Getting our union solemnised was a special moment. It was also a good indication of how things were going to pan out that year.
I was on a mission to silence my fat shamers for the impending temple wedding ceremony so I requested that the event be done 10 months later. During the period of foot injuries, moving out and gaining independence, the fat shaming was so bad. Which was ridiculous because if you look at the pictures at the end of part 2, I was nowhere near the word.
When I had gotten pretty skinny prior to the foot mishaps, the shamers still
taunted my size. Who were these shamers? Family friends, relatives, my in-laws, parents, acquaintances, friends, colleagues, complete strangers – You name it.
For the temple wedding, I consulted a renowned dietitian in a hospital. She suggested getting started on protein shakes from Herbalife. Apparently she owed her current svelte shape to the protein shakes and was still consuming them. I was given the contact of a Herbalife product distributor. She came over to my place to give me the products, check my weight and body fat percentage with an electronic weighing scale, take my measurements, share with me her personal story with consuming the products..showing me her Before and After pictures and sharing the benefits of getting started on this lifestyle change. She would visit me once monthly after this first appointment to check my weight and body fat percentage, which was frankly pretty stressful. Exercise was mandatory, as was watching food portions when consuming solid food.
Man was I hungry the entire year.
Breakfast was 2 slices of whole wheat bread with a cup of coffee. Lunch was the protein shakes and some papaya slices to fill me up. Dinner was the protein shake and a few bites of sushi.
I began to work very hard at the neighbourhood gym, frequenting it almost everyday and spending at least 2 hours on cardio and weight training. Three months later, the ante was upped by seeking the assistance of a personal trainer for weekly boot camp workout sessions at the gym or running track nearby. I allowed her to push me to the brink of nausea, blacking out, fainting spells, giddiness because if it felt like my body was going to give up..then I was working it hard enough. Such madness.
My naturally low metabolism makes
it much harder to trim off body mass. Bear in mind that with yo-yo weight cycles, your body gets very mixed signals so every weight loss attempt gets a little more arduous. Trying to overcome these setbacks turned me a full fledged fitness freak and oh how proud I was of it back then. *Shudder*
Appetite control was always an issue after the appetite inducers prescribed in childhood and the years of purging, binge-eating. Although the purging was not carried out regularly after 17, it did rear its ugly head until the late 20s. I was extremely attentive in my 20’s with watching my diet because the thought of eating too much (hence getting Fat) terrified me.
So you can see the irrational beliefs and expectations placed on my body and the beliefs imposed by people around me. I was hell bent on physical perfection. I would berate myself over missed workouts or when the temptation to eat more than allowed won me over (Oh the ‘horror’ of eating food instead of drinking it). Those months consisted of nothing but obsessing on the next workout or ingesting the next protein shake.
I was on edge all the time.
I would watch the Hubster and my friends eat and it was pure torture.
My dietician and trainer were so proud of me and called me a success story.
By the time the wedding came round, I almost passed out while walking the mandatory rounds around the fire to religiously solemnise our marriage. I looked pretty and put on a happy face but felt miserable. My in laws, family friends still called me Fat despite losing 25kg in that year.
The day after the wedding, a family friend of the In laws commented on how ‘prosperous’ my size was (not a compliment at all) while my mil looked on. Right before I was about to board the flight for the honeymoon to Melbourne, Hubster’s aunt shouted “Lose some weight during your holiday”. I wanted to curl up and die. At the Melbourne customs, I was made to dump the protein shakes because it contained dairy and it was strictly prohibited to be brought into Australia. I almost had a meltdown at the airport.
After a weekend stay at a Japanese spa in the mountains, the nerves eased up. I began to relish eating meals again and the hubster was very happy to see me return to my normal, jovial self. But I could not help worrying about the impending fat shaming upon the return to local shores. I wished
we didn’t have to return.
Upon returning to Singapore, I started working as a freelance special needs educator. Unfortunately I contracted chicken pox a few months into the job, thanks to a child I worked with. To my horror, my employer became enraged that I had contracted it at such ill timing instead of having it as a child. How was I supposed to control when to contract the pox?
