Thursday, May 17, 2012

Before, After

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My email mostly falls into two categories.  Emails asking about my gastric bypass surgery, and emails asking about a post I wrote on another blog - a post I am not going to talk about here. (MYSTERIOUS)  I find it almost impossible to answer any of these emails.  The emails are so heartfelt.  I read them, and I think about them, and I close them.  I feel like I have very little wisdom to share. I can give empathy, but that feels hollow.

I think part of it is that I would hate to think that if I gave someone advice they might take it, and I think that if they did, I would then share some responsibility for their choices.  My thoughts about everything are so muddled.  People want to know if I would do it again, and I think NO.  But also yes, maybe.  They want to know if it has changed my life and again I think NO, but also yes.

When I look at that picture of me from before, I see someone overweight, but mostly I see someone who was in a lot of pain.  A lot of things were broken then, things only tangentially related to my weight - but my weight was a convenient target for my dismay.

If only I was thinner.  If only I wasn't so heavy. Then I would be worthy.  I wish I had asked myself "worthy of what?" because that question was probably the key to fixing a lot of my problems.

My weight was also a convenient mask.  It was easier to think that the only thing really wrong with me was my weight.  That if I were thinner I wouldn't have issues in my marriage, I wouldn't have a hard time getting close to people, and that I would have the self-confidence to do all of the things I've always wanted to do.  I really believed that.  My weight, in my head, was the only thing standing in my way.

I was going through a really rough time.  I felt pretty hopeless about a few significant issues.  I felt so powerless.  Howling into the void, that was me.  So when I found out my insurance would pay for gastric bypass, it seemed like The Answer to all of my problems.  I felt like someone who had just glimpsed an escape hatch, and I reached up, and I grabbed it.

In the hospital, bad things kept happening.  I was getting sicker and sicker and with each subsequent surgery, my condition got worse.  My body was riddled with infection, and they called in an infection specialist doc to work on my team. (I had a TEAM.)  In addition to constantly checking my levels and working to ensure that I was getting the right medication to combat the various infections in my body, the doctor would sit and talk to me.  She believed that stress and despair weakened the body, and that if I could release some of that stress, it would help me to be stronger, and to get better.

She would sit by my bed, hold my hand, and talk to me in the most soothing tones, asking me about why I'd had the surgery, about what I thought it would fix.  In my highly medicated, frail, weakened state, I sobbed out some of my most heart-felt worries and fears.  I said things to her I'd never even said to myself.

And I started to get better.

People ask if I would recommend gastric bypass.  I always say no.  Gastric bypass doesn't fix anything.  It's like a reset button.  It helps you get down to a normal weight (mostly because you are so sick for the first 8 months or so that you can barely keep food down), but after that, you are pretty much on your own.  You start to be able to eat again.  Sugar no longer makes you sick.  You can eat more.  Your appetite returns.  Your old problems that you always fixed by turning to food still exist.  Whether or not you keep off the weight is entirely up to you.  That is the whole trick of the thing, I think.  You have to use the "honeymoon period" to learn new habits and coping mechanisms.  You have to try to figure yourself out.

When one of my friends found out I was having gastric bypass he told me to be careful, that people often went off the rails after losing all of that weight. I can see why.  People react to you in a different way - a way that you are not used to.   Suddenly that barrier to social acceptability is just - gone.  If you had problems in your relationship prior to gastric bypass, gastric bypass isn't going to fix them.  You either have to choose to work at your relationship, or it self destructs. (Conversely, if you had a great marriage before gastric bypass, it usually gets better.) Because you suddenly feel powerful.  You feel like you are not in a space where you want to put up with any crap (even though your spouse is still putting up with YOUR crap - because, as you find out to your dismay, perhaps your weight wasn't your only fault).

People who have had gastric bypass, armed with new found self-confidence, often make huge life changes - getting divorced, getting married, er, going back to school, switching careers, etc.  If you aren't careful, you can easily wreck your life -  I have seen it happen over and over and over again.  But I love my husband, and I love my kids, and I am not interested in wrecking our lives.

Because it does make you more self-confident.  I know that is not what we are supposed to say.  We are supposed to say that losing weight won't change how you feel about yourself. 

But how can it not?  If the number one thing you hated about yourself (whether or not you ever should have hated that about yourself is an entirely different story) suddenly disappeared, wouldn't you feel better?  I have talked about this before, about how that little voice that was always whispering in my ear telling me that I should be embarrassed, that I should be ashamed about my appearance, that I should feel uncomfortable when I walked into a room - it was suddenly just gone.  To be sure, I have other insecurities, but that particular demon doesn't plague me so much anymore.

