this is a new initiative I am embarking on started by Leah of the blog Just Me, Leah. It is a body positivity workshop that will delve into thoughts of my body. Will probably get intense so you have been warned. Some of this you may have been privy to from previous posts about leading a plus sized life, but this is supposed to be a sum of all parts so I will need to revisit some of those bits again. So let’s start, there is a lot to be said!
Your poor immunity gave mom quite the scare during my infancy to toddlerhood. I was still a rather chirpy and fun loving tomboy, with an emerging sense of humor that has now become the strongest shield against harsh times.
Also, I was a picky eater thus gangly-looking and mom was worried about my nutrition so she started giving me appetite inducing pills when I was 7. Which filled my frame out nicely until I started to look pudgy by 11. I was no longer the active basketball player or runner, although I did learn to swim .. after a drowning accident in Bali. My metabolism became shoddy for life, so I couldn’t eat like the rest of the kids without gaining much extra weight. I wasn’t gangly anymore, and I hated the sight of my body because of the hurtful words hurled at me by my peers, teachers, parents and extended family. My parents had ghosts from their past that stared them right in the face when they saw me – physically and otherwise – and they hated it. Added to that lovely mixture was the fact that I had ADHD that was undetected until much later, so I was tardy in school and bored easily, lapsing into daydreams and conversations with imaginary friends.
My body takes mostly after my mother’s side of the family. Gran was a hefty but petite woman, as are my mom and aunts who were skinny at first but got heavy after motherhood. My dad’s side is athletic and tall, despite their love for food with the exception of one cousin who struggles with yo-yo weight cycles among other things. I have a voluptuously curvy yet athletic physique, and I stand at 5 ft 2″ which makes me petite I guess. I am plus size hourglass shaped..not easy to shop for.
I reached puberty at 12 and by then a history of violence was beginning to emerge at home. While shedding the puppy fat and growing into new curves at 13, I experienced pain when I was beaten by mom & dad. They were creative – belts, umbrellas, glass plates, wooden back scratchers, feather dusters – they were all reasons to inflict pain. And there was also the emotional and psychological hurt – taunts, rude vulgar words, scary threats.
I threw myself into de-stressing the nerves by being physically active which became an obsession for a very long time. It helped my self confidence a little and I got by in school with the popular girls. Also, losing my maternal grandmother to a sudden heart attack followed by a comatose state for 3 months made me worry about being overweight and it’s repercussions. It did not help one bit that the relatives were saying it as a word of caution as well.
But by 15, I realised that it wasn’t enough to fill the hole within that seemed to widen. The lashings continued and school was not a peaceful respite from home. I ate 3 cheeseburgers one day out of sheer frustration and it made the hole feel less painful to deal with for a few hours. But I needed to be fit so I purged food for the very first time. That was my descent into bulimia.
By 16, I was so desolate about life that I stopped caring. It was my first brush with depression. All I wanted to do was sleep through the days and nights, lose myself in that world because the real world was scary. The violence continued. I am glad my body was a fast healer, there were far too many slashes and scars that came and went. I began to cut myself and it stung just as bad as the beatings.
The beatings only stopped when I began my own history of violence. After dad punched me in the face and caused my glasses to get lodged into my cheek, I saw red. I smashed a chair over his back and ran after him with the largest knife from the kitchen. I remember how hot my insides were, my senses were not in their usual flight mode. I was poised to fight.
I wish I could say things changed for the better after that. I was at the start of self destruction and my body was hauled along for the roller coaster ride.
Although the beatings had ended, it was still a tensed and volatile home environment. I stayed out of the house as much as possible throwing myself back into exercise, getting a degree and working part-time. There was a battle within, trying to heal my wounds while dealing with the past or moving on and suppressing the past. I picked the latter, because I didn’t have much of a choice. I also fell in love and met my now-husband.
However, my health began to show signs of fatigue from my obsessive gym exercising and it resulted in the removal of very inflamed tonsils. It didn’t help that I was stressed most of the time and allergy-prone.
When I left Singapore for further study in Melbourne, it took a long time to get used to its unpredictable 4-seasons-in-a-day climate. I was busy making the grades while fending off hay fever and allergic reactions. Emotionally, I was fraught by the past and the present. Hubster and I were not getting along at all, Parents would call and pick arguments. I took anti depressants for the first time because it was getting difficult to get a handle on my moods and nightmares, flashbacks from the past.
My body was good in some ways and in poor shape in other ways when in Australia. I enjoyed staying fit to keep warm and kick butt in the gym, but the stress of making the grades in Uni and acclimatising to a new way of life was overwhelming.
The cracks started to widen as the stint abroad progressed. I was no longer heading to the gym, I was fighting with Suresh all the time because of our communication differences and my parents were being so upsetting that I ceased all contact with them.
Having become a perfectionistic overachiever over the years, I gave my body hell with the lack of sense my life made. I tried to end my life so many times as my mind threw me further into the throes of self destruction. Which ended only when irreversible damage was done.
I was livid with everything and everyone. There was no bright light at the end of the tunnel within sight. I had tried and tried so hard to make up for the past and move on. My relationship with the man I wanted to spend my lifetime with was failing miserably and nothing else seemed to be looking remotely positive.
In a fit of anger, I swung the right foot through the kitchen’s glass door. That caused mere superficial marks. The damage happened when I kicked it through the door again. The motion of bringing my foot back after kicking it severed the Achilles’ tendon and surrounding nerves. I was told that I may never walk again. My mother flew down in a hurry to see how bad the situation was.
