In the years that I have been blogging, I’ve not received a request from someone asking me to blog about a particular topic until now.
I really enjoyed After (The Before & After)and got a lot from it. Thanks for writing it. I couldn’t find anything on your blog about your gallbladder experience and wanted to suggest it as a blog topic. I am waiting for a diagnosis but am pretty sure that is what it is. I have yo-yoed with weight and feel ashamed and embarrassed and blame myself for making myself ill. And I delayed seeing a doctor. So besides having pain, I am beating myself up emotionally and I wondered what your experience was like. ~ Phoebe in Toronto
[Phoebe is referring to this passage in my book: "Of course I knew the health risks associated with being overweight. My mother often told me she was concerned about my health and so that became another thing I had to prove – that I could be overweight AND healthy. For the most part, I was. Yes, my cholesterol was high, but under control with medication; and yes, I had my gallbladder removed; and yes, my back ached, but I rationalized that those things also happen to 'skinny' people."]
Phoebe, I know exactly how you feel. I want to start by saying that shame, embarrassment, and blame will not make you healthier, thinner, or happier. At least that’s not been my experience. Shame, embarrassment, and blame only served to perpetuate overeating/bingeing, weight gain, ill health (physical and mental), and unhappiness. But for a long while I didn’t know any better…shame, embarrassment, and blame seemed to be an inextricable part of myself.
My gallbladder “experience” started some time in 2003, when I was 41. I was experiencing episodes of pain right below my breastbone that I attributed to severe indigestion. I had about four or five of these attacks over the course of a year.
One night in January of 2004 I woke up in intense pain. I tried Tums, I tried breathing it away, I tried lying and sitting in different positions. Nothing relieved the pain and I got scared, thinking I might be having a heart attack.
I asked my husband to take me to the Emergency Room and the intake nurse said my symptoms fit the “4 Fs” of gall stones: 40s, female, fertile, and fair. Later, when I went back home I did a little research, I discovered a fifth F: fat. Was the nurse being nice or did she not consider me to be fat?
At the time I weighed about 230 pounds, so yes, I was overweight, but I was also (partly) in denial about it. I didn’t want to connect being overweight with having gall stones (or any other health issue, for that matter), and even though being overweight is a risk factor, I knew that thin people had them too.
At the ER I was given pain killer and was x-rayed, confirming the nurse’s hunch. I was told that it wasn’t an urgent case and that I could schedule surgery, but that if I had another bad attack, they could do it on an emergency basis. I was also told to avoid fatty food. The night before that last attack, I’d made a pasta dish with a tomato cream sauce and bacon! Thankfully, in the weeks before my surgery I didn’t have another attack.
The vast majority of gallbladder surgeries are laparoscopic , but I was told that there was a chance the doctor might use an open surgical method that would require a much larger incision, not to mention a much longer recovery. Again, thankfully, the laparoscopic method was just fine, there were no complications, and I was discharged from the hospital the same day. I used prescription a painkiller for a couple of days, but was able to switch to acetaminophen fairly quickly.
While the surgery wasn’t, by itself, a turning point in the way I regarded my health and/or weight, it was certainly one point along the way. At the time of the surgery I may have even been a member of eDiets (if not, I was soon to become a member). I remember for sure that I had a gym membership and was proud of the fact that I was able to go back to the gym about two weeks after the surgery.
But as I said, I was in denial because, deep down inside, I was afraid of facing the shame and self-loathing that existed within me. And although I was unhappy about my weight, it was not the cause, it was a symptom. Acknowledging my weight – at least for me at the time – meant admitting that I wasn’t happy, not to mention that I didn’t really know myself, accept myself, or love myself.
I was resistant to seeing myself more objectively because I wasn’t ready to do anything about it. I was living my life in reaction to everything and everyone around me, and “being fat” was a series of complex mixed messages that lived inside of me.
It was about a year later, in early 2005, that I decided I was ready to make a change and I discovered, for the first time, what it meant to love and accept myself.
Have you ever had a health issue that proved to be a significant turning point for you? Did you beat yourself up over it? Did the shame/embarrassment/blame help or hinder?
And by the way, in case it hasn’t been clear until now, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have!