I still don't feel pretty.  My smaller body is a lot like my larger body.  The same pouchy abdomen, the result of four c-sections, the same chubby legs.  I look at that picture up there and laugh, because I, unconsciously, am dressed almost exactly the same in both pictures.  My hair is the same.  You can't see it, but I think I'm even wearing the same pair of sneakers in both pictures.  I'm the same, just shrunken down.  I still have my natural frown, but now people think I'm conceited instead of merely grumpy.

There was a commenter on the last post where I talked about this.  She was aghast that I'd had gastric bypass surgery, that I'd let myself be cut open, that I'd rearranged my guts - all to be thin.  What was I teaching my daughters?  My reaction was defensive.  I ended up telling her to go preach on her own blog, that she could not use my blog as a pulpit for her agenda.

Mostly because she was right.

My kids don't know that I had gastric bypass.  They know that I had surgery to fix a stomach problem, and that I got very sick, and that I almost died.  They know that they didn't see me for a month. They know that they were terrified that I was going to die.  They know that I lost a lot of weight afterward. They know that I can't eat a lot of things now, and that I have to take vitamins, and that I faint sometimes, and that I am extremely hypoglycemic now.  If we go on a hike, or even a long walk, I have to take a pack of lifesavers with me, in case I get sick.  They know that when I go out walking sometimes Daddy has to come pick me up in the car because I'm too weak to get myself back home.

How do I tell them that I did this voluntarily?  How do I tell them that I did this to be thin?  How do I tell them what I did and still teach them that their appearance is not what makes them valuable?

My daughter Emma tends to be rounder.  She has her mom's body - my rounded tummy, my sturdy legs - and she has her mom's love of food.  I worry about her.  Not because I care if she's heavy, but because I don't want her to go through the things I've gone through.  Society is harder on heavier people.  We learn body image related self-hatred.  We learn destructive behaviors. We learn insecurity.  We learn to accept less than as all that we deserve.

Here at home we don't use the word fat. We talk about foods that make our body healthy or unhealthy, although I think they have already cracked the code and figured out that what we really mean is that if you eat too much you get fat.  We try to be really active as a family - to go hiking, to go biking, to go walking.  We try to teach her that her body is amazing, that she can do so many fun things with it - like ice skating, and horseback riding, and rollerblading.  I don't want her to start to hate her body already.

Lately she has decided that she doesn't want to wear shorts or skirts because, for some mystifying reason, she is self-conscious about her legs.  We let her start shaving (yes, at 9) because she was embarrassed about the hair on her legs and I just didn't think that was a hill to die on.  If it makes her feel better, then hey. Who cares?  It's just leg hair.  But she is still embarrassed.  I have no idea why. Her legs are just fine.  They are normal legs.  She is a normal kid.  And yet.  I know she compares herself to her naturally slender sister. I know she compares herself to the tiny girls that seem to surround her in our current ward. She already has this body shame and it just kills me.

I was talking to her about it, and trying so hard to convey to her that she is amazing.  That her body is wonderful and perfect and strong, and that she shouldn't be ashamed of it.  That her value is not in her appearance.  That none of us will ever have bodies that are exactly the same, and that none of us will ever be "perfect".  I showed her that Dove Beauty thing, so that she could understand that even people who look perfect aren't perfect.  That every little part of her, even the things she didn't like, add up to make her beautiful, and perfect, and Emma.  She nodded and smiled and said all of the right things, but - I don't know if it made any difference.

So how do I tell her how important appearance was to ME?  How do I tell her what I risked, in order to have a more socially acceptable body?  How do I tell her that I was willing to die in order to look more like what I thought I needed to look like? 

I am ashamed of that. I dread the day they find out.

I know that I need to learn to get rid of my own remaining body shame.  That I need to stop looking in the mirror and saying that I'm still fat.  That I need to stop grimacing at my wrinkles and complaining about my hair.

The truth is that I don't really know how to teach a healthy body image.  How to teach her to really see her value, to know that the shape of her body is entirely different from what value she has, or what faults she has - that they are not entwined. My own relationship with my body and my image is so broken - I am such a poor role model for her to have in this regard.

And I know I can't shield her from the messages she gets every day at school.  From the insecurity she learns at church.  From the aspirational beauty messages she gets when she is watching TV. (I mean, HELLO.)

I don't know what messages she will absorb. It scares me.

