Tuesday, June 06, 2006

There Are Days...

As regular readers know, I've struggled with coming to terms with my weight for a long time. I'm always thinking I should be smaller. Even when I realized what a benefit it was to be 5'9" and pushing 200 lbs (if you know how to hold yourself, people get out of your way), I still sat around angsting about it. When you're told that any woman over 120 lbs is undesirable, you get a little jumpy (Sex is a powerful motivator; I like sex). Who doesn't want to be movie-stock beautiful?

Pair all that with concerned relatives adding their two cents about how you need to lose and lose and lose for "health" reasons, every magazine cover screaming "thin!", and a society increasingly worried about all the fat people (oh, no, *I* don't want to be a fat person who puts a drain on our non-existent healthcare system!), and it becomes a backbrain obession.

During some of my worst days, I'd contemplate getting gastic bypass surgery. For better or worse, of course, I would never qualify for it. The one time I hit the 100 lbs overweight mark, I did so for a very brief period. And here I am, sicker than snot, 176 lbs and *still* overweight by society's standards.

The rules weren't made for me.

And you wonder why this country has a food obsession?

Of course, the real reason I could never seriously contemplate cutting my stomach up until it was the size of my thumb is because I like to eat.

Oh yes.

Even while on the strictest of diets I could give myself a celebratory meal. I could go out and eat whatever I wanted. Oh, sure, if you do Atkins too long and try and eat a plateful of pasta, you might get sick, but eating it *is* possible. Even after I broke my binge eating cycle, it was still really nice to just be able to sit down and eat a whole box of macoroni & cheese every once in a while. B & I used to order great heaps of nachos and hot dogs and waffle fries and watch old episodes of Dr Who during the weekends I'd fly to NY. We went all out. It was great. We had enormous breakfasts at the local diner, and I could drink cranberry juice and eat bagels and hashbrowns all in the same sitting. It was a social thing, a celebration thing. We sat and talked and ate and ate, and then I'd go home and get right back into my usual routine.

For better or worse, I can't eat like that anymore. Not even on "special occasions."

Oh, that fucking shovel.

One of the things my doctor said to me the day they released me from the hospital was that I was going to feel a *lot* better once they let me out and started me up on the insulin.

He was right.

Best I can figure, I started getting sick sometime in late July/early August of last year. That's when I went into PP for the first time with the recurring yeast infections. That was almost a year ago. I have no idea how I pushed through this for so long. No idea at all, except through sheer delusion; an inability to link all my symptoms to one core body failure.

The increasing thirst began not long after I started continuously combating the runaway yeast (high blood sugar = happy yeast who thrive on sugar), until the last couple of days where I did nothing but drink and pee, drink and pee. My formerly healthy sex drive was unraveling for months before the final fall (I justified this with the "I'm so tired and stressed" excuse as well). Climbing up the stairs got tougher and tougher. I just thought I was tired. I couldn't get up at my usual 5:25 am alarm. I started going into work late one day a week, then two, then three. Me, late for work! The startling weight loss started, I think, in September/October. I bought new clothes at Christmas and more clothes after I dropped a size - a whole size! - six weeks later.

And oh, how I ate! I was hungry all the time. Sure, I kept to "healthy" stuff: yogurt, popcorn, soup, omelettes. But toward the end I was stopping off and getting stuff to eat that I hadn't touched regularly in over two years: hot dogs at the 7-eleven, BBQ potato chips, cheese dip & chips. I stopped ordering my cheeseburgers without the fries. I *needed* those fries. I ordered dessert more often.

I started noticing increasing problems with my gums. They were receding. And bleeding. I realized I was going to have to go into the dentist soon. I bought some Listerine, but that didn't seem to help.

And oh, the yeast infections! The never-ending, anti-fungal cream resistant fuckers! PP told me it was the IUD, likely. Just irritating my uterus, no big deal. And I thought, I'm stressed out. It's just stress. That's why I'm so tired, that's why I'm falling apart. I'm falling apart because I'm just doing so much. Trying to be better. Trying to be the best at everything. I'm just falling apart.

That's something I've been thinking a lot about since I stabilized: I was falling apart. I was really, really, sick. But there I was, flying to NY every other month until February, then flying every week to Indy. Doing my weights routine every morning (the last two weeks before the coma, this got tougher and tougher. I was just so tired, and no matter how I tried, I couldn't seem to increase my reps, and I wasn't gaining any more muscle mass). I finished rewriting tDW, cutting 100 pages, cleaning up logical inconsistencies. I wrote over 200 pages of God's War. I kept sending out stories (and sold two of them). I went to World Fantasy and somehow managed to get out of bed before 10am (and kept wondering why I was so tired). I started taking yoga classes (I also stopped going to these the last few weeks before the coma, as well). I ended one relationship and started another one. I got a work promotion that meant more responsibilities, more stress. I blogged right up until two days before I was hospitalized.

