Something strange happened after I gave birth to my first baby. I lost some weight, and then I lost some more. I didn't just lose the weight I'd gained during the pregnancy; my weight continued to plummet until it finally bottomed out at 92 pounds. I hadn't weighed so little since middle school.
Being underweight amidst an obesity epidemic is a strange existence. I had a good friend tell me that my thinness wasn't a "real" problem. I was complimented by countless strangers on my "amazing figure." Nobody ever asked me if I felt healthy. Nobody ever asked me if I felt scared.
At first I just belted my pants more tightly. But after a while, even that was an exercise in futility. When I went to buy new, smaller pants, I found that I was swimming in even the smallest sizes at store after store my friends and the Internet recommended for very small women. Eventually, I gave in and started wearing pants from the boys department at Nordstrom. I still had the hips of a woman who had not so long ago sustained a pregnancy and the pants were terribly unflattering on me. Getting dressed was a constant reminder that I was not in control of my body.
I got sick a lot. I got tired easily. Even if I slept an entire night, I wouldn't have enough stamina to make it through the next day without waves of fatigue. Some women get postpartum depression. I never got that. But what I did develop was an anxiety-based eating disorder that completely stole my appetite. When the doctor finally diagnosed me, I cried in her office. I felt like a loser. Only narcissistic people with control issues and body shame have eating disorders, right? I know that's an awful thought for me to share in writing, but I was in a low place and keeping positive was hard. I didn't want to have an eating disorder.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis wore off, relief started to creep in. It really did. In fact, it flooded my heart and soul, and I realized that naming my issue allowed me to regain control of it. Regaining control, it turned out, was much easier said than done. In fact, I struggled for six years to achieve a healthy weight, but to no avail. Figuring out how to gain weight was simply elusive; I couldn't do it. Until I finally decided to talk about it. And more importantly, to have a little fun. As hard as it is to believe, once I started remembering to smile, laugh, and actively seek joy in my life, I started to gain the weight I thought I would never be able to succeed at gaining.
My mother's favorite play is Inherit the Wind, and her favorite quotation from that play is, "when you lose your power to laugh, you lose your power to think straight." I don't think I ever would have found the courage to share this story with anyone if I hadn't remembered how important it is to smile authentically, express gratitude liberally, and to laugh with everyone you know.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.