Of course, a website featuring weight loss as a main attraction always begs the question, “How did you get to that point in the first place? How did you put on the weight?” After all, it’s not as if the weight suddenly leapt upon me. I didn’t just look down one day and go, “OMG! Where the hell did that come from?” Really, it crept on through years of mindful unawareness.
As a twiggy little child, no one imagined I’d one day look like this.
Guess how long it took to un-tag THAT on Facebook…
That was my reality, though, and it happened in stages. The first indication that something was not quite right was when I started hiding candy and food. Things were really off in my family at that point and I suppose it was my little girl way of protecting myself and my things. After all, what’s more important to a seven year old… besides her tiara and her tutu, of course.
The feeling of something being not quite right never really resolved itself into any particular incident or situation but it certainly had an affect on my sister and me.
Aren’t we darling?
That vivacious little spark we once exhibited so strongly was starting to fade.
When, shortly after, we picked up and moved from Portland, Maine to Seattle, Washington, it was quite jarring. Life quickly became very complicated and dysfunctional. Moving to an area where we were the minority, being hated because of it, caring for a dying family member, adding a troubled sister and a very angry friend of the family to our household (I have one other sister as well but she always had the good common sense to never want to live with us), moving from house to house and school to school, and watching my dad drink enough to get a whole tribe of Miq’Maq Indians (his tribe) drunk were a lot to deal with over the course of a year or so. It didn’t feel like there was a safe place for me anymore.
The evidence of the stress started to show up strongly in third grade when I started tuning out completely. By the beginning of fourth grade I was also starting to get chubby. It was that kind of slightly chubby that usually fills out with age into a more curvy body, but not necessarily a fat one.
Both my sister and the friend of the family came and went a few times and eventually both left for what seemed like for good.
At the end of fifth grade and through sixth grade I put on a hefty amount of weight in response to sexual abuse from a neighborhood boy, made easier with the introduction of drugs and alcohol. By the time he was sent away for other things he had done (my abuse was never discovered) I was probably almost 50lbs overweight.
I slimmed slightly until the middle of eighth grade when my family once again moved, this time only about ten miles away, keeping me in the same school and allowing me to go to the same high school I would anyway. Unfortunately, the friend of our family, who clearly hated me, moved into our new house with us so that we could afford the mortgage and under the pressure and fear of his temper, I once again started to gain weight.
I took on a job when I was fourteen so that I could stay out of the house and that kept me more active and distracted, helping me maintain my just about 200lb figure until a coworker started sexually harassing me. Things eventually escaladed and I couldn’t take it anymore.
Rather than reporting it, I quit my job, sank into depression, started struggling with self harm, and gained weight yet again, reaching the 220lbs I maintained for the next few years through even more family drama. I think I only made it through those years because I was supported by my church “family” and my voice teacher who had an enormous impact on my self esteem and my ability to cope with my home situation.
Despite the fact that my weight stayed about level, my emotions did not. When my dad left us at the beginning of my senior year to go live with another woman, leaving me with my mom and the friend of the family who she would soon marry, my world fell apart completely. It took enormous effort just to get myself out of bed. I avoided going home as much as I could. I immersed myself as much as I could in my church community because I at least felt accepted there.
I decided that year that I was going to become a missionary and left for college to further my biblical education.
In my first year of college I actually lost a little bit of weight but the impact of years of holding in my pain finally came toppling down on me and I couldn’t handle the pressure of school. After attempts to get better through medication and far too much trial and error I gave in. I left shortly after the start of my second semester, going to live with my dad and new step mother.
While at home, I gained a little weight, landing me at 235lbs where I stayed for the next few years as I returned to school, worked through my past with a counselor, got off medication, realized that I wanted to perform for a living instead of going into missions, and for the first time in my life felt free of all the emotional weight I’d carried for so many years.