My then-boss’ pissy attitude turned me off the job and I resigned. During that time the mil (mother in law) would call me up and ask me if I was working at getting pregnant. She was anxious for a grandchild. I was at a low and stopped exercising, choosing to withdraw from the social world and hide at home.
I was always a shy kid.
But as I grew older I realised that introversion was not appreciated so I worked at perfecting a gregarious, outgoing, confident persona. It would tire me so much that by the end of the day, all I craved was to crawl into bed and hide from the world. I did not want to smile and laugh All the time, I did not want to be the funny fat girl all the time, I did not want to party or be outgoing. This persona was a mask for the world; It was not the real me. But the mask did not last beyond a decade. There was only so much of that facade that I could tolerate.
I had a hard time working on being sociable as I grew up. It was tough to look people in the eye or make small talk. It was stressful to attend functions, gatherings and mingle with strangers. Aside from the hubster and my folks, people still have no idea how painfully shy I really am and how much happier I am within the confines of my safe space – the apartment, alone time, one on one outings, reading in a cafe. As such, it has been tough to foster and maintain friendships..many have not withstood the test of time or hardship. Admittedly, I developed a bad habit of cutting people off when I sniffed a hint of drama. I could not pick my family but I sure could pick my friends..I was and still am Very picky with friendships. Which does not make me very liked, understood or popular. I am what you would call an acquired taste.
Adult chicken pox is complicated and it tends to activate dormant infections or ailments. Bronchial asthma returned after a 13 year hiatus. I had 6 asthma attacks within a span of two months. I also had my first case of glandular fever, that lasted for close to half a year. To say my compromised immunity was a source of frustration was putting it mildly. I spent the entire year after marriage taking care of my ailing health.
It happened one night.
The only way to describe the pain was constant sharp stabs from the inside of the lower belly that woke me up in a sheen of cold sweat and overwhelming nausea. I huddled in pain in the bathroom and held my stomach; it felt like it was about to rip apart. I tried to flush whatever it was out of my system. After a hellish series of screams, something considerably large flushed out of the vagina. Those horrendous stabbing pains began to dull but I started bleeding heavily.
I lost a baby that night.
I spent hours crying by the side of the toilet bowl for days. In the meantime, friends around me were getting pregnant and delivering healthy babies. I wiped my tears and focused my energies on conceiving another child.
When the same pains started another night a few months later, I knew what it meant. The gynaecologist confirmed my fears. I was told that it was highly likely that I suffered from both miscarriages due to newly diagnosed endometriosis and Polycystic ovarian syndrome.
I fell into a catatonic state for 2 weeks.
How different life had turned out to be. Were the struggles never going to end?
The hubster was with me through it all but once again, how do you console the inconsolable? I was not meant to be here. I did not belong. I was not going to experience the joy of motherhood as easily as the women in my midst. Did everything in life have to come with a platter of complications?
I decided to end it all.
The hubster had a strange feeling that something was amiss with me that day. He excused himself from work earlier and came home to find me in an unconscious state. I had written a letter apologising to him and my family, saying my goodbyes.
This was the second time I was rushed to the hospital in my lifetime. Apparently while they tried to revive me in the ambulance, my heart flatlined for a few scary seconds. I did not wake up until they pumped the sleeping pills out of me and had overwhelming nausea for a week.
When I woke up, I cried at having survived. I cried for my lost babies. I cried for the lifetime of heartbreaks. I cried for shattered dreams. I cried at the thought of having to wake up to a new day. This life was too much to bear.
I forbade the hubster to contact family or friends as I rested back home. When they were told of the incident, a variety of reactions ensued – anger, fear, shock. After a month of rest, I decided to take a solo trip for 2 weeks to mend. That brought an outcry from people because how could I go away on my own and leave my husband? It wasn’t ‘safe’ for a lady. As if I cared what society had to say by then.
