How often in our lives are we told that words hurt?
How often do we hear that physical wounds mend, but emotional or mental wounds simply scab over only to reopen over and over again.
As a child I recall singing the rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s a beautiful sentiment, one that was meant to teach us that while other children can be cruel to one another; such as fighting over your favorite swing on the playground, or fighting over your favorite toy, or any number of instances where children lose their tempers because they don’t yet have the skills to navigate how to express what they want. Instead children act out and resort to name calling whether it seems innocent like; “boogerface” or “doodyhead” or any name calling placeholder you’d like to insert, such words can follow a child and cause damage to their self-esteem for years. Back when I was growing up that rhyme was supposed to toughen up my walls so nothing could get through.
However, as adults we recognize, or should recognize, that words do hurt and in most instances words do more damage than sticks and stones.
I grew up in a small town where I was not only a rare redhead within my community, but I was the only redhead within my family. I was instantly put in a “unique” group and was ripe for bullying. However, my complete self-esteem crumble didn’t occur until after having my two children and my OB released me into the general world of regular doctors.
It was upon this first visit to a new doctor where I was told I was obese. Mind you, I am 5’8″, I’d just had my second child 23 months after my first one and I weighed in probably close to 200 pounds. In my head what I heard and saw in the mirror was someone who should be on My 600 pound life show.
While I know I’d always had some problems with my image, thanks to my “uniqueness” it only got worse as I fell head long into full-time body dysmorphia as the years continued.
I left that doctor appointment, never went back to that particular doctor, but I did immediately start obsessing about my calorie intake vs. my energy output.
What did that involve? I became obsessed with every form of exercise that I came across in my path to lose this obesity label; aerobics, anaerobics, strength training, yoga, crossfit, pilates, walking, etc… Every moment of the day it consumed me; before work, during work, after work, before bedtime. I was squeezing in tricep curls, squats, you name it I did it, everywhere I could. On top of that I made sure every calorie that entered my mouth was burned off.
I got to the point where people began asking me if I was sick. I was appalled. Could they not see that I was obese and how dare someone think I was sick.
What’s worse, the BMI charts, those lovely wonderful, medical charts proved my sick mindset right. Because of the way I was living, I actually had very little fat on my body, even if I couldn’t see it. My BMI said I was still right on the edge of being obese. My weight, even at my thinnest hovered around 150. For my height and weight, which BMI charts don’t take into account low body fat and higher muscle weight, said I was still borderline. For the lifestyle I was living my body liked to sway between 150-160 pounds because it sometimes held water weight or it just wanted food. Maintaining the weight that was “healthy” was always tricky. I would freak out when it went up and I worked hard to drop it every single time.
My goal was to get below that 150 mark, but it always seemed impossible. That was until I ended up in the hospital. Never wish for something because you just might get it.
I can’t blame my obsessive exercising and calorie deprivation alone on how I ended up with a week long hospital stay. There were a lot of factors involved. Stress is a huge one. Years, and I do mean years, of mistreating my body. Doctors who didn’t listen when I did try to voice my opinion. One doctor in particular who wasn’t careful with their words.
I’m not placing blame on anyone place or anyone person, but it does lead me back to my original statement, words are powerful. One word was all it took to send me off the deep end and send me spiraling into a lifetime of actions that now have had a huge outcome on how I will live the rest of my life.
It was one word by a supposed trusted medical professional that set me on that path and continued words by others as I sought guidance during that time (pre-hospital stay) that now mean I am on a new path. I am now very aware of how I was living my life. I no longer count every calorie that enters my body so that I can make sure to count it as it leaves before the day is over and so many other things.
It’s been five years since I dropped below 150 and it’s five years since my week long staycation at the hospital. I’m very close to reaching that dreaded “O” number that started me this dark path almost 23 years ago and it honestly terrifies me a little, but I also know the reality I almost didn’t leave my staycation five years ago, so life looks a little different than it did over twenty years ago.
Do I like looking in the mirror? No more than I did when I dropped below 150. My mind still sees the same image it always has.
What has changed? I no longer obsess and look at a BMI chart every other day. I also have a medical professional that doesn’t bring it up everytime I have a visit. My other doctors, because now I have many (overachiever that I am) that also listen when I talk and take my concerns into consideration. While I’m on medication that makes me gain weight, yuck, I know overall it’s better for my health.
I’ve done damage, I know it. I feel it the moment my stress level rises. It doesn’t mean I don’t still struggle with those feelings of wanting to fall back into old habits, I just want to appreciate my life and actually live it more. Love it as well.
Remember when you are out and about, people around you have feelings, they have emotions and words have weight. Use caution when saying or repeating something. Because sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can do irreparable damage.
My smile is back and it’s been 23 years since the dreaded “O” word.