Thursday, August 30, 2012

Reaction to being touched

I have been having some back problems for a long time.  Many times in our lives, we hear from doctors some form of the sentence, "If you just lose a little weight, you'll feel better."  My doctor has never had the opportunity to utter that sentence in regards to my back because I never mentioned anything to her.  It wasn't because I thought that she would not be compassionate, but because I was sure in my heart that the back issues were associated with my weight.  Meanwhile, I continued to suffer.  Yet, after losing almost 175 pounds off of my body, the pain is not any better.  If anything, it is worse because I'm much more active.  So, I began physical therapy today.

As I was sitting and talking with the physical therapist about what's going on and getting my medical history, I found myself feeling uncomfortable.  She didn't make me feel that way, not at all.  It was me, just uncomfortable with this body of mine.  I knew she was going to touch me, which is a necessary part of what is needed for physical therapy.  The problem is that I have been feeling very uncomfortable in my skin lately.  I often times will look in the mirror and not even recognize myself.  Yes, my features are familiar like my eyes and my nose, scars from various events in my life and other clear signs that I'm me.  It's just that there has been so much significant change that even I am sometimes shocked when I pass by a mirror or when I put clothes on that are simply gigantic on me.  I just don't know where I fit in lately.  Please don't get me wrong, I am certainly not complaining about the weight loss and feeling healthier.  It is the most wonderful thing that has happened in my life and I am fully committed to continuing on this path.  It's just that it's a very unsafe, uncomfortable place for me to be in.  I have no conception of who I am right now and that's the emotional part of this journey that is so difficult to explain to others, especially those that have never had weight issues.  The fact is that I have never been thin, not ever in my life.  Look back at the pics link at the top of my blog and see the "before" pictures.  Even as a child, I was overweight. 

As the physical therapist started to do her examination of my back, she lifted up my shirt.  I was preparing myself for a reaction of some sort because she was a tiny little woman, but it never came.  We discussed my medical history before starting and she was floored when I told her how much weight I have lost, yet I just was expecting some sort of adverse reaction.  When she touched me, poking and prodding to see where the pain was, it was a sensation I felt of caring hands on me.  I was tense at first until I could just let myself relax a little bit.  Overweight people live in a world where they are judged by others because of their size at practically every turn, so it is strange to not feel that judgement and to just let go. 

During the exam, the physical therapist had me laying on my back, laying on my front, standing up, as well as bending over, to check out the curvature and muscle development in my back.  I was shocked at how flexible my body now is.  Here's an example:  she had me get on my hands and knees on top of the table.  Then I was instructed to slowly lean back on my legs (without straightening them out) so that I was laying close to the table to stretch out my back.  There was no way I would have been able to do such a move before this program.  It would have caused tremendous pain in my legs to lean my body weight fully on them. I was able to do things with that physical therapist today that I literally have not been able to do in years.

The thing with this journey is that it is a true journey.  I can look in the mirror and have no clue who is staring back at the reflection.  I see me at my heaviest most of the time, or at least that's what I want to see.  That girl was safe in a very unhealthy sort of way.  It is a familiar place where I can keep walls up so that I don't feel vulnerable and I don't take risks.  Now when I look in the mirror, I have to find some sort of acceptance with where I am in the present moment.  I have a jawline when I look at my face.  I see a collarbone on my neck.  And I also see a vast amount of loose skin.  In the end, I see a body emerging where there didn't seem to be a clear definition of one before.  So many people say to me that when they look at before pictures of me, they don't see me as that person at all but, rather, the person I am now.  Is this who I was always supposed to be, but just hidden away?  Looking at this image above, I can completely identify with the woman because on the left she sees herself as frumpy, on the right she's vivacious and in the middle she's somewhere in between.  The only question is where does she fit in?  Ultimately, where do I fit in?  I supose that's a question I will need to keep addressing and being honest with myself about.  I am slowly letting go of the girl on the left and I have to be okay with that as I continue to move forward.


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