Digression: moving back in

It’s been windy in the city.  Not cold, not wet, just windy.  Yesterday I left work in the evening, as the wind was picking up, and struck out for Union Square.  I was going to buy a dress for a holiday party.  I wanted something sparkly.

The trees along Market Street were already twined with tiny lights, and the high-rises with their big windows were dappled with fluorescent light from within.  I walked, with the wind blowing my hair into my eyes and mouth, and suddenly I had a bell-clear thought:

It feels good to be living in my body tonight.

And then I realized: it’s been over ten years since I’ve even allowed myself to think that way.

When I was first diagnosed with PCOS, two months shy of my fourteenth birthday, I didn’t know what to do.  My body was breaking down, in a way that seemed to negate the brand-new femininity I’d only just started to grow into.  I had always been the weirdo at school, the nerd, the gawky girl who sucked at dodgeball–now I would be the fat virgin on birth control, too.  I didn’t fully understand what was happening, but I did know one thing: I didn’t want to live in a broken body.

So I moved out.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  I packed up all my thoughts, my emotions, my talents, my flaws, and shifted them to a place outside my body.  My physical being–heavy and hungry and plain–went vacant, and I started living in the air just alongside.

When my jeans stopped buttoning around my hips, I reminded myself that they weren’t really my hips, just dead weight that might slough off altogether someday.  I hated the the roaring sugar cravings that woke me in the middle of the night, and sent me scrabbling through the kitchen cupboards for something to sate them, because they were a constant reminder that I wasn’t fully free from my unruly body.  I felt like I was dragging an empty barrel around, and that my real body–thin, perky, girlish, delicate–would eventually shake free and take me with it.

I lived this way through high school and college.  Then I graduated, came home and decided to take my health by the hair.  I started a new medication, cooked fanatically, biked 10 miles a day.  The insulin-fog in my head cleared; I learned what it was like to go through a day and not be violently hungry or full-body exhausted.  I began losing perceptible weight, at a safe and healthy speed, for the first time in my life.  I met a man–a wonderful man–who made it abundantly clear that he loved me because of my body, not in spite of it.

The timing felt right; I began moving back into my body, in stages.  I started feeling out the cobwebby corners, trying to piece together experiences I’d missed.  I was cautious, unpacking slowly and haphazardly, but I was surprised by how good it felt to settle in.

Then I got a full-time job.  I stopped exercising.  The medication lost its edge.  I gained the weight back, felt the old symptoms creeping in.  And I’ve spent the better part of two years in a quiet real estate negotiation with myself, trying not to give in to the temptation to pack up and move out again.

Yesterday, walking down Market Street, with wind in my hair and electric lights all around me, I realized I’d won.

I didn’t end up buying a sparkly dress.  The styles this season are all wrong for my figure.  But that’s fine; the window dressing will come later.  My stuff is unpacked, I’m finding places for everything, and my body is my own again.  Imperfect, unruly, still a little broken, but mine.

Living here feels good.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Digression: moving back in

  1. Kimmi Tyler

    This has been my favorite entry, even without a delicious recipe to try! Its so wonderful to read about other people’s success and it is very helpful for reflection.

    My doctors have waffled back and forth on PCOS (and now since I got pregnant fairly easily are convinced it is not a problem) but the terrible sugar cravings probably did more damage to my self-esteem than anything else. It took years before it felt safe to even admit to my husband how strong they were because I was so ashamed. Everyone always seemed to judge me so harshly or even laugh at me for it. It is funny though how his acceptance of it has made them so much less intense; the shamefulness seemed to have a way of magnifying it.

    It is also interesting how pregnancy has made me so much happier and worried about my body–but in such different ways than I ever have before. I am frustrated about finding maternity clothing but it is so hard to be angry at my body because it is creating another life which seems amazing every day. At the same time, the need to be healthy is all that much clearer and having control of my eating seems so much more vital.

    I’m sorry it is so long, but it is so heartening to read about how far you have come!

    • I know EXACTLY what you mean about the sugar cravings. After I started on metformin, and stopped needing to eat all the time, my mother actually came to me and apologized for being so angry with me all throughout high school for constantly sneaking food and breaking my diet. She’d thought I was doing it out of spite, or trying to rebel in some way. Like you said, the shame amplified the cravings. I’m so, so glad to be out of that cycle.

      It’s also interesting to hear that pregnancy changes things too. I’m so excited for you and Antonio! I would love to hear more about this baby business in person sometime. 🙂

  2. Veronika

    Thank you for yet another wonderful post. I’ve not much to add, other than that you moving in and staying with yourself is a victory that you made for every one of us who struggle with weight daily. I do not have PCOS, but with sugar sensitivity (insulin resistance), I know how it feels to see all those around you who aren’t fighting the same battle and aren’t realising we have one to fight.

    P.S. I may not be a guy, but you’re anything but plain. *points to photo*

  3. Kate

    This is your most beautiful entry yet.

  4. Izzy M.

    This post is beautiful. I’ll admit it, I got a little verklempt. I am so happy for you, and your story of moving back in to your body is incredibly inspiring. I think that the metaphor of “moving out” and trying to live around one’s body is spot-on. Though PCOS is not part of my history, I can relate to the experience of rejecting my body, wanting it to change, and coping by trying to occupy a different space. Thank you for articulating the process and the feelings so wonderfully. I’m in a place right now where I want to move back in to my body, but it feels like I’ve been waiting until I completely remodel the place. It’s as though I can’t move in until it’s “ready.” But in my heart of hearts I know that’s not a productive approach, and after reading your post I’m feeling inspired. What am I waiting for? Why shouldn’t the process start today? It will probably be easier to keep my body healthy and nurtured if I live there, instead of observing from a “safe” distance. So, allow me to gush: I’m sending you a billion hugs, I’m happy for you and proud of you and you inspire me and I miss you and we should totally catch up and compare notes on dresses. 😀

    • Izzy M.

      PS: As we all liked to say at our alma mater, you are beautifuloriginaloneofakind.

    • Thanks so much, Izza! I have to say, your honesty about your experiences has really been an inspiration for me throughout this process. You’re totally amazing, and I’m trying to be as forthright and insightful as you’ve always been.

  5. I loved reading about all the twists and turns of your journey. Thanks for sharing.

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