I remember thinking, this last year or so, how I just wasn't getting anything done. Everything felt so goddamn hard, and I figured it was just hard because, well, I had to work harder than other people.

I beat myself up because I wasn't writing enough, wasn't going to the gym enough, wasn't teaching myself Arabic, hadn't gotten back into boxing classes. There was always something I wasn't doing enough of, something I should be doing.

Looking back on it, I'm amazed at how high-functioning I was. Either I was 1) really strong and delusional 2) just delusional.

And you know what the worst part is?

When I got home from the hospital, taking the stairs one at a time, resting on the landing, my vision blurry, suffering from a massive high-sugar headache, I went to my room and opened up the closet and looked for my favorite sweat pants.

They weren't there, of course. The doctors had cut them off me at the hospital.

I stood there beneath the lintel in a pair of loose size 12 jeans, my wrists and arms covered in bruises and half-healed wounds, and the first more-than-this-moment thought that my addled, mixed-up, sugar-saturated brain thought was, "Oh my God. I'm going to gain all the weight back. I'm going to get fatter again. I'm going to have to buy new clothes, again. Oh God, oh God."

If I'm angry about anything regarding this whole thing, I'm angry about that. About that thought; angry that the first real thought I had outside of, "Take this step. Then this step," was "Oh God, I'm going to get fat."

I'd been given back my life, and I was hysterical about how much bread I was going to have to eat.

That's fucked up.

And then I sit here and stare at my lunch - soup, peanut butter sandwich, some peanuts - and I'm so hungry I could cry. I want to eat and eat, because even during the worst days, when my parents had money problems and we were living on scrambled eggs and macoroni and cheese, we were still OK so long as we could eat. There was such comfort in food, in abundance, in over-indulgence. It was something you could choose, control - or not - as you wished. It was warmth and comfort on a cold night, when the whole world was going to shit.

Now I have to measure out my comfort in half-cups and quarter-cups and teaspoons and chocolate pieces.

It's a small - so small - price to pay for being alive.

I've always hated some part of this body, some terrible fatty, imperfect thing about it. Some stupid thing. Now it's really broken. Some core system has malfunctioned, imploded.

All I could think about was, "Will I gain 20 lbs? Am I going to start the cycle all over again?"

And what I want to think, the place I want to be, is:

"How much longer until I can run out into the world and kick somebody's ass?"

Because I'm blessed. I know it.

A dead pancreas doesn't mean I can't write. Or teach myself Arabic. Or go back to boxing. It doesn't mean anything like that at all.

But there are days when that's hard to remember.

7 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

David Moles said...

It'll get better. You'll get yourself healthy again. You'll get better at managing things. You'll get even more things to be proud of done when you're healthy than you did while you were getting sick. You'll look good at 200 or 220 or whatever it takes.

And five or ten or twenty years from now, when your bloodstream's full of glucose-regulating, triglyceride-esterificating nanobots and getting a new pancreas swapped in is an outpatient operation? Dinner's on me, any dinner you like, anywhere you can get a reservation.

Jeremy said...

This too shall pass. That's my mantra.

I haven't really brought this up to you yet, but maybe now is a good time. Your ordeal has inspired me to get my act together health-wise. For the last year, I've lost a lot of my loved ones. I wasn't healthy before that, but I've spiralled ever, every higher in my weight and downward in my health and I just couldn't care. I was obsessed with death, and was am still am terrified of it. I lay awake before bed almost every night, terrified that I might not wake up in the morning.

It's probably not going to help you much to tell you that you've inspired me to take care of myself, but you have. I'm already losing weight--and I'm not losing weight because I want to look one way. I'm losing weight because I want to live, and if I keep down this path, my life is going to probably be shorter than I would like.But it's not just what you've been going through, the events themselves that inspire me. It is your determination not to let this slow you down. You're going to get there.

I firmly believe that this shall pass. You will get through this, you will establish yourself as a full-time writer, with patience. And ten years from now, they'll be growing you new pancreas and you can have a great big party to celebrate them. I'm positive of it.

My little sister is about two months out from receiving a kidney transplant from my step-father. She has a disease which causes her immune system to eat her own kidneys. She's currently on dialysis. This transplant really will only delay the inevitable. But I'm not going to worry about ten years down the road when her new kidney starts to die too. Because by then, they'll be growing her a new one from her own tissues. Medical science is so very close to this. Everything I've read points to this being within our gasp.