But maybe we can talk about being strong and powerful and smart instead of about being pretty.  Maybe I can help her to know that no matter what size she is, she is amazing - that she is creative, and imaginative, and brilliant, and beautiful.  That even if she is rounder, she is not less than.  That she is not deserving of self-hatred, or bulimia, or gastric bypass.

That no matter what, she still shines, so very, very brightly.

PS: We got the house!

41 comments:

  1. I know that this post is about YOUR experience with gastric bypass and what it's meant for YOU. However I do want to point out that gastric bypass is not always done for looks. Yes, it's a fabulous side effect, but often not the main reason.

    I had it 3 and a half years ago. Did I want to be skinny? Of course I did! But the reason I was willing to take that kind of risk was because I was going to die by 40 without it. My diabetes had become so bad that I was taking over 500 units of insulin a day (which is more than my endocrinologist had ever had to prescribe), my kidneys were failing, I have irreparable neuropathy in my feet... And I was only 33 with three young children.

    I was terrified of the type of complications that you experienced, but my doctor was very clear--I needed to lose a massive amount of weight, and I needed to lose it quickly or I was going to die. The surgery came with a possibility of an early death. NOT having the surgery came with a guarantee.

    I'm not posting this to try to take away from your experience with it. I know the point of your post wasn't to vilify gastric bypass. I get where you're coming from, I really do.

    My fear, though, is that someone with no experience with gastric bypass will read your post and take from it that people only have it to look good. There's already stigma enough in having it. Many of us put ourselves at risk to have it because it gave us a better chance at living a long and healthy life, not because of how we'd look.

    But I do agree with everything else you said--it fixes nothing. It IS a reset button. It's so, so easy to go back to old habits after a year or so. It's still a constant battle everyday to make good choices. As my surgeon always said, "Gastric bypass can fix this," as he pointed to his stomach, "but it can't fix THIS," as he pointed to his head.

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  2. "that little voice that was always whispering in my ear telling me that I should be embarrassed, that I should be ashamed about my appearance, that I should feel uncomfortable when I walked into a room - it was suddenly just gone. To be sure, I have other insecurities, but that particular demon doesn't plague me so much anymore."

    See, the things demons are good at is morphing. When they find one trick doesn't work anymore, they just pull out another trick from the bag of millions.

    The trick that IS consistent with these little demons is the EMOTION they use. Different rifle, same ammunition. In your post, you reveal the EMOTION that keeps coming up is Shame. Detonate THAT emotion no matter where or how it shows up. THAT will break its chains from running down your family tree. MY GOSH, BREAK THOSE CHAINS FROM WRAPPING AROUND YOUR KIDS.

    Don't let the demon trick you into thinking it is body shame. It is not. It is just Shame and that demon will pair it in your mind with anything: body, spiritual things, money. It is just the same old Shame in a new costume.

    When you recognize all the faces of Shame, stare it down, and dismiss it from your presence, you will know exactly how to arm your girls against its lies.

    (HUGS) (HUGS) (HUGS)

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  3. Brandi, you are right. I was speaking to my own experience, and for me, personally, it was all about vanity. I was in perfect health. I was a relative lightweight in GBS terms. I know that for other people it is not so simple. Thank you for pointing that out.

    Thanks for that insight Adhis. I am not sure how to do that on a practical level but I will have to ponder it.

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  4. I love you. That is all.

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  5. I used to have a neighbor who had the surgery and went off the deep end. Left her husband of 15 years when he was gone at work one day. Just packed up the whole house and left him nothing. I can't imagine how hard this is for you to teach your kids about their worth. That's what it is all about. Learning and accepting our worth.
    I have a pinterest account and a few months back I saw this amazing pin. It is all about what Divine Nature is. How important it is to teach our children, our girls.
    http://www.theredheadedhostess.com/teaching/young-men-teaching-ideas/teach-me-who-i-am/#comment-7643
    This is the website to read it. She has other amazing things on her blog. She is a Seminary teacher and I feel so much stronger and prepared to teach my children after visiting her blog.
    Go, read this post! It is amazing and hopefully it will help you feel your Divine Nature and how to teach your children about theirs! We all are of worth, and we all are literally Children of GOD!

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  6. Sue, I have no answers, dear heart. But I love that you are willing to ask the hard questions, even of yourself. I have to think that gut-level (can I say that in this post?) authenticity is going to guide you as you walk the journey with your daughters. And if they are lucky, they will have the same gift.

