"Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story, is the bravest thing you'll do."
So I'm 5 days out from my, what I am going to call, "reconstructive" surgery. I don't consider what I had done cosmetic. Yes, looking better, while only relative in my case, is a nice benefit, not to be lifting my pannus each step on a run and revolution on my bike, or even just the daily routine walking up the stairs is a gift.
What did I have done? After losing 165 lbs, I had my pannus (a large deflated flap of skin that hangs low over the pubic area, from under the belly-button) removed by an extended abdominoplasty, arm lift and lipo on the hips and trunk.
No, the procedures did not magically make me look like Barbie -- I'm still a sturdy woman and will always be; I still have weight to lose and work to do, but having these procedures will help those processes in many ways.
Trust me when I say this was not an easy choice, and most definitely not easy to go through -- and I'm a self-proclaimed tough-chick. I've felt a gamut of emotions through all this, which is, and is not terribly surprising at the same time.
After being home 24 hours, I look in the mirror and wonder, "What did I do to my body?" I look like a cartoon super-hero in shape; small where the pannus was removed, but larger on top where I'm most swollen. They say swelling will remain for 3 months and to not assume that what you see is the final result. My two goals were pannus removal (check!) and not look malformed (here's hoping, but right now I look like Superman." I'm over that hump now and feel much more positive. :)
I've shared a bit about my own story on my blog which goes back more than 10 years now -- and I had a blog before Blogger was a twinkle in some geek's mind. I've always used my blog to process and work on healing past experiences. Going through this change with my body is prompting me to keep working on the emotional stuff.
I've gotten away from that process in the last few years. Triathlon is important to me, but my mental well-being, the ability to love myself and others, self-acceptance, confidence and peace are all more important. Since I'm targeting Ironman Florida in 2014, I figure getting my head right is in good order, so I'm going to go back to what works for me. Blogging.
To know real courage is to be vulnerable. I'm going to do just that. It sucks and it's hard. Despite knowing some friends in "real life" read this blog, I'm going to go ahead and ask them to respectful of me and the content. Blogging, in a strange way, still feels somewhat anonymous. I used to feel comfortable journaling about more thoughtful, emotional issues that are important to my well-being. For me, putting it in words makes it visual and therefore I process better.
My story in a nutshell?
I'm a 45 year old wife, to Darren and Mom to Cassie (8 years old). Born in the Bronx to my Mom and a "Bio-Dad" having a teen pregnancy. Later, Mom married who I always knew as my "Dad" and then we moved to NJ where I was raised. Parents divorced, Mom and Dad each remarried. Dad is an alcoholic. Mom was a workaholic. At 14 I found out my Dad wasn't my "real" Dad. I was very close to my Grandmother (passed on in '96). I have a younger Sister and Brother.
I grew-up in a Dance Studio run by my Mother and step-dad. I struggled with my weight from childhood, and while I enjoyed dance, I didn't dance just for pleasure. I understand now that continued to dance to earn my Mother's approval and acceptance, in the way she accepted my Sister and her students. She didn't have any interest in my playing sports, so I kept Dancing. Of course that never went far, because of my weight -- it was a constant battle between us and I just got bigger and bigger. Even at my lowest weight I was "normal" but didn't even see it, because in the Dance world I was practically ridiculous for even attending class. I was an embarrassment to my Mother and pulled from shows where I landed lead roles because my Mother was trying to motivate me to lose weight. Years later I understand that my Mother wasn't capable of having any interests, other than Dance. It was never about me. Dance was quite literally her life.
Other things happened in my Childhood that weren't so kind; suffice it to say they were the kinds of things that when they happen to you as a child, they quite literally change the person you were going to become.
I married my best-friend in my early 20's and we were divorced 3 years time. He was alcoholic. I stuck around for 3 attempts at rehab, and once drugs came into the picture, I left and never turned back.
I moved to Texas in 1996 for a clean slate. Fell into a fast and furious relationship that ended 3 months after arriving, but looking back it was a good thing -- I learned much about myself in that time, and this is probably just about the time I realized I needed to so some soul searching and healing to deal with everything else.
I met my Husband, Darren, my biggest cheerleader, in 1998 and we've been together ever since. I don't know for sure how he puts up with me sometimes, but he does and I swear he loves that I am tough and don't give-up easily. He understands I'm a work-in-process and is by far the most patient and loving person I know. Most of the time we balance one another; my kray-kray to his laid-back. We were blessed with our Daughter Cassie 8 years ago and won't be able to have anymore kiddos, but she is amazing, so why rock perfection, right?
In 2006 I had RNY Gastric bypass, and by most counts have been successful according to statistics. I didn't lose enough weight to get to that "normal" BMI, but I am no longer an Insulin dependent Diabetic. Instead, now I am a strong athlete with a resting heart rate of 49. It's a race that is never over and I am pretty happy with maintaining a 165 lb loss. My recent procedures are going to help me finish not only my first Ironman, but also get to that healthy weight. I have about about 40 lbs. to lose. :)
In 2007 I did some internet searching and located my Bio-Dad's family, but he was deceased. I met his mother and a few of my cousins from that part of the family. I haven't been the best at dealing with them and keeping routine communication -- something else I feel I owe them... an obligation, but I struggle with doing it... there is something that holds me back.
So to wrap up this super-long entry an get on with it, here's what I know for sure:
- Just because someone is your "parent" doesn't magically give them the skill set you think they should have. Until they know better, they can't do better -- and even then they will never fit that image you created in your mind of the kind of parents you longed for since childhood.
- Just because someone isn't of your biological family, doesn't preclude them from being your family just the same.
- I love my Mother and Father for who they are today, but struggle constantly to understand them.
- It was not my fault. Period. This I know for sure.
- If you cannot love yourself, you cannot accept love from others.
- The times I have left myself the most vulnerable have taught me the most courage and strength.
- Being vulnerable is hard and it sucks.
- I am enough. I am fully loaded and totally equipment for the path ahead of me.
- I know my family loves me. I know I love them.
- Be careful what answers you seek.
- You can be kind to everyone, but you need not befriend everyone. If they bring nothing of value to a friendship, it's okay to let it (and them) go.
- When people show you who they are, the first time, believe them. NO. Really, believe them.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people; the kinds of people who lead by example and show you who you want to be. The best friends are the ones that inspire you to be better version of you each and everyday.
- I know I will finish IMFL in 2014 under 17 hours. Well, yeah, I had to throw that in there!