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People mocked the ‘fat girl’ – her huge waistline, bad hairstyle, and fashion choices. But she had firmly made up her mind to keep her suffering a secret.
Change is the only constant, they say. From the minute you are born to the last second you draw breathe, you are changing, evolving and coming into your own as an individual.
There is an entire world out there that pushes you into certain directions. Sometimes motivating, sometimes driving away from, sometimes pulling towards so many directions. Each experience is a brick that goes into building the monument that becomes recognized as you, in your circles, big or small.
Whether or not you wish it thus, you earn labels. Whether or not you have planned it this way, you are given a face, identity, and a definition. You are defined by how the world sees you, perceives you. You are defined by so few words, if you are like me, you are tempted to refer a dictionary to see if these are the only words that exist…such limitations. Such shadow lines. And such narrow space to live and breathe and exist within. All because we are a social species and to be human is to live like sheep, to find and keep a label and be only that and no more.
And if your label is as follows:
She’s fat. Unproductive. Doesn’t work. A housewife. What can she say that’s worthy of attention?
Her confessions have come home to roost in a journal here. One heartbreak at a time. And if her story begins in the middle, it’s her story to tell. She has her strengths, dreams, tears, laughter, love, and loss to share. Thirty days, thirty journeys into a new, powerful, strong, superwoman.
Dear Wonderful World,
I exist. I’m alive. In a world of gazillion people teeming about in their busy ant hill lives, I too carry my rock of sugar on my head and travel on six legs across these roads, in the same monotony of staying alive in this world. I matter, I am not invisible and I count.
Today I looked into the mirror and once again saw the freakish stranger lurking there. I know who placed her there. I know that her hair isn’t long like I knew mine was. I know that she has a 34-inch waistline where I remember the 26 inch jeans being so loose I needed belts. Or rather cute and trendy suspenders from my college days.
I’m not ancient. I’m still young at 34. But the lady in the mirror looks 50 and tired of every single year of hers. The golden creaminess of the skin I remember doesn’t show on her. She’s darkened, patchy and blotched and has a droopy, tired, hand-me-down’s appearance. Why did my reflection change?
I slipped through the cracks of the community and society with none the wiser. Not even my family. It has been a dramatic and life-altering 7 years now. The journey from the hottest chick in college to this unrecognizable mess is one of pain, loneliness, and defeat, also of love, losing that love, and of abandonment.
It is a war within and surviving that war with whatever tattered remains I could scrape up. And today, I’m a fat, ugly woman who is ridiculed, mocked and forgotten. How did that happen?
I had a uterine tumour and later I started gaining weight rapidly from water retention. Post surgery the weight I had lost was far too many kilos. Through treatment, I gained it all back, way too much more due to water and steroids. This has been extra difficult for me to take.
I worked really hard to lose that weight and continued to eat well and exercise. Then when you add the hair loss from chemo, it took a greater emotional toll. I was diagnosed in 2009 and lost far too many of my loving relationships in the following days and years. I’m still living mostly alone. I am not completely cancer free now, and I still don’t recognize the person in the mirror.
I see a fat girl with a short, awful haircut of what’s now left which used to be very thick, fast growing and luxurious hair. I see the blotched, darkened and fatigued looking skin. The water weight is not coming down slowly as the doctors promised. I still have about 20–30 kgs of excess left, 6 years after being diagnosed. Earlier, my being 15 kgs underweight never bothered me. But now I as well as the whole world I live in and interact with is obsessed with my ‘obesity’.
The movies that show patients all sickly thin and wearing cool turbans? They lie. Nothing is bravely pretty and my hair is barely about 3 inches long now, I hate short hair. There are times I still flip my phantom hair. I still have huge barrettes, scrunchies and hair ties that I’ve kept out of sentiment. When I want to look nice, I’ll still put on my wig. I have two of them buried deep in my closet where no one would see. Not that it makes me in the mirror any nicer to look at.
People still mock my waistline, hairstyle, my fashion choices not knowing that I can’t dress the way I wish to without causing immense pain on my skin surfaces that are constantly burning and hurting even now. They mocked my bald head calling it rebellion. They now mock my ridiculously short hair on such a bloated and ugly body. Call the fashion police, someone?
I live with the new uglier version of me who is still catching up to the fatigue that never goes away. There are days when one hour in the kitchen whipping up my daughter’s favourite dishes makes me so drained that I need to rest for the whole day to keep moving again.
I’ve come to hate doctor’s visits, hospitals and absolute dread of getting any more tests done. I live with a pained smile for those ignorant lovelies who call me fat, advice me to get on a diet plan and go to the gym. Two of them being my mom and brother who came on an unannounced visit.
My dad calls me a bad mom for spending so much of my day “lazing on the bed doing nothing.” There are days when simply dragging my shattered body onto the kitchen and cooking for the kid and family is the most tiresome job that leaves me completely drained. They complain that it’s too salty, saltless, spicy or flavourless. Those days I just stay quieter than the usual.
That’s saying something about someone like me who finds speaking a necessary evil on a good day.
I made the unfortunate decision to make my illness totally private. Not even my husband knows the extent of my illness. When I finally worked up the courage to ask if it’s okay to sell more of my jewellery (I had made an offhand mention that I need it for some more tests, follow-ups, and treatments), he asked me not to squander my daughter’s inheritance. I quietly agreed.
Now I don’t take any medical help. Instead, when the pain goes out of hand, I meditate. I am more cautious about what I eat and drink. I’ve cut out all my social engagements, met no one and go nowhere unless absolutely necessary. My husband doesn’t know and doesn’t ask the right questions. My parents certainly don’t.
Out of love and concern for them, I did choose to keep my world private, the result of all the choices and consequences to myself. My pride and independence come with a price.
To this day, I walk alone. I can’t explain the immense expenses on my bank statement or why so much of my jewellery was sold. I don’t explain my vanishing acts to my friends. I call it hibernation. And they tease me mercilessly about it. My family, friends, cousins, colleagues have all drifted away because I’m unavailable for fun most of the time.
My daughter is now a teenager. Earlier she used to be kind, understanding and gentle. I was so proud of the gentle and amazing little lady she was growing into. But now there are angry outbursts and streaks of rebellion that I have no answers, solutions or coping mechanisms for.
Work is hard to find for a married ageing woman who isn’t at the best of her health, glow, and energy. I have weekly begging sessions with my husband to run the household. It used to chafe at my sense of dignity but now I put survival and taking care of my daughter above petty things like pride.
Nothing much matters except seeing my little girl find success, love, and peace. And I confess, I have no clue if I’d live long enough to see that. Then I wonder whether it was better to have made it all public and earn pity, acceptance or bear it some more stoically.
Some days I want to live, to love and be loved, to laugh, to just cry openly. But somedays I’m stone cold, wishing ardently for death and blessed release.
Did I make it to the 5-year mark without a relapse luckier than many others? No, I didn’t. But strangely, I’m alive and surviving. There are good days and then a heap load of truly horrid days. I’m thankful that I’m alive and now live from moment to moment, but those reasons make me hold back on telling others how well I’ve done.
I’m a survivor. For how long, I don’t know. I don’t think I want to know. But I’m a survivor today and if I’m fat, ugly and half dead energy-wise, it’s nobody’s business but mine.
Overall, it has been 7 years and the emotional struggle is still very much there. I don’t know if it will ever go away.
So, yeah. I’m fat. Sue me, world. I ain’t done yet.
Day 1 coming soon.
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I am a mother first, a wife then and a writer and dreamer mostly. As
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