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  7. Having a sister you feel less than is hard. My sister was always prettier than I was. We look a lot alike, which was somehow worse, because it was like I was just an ugly copy of her. It was all summed up by a friend (male) who said, "I met your sister yesterday. WOW you two look a like, except she is H.O.T!"

    Yeah, um, thanks for that.

    So does it help to know that you can still feel ugly while you're skinny? Probably not, I know, but there it is. But I do think that my mother did a good job combating some of the hard stuff we hear just by being consistent and simple--we were beautiful. Period. And because she really believed it (ask her, she says all the time that her daughters are gorgeous), I began to believe it too. So keep at it, mom!

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  8. This is such a beautiful and honest post. I don't have the answers, but if you haven't seen it I HIGHLY recommend watching the documentary Miss Representation. It is so powerful and shows us why we, as women, are fighting such an uphill battle when it comes to our body image.

    As scary as it is, I recommend telling your daughter the truth about your surgery. I had plastic surgery years ago because I felt shame about my body, and recently I felt that I needed to tell my daughter about it, as she was starting to have similar body issues. It was scary, but it was worthwhile. When she asks me questions about her own body now she knows that nothing is off limits and that I will tell her the truth. I think that having that security and safety is pretty powerful.

    You rock!

    http://vimeo.com/28066212

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  9. This woman has some talks
    that have been very helpful for me.
    That link has two TED talks that are worth a listen.
    She also has a website and blog that I've spent some time on.
    Not only is she delightful and engaging, but she addresses some real and crucial themes that we all struggle with. I hope you'll spend some time with her.

    Congrats on the new house! I love your new kitchen. One of my dearest besties lives out in Herriman...they love it out there. ♥

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  10. My mom had this surgery and went off the deep end, kinda. Unfortunately she had it done when I was 16, so it really affected me/my PSYCHE. I think she's mostly come back to normal now (it's been 9 years) but for the first two or three years it was ALL about shopping shopping shopping! Okay we're done looking in YOUR sizes (plus size child, teen, adult here) let's go to MY sizes! and spend hours! Yay!

    I am happy that my mom had the surgery but I wish she had gotten counseling with it, or waited till I was older. Because it was hard going from Mom and Daughter plus size team and sharing clothes to... this store doesn't have YOUR sizes, sorry.

    The biggest thing with my mom though was her personality. She used to be fun and bubbly and funny and then she got kind of... bitchy. I think she's chillaxing again, but for a while there it was all judgement channel all the time.

    Having seen her go through it, I don't even know. On the one hand SIGN ME UP because I've been overweight for 20 years, my entire childhood and teenagehood lost and now my adulthood because I'm so set in my waaaays. On the other hand, hell no. I will just take my Twinkiee and run a mile, thank you very much.

    CONGRATS ON THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!! I am happy for you. That is some serious stress kind of wiped out. If you need help moving, I still have muscles from our last move :)

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  11. So appreciate the honest and thoughtful post. I'll leave my advice/opinions elsewhere, though. (MYSTERIOUS)

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  12. I really appreciated your honesty in this post. It was so well written and thoughtful. I love the things you said to Emma and I feel like my Katelyn is going to go through some of those same things. So I appreciated "hearing" what you have said to Emma.

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  13. shauna Hardy10:48 AM

    I have been seriously considering Gastric Bypass, but after reading your post, I think I would have the same outcome. I have always hated everything about myself, and I don't think losing weight will make that change. Thank you. My sweet hubby says "if you don't love you fat, you won't love you skinny..but I love you either way." I still want to lose weight, just because I would love to have more energy, but I will keep attempting the more conventional methods. Thanks again, and I will pray for you to help your daughter. I have three boys and a daughter myself. I was not raised with a positive self-esteem, but I am desperately trying to provide my daughter with one. Unfortunately, all of our kind words and positive praise are for not when our children see how we treat ourselves! I am seeing this in my oldest son all of the sudden. I have always told him how amazing he is and that he can do anything he puts his mind too, but all of the sudden I hear him doubting himself and using phrases that I know I have used about myself. =(

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  14. Ugh. I feel you on this. I don't have any answers. I struggle mightily with my weight and also have two daughters with very different builds. I wish I could spare my daughter from ever feeling like I do, but how?

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  15. You really need to write a book. You have such a beautiful voice, and even though I don't really know you, I think it's where your strength lies, and I think it's one of the best strengths to have.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this heartfelt post. I think that your daughter will be way ahead of the game. I grew up with a mom who kept trying to put me on a diet. Guess what? I am still fat, but have low self image worth. When your children find out, you tell them what you learned. And it sounds like you learned that there is more to who you are than how much you weigh.