I cut off all contact with my parents and for the first time in so many years felt self assured and able bodied. In October of that year, though, I received a call from my dad. My grandfather had just died. So had one of my step mother’s family members who I had known. Overwhelmed, I pushed on the best I could. Then I got a call from my mom. My great-grandfather, who I had loved more than any other family member, had just gone to the hospital. They didn’t expect him to last the week. I flew home the next day.
Watching him die was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I couldn’t focus on anything for weeks after. The night before his funeral, my car got stuck in the mud. In the process of getting it unstuck, I slipped in that same mud, fell, and was run over by my own car. It should have killed me. I still don’t understand why it didn’t.
Now without much mobility and still struggling with the loss of my great-grandfather I went straight back to school just to get away from my family again. I couldn’t handle it, though. Because of trying to do an everyday task that I shouldn’t have done while so badly hurt, I ended up breaking my left foot which hadn’t been injured in the accident.
I gave up.
I laid in my room at school day and night. I didn’t go to class. I didn’t go to meals. I just laid there. In an act of desperation at the end of that semester I checked myself into the “behavioral ward” of St. Joseph’s hospital. I used the wounds on my thighs and stomach from cutting myself as the reason I needed to be there, saying that I was afraid I was a danger to myself, and they admitted me.
In reality, I didn’t need to be there but I was trying to do something drastic to change the trajectory of everything in my life. I was looking for a way to actually let my family know that I wasn’t okay and that I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own and I was falling apart.
The summer after that semester I returned home and went into intense physical therapy and trauma therapy. Thinking that I was okay after that, I returned to school the next semester. I wasn’t okay. Once again, I laid in my room day and night. Once again I did nothing. Once again I went home.
By this time I was in so much pain that I couldn’t walk a block. I could hardly stand. I ended up at 296lbs.
I felt helpless and hopeless. At 20 years old I could hardly walk. I had no future and wondered how long it would take me to just die.
When my stepmother was injured at work, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to get out of that apartment for at least a little while. I couldn’t stand her being there all day, yelling about whatever she could think of. I left the apartment and walked as far as I could. It wasn’t far, but it got me away from her. I started doing this once a week because it was all I could handle. Soon I could get to the bus stop about two-tenths of a mile from our apartment.
Bless the free bus!
Shortly after, my mom offered me a little bit of money to tutor her in pre-calculus. I didn’t want to see her but I did want the money so I agreed. Once a week I’d make the long walk to the bus stop, go into downtown Seattle, meet her for dinner and a pre-calculus session, and then go home. Once her quarter was over, she asked me to continue having dinner with her. We started talking about all the years of hard times and things she had learned at school. For the first time in my life, my mother told me that she thought she had really messed up and she apologized.
In the past she had always said that she thought she was a good mother and that she had done the best she could with what she had. Now, she acknowledged that she hadn’t been there for me and my sister and that she hadn’t protected us like she should have. Assuming that some guilt trip would follow this declaration, I took the opportunity to have my say about it. No guilt trip followed. For weeks we had dinner and talked about everything that had happened. I finally told her about the sexual abuse, the sexual harassment at work, and how I really felt about the choices she had made. I allowed no pity for her feelings and she allowed no space for self pity. Although I had already started to heal physically, I now started to heal emotionally in a much deeper way than I had at college.
After one of these meetings, on my way home, I found a year long bus pass lying in the street. Now I had unlimited access to get anywhere I pleased in the Puget Sound area. I started going out one other day a week just to walk around as much as I could before going home and collapsing in bed, completely exhausted for the next two days. I worked my way up to every other day, pushing on despite the nearly crippling pain.
Finally, over a year later, I could get up every day and go somewhere. I was still in pain but I could do it despite the pain. All I wanted at that time was a normal life. I just wanted to be happy and live without constant pain, physical or emotional. With that singular goal in mind I started working again, not even sure if I could keep a job. I soon learned that I could do it. With my pain level decreasing slowly, my success at keeping a job (or two), and a huge decrease in my depression and anxiety, I finally realized that I could have a real life.
Just a few months after that, I started Kendra Through The Looking Glass, my first weight loss blog. My archives tell the story from there.