Tag Archives: PCOS

This is a really long story about my relationship with my body

finger puppets

I have had a really bad relationship with my body. A *really* bad relationship with my body. At the horrible risk of offending the quadriplegic community, I will say that for most of my life, I have been a psychological quadriplegic; my psyche was disconnected from my body. I did not include my body in my decisions, life, goals, etc. My body had let me down so often, that my entire life was in my head; my life was invested in academics, in reading, in writing, in conversation.

Everything, I thought, was mind over matter. Exercise was painful. Mind over matter. Backpacking, one of my favorite hobbies, was still painful. Mind over matter. My body brought me no joy. Pushing my body through the journey was a means to an end, dictated by my mind. Get to the top of the mountain and digest the view! F*ck the vomiting and the pain. Get through it. My body brought me no joy.

My body was the cause of psychic pain: in grade school, a very ungifted child at any form of athletics (except hula-hooping, and I’ll get to that later), I was always picked last. When you get picked last time after time, you learn to divorce yourself from the source of that pain, and that pain was my body. There are students who fail in school, and after awhile, they remove any self esteem from academic success.

I learned, strategically, to position myself as the CAPTAIN of teams in grade school. Guess what: I was a wizard at strategizing so that I picked the strongest teams. The “Dangerous Dandelions” won every single soccer game during lunch hour. I positioned myself as a fullback and prayed the ball would never come my way. It never did. Everyone on my team knew better than to let the ball get to me. I was proud of them for being so wise.

I was good at hula-hooping. But that was because my dad thought that hula hooping would chisel away at my belly fat. I could hula-hoop for an hour straight. I was a wizard at hula-hooping. Still, it had been a painful road; I had to hula-hoop in front of my dad who made me hula-hoop for an hour on end.

When I told a friend in my mid-20s that I didn’t work out because it was so painful and difficult, he gave me a response that was straightforward and true. He said, “Christine, if it were easy to be fit, everyone would be fit.” Oh. I realized that it wasn’t supposed to be easy. But–still, why was it so difficult for me? Why did I pass out during workouts? Why did running leave me dizzy and gasping for air, and often, throwing up by the side of a road or by the side of a treadmill?

My body was a source of pain in so many ways; I wasn’t allowed to date in high school. I was taught to cover my body up. I was told my body looked horrible in a bikini, not because it looked horrible, but because, in hindsight, I realize it was a way to prevent me from wearing a bikini. But the message came through, all the same.

When I got to college, and experienced the first amorous pair of male hands on my body, I stiffened. I divorced myself from my body in a way that I’d divorced my body before hundreds of times. My body was no longer there. And because I went numb, I let the boy go too far; I’d never been kissed before, but there I was, being kissed. His tongue was cold and probing and I wasn’t there. So I didn’t stop him. It wasn’t until my roommate walked in, saying, “Oops!” that I was able to snap out of my stupor and tell the guy, “I just want to go to sleep.” He was confused. And he was angry later, when I told a mutual friend that his advances were unwanted.

Future amorous encounters were just as uncomfortable. Had I been abused? No. I just couldn’t STAND my body. The next time a boy touched me, it tickled. It.tickled. I couldn’t stop laughing. It.tickled!!! I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t get relaxed. I had to drink to be touched. My friends heard me recount my dependence on alcohol to be touched and they became concerned. But it was what I had to do to divorce myself from my shame around my body.

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Filed under Favorites, Life, Running, Stroke, The Personal

Happy Bittersweet Complicated Mother’s Day

mom and me circa 2007

Mother’s Day is bittersweet in our household, because motherhood is complicated, and motherhood is different people and histories and situations now.

I love my mother, who has had my back my entire life. I know she will always take my call and all I have to say is “I need you” for her to drop whatever she’s doing to come to my side. She is the model of unconditional love.

She provides me lots of amusement, too. Her phone calls to me resemble that of Margaret Cho’s mother. When I imitate Margaret Cho’s comedic routines about her mother’s voicemails (*booooop!* Mahgalet! Theeej eeej your Mommy. I jus wanna call yooo to tell yoooo dat Grlampa and Grlamma, they gonnna die! Uh–not today, but someday! So don’t be suhprlised! (pause) Also. Don’t tell dem! That’s not niiice, that’s not nice! Ok. Bye! *boop!*), my mom rolls over laughing. Because that is the kind of shit she tells me.

