At the YMCA I have to use a stool, on my toes to reach the pull up bar. A majority of the fellas I see jump and latch on, but I am 5’7 and never made my high school basketball team.
Completing a pull-up was a big deal to me and now on a good day I can do three.
I lift heavy weights but you wouldn’t know it looking at my slight frame in slightly baggy band shirts. Once I attempted to squat half my body weight and two days later could not walk down a flight of stairs. Without realizing it, I became very fast. I have learned that bodies are curious and fragile things.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I began to grow into myself. I was of average size and never really thought too much about my body. In fact, I kept my body hidden. I didn’t want anyone to notice it or me. If I could be granted one wish it would be invisibility. I don’t know why I felt this way but I suspect it stemmed from a depression that had run so deep, for so long I could not recall a day I had not felt its low hum in my bones.
In the summer of 2011 I began to have intense panic attacks and was given a low dose of a powerful anxiety medication. The side effects hit me hard. In a matter of six months my body changed and for the first time in my life, I was forced to notice.
This past year I’ve spent more time looking at myself in the mirror for correct form at the gym than I have my entire existence prior. Over the past year and a half my body, along with my thoughts on bodies has morphed, in big and small ways.
Noticing my own body has meant noticing other bodies as well. I was aware bodies are big and small, but I was not aware of everything in-between. Not noticing my previous partners bodies did not make me a good partner. On a recent road trip I began to read Amy Poehler’s Yes Please and there is a chapter about the “demon voice.” I suppose we all cast that demon voice to the side so we can do things like leave the house —a seemingly simple thing that is not simple at all.
Existing in this world, no matter if you are big or small or in-between is the hardest thing you can do. It took me a year and a half to get back to the body I felt comfortable in. It was something I did just for me. It was something others noticed which was uncomfortable. It’s something that when I look in the mirror I notice and don’t notice at all, depending on the day. I would never get back to my old body, it would never be exactly the same, but that body could never do a pullup or three. Not noticing my body, pretending that I wasn’t here, was my way of coping with the world. But every shot of pain that rushes through my body from every run or squat reminds me that I am.Tags: body acceptance, body love, fit and fat, HaES, personal essay, real talk, self love