in which we live so no one feels they are backed into a corner with no other options than surgery. That’s just not a fun place to be, and I know that from experience. No one should have to resort to something so drastic to get adequate healthcare. It’s one thing to make a choice for yourself because you want to for whatever reasons, and quite another to do it because you feel it’s your last resort. So I’ll keep fighting for a world where one doesn’t have to feel that way, but in the meantime I live in this world. This was hardly the only thing that factored into my decision, but it was definitely a major reason I went through with the surgery.

And there you have it… the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Hopefully, in the long run, I don’t regret it, but just as it is for everyone else, it was my decision to make. It’s my body and I get to choose how to take care of it. You don’t have to agree with it. You can try to use it as “proof” a fat person can’t be happy, if you want. But I have been and will continue to be a happy fat person, so I have to burst your bubble there. If you feel it’s a betrayal of what I’ve said I stand for, I’m not sorry because you don’t get to decide for me and because I still stand for all of the same things I have over the past decade. I understand the feeling of betrayal because I’ve been there myself, any time a body positive actress or celeb suddenly has had WLS or signs on with WW or Jenny Craig. But what I’ve realized is that I have no right to that thought process. No one owes me their fat body, anymore than they should expect to be in some way obligated to try to make their bodies thin for the sake of societal beauty standards and ideals. It is just as wrong of me to expect a person to decide to stay fat for me for X reason as it is to want them to become thin for X reason. It’s just as fucked up. Yes, it’s disappointing to hear someone formerly body positive start trashing their bodies or start pimping diet products, but it’s not my choice to make. And we very often don’t know what led them to that decision, either. Regardless, body autonomy is something very precious to me. I respect a person’s right to make decisions for themselves, even when I don’t personally agree with said decisions. Your life, your choices.

It’s honestly really that simple, if only we let it be.

~JK

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Why I don’t comment on your weight loss posts

I wrote this as a facebook post, but decided to turn it into a blog post because it got very long. It’s been a long time, as I don’t tend to write here until I really have something to say… and tonight, I did.

Two of the hardest things about being in eating disorder recovery (for me) are reading/hearing about dieting and negative body talk. Eating disorder recovery is an ongoing process. I think for many of us who have experienced the hell of an ED, it never completely goes away and often requires, to quote Mad Eye Moody, “constant vigilance.” I know for me this is true.

Now, just to clarify up front, you have every right to do with your body whatever you feel you need to do for it… whether or not that is pursuing intentional weight loss. And while I wish you wouldn’t, because it makes me sad for you (it really makes my heart hurt), you also have the right to talk badly about your bodies. That’s true whether or not you are currently dieting, btw. I don’t think self-hatred is conducive to being healthy. I know from personal experience that it’s not for me.

I don’t tend to comment on weight loss or dieting posts, beyond maybe saying something along the lines of “you’ve always been beautiful.” Because that’s true. Beauty isn’t about a number on a scale or the size of your jeans. It’s about who you are as a person. And I’m really sorry if you felt ugly today, or if you feel it every day… and I understand that struggle and that heartbreak. But you’re not ugly. I’m not friends with ugly people. And I don’t comment because I don’t want your sense self-worth to be tied up in how much you weigh, or how you look. It’s not because I don’t care; quite the contrary, it’s because I do.

However, I recognize that my extreme aversion to seeing you talk about your diet is my problem and not yours. So I stay silent. Your body belongs to you, even if you choose to talk about it publicly, even if you’re sharing intimate details about it. You get to decide what to feed it, how to dress it and how to treat it in general. Just as I do with my own body, even when I share intimate details about it publicly.

My journey from a practically life-long diet to a mindful eating or Intuitive Eating approach is an ongoing one. What I put myself through, what my family members (NOT my mom, FYI) put me through… that is something that I will always struggle with because there are some wounds that cut so deep they never quite heal over all the way. For me, this is one of them. Being in a world with a constant obsession about weight and appearances and dieting does not help with that struggle.

Despite the struggle, I am so much happier now. I’m much more mentally healthy, and I believe 100% that without my mental health I have nothing. My physical health is irrelevant if I am as mentally unwell as I was in the throes of my eating disorder. I know some of you will read this and go “but – but – but… your health,” even if you don’t say it… and please don’t, by the way. If you’re truly interested I can point you in the direction of plenty of research that will explain my position on this, but otherwise I am not looking for a debate on the topic with this post. Believe me when I say that as a fat person living in today’s world, there’s rarely a single day without some OMG BUT YOUR HEALTH message, whether personally aimed at me or just aimed at fat people in general. In fact, I get these messages so often I’m fearful of one of the medications that helps me function daily, because in people with cardiac issues, it can cause problems. But I don’t have cardiac issues. I’ve been checked out. My cholesterol is normal. In fact, my triglycerides were always high (common in women with PCOS) and they normalized when I began IE, and stopped being fearful of the calories in healthy fats. So why am I so scared when I have no known medical reasons to be afraid? Because I cannot tell you how many times in an average month I hear that I (or people who look like I do) am going to “drop dead” at any moment of a heart attack. It’s simply not true, but the message is out there for all of us fatties to absorb. And my anxious brain grabs onto things like this in a way that the brain of a person without an anxiety disorder does not. So believe me when I tell you there is absolutely nothing you can tell me about how my fat will supposedly affect my health that I do not already know, that I have not already heard literally thousands of times in the past 31 years. And I’m 39. So yeah. Since I was a little girl. I know. I’ve researched. I’ve formed my own opinions. But it doesn’t mean I am immune to the constant bombardment of OMG FAT IS DEATH messages, either.