    Again, thanks for sharing!

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  17. I feel that this was a very heartfelt post and something you needed to get out in the open.

    At times in my life (and still do) I have felt exactly the same way as you. This is something that I deal with on a daily basis and will continue to deal with. Thank you for your words and hopefully it is something that will help me and others in cyberspace!!!!

    I wish that there was something that I could tell you to help with your daughter's self esteem. I think she is adorable!!

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  18. I was talking to my worth-every-penny therapist about this issue, just wrapped in a different package. How can I talk to my daughter about this when I've done the exact things I don't want her to do? How can I preach self-esteem and how looks aren't what matters when my life's history stands in direct opposition to that? "she's going to be so screwed up," I told her. And my therapist said (paraphrasing here), "No. No, she's not. The value of what you've experienced is that you can share it with your daughter. When she feels insecure and confused, you can share these things with her and the things that you've learned as a result. You can use your pain to help her. To say, "here's what Mom went through, and I don't want you to go through that, so let's talk about it and let's work on it together"." And it was a revelation to me. I don't have to hide the ugly truth. When the time comes, that's the very thing that can help her.

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  19. Sue -

    That was a wonderful, thought-provoking post. Thank you. After my fight with breast cancer, I treated myself to a tummy tuck and lipo, because I was scared to death of the belly fat I was carrying around, and that I'd have a recurrence because of my weight. It was tough. Lipo was the most painful thing I've ever done (that's saying something - I've had 16 surgeries in 3.5 years, and some have been VERY unpleasant - like the bi-lateral mastectomy. But nothing has compared to the lipo). I didn't really do the surgery to look better, although that is a nice side effect. I did it to become healthier. I've found a wonderful health program that I've been on (I wrote to you about it on facebook, before I even saw this post of yours), and the one REALLY important thing I'm realizing with this program - or any program for that matter - is this...

    If our motivation is to "lose weight" or "get rid of fatigue or lack of energy", we aren't going to succeed. Sure, we'll lose the weight, but when we've lost it, then what? We'll just go back to our old habits, and probably feel worse, and gain the weight back. What our motivation really needs to be is to GAIN HEALTH. Because, if we are working on gaining health, well... that's a life-long pursuit. You never stop. And that's how you form habits of health - and let go of habits of disease. This is probably the most important thing I've learn recently. And maybe that's how we teach our kids, too. We don't keep them away from unhealthy foods, so much as teaching them to enjoy those once in a while, but to limit them. Teach them that they need to pursue health - instead of trying to lose something, or deprive themselves of things. I don't know - it's a problem every parent faces. I wish I would have learned all of this while my kids were young - but all I did was constantly go on diets, and do the whole yo-yo thing. I finally feel like I've discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - it's full of health - a happy, healthy life. Again, thanks for the post. It helped me to think about the things I'm learning now, and underlined how important they are.

    Hugs,
    Kara Herron

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  20. Anonymous12:25 PM

    It feels sacriligeous to leave a superficial comment after such a deep post but I want to say that you look amazing. Really quite pretty. I'm sure, no matter what comes along with it, that that feels pretty great. At least I hope it does. Hugs from a lurker.

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  21. Ruthie12:47 PM

    Here is my unsolicited theory about you and your blog. This week aside, I think you don't post as often as you would like to post because you think you have to be funny all the time, and it's hard to write funny. At least for me. I enjoy the funny posts but I really enjoy these serious posts too. Don't sweat it. Post whatever you want.

    I am chronically underweight with no kids so I have no advice but some of your commenters seem to be on the right track. Good luck to you Sue. Many people care about your well-being.

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  22. I loved this post. You are brave and humble. And I have too many responses and thoughts to share here. We're going to have to do lunch. :) (And it may actually be possible now, with you living closer, and my kids being out of school for the summer soon, which means daytime babysitters for me.)

    But I do want to share one (long) thought. I've been pondering a different angle to your worries about your daughters. Now that one of my daughters is the star of a sold-out play here in Orem, and getting rave reviews, I've worried a lot about how my 2nd daughter will feel if she tries out for shows and doesn't get a lead, or even a part. I think my 2nd daughter will be able to do theater eventually if she wants to and works at it, but I don't think she has the rare instinctive knack for it that my older daughter has.

