Telling my story will, hands down, be the hardest part of writing this blog. I haven’t had these feelings in well over a year and to regurgitate them is not an easy task.
I didn’t have an unusual childhood. I guess it was ‘normal’. It wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad. However, growing up I remember that there was always a sense that no matter how you felt or what was going on that I had to keep up appearances. It didn’t matter if you just got in a huge fight. As soon as you were in the company of others, you slapped on a smile. I never learned how to express how I truly felt. To this day, I still have difficulty putting into words how I feel. I think this is also how I learned to hide my depression.
I always felt like a normal kid until I was about 14. All of the sudden my body started changing and I started gaining weight. I wasn’t doing anything different. I was active as a member of the swim team, marching band, and a drum corp. I wasn’t eating more than the rest of my family. Everyday I had to look at my brother and sister looking perfectly normal while I was called out for being fat. I was confused about what was going on. Despite all of these confusing feelings in my head, I felt that I had to pretend everything was just fine. What I didn’t understand back then was the food my family was eating was affecting my body differently than the rest of them.
Our schools do not properly educate children about nutrition. I vaguely recall talking about this in health class and that consisted of a discussion of the food pyramid. Comparing that to what my family ate seemed to match up pretty good. Most mornings consisted on a bowl of cereal or instant oatmeal and milk. I almost always had school lunches. I think we can imagine what I was eating based on the news reports we see every other day about the lack of nutrition in the country’s school lunches. For dinner, the family sat down to a home cooked meal four days a week. A classic combination of meat, starch (pasta, potatoes, noodles), and vegetable. We rarely had dessert. When the weekend hit, it was usually fast food, pizza, whatever we could find around the kitchen. Sometimes there was a bit of snacking in the evening that could be anything from chips to fruit to yogurt to ice cream. At the time, it seemed to be perfectly acceptable. Nobody was telling me that school lunches were unhealthy. Nobody told me that fast food was bad. I had no concept of what a calorie was. What a portion was. What fat was. What protein was. etc, etc, etc.
In my eyes, my family was eating a perfectly acceptable American diet. But I was fat. If the food was normal and the rest of the family was normal then there must be something wrong with me. This was the beginning of my hatred towards myself. In my eyes I was abnormal and I hated myself for that. My hatred and misery continued to grow throughout high school. I got fatter. I was told I needed to eat less or work out more like this would magically make the weight go away. The weight stayed. I had the ability to swim thousands of yards in the swimming pool, march on a football field for hours, and march in a 2 mile parade carrying around 40 lbs. I ate like my family who was skinny. What more was I suppose to do? I was lost. I was angry. I had no support. Nobody understood me. I guess I was just considered an angry teenager with an additude problem. I had no where to turn. I often would cry by myself in bed. I got very little sleep. I was miserable.
When I was about 16, my father made me go talk to somebody. I was put on Prozac and told I had depression. First thought in my head: Depression?!? WTF?!?