Before the trip, I randomly bought a book at the airport as I always do. I cried my eyes out reading Eat Pray Love in the hotel room, thinking about the resemblance her helplessness had with my own. The part where she lay her forehead on the cold bathroom tiles, crying and saying “Please please please tell me what to do”..oh that hit me hard. I had been there one too many times before.
Having been brought up in an orthodox Hindu family, religion was an important aspect of my existence..until I grew disillusioned by it at 18. I didn’t feel God’s presence in my life. I didn’t feel her/his divinity. I tried to hold onto my faith for as long as I could. I spent days meditating while on holiday, seated at temples in deep contemplation. But that divine presence did not envelope my sadness. Laps in the pool, reading, journaling and travelling dispelled the sadness.
I returned from the trip rejuvenated although there was much healing to be done. During this trying time my fitness and healthy eating habits were left at the back-burner. I was binge-eating and experiencing more trouble with social anxiety..trips to the gym were put on indefinite hold. The depressive episodes left me prone to malaise. Basic daily routines like taking a shower or having a meal felt like chores. I could not find it within myself to make or receive phone calls, let alone visit family or meet friends.
With a helpful nudge from the ever-supportive hubster, I began to seek the help of a therapist and it was making some headway until she migrated to another part of Asia. In a case of extreme irony, my father came to the rescue by suggesting that I pursue a Masters in Counselling since that was my forte in Psychology. Having nothing to lose, I agreed to it. It was a step in a good direction. I didn’t make lasting friendships but the coursework provided much needed purpose and was a helpful source of distraction. The social anxiety did cause me to limit my interactions but I got by lectures and examinations without incident.
Friends came and went, as was always the case. It was harder to make friends as the years rolled by. It is dull and tiring for me to have forced interactions or meaningless conversations. I enjoy conversations of substance, activities or interests that stimulate the mind and soul, jokes and laughter that come naturally. During the Masters, I began to learn more of who I really was and chipped away at the person I tried so hard to mould myself into becoming.
In 2009, Maa was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. If you recall my first instalment of this post, you will remember that Maa was the auntie that I considered a mother figure. Maa was a sturdy robust extroverted woman. This piece of news came as a shock but I was convinced that she would come out of this. She was one tough cookie.
6 months later.
Her condition had worsened considerably and we began to fear the worst.
A year after the diagnosis.
Doctors told us to prepare to say our goodbyes. It was a rough time on us – her kids, her husband, my father and sister. She passed away at home on a Saturday afternoon, among her loved ones.
At her funeral, hundreds of people came to pay their respect. She was a lady that gave a lot to her community. She was a doting mother, affectionate grandmother and good wife. I reckon she would have made an amazing career woman had she been given the chance.
Between the aftermath of the diagnosis and her passing, I was extremely disillusioned by people I considered close friends. I needed the collective moral support but it was not there. The only unwavering source of strength was the hubster. To this day, my cutting off from so-called friends during that period of time is still frowned upon. But I firmly stand by my reasons.
I spent the next year buried in course work, meeting acquaintances to take my mind off the grief and reconnecting with other friendships that I had lost during that period of depression after marriage. Social anxiety was still quite an issue; I was uncomfortable in unfamiliar social settings and did not step out unless accompanied by the hubster. The years had done a number on my self esteem and faith in people. I was also at my largest size, having led a sedentary lifestyle over the past few years. I felt painfully self conscious.
Over the months that followed, things were looking up. I looked forward to my 30th birthday. Upon discovering the plus size community online, it made me feel less isolated being my size. When I turned 30, I made the decision never to torture myself through extreme physical exertion or extreme slimming fads, diets ever again. I had irreversible physical injuries, numerous ailments that I needed to be mindful of.
I also began to change my outlook on fashion. Until then, my personal style was dependent on how I thought I deserved to dress according to my size. Having adored fashion from a young age and observed it around me, I decided it was time for me to treat myself better by choosing to look good at my present size. Social media was a great tool in helping me find my way; plus size bloggers provided so much inspiration.