    I have a sister who's only 18 months younger than I am, and who shone in music and theater, and eventually I gave up on those pursuits myself since when they didn't just come easily like they did for my sister, I assumed I wasn't good at all and it wasn't even worth trying. Happily, as an adult I've been able to let go of that and be humble enough to work on developing those talents (when I've had time and have felt like it) without comparing myself to my sister, or at least without letting that comparison stop me. And I can take joy in my sister's successes without feeling diminished, too, now.

    So as Dean and I have talked about our worry that our younger daughter will feel less-than or discouraged by the things that really aren't likely to come so easily to her, we've had to admit that our daughter doesn't seem fazed or to lack self-confidence. Yes, she's disappointed when something doesn't work out how she wanted, but overall she seems fine. (I *am* glad there are four years between the two girls; I think that helps.) So I've realized that my best gift to my 2nd daughter will be to NOT feel sorry for her, not convey my fear that she'll feel less-than, not expect her to feel sorry for herself. I don't mean I won't empathize when she has disappointments, but if *I'm* really okay with not being the star of everything, if I really believe that being the best by some worldly standard defines my worth, then I should pass that belief on to all of my children, in word and action. I DO want to support and encourage my younger daughter (and all my kids) as much as I can in the things they want to do, but it's a relief to realize I don't have to worry about making up for the uneven dispersal of specific talents among my kids--because my kids are good enough not because of what they can do (as fun as those things are) but for just being, as someone said above, children of Heavenly Father.

    (I don't mean to imply that this little insight is the answer to all your questions about how best to help your daughter, which I think are truly hard questions. But I shared it since your post and some of the comments made me think of it.)

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  23. Oh, actually my sister is 15 months younger than I am--wouldn't want to leave an inaccuracy uncorrected. :)

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  24. Sigh, 2nd correction: if I really believe that being the best by some worldly standard *doesn't* define my worth

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  25. What an awesome post.

    I had a horrible time after surgery with months on picc lines, cardiac arrest, and now a host of severe deficiencies. I never recommend this and people can't understand why.

    Thank you for being so candid.

    MArisa

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  26. "If only I was thinner. If only I wasn't so heavy. Then I would be worthy. I wish I had asked myself "worthy of what?" because that question was probably the key to fixing a lot of my problems." wow, this was such a beautiful post

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  27. Wait, what? You had gastric bypass? What? How did I miss this? I thought you just lost a lot of weight. Weird. Also, what did you weigh, like 180 pounds? I'm laughing at that "fat" picture of you because, um, you weren't fat. Wait, that sounds mean, I'm not laughing at you, or your picture, just at the perception of overweight in that picture. Also, my best friend had gastric bypass on Tuesday and now I feel a little worried for her.

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  28. Your post is poignant and touching. Maybe it's just realistic to let our children know that we're not perfect. We have insecurities too, and we're still working through them. Probably always will. Thanks for sharing this Sue.

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  29. It's interesting, when I read this post I think of my mom. No she didn't have GP or anything like it. But with regards to your daughter and your concern for her following your shoes as far as her opinion of herself...

    You see, my mom got pregnant when she was 17 and not married. She did end up marrying my dad a little early because of it. I know that doesn't seem related but hear me out :) She has always been really honest about what she went through because of it, instead of not telling us because she was afraid we might think it was OK she told us and then said "learn what not to do from me, learn how to avoid it".

    I'm not saying that you should claim that you wouldn't do GP again or even that you regret it, but I would be honest with her and let her know that you hope that maybe she can avoid it... not by being skinny or something she is not, but by finding confidence in her body without having to get to the point that you did before your GP and without having to go through such a scary experience to gain it.

    Confidence shines no matter the shape of your body. If you are confident and positive people will find you irresistible! If you are confident you start to find that taking good care of yourself isn't as hard as before. When you are confident you are better able to cope with things don't go the way you want them to.

    Back to my mom... none of her girls followed in her shoes because we knew that she was up front and honest with us and that she would rather we not follow her path, but she also made sure that she told us that if we did find ourselves in her situation that she would still love us and would do whatever she could to help us to be happy.

    It's not my call... but if it were me (and as scary as it might be) I would tell them. The same way I'm honest about sex etc with my kids... I don't want them to be scared or stigmatized by it, therefore I try to be as open as possible (baring in mind age) with them.

