“I am only 33 years old, but I feel as if I have lived ten lifetimes of hardship in my three short decades. I had a rough childhood in rural Alabama, living with an alcoholic parent who was mentally abusive, suffering sexual abuse from family members, and being tortured by my peers. I ate to comfort myself. At 13 years old, I was 300 pounds. By 16, I was 375 pounds and my mom put me on a diet because I was pre-diabetic.
The summer before sophomore year I lost 50 pounds. I got a lot of congratulatory responses and started getting attention from boys. Disgruntled with my slowing weight loss, I developed bulimia and was able to keep it hidden because I was still obese. Everyone just thought I was losing a lot of weight through diet and exercise from marching band until I started passing out at practice and football games. My parents were not happy and I was forced to start eating again. They were angry and embarrassed because people had approached them about doing a food drive for us. They thought I wasn’t eating because we couldn’t afford it. ‘Because you won’t eat, they think we’re not feeding you. We’re embarrassed and disappointed. You will sit here at the table and eat your dinner where we can see you.’ So they would watch me eat every night to make sure I was keeping it down.
My junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with manic depression and anxiety disorder. I had regular panic attacks at school and the principal came to my home and tried to talk me into dropping out. She was concerned for my mental health after being given suicide letters I’d posted on a blog. She said, ‘I think it would be in your best interest if you withdrew from school. You’re continuing to have panic attacks in class and are already missing so much.’ It was not an option because I was in honor’s classes and had worked hard to keep up the requirements of my advanced diploma.
I fought through it and continued with school and developed suicidal ideations and started to self-harm through cutting. The weight started piling back on as I sought refuge in food again. I hid my self-harm. After my parents got the suicide letters from my principal, once again, they were upset and embarrassed. My mom made me sleep on her floor of her bedroom so she could check on me at night. My father didn’t handle any of it well and continued drinking heavily. One night in particular, he got very intoxicated and said, ‘If you want to kill yourself so bad, get on your knees and I’ll help you pull the trigger.’ When I brought it up later to talk about it, he had no recollection.
I completed high school and graduated with a 4.0 GPA and the advanced diploma I’d worked so hard for. I started college at the University of Alabama. Drugs, alcohol, and my chronic depressive episodes caused me to drop out and start working at a pizza place full time. I ballooned to over 400 pounds.
I met my first husband at 19 and we were married at 21. He was the first man to ever treat me like a person instead of an object. He loved how I was plus sized and enjoyed giving me unhealthy foods as ‘treats.’ After we got married, he immediately joined the Air Force and was gone for 6 months. He would tell me, ‘Don’t flirt with me, it makes me uncomfortable.’ I said, ‘What do you mean, I’m your wife!’ He told me, ‘There’s a woman in my unit who reminds me of you but she’s a lot thinner. I thought about asking her out because I have a crush on her.’ I started eating more than I ever had and downed a 12-pack of sugary sodas each day.
I went to an OB/GYN as a routine appointment and to get checked out because my husband and I wanted to start having kids. At the appointment, I was diagnosed with PCOS, or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. The doctor told me, ‘Ma’am, you are 525 pounds. You will never be able to have children and if you keep going at this rate, you will be dead by the time you are 30.’ I was crushed. I had no idea my weight had gotten so out of control.
At my husband’s graduation, he saw me for the first time in months. At first he seemed fine but when we were alone it was different. We went out to dinner and he said, ‘Enjoy eating like this now because this stops when we get on base.’ We talked about the option of weight loss surgery. He’d been given orders to work in a bariatric clinic as a med tech at his first post. We moved to Ohio, away from Alabama and everything I’d ever known. My depression was a roller coaster ride at this point. I had to get to know my husband all over again. The military changed him. The depression, weight gain, and PCOS diagnoses had changed me. The military made him a lot colder than he was before and he was more uptight. We would have loud verbal arguments where he would mock me, call me fat and lazy, and tell me how we didn’t have anything in common anymore.
Despite all of this, I went through the motions to prepare for surgery. I wanted the gastric bypass surgery, also known as Roux-en-Y but my husband wanted me to have a new surgery his clinic was offering – the gastric sleeve. He presented it to me with excitement, ‘I’ll still be able to feed you chocolate, ice cream, and treats!’ This should have been my first red flag. Being able to eat garbage wasn’t the reason I chose gastric sleeve. I didn’t care which surgery treat I ended up having so long as our marriage would heal. I chose the sleeve because it’s what HE wanted me to do.
As I was going through the phases of pre-op, I had to sit down and talk to my surgeon to make sure I had realistic goals about what would happen to my body. ‘What are you expecting from your body if you have this surgery, other than losing weight? What is it you want?’ I thought about it for a moment, since it had never been about what I wanted.
‘I want to be able to run.’ I said.
‘I’m sorry, but you will never be able to run. Your body has suffered too much trauma from a lifetime of obesity. Because you’re so big, you will most likely have to have two surgeries, the sleeve and then a revision to gastric bypass.’ My heart sank as I nodded my head, but I continued the path of pre-op. The day of my surgery, I weighed in at 464 pounds, down 61 pounds. I’d proven to the surgeons and myself I could lose weight and stick to a regimen. I was the largest patient they had ever operated on and I was one of the first people this surgeon had ever performed a sleeve gastrectomy on. My sleeve sprung a leak due to no fault of my own. All the fluids I had consumed post-op were leaking into my peritoneal cavity, infecting my organs, and killing me.