Here’s the bottom line… even IF everything bad we’re sold about being fat were true – and it’s so very much not – I’d honestly rather be mentally healthy than struggle to accomplish something I never did in literally decades of trying. The only thing I got for all my years of effort in dieting was fatter and more unhappy. I was so unhealthy and so unhappy, and life is just too fucking short for that degree of unhappiness. That’s my story and my choice, and that’s my right… just as you have the right to your stories and your choices about your bodies.

So if I don’t comment on your weight loss or your diet posts, it’s not because I don’t care about you. It’s because I know I have nothing to say that you want to hear. It’s because it’s too painful for me, and I need to quietly walk away. It’s because, since I care for you, it makes me very sad when you say negative things about yourself. It’s because it triggers a lot of unhappy memories for me. It’s because even now, despite being so much happier, I struggle myself, and I don’t need to see or hear those messages. It’s because of a lot of reasons, but it’s not because of you, and it’s definitely not because I don’t care or because I think you don’t have the right to make those choices for yourself. In fact, it’s because I think you do have that right that I stay silent, and it’s because I do care that I tell you you’ve always been beautiful.

It’s also very much because of me, of what I need. And all I can do is hope you respect my right to make these choices the way I respect your right to make yours.

~JK

The one where I try to find a bathing suit

As I work up the courage to wear something vaguely bathing suit like for the first time in oh… over 2 decades, I appreciate this post from the fabulous Ragen Chastain, which she recently reposted via facebook. I’m also grateful for her follow up post, which can be read here.

It’s not easy for me to admit being intimidated by the idea of putting my fat body into a bathing suit of some sort. Body acceptance isn’t, at least for me, something that just magically happens overnight. It’s a process, and I still have issues to work through. Wearing a swimsuit of some kind in public happens to be one of those issues… and that’s something hard to explain, and a lot of the “concern trolls” or outright haters would point to it as proof that I’m not really happy with myself. But the truth is, I’ve always been my own worst hater. The people out there who think they can offend me by calling me ridiculous names like “hamplanet,” or who try to hurt me by claiming my husband must be gay, repulsed by me or otherwise somehow, in their viewpoint, “broken,” to want to be with me, have no idea that I’ve called myself far, far worse things over the years (they also, incidentally, have no idea how laughable it is to me when they try to attack my marriage… because I’ve never been more sure of anything than I am of my husband’s love for me). I’ve spent plenty of time beating myself down; engaging in an endless cycle of emotional (and sometimes physical) violence towards my body. As sure as I was of the love my husband and I shared, it didn’t mean there weren’t times when I wondered why he loved me, especially in the early days. A lot of therapy and hard work helped me get through that, but I still hated my body. Passionately.

And for what? For how it fucking LOOKED. It did all these unbelievable, amazing things for me. I could walk all over Manhattan. I could take care of a classroom with 14 toddlers, a job where you literally were not allowed to sit unless the children also were sitting (and anyone who’s spent time with a toddler knows “sitting” isn’t one of their favorite past times). and win the praise of parents and fellow staff members. I worked with infants, with constant up and down, lifting, diaper changes, etc, etc. I did all of this while “morbidly obese,” and I did it fabulously. My body allowed me to do it… and I was never grateful. I was never appreciative.

In no small part, my road to body acceptance was paved with an eight-years-in-the-making diagnosis of fibromyalgia (and yes, more therapy). In other words, I didn’t really begin to appreciate what my body had done for me until my body could no longer do those things. And at first, like the doctors and plenty of “concerned” friends and family members, I bought into the idea that my illness was just a symptom of my fat. It took eight incredibly frustrating years, a sleep study that proved I wasn’t suffering from sleep apnea (I wish I could’ve wiped the smirk off the face of the ENT back in Manhattan who assured me I did, because fat + snores has to = sleep apnea, despite a deviated septum), but rather a sleep disorder known to plague fibromyalgia patients, along with a lot of various tests (11 vials of blood in one session and an MRI) to finally realize what was actually wrong.