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  30. Thank you for this post.
    Years ago I had gastric lap band surgery and I have never had the nerve to tell my kids. I wasn't heavy enough to qualify for the surgery, so I flew off to Mexico and had it done because I wanted so badly to be thin, yet I wasn't able or willing to cut back on cake. I lost a ton of weight, got an adjustment and gained it all back. I took a break and recently started working on losing weight again. My kids just know that Mom had an operation and after that, she throws up all of the time. I don't know what to say to them, to my daughter as she grows older and notices more and more how messed up my body image issues are as I try to hide them and pretened that everyone gets sick after they eat two bites of bread.
    It's hard when you do something to fix the external, but you struggle with the right answers for the internal- all on the canvas of your little one's childhoods.
    Thank you for this post, in sharing your feelings and helping me feel less alone in my own journey.

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  31. Wow - this has some good stuff in it. I am really impressed with your vulnerability here and your honesty. You say you're not a good role model for your daughter? Hah - your humility is BEAUTIFUL so I beg to differ.

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  32. My dear girl, please, please, please find a therapist who can help you (and perhaps your daughter) work on these issues. Often after losing a significant amount of weight through whatever means (whether surgery, diet, better eating habits, exercise...whatever) people don't find the immediate contentment they were looking for because they don't address the way they think about themselves, what they want and need, or how to help their children onto a different path. This is not a battle to fight alone! The underlying causes of low self-esteem are frequently very complicated and without the help of a qualified expert to sort through, an individual may never get to a "good" place and will never understand why not.

    Even if you do make it through to the other end without help, it will undoubtedly take considerably longer and you might make many detours you don't need to make.

    Look at it this way, if you were drowning, wouldn't you want the help of someone who could help you get to safely to shore? You might BE drowning, even though there is no water in sight.

    Hugs

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  33. Thank you for this post - it really got to me. I love when you are so honest and real.

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  34. Okay. Tired. Exhausted (for no good reason). Can't shake the cold still. Up too late. So this is a crummy comment. Shall I admit that I always feel more confident and cheeky when I do my perm? I have very fine hair that is now, evidently, also thin. Oh Yay. Straight as string. limp. won't hold a curl. Unless I torture it chemically. And when I do, I go kinky and poofy - exactly the kind of hair all the AA girls in my school in New York would bend over backwards to straighten. When my hair looks normal for what it is, I have no spark. The second I'm finished with that hour and a half long perm, I'm one kicky little dude of a girl.

    Why? I dunno. I dunno. My brother and his wife would have made used-to-be-you look svelt and skinny. They did the same thing, and it worked for them, too. My brother is all muscle now and rides his bike hundreds of miles at a time. Why didn't he before? I dunno.

    I don't like surgical solutions because too many people don't face the underlying problems - the inability to deal emotionally, to change what's hurting them, to discipline their eating - whatever. Like there's one cause? I think I'm fat and I'm under 130 (without looking as good as you do), but it's health now, I care about. Because I'm old. And dying - the way we're all dying. Of time. And I don't want to end up with Alzheimer's because I ate too much cool whip or something.

    Mortal life - there sure as hell better be an eternity or I'm going to be really, really mad. (May nobody who'd be disappointed in me for the expression read this.) Because I'm banking on it. Like banking on the feeling you used to get after finals. No matter how you did on them, they were over and you were free.

    I wish I just loved myself instead of picking myself to pieces, almost as though I'm afraid if I don't pick myself to bits, I have to be ashamed of being too dang cocky and self satisfied. Where we are self-consious, there is never an end to the complexity. Where we lose ourselves in work and love and service, things get simpler.

    I'm shutting up now. Babble halted.

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  35. Oh - and CONGRATS ON THE HOUSE!

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  36. I'm gonna echo others: I love this post.

    Sometimes, I count my lucky stars that I am not parent to any girls (yet). Because I feel like I have so. many. issues with my body image. How would I guide a daughter? How would I teach her to love her body when I can hardly stand my own, no matter what the number on the scale is?

    I wish I had some sort of sage wisdom for you. I don't. I have tons of empathy, because I've lost weight recently and am grappling with a lot of those same issues, like still being me-shaped, just smaller, and the realization that no, my brain didn't magically improve when I lost weight. I think you are a million kinds of awesome for blogging about your experience, and I think your daughters are blessed to have you as their mom. Again, not being a mom of a daughter myself but in the interest of authenticity... I would tell your daughter about the surgery when you feel it's the right time. I think she would benefit from your perspective... and also to know she's not alone in this fight.

    I think you are just awesomesauce. I know we don't know each other, but if we actually lived near each other, I know in my heart we would be besties. Like, totally. (Yes, I know. I'll send you my address for the restraining order.)

    Also, YAY for the house. Totally crushing on your new kitchen, and struggling with the tenth commandment on top of it. THANKS A LOT, SUE.