Keep the faith, or we'll keep it for you. Either way... 

Posted by JeremyT

Kameron Hurley said...

Thanks, guys. You're awesome.

Jeremy - I'm totally sending you an email...

And David - I know just the place for that dinner! 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

jeff said...

Just to add to the 'thank you's', I'd have to give you a good deal of credit for my decision, over a year ago, to start taking better care of myself, exercising more, and getting control over my own binge eating type of thing. And that decision, which you helped to motivate, has affected my life positively in ways I can't even begin to count.

I started reading your blog for the boxing-training stories, and, as much as I enjoy hearing what it's like to be a writer and all of the other stuff you write about, reading about how you're figuring out how/when you'll be able to get back to boxing stuff so soon after such calamitous thing happening if just...inspiring. That word is usually corny and silly, but it's true here.

Thanks again.

Jackie M. said...

Hi Kameron,
I didn't actually meet you at Wiscon, but I saw you at the Feminist SF panel. And I remember thinking, wow, that's Kameron? She's so tough on the internet, and she's so eloquent here. And she's gorgeous. She's a boxer? I ought to take up boxing. I don't think I'm tough enough to take the hits, but still. Even sick you must be packing a lot of muscle, because I wouldn't have guessed any of this.

I hate the bloody BMI. I'm still, let's see, 6 pounds away from exiting "obese." But I think I'll be happy with accomplishing that much -- did you see all those articles a year ago about how "overweight" is the healthiest BMI bin to be in? Hah. Knew it. I knew it. Bastards.

I remember wanting to be 120 in high school. Never quite managed it -- I got down to 131 or so, then I started to gain again. My thighs still jiggled and rubbed together, but I've seen pictures of myself from then, and I looked... sunken. I thought I was pretty, but it's actually quite alarming.

I'll be happy with "overweight," I think, if I can run 5 miles and hike 20 miles and climb in and out of the Grand Canyon in one day and never ever have to deal with being on the horrible edge between the "misses'" and "women's" clothing section again. There's no place to buy clothes when you're a size 18.

Be well. There are asses to kick.

Kameron Hurley said...

wow, that's Kameron? She's so tough on the internet, and she's so eloquent here. 

Why is it everyone expects me to burst into a "you fucking fuckers!"-type rant in public? :)

Unless I get *really* pissed off in public, I tend to try and be "good." You're more likely to hear my brutal woman persona at work when you know me really well/I'm really drunk/you find a pet subject of mine that pisses me off. And, you know, I consider Wiscon a place where I need to be more-or-less "professional." I'm still shopping for agents, publishers, and readers, and I don't want to offend everyone all at once... though one at a time is OK :)

And she's gorgeous

I have a good ten-foot look. The lighting must have been really good....

I ought to take up boxing. I don't think I'm tough enough to take the hits, but still.

Keep in mind that most boxing classes won't *force* you to spar. I've only sparred once. You do most of your work either with bags or hitting mitts that your partner holds. So you'll be building up the strength and confidence first, to sort of build you up to sparring. Still, even if you don't want to spar after all that, or want to take two years of training before sparring, instructors are cool with that, depending on where you go. Always check out the gym and take a trial class before you sign any contracts.

did you see all those articles a year ago about how "overweight" is the healthiest BMI bin to be in?

Indeed I did. Being *underweight* is actually far worse for one's health that being overweight. Most people in the world still die of malnutrition and infectious disease, not "obesity."

There's no place to buy clothes when you're a size 18.

I was an 18 last year, and shopped pretty exclusively at Old Navy and Eddie Bauer. I still mostly shop at Old Navy, actually. Navy goes up to like a 28 now, I believe, and Eddie Bauer goes up to an 18.


Posted by Kameron Hurley

DivineLavender said...

I am a big girl, 5'2, 230bls or so...big right and have been for a while. I gave up on diets a long time ago. I have been focusing on a holistic-lifelong balance.

I work on eating a breakfast a small bowl of oats. I have choosen to shop at natural whole food store (but that is expensive), and choosing a meal without meat. Just slow and constant small changes about being holistic, not losing weight or looking a certain way. I have been losing inches but not because I am focusing on it...I focused on living a healthy life.

Be patient and love yourself and your struggle and try to focus on your strengths. Decide on one thing/item you can change daily. Can you try to drink water at lunch instead of soda? Can you try to eat the sandwich without both pieces of bread? Those are the questions that I asked myself and somehow inches are disappearing. I got to admit I love my big breast, hips, thighs and ass...I don't want those to melt away. That is my only problem...I got to stay a thick sistah!

Posted by DivineLavender