No More Hiding

How do you hide?

I’ve had a lot of practice hiding. When I was a kid, I wore shirts far too large for me because I felt like I was fat. When I was 12 years old, 5′ 7″, and 149 lbs, I remember my dad looking me over. I was in jeans and a patterned blue and white short-sleeved button up. I’m sure whatever he said was meant to be positive, but I felt exposed and fat and ugly. I spent that school year wearing a ratty XXL denim shirt over my regular clothes.

Then I was thirteen and on a softball team. I came into my curves young, and I thought that made me fat. There’s a team photo where I’m standing in the back on the end and you can see that I have massive hips.

Then came fourteen, birth control for hormone regulation, persistent illness, weight gain, and the first manifestations of bipolar. I’m not convinced the birth control didn’t set off a chain reaction within my body. Even though I quit it after a few months, my body was never the same again. I spent a solid year in a black and white sports jacket because it hid my waistline and my hips.

I lost weight and gained it back. I’ve stayed in the range of 190-210 since age 16. I met a boy with whom the sun rose and set. He held my hand, made me feel wanted, made me feel adored. My self-image shifted a little bit. I wore dresses without wearing that jacket, which was a huge accomplishment.

That only lasted a few years. Life constantly changes, and we weren’t immune. Eventually he didn’t want to hold my hand anymore, didn’t like it when I danced or skipped or played in public. I embarrassed him sober, so I didn’t mind when he got drunk.

He loved me when he was drunk, and he would laugh and dance and sing and tell jokes, so I didn’t mind him drinking even when it got to borderline alcoholism. He loved me when he was drunk in a way that he didn’t when he was sober, and I was selfish. I needed to be loved. I went back to hating my body when he was sober.

It’s been sixteen months since we split, nine months since we agreed to never see each other again, and six months since we last had any contact whatsoever. I’m recovering, which this time last year seemed impossible. I was utterly destroyed from inside out.

The road to recovery has only a little bit to do with the actual loss of him. The real healing is starting to take place because of someone else’s relationship. This healing is something I needed long before I ever met my ex.

My good friend is getting married later this year, and we’ve been trying on bridesmaid dresses. The last time I wore a bridesmaid’s gown, I was in a wedding where it was important to look as thin as you can. This time is completely different because this friend comes from a culture where “thin” is an absurd concept. One of the other bridesmaids told me, “I don’t know why you’d want to get rid of [your ass]. I see women trying to get implants to get what you’ve got, and you’ve got it naturally. It makes me sick to see these girls thinking they’re so fat when there’s other girls who pay to get that.”

Well, that’s certainly a different perspective.

The bride and the bridesmaid have both been instrumental in helping me accept my body. I had another friend awhile back say I was nearly perfectly proportioned for that elusive hourglass shape. Slowly, I’m starting to gain confidence in my body.

That’s not to say I don’t need to drop a few pounds to get to a healthy weight–I absolutely need to adjust my diet to something a bit healthier than Sour Patch Kids and Starbucks. The point is I’m not hiding anymore.

The bride showed me a picture from our last excursion that she considered “regal.” Along with not hiding my body, I’m learning not to hide my personality. I’ve been made fun of for my laugh, for the jokes I like, for the childish fun I like to have, for the fact I like to dance regardless of the music situation. . . .

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The dress was a size 18 or 20. Turns out I wear a 14.

Recovering from this relationship has been so much more than I anticipated. I expected to come out the other side stronger than I was at the beginning, but I didn’t know what that really meant. I thought it would mean not pining after my ex, a goal I’ve finally achieved. Learning to appreciate the way my body is built, learning to own my strengths and weaknesses, learning to enjoy the moment because making concrete plans for the future is a waste of time — these are things I didn’t anticipate.

In therapy today, I talked for an hour about work and boys and at the end, my therapist said, “Are you sure you need to come back?” It was kind of bizarre realizing I might be at a point that I’m actually stable enough to go about life without sitting behind closed doors with a professional listener.

The fact is, I’m okay. I really am okay, at least for now. I have my sights set on what I can control right now, and my hopes set on what possibilities might lie ahead. Being that I’m extremely relationship-oriented, I’ve tried not to focus on that aspect of my life in case I get distracted.

(Of course, that meant the Universe immediately directed me to someone who has that personality my ex had when he was drunk. The difference is, this guy is sober, plus he has the same kind of laugh I do and he loves the same type of jokes. All the personality quirks I’ve been degraded for, he has.)

All I can do right now is live my life as I want to, do the kind of work I love and write the kind of stories I like. Maybe one day he and I will cross paths. Maybe I’ll cross paths with someone even better. I’m finally genuinely open to the Universe if it wants to set me on the proper course.

I’m not hiding anymore.

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