Stranger Danger

For some reason, I am a lightning rod for random personal comments from strangers. In particular, at the facility I work at, every month or two, I have a new story of someone pulling me aside to tell me what they think of my body, most of which is excessively personal and reflective of my size. I’ve described my body type before, and I am by no means slender – but I’m also not a plus size. The image is me and my dog, taken a few weeks ago while my husband and I were out for a walk.me

So these random interactions have ranged from a lady coming up to me on the sidewalk to tell me that she has been meaning to talk to me for “ages!”, to tell me about having had a breast reduction many years ago, that it was the best thing she had ever done, and to go on to suggest that I should have the same thing done. Please note, I had never had any interactions with this woman before that day beyond a nod of acknowledgement of mutual existence when passing. The conversation went on far longer than I would have liked, and was enhanced by her thick Austrian accent. I’ve also had a random lady in the pool stop me to tell me that I should really be a plus size model – I think she meant that as a compliment.

Further interactions involved a couple calling me over to them while I was with a patient, to ask if I was on a diet, because it looked like I’d lost weight. They also went on to say that I reminded them of Dolly Parton, apparently something about my eyes. Another lady asked me if I was a physiotherapist, and when I told her no, was disappointed. I was curious as to why, and she let me know that it was because I wasn’t skinny like all those other physiotherapists, the ones who had told her she needed to lose weight in order to take some pressure off of her knees. There have been others, but that was the highlight reel.

The most recent interaction by far takes the cake: An ex patient, one who had been somewhat unpleasant to deal with in large part because he made it very clear that although he wanted to get the benefit of my education and experience, he did not think that he should have to pay the fees associated with treatment. Mildly offensive, but not the end of the world. Anyways, he came in and asked if he could interview me, as he was a freelance journalist and was writing an article. I’ve had various other individuals and media outlets ask to interview me with regard to my work before, and have accommodated them. That being the case, I felt that it would be reasonable to give him five minutes of my time to answer his questions, which I assumed would be about my profession.

No, no, I was so wrong. He let me know that he was writing an article for a plus size women’s magazine (quiet alarm bells started to ring in my head, but there was still the potential to have a health and fitness focus… alas, no) with a focus on the idea that some men might actually find the larger ladies attractive. At this point I was just staring across the table at him in incredulity. He continued: “And since you’re someone of that body type…” At that point I am quite sure I was shooting daggers out of my eyeballs, because he trailed off into stutters and said “Oh, I’ve offended you.” Which I confirmed.  The man didn’t know when to stop, because he plowed on, asking something about whether I felt that the media had an affect on me, and that it’s unfair, while again reassuring me that he, the paragon of virtue that he was, was one of said men who would lower their standards to consider larger women to be attractive. At this juncture I will point out that this is a man well into his 60’s, and frankly not one of those rare ones who manage to span 3+ decades to be attractive to your average 30 year old woman.

I was slightly flabbergasted. Between his audacity in starting the conversation, his assumption of my size and self perception, and the fact that he continued, despite my clear revulsion, it took me a few moments to collect myself to respond. Basically I just said that of course the media affects me, it affects everyone, and then finished with “we’re done here.” and walked away. As we were in my professional forum, and I value my work, I didn’t bother tearing the strip off of him that was so tempting. Taking the high road was possibly less satisfying, but it does mean my professional reputation remains intact, something that would have been hard to maintain had there been bloodshed.

Walking away I felt a weird combination of upset, judged, defiant, and used. I do not understand what messed up little part of his brain considered that an appropriate topic to bring up with me, or why, once it was clear that I was not open to it, he felt the need to keep talking. He definitely hit a few nerves with me – I’ve mentioned a history of disordered eating and body confidence issues before – but thankfully I have been able to recognize that his opinions are not my problem.

I’ve always been a bit of a beacon to the stranger parts of the people around me, and most of the time I find a way to process and see it as funny. This one was harder to do that with, because it was so brazen and unexpected. I’ve fired him as a patient, and he is not welcome at the clinic under any circumstances. And if he tries to communicate with me inside of the recreation facility, I may have to talk to the recreation coordinator about getting his privileges revoked. For now, as long as he gives me a wide berth, I won’t go that far. I think it needs to be more clear to people in general that, however much you have the right to watch, assess, judge, and form opinions about other people, sharing them without invitation is still rude and inappropriate. I don’t walk around with a sign on my forehead saying “Tell me what you think! Please!!”, so just stop. Even if you think it’s a complement, stop. If I wanted to know (and sometimes I do), I’d ask.

