The above photo is a selfie that was snapped last month. The “It’s All Good” note on my shirt was a little hopeful, but mostly ironic. This post is a little hopeful but could be triggering.
Please be aware and consider this a “trigger warning.”
This is a post that has been in the works for quite some time.
Each and every time that I have thought, “OK this is the tipping point. I cannot hold this in any longer. I need to finally address this,” something has, inevitably, gotten in the way.
You see, I share a lot of hard things. It is kind of what I do. I talk about things that are personal and scary and self-deprecating but, at the same time, I am keenly aware that what I write on here is not only being memorialized for myself and my family members, but that other people also read this site. People who are sufferers, and people who have family members who are sufferers, and who could, very possibly, be triggered by something I say.
I am all about honesty and committed to being as frank as possible, but, as I wrote in so many words nearly two years ago, there is an elephant in the room; something that I dance around but never really address.
In my dance, this is something that I use my particularly lithe frame (that which should be a disadvantage to me in most ways) to balance upon; a tightrope that is made for the body in which I live, small and precarious.
For only the souls who are both strong and fragile at the same time. In different ways.
In such different ways.
In writing about my postpartum depression I have found peace. In writing about my #metoo stories I found solace and support. In both, I have found solidarity.
But, in writing about my physical health, as opposed to my mental health, I have trouble finding the words. And, when I do know what I want to say, it is very hard for me to say it. In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am composing this post in a very unorthodox way, for me. I am dictating this in a note on my iPhone as I wait for therapy to begin.
When I spoke about walking the line, I shared how hard it is to live every day while trying to dance across my tightrope, balancing between Becca the survivor and Becca the sufferer. But, recently, more and more, as my depression has faded further into the distance and as new, exciting things appear to be on the horizon, this is coming out more and more. As I dictate these words, words I plan to share with you if I can muster up the courage, I feel tears forming in my eyes. I feel a tightness in my chest that I associate with both anxiety and pain. I feel scared.
Since having first been diagnosed with postpartum depression after Beau’s birth in October of 2013, one of my primary and most identifiable side effects has been weight loss. I have had a problem taking in the proper nutrients and energy that my body needs. I have been underweight. I have not been healthy. Those words may seem heavy and loaded and perhaps hyperbolic but, by definition, I am considered both clinically malnourished and have been clinically underweight for over five years, now.
Trigger alert. Trigger alert. Trigger alert.
One thing that I am always so quick to say, whether it is on this blog or on Instagram or in my book and, I think, most notably, in person, is that while I am not “healthy,” I do not have an eating disorder. That is because I do not have anorexia or bulimia and even writing this is terrifying. I am scared that I’m going to hurt someone with these words, as if they have sharp edges and are so big that I do not know how to wield them carefully enough; that I will inadvertently bump into someone about whom I care so deeply and scrape them or scratch them or cut them. It is particularly scary because they are like shape-shifters, and it is particularly daunting because I am trying to do the opposite.
Throughout the course of my life my relationship with my body and food has evolved and shifted and changed. I have always loved to eat and, at the same time, found it very physically difficult to to eat in times of sadness or stress. And, as someone who loses weight very quickly, this can be a dangerous combination. This is not the time that I want to go into my body image journey, however. Rather, I want to talk about what it is like for me today.
Today, as I dictate this message, I am about to go into my weekly therapy session and I am, no doubt, about to be told by my (incredible) psychologist that I am not physically healthy; that she is worried about me. Because of my weight; my nutrition.
and get ready for this,
later today, I could VERY easily get a text message from a friend or a comment on my social media post that says something like, “Hey you! Hey, you look great! How are you? You seem like you are doing so well! You look so healthy!”
I wish I could insert the shoulder-shrug-girl-emoji here, or, really, show you my face, at this moment, as the tears have formed, fully, and are creeping down my cheeks, barely noticeable to anyone but me.
Do you know how confusing this is? It is very confusing.
Do you know how hard this journey has been? Very hard.
Do you know how terrifying it is to be told, “Well, since you are 2lbs away from hospitalization,” (a comment said to me, last week, by my psychiatrist) AND to be told, “You look super amazing! I am so happy for you!” (the paraphrased version of comments said to me in the not-at-all-distant past)? Terrifying as hell.
But, the worst part — the part that can bring me to my knees if I let myself go there; to really access this reality — is the impact that my physical health is having on my children. Did you read that clearly?
I am beyond frightened of the impact that my physical (not mental) health is having on my kids.
That last week, when I had the privilege of visiting Belle’s class, she called her friends over to me and said, “Here! Look!” As she grabbed me in her tiny arms to pick me up. To show her friends this “party trick” that we discovered, by accident, and spin it as a testament to her strength but, really, is not just that.