When a friend suggested that I start a plus size fashion blog, I cheered for myself internally because it was something I had been considering for a year..and to have someone else validate that dream was pretty cool. Apparently the Indian Fashion Bloggers institute were looking for a plus size blogger and this excited me even more because I really wanted to connect with bloggers from the homeland. Unfortunately the institute never accepted my request to join their posse. I sent another request later on but once again did not receive a reply. So that left me quite lost. To date, they still do not acknowledge my presence. Which is fine by me.
During this time, I began to workout from home thanks to cardio machines purchased over the months. Although it was a good start to better the current lifestyle..old habits began to seep through. The obsessive nature of sticking to an exercise routine and not missing a single session began to make me edgy.
Over the course of the first year of blogging, the folly of that obsession became clear to me. I began to immerse myself into blogs that promoted body positivity and size acceptance, aside from the plus size fashion aspect of things. A massive paradigm shift within began to take place. I realised how unhelpful my internal dialogue was and how damaging the prejudiced stances people around me were for my wellbeing. It also made me want to take a stand and make a difference, even if in little ripples.
At the start of the second blogging year, I took part in an online body positivity collaborative workshop started by fellow plus size blogger Leah (which I have mentioned Numerous times on the blog!). Reading the other bloggers’ posts and looking back at my history forced me to question the way I viewed my body. Despite dressing myself better, was I rid of my inner demons? Despite not pressuring myself to lose insane amounts of weight and eat like a bird, was I still hard on myself? Had I really come clean with the personal perception of my body and myself?
I delved deep within the recesses of my back story and uncovered bitter truths. This shed light on my prejudices towards myself and others. These thought processes paved the way for self love and radical internal changes.
The second blogging year (2014) was also a series of personal triumphs and losses. It led me to uncover the introverted spirit that needed to be embraced, not shamed. The shyness that morphed into social anxiety was brought to my awareness. Friendships were addressed, the relationships with my folks and in laws were addressed.
The exercise regime was put on temporary hiatus because I experienced moments of emotional upheaval. Necessary evils.
At present, I can tell you that life is not a serene walk in the park. I am in a better place with my body but it is not ideal. I still struggle with the inner demons. Being born with compromised immunity continues to complicate my existence. Some friendships in my immediate environment are questionable. The ongoing struggle with social anxiety presents physically in the form of chest pains or panic attacks. Life is a constant work in progress.
On the flip side..
I have e-met so many amazing people, fellow bloggers from around the world and formed some pretty good friendships. I have begun to meet some genuine people in my midst who appreciate me as I am, quirks and all. I have had the pleasure of acquainting myself with some amazing bloggers and media personalities with hearts of gold. I have gotten to befriend fellow activists and am in constant awe of their dedication, courage, passion for the causes they fight for.
There has been healing. The relationships with my parents, In laws are on the mend. The depressive episodes come with less frequency and intensity. I may not believe in a God but in Humanism. I value contemplation, meditation, compassion. I value the ability to uplift others while enriching your own life with a positive attitude.
There has been success. I completed my Masters with no pomp or fanfare, just happy to have gone through with it. I have been appreciated and recognised by my peers for the dedication to my vocation. Fellow bloggers and readers value the body of work I am working at amassing.
There are simple joys and pleasures in my everyday life. I have 2 adorable cats and 3 hilarious dogs that make me very happy. The hubster and I will be celebrating 15 years of sticking it out as a duo and 8 years of matrimony. I am married to my best friend and the love of my life.
The global plus size and body positive community inspires and heartens my soul everyday. You, my dear reader, give me hope and joy.
There is still some way to go with my body and I. There is still some way to go with making peace within. I do still hope to be a mother someday. I hope to forge a place for myself in this world. I hope that I continue to find myself in a better place over the years. I hope that I can impart knowledge, strength for the soul and courage to take leaps of faith.
Before I sign off, here are the links to the fellow bloggers in Rebequita’s awesome collaboration
Olga Gonzales Ramos
Josephine Josofabulous Lee
Zadry Ferrer Geddess
Will be posting again very soon so stay tuned! Sending you all my love ❤
Be Well xxxo