I was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. I almost died on the operating table. During my hospital stay, I saw my husband maybe a handful of times. He sent his commanding officers to chide me for requesting him by my bedside. They said, ‘Your husband told us you were giving him a hard time about him not coming to visit you. You need to be more independent and let him do his duties.’ At this point, I was physically and emotionally broken. I didn’t care if I survived.
My leak healed and I was released from the hospital, still on IV nutrition. My husband called my mom up from Alabama to come deal with me and take me home. He wanted a divorce. I found out he had been talking to other women while I was in the hospital. He told me he had been talking to other women on the computer and he was leaving to go to a city that was 45 minutes away. When he got home he gave me sordid details about the relations he’d had with the other woman.
After I healed, I went home to Alabama. The first two years after surgery, I lost 293 pounds. At my lowest I was 232 pounds, a weight I hadn’t seen since elementary school. Then I suffered a knee injury at work. This put a halt to my working out for months and the depression from going through my divorce crept its way into every aspect of my life. I started putting on weight again. Despite the weight gain, I started dating and met my current husband. We started enjoying life together and my depression took a backseat but the weight gain didn’t. I started drinking alcohol way too much and stopped watching what I ate but I didn’t care. Nearly dying was a distant memory which seemed like it had never happened.
In May of 2013, at 275 pounds, I found out I was pregnant, something the doctors said would never happen. In November of 2013, at seven months pregnant, my mom, who had been my rock through everything my entire life, passed away suddenly from sepsis. I’d lain across her body as I watched her heart monitor deplete to zero. The heart who had loved me my entire life had stopped beating and she was gone. I didn’t allow myself to grieve because I didn’t want to go into an early labor. I gave birth to my son in February of 2014 when I was 360 pounds.
When my baby turned a year old, the grief started to knock so loudly at the door I’d locked in front of it. I found my escape in the bottom of alcohol bottles and benzodiazepines. I was drinking a case of beer a day after work, every day and blowing through a month’s worth of pills in just a few days. The heartbreak of my mom’s death, the stress from my job, and the worry of taking care of my family was too much for me. I was having panic attacks left and right, suicidal ideations daily, and was unable to be social, yet I was still working upwards of 70 hours a week. I remember wanting to drive my car off a bridge on the way home from work. I contemplated ways I could kill myself so my child wouldn’t find my body. I thought about taking all of my pills before bedtime and hoping they would think I just died from being obese. I didn’t know how they’d get me out of the house because I was so big and thought back to the movie, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.’
In 2016, it finally hit me I needed to let the alcohol and pills go. I fought tooth and nail as the cravings mounted my every thought. Eventually, it got easier, but I still had my addiction to food. My husband was supportive and would refuse to buy me alcohol even when I begged and pleaded. It seemed like everything was going great, but I was steadily gaining weight and having bouts of grief, depression, and anxiety. I was going to therapy, but it wasn’t helping. I ignored my weight gain and continued eating what I wanted. I found myself at 408 pounds.
In 2018, a friend of mine stopped by to tell me she was having weight loss surgery. She asked me for tips and support. I made sure to tell her what NOT to do so she didn’t end up regaining like I had. She looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Why don’t you just reset? You’re going to die if you keep going like this.’ This was not the first time I’d heard this in my life. I told her if I lived to see my son hit 18, it didn’t matter.
‘How could you even say that? Look at how you felt when your mom died. You were 27, then. Do you want to put him through the same thing?’ A switch flipped for me. I wanted to protect my son from the pain I’d felt my entire life and the grief which haunted me these last few years. Even though my surgeon had mentioned I’d need a revision to get all my weight off, I wanted to see what I could on my own without a second surgery. I went back to basics and found the Instagram weight-loss community for support, changed my username to @fatpeoplemagiclives because I thought it was funny and accurate. Support is something I was severely lacking when I had my surgery and it’s crucial to success. I spoke at length with a registered dietician and she set macros and calorie goals for me. I started tracking my food and working out after being inspired by the community. The weight loss started happening again.
Everything was going great, but I still wanted to run. ‘You’ll never be able to run,’ echoed through my mind every time I thought about it and I wrote it off. After I’d lost 28 pounds of regain, at 380 pounds, I gathered up the courage to try. I downloaded the Couch to 5K app and started the program. I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I was worried my old knee injury would make me fall and that my loose skin would be uncomfortable. The first 60 seconds straight I ran were slow, but I was doing it. My loose skin started applauding me and I busted out laughing. After the timer went off to let me know that I could start walking to rest, I began to cry as I raised my fists in the air – Rocky style – and cheered. I’d run for an entire minute at 380 pounds after being told that I would never run. I loved it.
Even though I was losing weight, working out 5 times a week, and eating healthy, I was still battling crippling depression and anxiety. I was put on medical leave from my job and hospitalized for a suicide attempt. When I was released from the hospital they diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder 2, Borderline Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I tried to return to work but couldn’t function. I went on a hiatus from my support system on Instagram. My husband went back to work and I quit my job, losing my insurance and most of my medications. I wallowed in my depression for months, only functioning to make sure my child was taken care of.
Luckily I’ve started running again and reconnected with my support system on Instagram. I was worried the community would shun me for regaining again and leaving. They welcomed me back with open arms and cheer me on every day. I talk openly and hilariously about my struggles with mental health, weight-loss, and daily life. It’s additional therapy for me. I support my healing with comedy and laughter.
My marriage is getting stronger, my son is the happiest I’ve ever seen him, and I feel like my soul is healing a little each day with each bout of laughter. I still fight my mental illnesses and addiction daily but it’s getting easier. I’ve been knocked down so many times in my life, by others and myself. I’ve been told I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do most. I continue to prove them all wrong every single day.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Megan Daniels of Brundidge, AL. You can follow her on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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