Still trying to find a way for this to be funny.

-Me.

 

Awkwardness

After feeling so good yesterday, I just ran into a … slightly bizarre snag.

Late last night I was messaging with a woman I row with, she had posted something on Facebook about not feeling up to rowing, and she has a history of addictions and some self confidence issues, so I was encouraging her to come and be active, because I honestly think it is good for her to be part of the team. We had been quite friendly early on, but she had started to be really nasty about certain team members and say things about people which, if they were said about her, would leave her devastated (Fun things like they are not good enough for her to show up and practice with them when she was put in a boat with them – so she wouldn’t, resulting in a bunch of other people having their workout schedule messed up). I decided that I am happy to be supportive in the context of rowing itself, but that, as a 34 year old adult woman, she didn’t need me to try to teach her how to act.

Anywhooo, I asked her how she was, and she came back with that she was pretty sure she was pregnant, having had a one night stand with some guy a few weeks back, and not having bothered to use protection during the process. I was a bit shell shocked, and slightly surprised that she decided to talk to me about it- early on, when we were friendlier, we had briefly touched on the fact that my Husband and I were trying to have kids with no success, so she was at least somewhat aware of our situation, although not of the mental anguish of the most recent months. We covered the basics of her getting an abortion in the event of it being the case (A good idea, she can just barely look after herself and her cat, and she freely admits she’s a functional alcoholic). I said goodnight and then cried so hard it was like screaming without sound.

Today she confirmed that she was, indeed, pregnant. And I had to tell her that I couldn’t be a support system for her at the moment, citing that as someone who has been trying to get pregnant without success, I don’t feel able to support someone who got that way by accident.

I chose not to add “during a stupid drunken grope fest with a kiwi cricket player who you will never see again, you idiotic post-adolescent twit who should know enough to wrap that penis, especially since you have semi-indiscriminate sex with multiple partners that you BRAG TO ME ABOUT WEEKLY!!!”

Huh, turns out i’m angry, who knew?

She apologized, I told her I hoped that the process was as painless as possible, and that was that.  I don’t know if she remembers that I have been trying and is just that thoughtless, or if being semi-pickled has hampered her memory, and she was really oblivious – I choose to believe the latter, because it means she’s less of a giant ass hole.

Things may be awkward at the dock for a while. I do think I did the right thing – my basic instinct is to be the supportive friend, but I don’t think I’d be able to do it in this case without damaging myself quite badly.

But it brings me to the question that has no answer: “Why not me?”

If an overweight, mid-30’s, alcoholic, ex-drug addict who trolls tinder and actually sleeps with people because they bought her a nice dinner can get knocked up, why can’t I?

The thing is, I suspect she’s not a bad person – massively insecure, and unhappy, and desperate for attention and approval, but I’d like to believe that somewhere at the core of her being there’s a good person. I just hate her a little bit right now.

And I would really like to have an answer to that question.

-Me

Reconnecting: The Fog Lifts

Something has happened over the past week which has been… kind of amazing. Smiling isn’t hard. Laughing isn’t forced. I can make eye contact, and focus, and be the supportive therapist I want to be without feeling completely exhausted at the end of the day. I have normal human interactions without having to re-assess and agonize over them after.

For the first time in longer than I care to admit, I feel ok – good even. And I know it’s visible to the people around me as well. Colleagues have commented that I look light again, like something has switched on. And thats basically what I feel: Like the fog has lifted, the mist has cleared, and the house lights have come up: I can see the theatre, and i’m not hiding behind the props.

Depression is terrifying. Being in the middle of it is doubly hard because, at least for me, it comes with a significant amount of denial that it is happening at all. I tend to only admit it is bad after the worst of it has passed. There are few things that rival the amazing feeling that comes when the depression finally lifts, and life feels good again. My grey life has turned technicolour, and it looks so good. It’s a relief to have even the occasional day when I feel like I whole person. It’s even better to feel like I can reconnect to the people I’ve pulled away from over the past year or so – both to protect myself, and to protect them from myself.