It was bad.
I was wheelchair bound and slumped in the wheelchair or recliner at home for most of the day. I was persuaded to return to Singapore to stay at the familial home and have physiotherapy. My mother promised to shelter me from my father’s wrath.
Well she tried, for a while.
In the meantime, I was focused on taking care of myself despite whatever caustic statement or accusation came my way from family. I shielded my resolve. I was not meant for physical immobility, I refused to accept that verdict.
I don’t know how many times I cried for forgiveness to my body. This altered my disposition and outlook towards life. If given a second chance at standing upright and walking again, I vowed to make permanent changes from within. It was time to heal.
It started with the flicker of the wiggle of the big toe. I pushed my limits by learning immense patience with myself and perseverance. Every little improvement gave me hope, made me feel thankful for the possibility of a second chance. I stayed silent when my family caused hurt, biding my time for the day I could stand on my feet again. The hubster was by my side encouraging me the whole time and it helped patch things up between us.
I started to walk again.
It was a wondrous feeling! And it was time to become independent, especially after a particularly heated argument had with my family that left me feeling alienated, misunderstood and utterly dejected. I needed to live apart from them, whether they liked it or not.
So I made that leap and left.
I was often left hungry and lonely in the beginning, living alone while looking for work and making ends meet. I was sad for a long time. Things started looking up when I was no longer financially unstable, I even adopted my first pets – 2 kittens 🙂
I really wish I could say, now this was when things started to get much better.
3 months prior to the wedding solemnisation, I slipped and twisted my left ankle bone on my way home from a jog. There was a hairline fracture and the nerves were shot.
It was painful but because of my past experience, it wasn’t as arduous. Like the right foot, it is weak and prone to re-injury so I have to take double the precaution with mobility and physical activity.
The temple wedding was a good 11 months after the solemnisation so I tried to get into shape. I tried to stay fit after both injuries, but it had to be much less frequent and intensive. So I decided to get moving more by hiring a personal trainer. I watched my diet by visiting a nutritionist who recommended twice daily meal-replacement protein shakes. I vowed to maintain the physique this time and take very good care of my health. It just didn’t help that along the way, fat shaming was rampant from the in-laws. Despite having lost 15 kg in 11 months, I was told to lose weight during the honeymoon.
All this hard work and I still didn’t meet your standards so you’d like me to control my portions when I was Honeymooning??
That was when I first said “To hell with this dieting crap” and tossed out the meal replacements.
After the honeymoon it was time to get to work and start a new year, with the blissful fact that I no longer needed to be accountable to my parents for anything.
It was going just fine until contracting chicken pox from a child I was working with. My then-boss had a hissy fit that I hadn’t had the pox before. I would not take her nonsense, so I left. Bad enough to have the pox at age 28, It caused the bronchial asthma to re-emerge after a 10 year hiatus and I lost my job.
My body was struggling immensely at that time with the lung congestion. Within the span of 2 months, I had 6 asthma attacks. I was so angry with my body, I was looking forward to a clean slate after marriage. Not to mention the in-laws continually giving me grief with snide remarks about my weight..how did I end up with 2 pairs of bad parents??
This also caused quite a rift between the hubster and I. We were fighting endlessly. I felt helpless. My bad health was weighing me down. I hated the reflection in the mirrors and covered them so I didn’t have to look at myself.
During that period, I also suffered from a miscarriage. My body was too weak to hold the fetus and I was unaware that the ovaries were blocked by cysts..among other complications.
I woke up feeling like someone was stabbing me from the inside and I was bleeding way too much. I got myself to the bathroom and something gushed out. I knew what it was once I saw it and the doctor later confirmed my gut feeling.
It was a 4 week old fetus.
In the coming months to come, this happened again. Only, it happened in the 2nd month.
I stopped caring completely.
I stayed in bed all the time. I did not shower or brush my teeth, I did not comb my hair or open the curtains when there was daylight. I wished for death to come.
It did come, but not for me.
My paternal aunt who loved me like her own, whom I called maa (mother) was dying. She was too far along liver cancer for a chance of recovery. Until she heaved her last breath, I woke up and got showered and fed myself to put on a brave face for her.
That journey altered me completely.
I thought about all the tragedies from the past. I thought about the kind of legacy I would like to leave behind after I was long gone. I thought about the suffering I had put myself through, instigated by society and the people around me.
It was a pivotal period of time.
I turned 30 later that year and looked at myself in the mirror. I saw the invisible scars of the past, the weight of emotions on my face and body, the dullness in my eyes and drooped defeated shoulders.
This had to change.
I made it my life’s mission to turn things around. I started to feel less sluggish by taking walks outdoors instead of lying in bed for hours on end. I left my comfort zone and met
up with friends every other weekend. I reduced contact with both sets of parents drastically. I started to look towards the internet for fashion catered towards the fuller figured women.
I was determined to learn not to hide because of my body’s imperfections and to accept it at any size. My body and I deserved to be loved and validated.
My body and I have been through hell and back a couple of times. I am proud of my battle scars and faded stripes.
I will continue to lift the shame and take care of my body. The physical pain from the feet, asthma, allergic reactions, occasional glandular fever can be real buzz kills. But I will not be submitted to the hate and hurt that was heaped upon in the past. I will eventually learn to say “I love my body”.
We will get there, dear body.