I don’t hate my body now. And I regret all the wasted years when I could’ve been doing more with it, when I was healthy enough to do more, but too fearful or too certain I had to wait until I was X number of pounds thinner before I dared try that particular thing. Now, even if something happened like some fairy godmother waved a wand and made me magically thin, it wouldn’t matter. I still have fibromyalgia. I still live with the fatigue, the brain fog, the constant feeling of battling a low grade flu… and those are the good days. On the bad days? Taking a shower makes me cry. Hating my body for how it looks? Seems pretty stupid to me now, considering what it’s going through every day. Considering the endless battles it faces. Considering I hated it for that one vain reason for so many damn years before I got sick, and what did that all that self hatred ever do for me? I can assure you, not one damn positive thing.

So, yes… I disagree with those who see my reticence to put on a swimsuit in public as “proof” I hate myself. I point to it as proof that I, like millions upon millions of others, have been brainwashed by a $60 billion dollar a year diet industry (not to mention the entertainment industry, the media in general, the beauty industry…etc), into thinking my body type isn’t attractive and, even worse, is downright repulsive. I’ve come a very, very long way in appreciating it as it is, right now, today. I’ve become far more comfortable in my skin than I ever imagined possible while still *gasp* fat. Part of that is because I realized that if I didn’t learn how to love myself right now, I’d always find something to hate. I could be that dream size (whatever it was at the particular period in my life) and find reasons to be unhappy… like so many women do, even women who perfectly fit into the stereotypical beauty paradigm.

I was tired of hating myself, and I don’t now. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to battle all those years of “I’m too fat to wear a bathing suit in public,” either. Beyond that, there’s a certain degree of personal comfort with exposing so much skin… it’s been so long, after all. It makes me feel raw, naked and unbelievably vulnerable.

So why do it? Why even bother, right? For years, I wouldn’t have dreamed of going public in a swimsuit. For years I couldn’t see a reason to endure the emotional angst that I’d heap upon myself, nevermind what others might think. And even when I got to a point where I could fairly honestly say, “fuck what others think, Jessica… this ain’t about their opinions,” I still had my own personal demons to battle. So why now?

Circle back to one evil, vicious word. Fibromyalgia. I have fibromyalgia. I have pain every.single.fucking.day. And anyone who lives with this illness knows damn well that it doesn’t tend to get better. One of the biggest challenges we face is trying to not lose the ability to move entirely… because when you’re left exhausted, shaking and in tears simply from showering, it’s pretty damn hard to even begin to consider anymore advanced exercise. When something as simple as using a treadmill leads to a major injury because your muscles are so tight they pull your knee cap out of place and cause a tear in your meniscus, it’s pretty hard to imagine wasting money on a gym membership, let alone doing something more advanced.

Over and over I’ve been told “water therapy.” I loved swimming as a kid. In fact, I lived in the pool in my grandparents’ yard for about 8 hours of every summer day that wasn’t rainy (and even some that were) when I was growing up. Yet, despite loving the water, I’ve avoided the “water therapy” idea for a few years now, partly because my local pool is known for being kept rather cold and because I have concerns over whether that will make my already tight muscles even tighter… but also, if I’m honest, because that meant putting on a swimsuit in a public place. Worse, the pool is located in the same complex as the local high school. I’d been working towards being a teacher, with the hopes of teaching at said high school. It shouldn’t matter how I look, but it does. I had legit concerns that putting on a swimsuit at that pool would risk my ability to be hired there in the future. Perhaps ironically, my illness progressed to the point where I realized I’m not going to be able to work full-time outside of the house, so that reason was eliminated. Which left me forced to accept my real, biggest fear about the entire thing.

Wearing a bathing suit – of some sort – in public. Not because I give a rat’s ass what anyone else thinks. But because I’m still battling my own inner demons. And that realization sucks.

But I’m human. I’m allowed to have these feelings, and these doubts or anxieties. If I choose to not do it, I’m allowed that choice, too. But then I let all those messages about not being worthy of wearing something revealing win. I let the diet industry win. I let the haters win. When it was a matter of swimming for pleasure, well… that was bad enough. But this is different. This is about my health, about my future. This is about wanting to be able to go on trips and walk around without hurting myself from my muscles being so damn tight.

This is about not letting fibromyalgia gain anymore ground.

So, I have to fight my own fears. I have to face them. I have to figure out what I can find to wear to be as comfortable as possible while doing this. I have the support of an amazing husband, who will go with me for moral support, even though he has no desire to swim (he was never a big fan of the water). I have a physical therapist that, despite some… differences of opinion… is willing to go to the public pool with me to show me the exercises I should do. I have a pool that, admittedly might prove to be too cold, but it’s only 30 min away (that’s close in my part of the world), and it’s really inexpensive to go to. I have everything I need, except the swimwear.

I think I finally even have the guts to find that swimwear… and to go, and give it a try. Because while it would suck to lose the $150 bucks or so it will cost me to buy said swimwear if that pool is too cold, what’s at stake here is far greater. What I’m risking losing instead is too big to ignore.

This is about my health, my body and my needs. And if my fat, wet, swimsuit body offends someone? Oh, well. They have the right to avert their eyes. And as for my own personal fears? Well, as Captain Janeway said, “you know as well as I do that fear only exists for one purpose: to be conquered.”

~JK