I know that, when i’m completely entrenched in depression, I am a very hard person to be around. I can barely make eye contact, hold up my end of a conversation, or show basic interest in anyone else’s life… or my own. So being around me, supporting me, is exhausting. Well, I find it exhausting. That, and the fact that I have no energy to actually make anything beyond minimum effort to be pleasant. There has been a lot of time for me where i’ve sat in corners and just listened to what is going on around me, trying not to look creepy.  So as I say, i’ve distanced myself from all but a very few people… and I finally feel ready to reconnect. I can start to rebuild and revisit my previous relationships.

I love feeling like the me I know and enjoy – the me who can be social, and fun, and laugh so hard I cry, and not agonize over every interaction for hours after. It is so much fun to be able to put a sentence together without trailing off into silence because my brain was so fogged up I couldn’t follow my own train of thought, let alone someone else’s. I love being able to get through a normal work day and still have the energy to cook dinner and do a load of laundry when I get home. And most of all I love the warm feeling in the deepest part of my being that tells me that I am ok. I’ve missed that more than anything else, because I believe that part of myself above all others.

-Me

Transient BFF

The man I have considered my best friend for the past three years just told me that I am smothering him, and he needs space. And I am not talking about my husband, I’m referring to my gay best friend.

This is a man who has been my go to person to help me off my crazy train over the past three years. And I have been there, 24/7 (sometimes literally) available to leave work, home, my husband and other friends at his phone call to help him with his various crises. For several years I have been able to trust him with all of my deepest darkest thoughts and feelings, and to talk through everything.

When he moved away last fall, I started to feel a separation, but took it to be a standard result of the distance. Our once daily phone calls shifted to weekly or less, and the constant contact slowed. Then he started to be unavailable and not return phone messages. I queried him, asked what was going on, checked in to make sure he was ok, and was assured that he was just busy with his first post-graduate degree job, a new boyfriend and life in a different city (#warning).  Basically I took him at his word and didn’t read between the lines – to my error.

Around the time of the shit really hitting the fan for me we had a brief spate of text messages in which he asked me how I was doing, I answered that I wasn’t great, he asked my what was up, then I told him. And he never responded. Nothing. A few days later I sent a follow up text saying that I was assuming that he wasn’t feeling up to dealing with me, and that I would give him space, so I did. Other than basic pleasantries that amounted to talking about the weather, We didn’t have any contact for a month or so. Then I realized that this wasn’t the friendship I had signed on for – This is a man who used to call me late at night to, 10 months after his 8 month relationship had ended, tell me he had thought about his ex boyfriend and was sad/upset/disturbed. Forgive me if I seem amused, but when the misery of the break up lasts significantly longer than the relationship, I think there is some wallowing going on. But I never shut him down, I listened, supported, gave feedback, etc, the way I consider appropriate among good friends.

I hit a really nasty head space this spring. I think I expressed it in this blog in writing, but I honestly don’t know how clear I was, because between the depression and the brain fog that came with it, I don’t really know. I do know that for the first time since I was a teenager, I considered what simply removing myself from life would be like. Not terribly seriously, and not with any particular energy, but it was part of my thought process – there is a reason i’ve chosen life pathways that have me being needed – when I don’t need myself, I still know that I am needed elsewhere.  And the sad truth is, my “bestie” neither knew nor cared to know. And when I told him a little bit, he really didn’t want to know. And I found, and find, that somewhat unacceptable. I love my people, I love my friends, and not all things are created equal, but when someone I care about reaches out to me because they are hurting, ignoring them is the furthest thing from my mind.

So a few weeks ago I sent a message to him asking if we were still friends. To which, a week+ later, he responded that he cares about me, but he found my need to query him on that distasteful, and that he needed space because I am smothering him. Witness that I hadn’t talked to him about anything useful in months.

If i’m totally honest, I did it on purpose – The effort of maintaining a very superficial relationship where there had once been a much more real one was taking a toll on my pretty damaged psyche, and I was tired of his bull shit. So I forced his hand, and forced him to admit that he was intentionally shutting me out. Not a proud moment. But valuable for me, because now I don’t need to try to maintain a relationship that was ultimately pretty dead. And also valuable because ultimately I am starting to see my own worth, and am learning more about areas where I don’t think I should be tolerating other people’s shit.

I don’t go into any friendship with the expectation that all things will be equal – that’s not how friendships work, and there needs to be an ebb and flow. But I do expect respect, and communication, neither of which I got in this case.