That my physical state could take me away from my children.
That this is referred to, by many, as “healthy.”
What was the tipping point today, you ask? OK. I will tell you.
I have been posting more food and recipe photos on my instagram stories, as of late. (The OG Mommy, Ever After readers here might remember the entire section I had devoted to “family dinners,” on which I posted my dinners/cooking experiments every single night.)
I have been cooking a lot more, again, and have so enjoyed throwing together creative “non-recipe recipes” for dinner or snacks.
Recently, whenever I post one of these meals or snacks, my inbox fills with DMs asking me for more instructions or information and so when I asked my IG followers if they’d like to see more about my food experiments, using the instagram poll function, I received my first and only “100% yes” result. I do believe that most of the people who voted “Yes, please! Post the mom hacks from the kitchen!” are taking the ideas and running with them on their own, and that makes me so happy. Last week, when I needed some Election Day comfort on a cold, rainy evening, I made a delicious chicken stuffing and then, the next day, got so many photos of people who made it themselves and enjoyed it, as well.
That is wonderful. Food for the soul, one could say.
But, let’s be real here. I am sure there are also people who are just simply curious about what I eat, just like they are curious about what everyone else eats, because a lot of people are obsessed with food in one way or another. In many of these cases, it is in a totally fun, wholesome way. Food FOMO, so to speak. But, I am sure in other, isolated cases, it is not just that. People want a glimpse at my tightrope.
At the things I carry and the things that carry me.
Not because I am interesting or special or important. Not because I am talented or creative.
Because I am thin. Skinny.
Some people’s idea and ideal of what healthy means.
This realization was the tipping point.
And this, my friends, is my reality. Triggers ahead.
I am underweight. I have been underweight by scientific, medical and Becca standards for the past sixty months.
Sixty months during which time I have not gotten adequate nutrition to feed my brain and bones and body.
Sixty months during which time my weight has fluctuated such a small amount that it is, for others, what could be considered a normal fluctuation for ONE DAY.
I have been in a bubble, trapped between numbers, and unable to break free.
This weight “bubble” is a narrow spectrum on which my weight has moved up and down since 2013.
Today, as I type this, am I at the lowest end of the spectrum? No. Will I tell you what that number was? Hell no.
Am I at the highest end? Nope. Not there, either.
Am I healthy? Let’s think this through, together.
I have some physical barriers in my way (last year, around this time, I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis), but, really, it is a mental thing. I am sure that if I put my mind to it and made gaining weight my life’s mission (like I have with, say, maternal mental health advocacy, marriage, motherhood, and book deals) I would be back to a healthy weight.
What is standing in my way? I do not know.
That is the worst part of all.
I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. An exploration of what the word healthy means.
Acknowledging the big (small?) elephant that is always in the room.
Admitting that this is the hardest thing for me to talk about and write about , and I tend to talk about and write about all the things. ALLTHETHINGS.
I am scared because I do not want to inadvertently cut anyone on this post’s sharp edges.
I am trepidatious because I do not want you to look at me more closely, and with more scrutiny.
I am feeling guilty, as I worry that this could come of as rude to the people who have, so kindly, told me how good I look; how healthy. I know that it was what you saw, or what you believe, or, simply, an effort to be nice.
I know that I have life back in my eyes. I hope that makes me look healthier. Mentally, I am.
I am nervous to type these words. To admit that despite all of the help I receive from professionals (a psychologist, a psychiatrist, medical doctors and, most notably here, a dietitian) and from those in my personal life, I have not been able to move the scale.
To tip it in any way more than just enough to be able to write this post.
Hey. Maybe it is a start.
It is now four hours after my therapy appointment. I am now typing this post on my trusty laptop, after having copied the words from my dictated note into this post. My therapist brought up both my weight and my food intake.
She talked about how my weight is “paralyzing” to me and how, despite the fact that I eat really good things, I do not eat enough of them.
That I am not healthy.
I have not yet gotten a text today about how wonderfully vibrant and robust I look, but hey, it’s still early.
I have continued to post tonight’s dinner on my insta stories, a Moroccan chicken that I was inspired to make after DMing with a new friend about my stuffing recipe last week. A lot of my posting about food is really, really fun for me. And some of it gives me pause. And I have to find the balance.
Here is my tightrope. On one side is real health, and on the other side is perception. The former is based on data. The latter on perspective. The truth is, I am both fragile and strong. I am so much stronger than I was this time last year, and even stronger than I was this time two years ago. But I have a lot of work to do.
A daughter and a son for whom to model; to care for properly; to live.
A bubble to break out of. An internal “Escape the Room” type challenge to keep on trying.
A tightrope to walk on.
A dinner to finish cooking.
A life to live.
A healthy one.
Come on. We can do better. Go team.