I miss my mother-in-law, who was killed suddenly only a few years ago. I don’t think any of us have gotten over her death; we all miss her. That’s all I will say in a public forum, but know that my grief goes miles.

I am happy for all my mama-friends who have lovely children. My mama-friends work hard and have deep compassion for their children, and I am glad there is a day of recognition for them. (May your children cook you a better meal today than I did for my mother on Mother’s Day while growing up; once, I cooked her split pea soup, a very very crunchy split pea soup, because I didn’t know you had to cook the split peas down until they were soft (the good cook in me now cringes at how I merely boiled the water, merely blanched the vegetables and split peas and said with great pride, “eat my soup, I made it for YOU, Mom!”)…Guess what? She ate it ALL, as I asked her, “Don’t you LIKE it? Why aren’t you smiling while you eat it?”)

And–I am sad because there are women who cannot enter this sometimes smug bastion of motherhood. And it’s my mom who I turn to for comfort when the pain feels especially daunting (think of that scene in “Julie & Julia” when Meryl Streep’s Julia Childs reads a letter from her sister announcing a pregnancy and says “I’m so happy for them! I’m so happy!” and breaks down in tears, clearly in grief for her own childless state). I’ve been trying to have a child longer (eleven years and counting) than I’ve been writing this novel of mine. Both bringing me agony this week.

When I call my mom and communicate this pain, she says without irony, “Unh–don’t worry, Christine. Being mommy is hard! Take up all your time! When you have baby, your life ends! You don’t need to have baby, so hard and waste of time. Notice I don’t push you to have baby? Because I want you to live your life.” Bwahahahaaa.

Once I asked her, “Do you regret having me?” To which she responded, “No of course not! You and R****** are best things to me!” with the same exact sincerity she used to reassure me to not have a child.

There are other hilarious phone calls, too–I once called her from Hangzhou, China, abandoned by my paid-by-the-hour driver who insisted a certain sight took an hour to see (it took 15 minutes) and who drove off promising to return in an hour. Bored, and unable to call my husband who was in a business meeting in a hotel room in Hangzhou that day, I called her while sitting on a bench by a lily pond, and the phone call went like this:

Me: Mom! It’s me! I’m in China!
Mom: Oh! Where are you?!
Me: I’m.in.Chi.na! I bought some tea today!
Mom: Unh! You bought tea? Christine–don’t drink it!
Me: What? It’s the best tea!
Mom: No, don’t drink it! Pesticides! Give it to your friends as presents instead!

Then there was the time she came home from work and offered me one of her kazillion pieces of advice, always packaged in some random out of the blue but very practical manner–and in hindsight, I now realize it must have been an extra brutal day as an intensive care unit nurse. Before dinner she leaned over and said to me, “Christine, never get tattoo on face. You know, when you die, if you have eyebrow and eyeliner and lipliner tattoo, it doesn’t look good at all. My patient today was so pale and blue. And then tattoo makes worse!” Got it.

Another phone call went like this (we were caravaning to Yosemite, and lost each other–but when she got to the Valley, she called my cell):
Mom: We are by Yosemite Lodge!
Me: Mom! Where did you guys go? We looked back and you weren’t there anymore!
Mom: We are by Yosemite Lodge!
Me: We’re by the general store, come meet us here, Mom
Mom: We are by Yosemite Lodge!
Me: We’re by the general store, come over here.
Mom: We are by Yosemite Lodge!
Me: You want us to meet you by the Lodge?
Mom: Okay! See you!

Happy Mother’s Day. To those of you missing your mothers, I give you a big hug. To those of you who have lost children, I give you a big hug. To those of you struggling to have children, I give you a big hug. And to those of you whose mothers are still living and in your life, I hope you give your mother a big hug today.

Update: Here’s a writer after my own heart! Anne Lamott writes, Why I Hate Mother’s Day.

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Filed under Favorites, Life, The Personal