Since suffocation is the issue, I feel no need to pursue any further communication with this man. He’s not terribly relevant to anything I’m invested in at this time, so it’s sadly quite easy to disregard him at this time. And i’m not closing the door and sealing it – but I also have no intention of initiating any further communication with him. He has made it abundantly clear that he feels I am too much work, and that is fair as his boundary. But my boundary is that I don’t have time or energy to maintain superficial relationships, so sadly, it’s kinda an all or nothing.

I think the clincher is, honestly, I have never once in my life considered simply ignoring any person I care about when they tell me how they hurt. I have admitted to people that I don’t feel that I am the best person to vent to, or that they need resources beyond what I can offer, but I have never simply ignored someone who has come to me in pain. Least of all this person, who’s angst over the being dumped bordered on ridiculous (seriously, he didn’t want to move to a city of 600 000+ people because he worried he might run into his ex who had moved there months earlier).  And I don’t tend to trust a lot of people. I can think of a total of three people who have a good idea of my full story at any given time, and maybe six others who have parts of it. And this man was one of the few who knew everything, up until last fall. So to have him simply shut off hurt. A lot. But at least I have a clear indication of his limits, and can adjust accordingly. I’m sad for him that he couldn’t clarify earlier, when I first asked for feedback, but that’s his deal, not mine.

And thats the funny upshot of this: I realize that I can’t control his reaction, I don’t get a say, and being worried about it and overly concerned probably made it worse. So really, what am I worried about? I have no desire to suddenly be an open book, but I am definitely more confident in myself, which seems backwards, seeing as someone who mattered to me just massively rejected me, but at least now  know where I stand… and have a pretty blunt reminder that regardless of what I put into a relationship, I can’t change how it is reciprocated.

-Me

The next step.

I always know when I need to make a decision because I catch myself obsessing about life details and social interactions that are not actually important. Whenever I find myself constantly running a passing conversation with a colleague through my head to “figure out what went wrong!” – when nothing did go wrong, nor is there an existing issue with said colleague – I know that I’m avoiding putting my focus into something I actually care about.

I have decided that I need to at least try – which I knew quite early. So I’ve emailed the people who can train me on the Creighton Model, and will start collecting information. All of this stems from a very powerful feeling that I will regret not trying later, more than any particular faith that this will make a difference in whether or not we have children. Basically, when i’m 50, I want to know that I explored every option that didn’t give me the absolute heebie jeebies that was available to me.

And so we begin again. And hope remains a significant part of this. And I hate that. And I am terrified of what will happen when this does not work. Basically I trust in my own basic resilience to get me through this and allow for it to be, eventually, ok. I think it will be. Well, I hope it will be. And so the circle goes on….

When, briefly, I am able to step back from myself and look at this whole deal, it kinda seems ridiculous – an everlasting cycle of hope and disappointment, which is then salved by another round of hope. Eventually the cycle will have to end, there are a finite number of options.

Dance monkey, dance.

-Me.

Sexism.

I have had kind of a weird day. Well, it’s been a pretty weird long while, but today got under my skin to a greater extent. It started out ok. I went to rowing, ended up in a single scull, which is honestly one of my favourite boats to row – I love the intensity of the workout coupled with the slight increase in risk of tipping.

After I finished, I went for coffee with a couple of the other rowers, both in their 60’s. We were talking about what brought us into the sport, and what our experiences with our first coaches.

For me, my first coach ever was actually one of the people I row with – a 60 some odd old man with some very interesting opinions on the way that he should interact with women, especially those under his tutelage. Basically he singled me out to heap with dubious praise, tell me to sit like a princess, that he wanted to kiss or marry me when I did something right, and the like. Mostly I can brush that stuff off, but it annoyed me that he singled me out and then undercut me when I was the one controlling the boat – something he did not do to the men who were also in the boat. Anywhoo, long story only semi-short, once I realized that the behaviour wasn’t going to stop, I made a point of only being coached by the female coach available, and have refused to deal with him more than is polite.

So I related this story, in brief, to the other rowers I was having coffee with, and was slightly unimpressed to hear their response: “Oh, [the Man], that’s just his sense of humour, he’s said so much worse!” and “Oh, well, good thing his wife wasn’t there, she’d have his head!” etc. Basically, because he’s been a sexist twit for the duration of his life, the fact that he demonstrated that behaviour with me was just fine, and completely acceptable.