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  37. My mom had gastric bipass, and she did not have the same kind of health problems you did. So, there's that.

    But she did become a lot more selfish and self-involved. A lot less interested in her kids and lot more interested in being pretty.

    You didn't do that--Go you! Sue is awesome!

    I hate our society. I hate the messages that it sends to girls about their body. I'm scared of having kids because--how do you teach them? How do you get them to understand about their bodies? I'm terrified.

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  38. Love this post, too. Love the honesty, love what you had to say.

    I love that you got that doctor, too. Someone very close to me needs a doctor like that. She had the surgery as a young teenager, and still struggles with weight. The thing is, every time something stressful happens to her, she gains weight. I believe there is some relation between the emotional state and the physical, whether it be the hypothalamus or what, I have no idea. But I believe they are linked, and in my next life I will be a doctor who researches that.

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  39. Great, fantastic post. Here are my three thoughts for whatever that's worth:

    1. I know you dread the day your daughters find out about GP, but guess what? We're not perfect. That's ok. It's amazing how the older I get, and the older my kids get, the more forgiving/accepting/easier I am on/of my mom. Teach them the lessons you've learned, that's it.
    2. It's ok for Mormons to have therapy. We don't have to be so damn perfect all the time. And it's great to go in a room and dump out your thoughts on someone without worrying if they approve of us or are going to gossip about us.
    3. I've been thin all my life and I have terrible thoughts about my image. I walk past a mirror and notice every wrinkle, age spot, dimple, etc. It's been ruining my life. My New Year's goal is to sit my butt down before I pray, before I wake the kids, and for five minutes say positive things about myself and my life. I know that sounds cheesebucket as all get out, and you have probably already rolled your eyes at me, but it's been working. Slowly. I am working on loving myself as I am and for who I am and where I am in life. Otherwise, my ten year older self will slap me upside the head when I have actual age issues to worry about.

    Congratulations about your house. It's a good thing. I've been there.

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  40. I have always, always wanted daughters, and ended up with two sons. There are few reasons I am glad for the lack of daughters, but trying to figure out how to teach them to love themselves is one. I know I still have to think about it with the boys - my husband was bulimic, so I know they can be affected. But it's not quite the same.

    I am overweight. At my heaviest, I was 267 lbs at 5'7". I am now at 222, but it has taken me a year to get here. I do Weight Watchers. It is slow, and it is hard, and sometimes I hate it and it sucks. But I am also learning how to eat, and learning how to deal with the stuff BEHIND my eating, and how to satisfy myself without food. There have been times I wished I could get GBS, but I know that it wouldn't teach me how to be healthier, or stay that way for the rest of my life.

    I know that for some people it is right, but for me it wouldn't be. Also I could never afford it. Thank you for sharing and being so open about this. I think that with your daughters, you should share these feelings someday. Maybe when they're a little older. If you can tell them how much you want for them, and why, they will hear you. I believe it.

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  41. Anonymous9:08 AM

    I love your blog and writing...I have always been mildly relieved to have only boys, b/c the whole body image thing scares me, also.

    I'm obese, and am finally at a point where I want to be healthy - dealt with and dealing with a lot of the emotional stuff, and now feel ready to change physical habits. I've made a point, however, of telling my boys, that yes, I am fat. We use that word a lot, because I AM fat. I feel like using that word removes the "negative power" that it has. (Not using the word "fat" seems to much like not saying "Voldemort" )We also talk about how being too fat is unhealthy, being too skinny is unhealthy, not getting enough sleep is unhealthy, etc. Everyone has things they could do to be healthy - we all can try to make better choices in the places where we aren't as healthy. I also explain that a lot of people associate being fat with being less valuable, but that that is a lie. We talk about WHY that is a lie.

    One of the most powerful things my own parents did was admit they smoked and admitted smoking was bad. From the time we were very young, they told us all the negative things smoking brought into their lives, and how hard it was for them to quit. The clincher that they always ended with was, they hoped WE would make better choices than they did. I was NEVER tempted to smoke.

    I know body image and choices related to that is not the same thing, and you know your children and family better than anyone, but have you considered telling your children (at an appropriate time and age) all you went through? Telling them that you believed the lie that being thin would solve many problems, that you even risked your life, and that you don't want to see them or their children repeat that? Would your daughter feel differently about her body if she realized where that train of thought could actually take her?

    I don't really know, and I don't have daughters and I know no one thing will solve this sort of cultural problem, but....

    Anyway - thanks for sharing your life and struggles as openly and honestly as you do.

    Lisa G. in CT

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