With the rhetoric currently surrounding the coverage of female athletes at the 2016 summer olympics, and the recent history of the Jian Ghomeshi case here in Canada, and my own history of sexual harassment, I find the whole situation thoroughly disturbing. Disturbing because by disregarding the Man’s behaviours and writing them off as “just how he is” these, my teammates, were in effect condoning his behaviour. This Man, who never misses an opportunity to mansplain a detail, who has on several occasions tried to kiss or manhandle other members of our team, including those who, like me, are young enough to be his progeny, and who actively disrespects and maligns our female coach (but somehow never does so to the male coaches). This is the person who’s behaviours are laughed off and ignored. And I think it plays into a greater part of our cultural expectation that people, and women in particular, should simply lay back and take it.

And I find it frustrating. Frustrating because I have, on many occasions, laughed it off myself. Frustrated because, despite my own experiences, I still downplay the effect that those behaviours can have. Frustrated because I catch myself playing demure and subservient instead of owning my space. Frustrated that owning the term feminist, defining oneself as such, still has connotations of hating men and seeking female supremacy.

Because I am a feminist – I love men, actually quite a lot, and for various reasons both sexual and otherwise, and yet still I believe that I am their equal. And sometimes better, but that’s just because I’m pretty darned smart, driven, and hardworking, not because of my double XX chromosome. And I want badly to support other women in appreciating themselves, and to make sure that they feel supported and whole.

I am tired of feminism being seen as a four letter dirty word. I’m tired of putting up with inappropriate behaviours from insecure men. I am tired of having to be careful of my wording lest I come off as a bitch.

It just makes me tired. So tired.

-Me

Decisions, decisions…

imageThe view from the top.

I am continuing to mentally wrestle with the options at my disposal. I’m not particularly good at just letting things sit, I tend to need to work out what I want to do as soon as I have information and options. Yesterday I took myself and my dog for a three hour hike up a mountain to try to work out what I think about the new option.

I find that hard exercise helps to clear my head. It is amazing the moments of clarity that come when your heart feels like it is beating outside of your body, your legs feel like jelly, and sweat is pouring into your eyes. Its hard to lie to yourself when you’ve worn through every physical barrier and resource and all that is left to keep you going is between your ears. It’s why I love rowing, it’s why I love looking up at the top of a mountain and deciding to find out what the view is like from the top.

What I realized is this: I have known, since I was 19, that I not only want children, but I want my husband to be the person I parent with. I want to see what our genetics look like, and who a little mix of us develops into. The last few months since we stopped trying to get pregnant have sent me into the worst depressive spiral I can remember. Getting through that and finding ways to feel good inside of myself, even for a few hours at a time, has been awful. And I’m not really out of it – those feelings of lack of self worth, grief, and that dark cloud that feels like it is always over my shoulder, they’re all still there. So I worry that this new foray into trying to have a baby will only prolong the process of dealing with infertility, or make it worse. But I feel like if there is an option that doesn’t make my stomach clench to think about, if there is an avenue available to us… I need to try. Because although I am quite badly afraid of what will happen if/when this doesn’t work, and of the potential to find a deeper, darker place inside of myself than those I already know, I am also painfully aware of the fact that I would regret not trying more. I don’t know when I will start trying – with the decision made to do so, chances are it will be sooner rather than later.

Beyond what I’ve already said on the subject, I don’t know why I feel as strongly negative about taking clomid or moving towards IVF – both options mack my stomach clench and I can’t ignore a literal gut feeling that is that strong. But this Creighton Model seems less invasive, more gentle, and more like something I can get on board with.

I have the word “Hope” tattooed behind my right ear. I got it a year and a half ago, as a permanent reminder of something that I need to hold onto. I have not had much of it in the last few months, and had started to consider it a liability, not an asset. I’m still ambivalent about it… I believe that you need hope to move forward, to continue, to build and live and try for things. In some ways, it was removing hope that resulted in my depression. In rekindling my hope, I run the risk of having it removed for a second time, and I think that could be devastating. But somehow I know that I have to try, I have to know if this can be a thing in our lives… and I so badly want to meet that little mix of my Husband and I.

So for now… Hope.

-Me