Yesterday, I woke up at 5:00am because my stomach felt like it was trying to rip its way through my abdomen, Alien-style. (Or is Predator? I've never actually watched either of those movies.)
I was mostly OK. I threw up. I pooped a lot. I slept a lot to curb the vomiting and the pooping. (Wow, I'm really into TMI.) I missed work, which I felt guilty about because I work in ~TV~, even though I'm a production assistant and like, things were probably just fine without me.
This isn't a story about my 24-hour stomach bug. This is a story about the ways in which I continue to fail and abuse my body. This is a story in which I'm crying at 9:30am on a Saturday, because I'm really scared that if I don't learn how to take care of my body, I'm going to kill myself.
I've written a lot about my body in the past. I have a whole blog about it, within the context of my journey to lose 100 lbs. 4.5 years ago. (Spoiler alert: I lost 25 lbs., gave up, then gained it all back + some.) I have essays about my body all over the Internet. (I'm not shy. TMI is kinda my thing.) I even have a few good Twitter threads about it.
I write about my body, because I don't know how to live in my body. I write about my body, because I struggle to take care of my body. I write about my body, because I don't love my body. And I really, really, really want to. But I don't. Not yet.
And it's a real shame, because my body is incredibly strong and resilient. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance. For most of the summer, I've walked around with a very painful condition and most people don't know. Because I hide it. Because I don't want people to know just how bad things have gotten. I mean, the only reason I didn't go into work yesterday was because of the vomiting. I have a "No Vomiting at Work" rule. And it's mostly because I commute, so it's more of a "No Vomiting in the Car" rule.
I have done very unkind things to my body for almost 20 years. And still, she's mostly well and able. But I know that won't always be the case. Sometime soon, it will be more than just a cough or a stomach bug or painful skin condition. It might be diabetes or heart disease. And that really does scare the shit out of me. But what scares the shit out of me more is that it might take diabetes or heart disease to finally be the reason I learn how to take care of this body.
My body is my biggest challenge (no puns or fat jokes intended). I have done pretty amazing things in my life. I repeat them to myself regularly, to remind myself not to give up when things are tough. I'm the kinda woman who makes shit happen for herself. And sometimes, other people as well. Almost every goal or dream I've had for myself within the last 10 years, I've achieved it. Seriously. Do you know how crazy of a batting average that is?
But alas, the one wilderness that I have not been able to find my way through is the wilderness of my body. In her new memoir, Hunger, the indomitable Roxane Gay calls her fat body that has survived through trauma an "unruly body." I know what that is like. I know what it is like to live in an unruly body. Sometimes, I wish I didn't. I think I would've learned to overcome or accept the fat thing... if it wasn't for the trauma. If one night, when I was 19, my body hadn't been taken from me by someone I trusted and loved. And again, at 20, when I realized something had been living in me that I did not want there.
And like, don't get me wrong. My fatness and my aversion to taming (is that the right word?) this body is all on me. I was fat before I was sexually assaulted. But I didn't weigh as much as I do now. And my body felt like mine. My body felt like something I held dominion over and within. My body was something that belonged to me -- not the man who used me.
And I know I'm supposed to be over it by now. I know I've had so much time to heal and forget. But I can't forget. I can't help going back to being 19 and that was the last time I felt possible and powerful in my body. Everything after that feels like aftermath. My body feels like aftermath. When your body feels like the site where a terrible thing happened, it is hard to want to take care of it. It is hard to say, "Oh, I want to lose X amount of pounds." Because that's not what I want. Not at all.
Rather, I would like to feel safe in my body again. I would like to feel as if I haven't spent the past 8.5 years trying to run away from a thing I'm trapped in. I would like to feel as if my body is a thing worthy of being loved, of being taken care of, of being protected.
God, this thing really escalated from poop and vomit, didn't it? I'm sorry. But I'm not. I'm sorry if you're reading this and didn't know this is something I'm still surviving. Or if you're one of the many people in my life who feel I should move on already. Or at least, lose weight because acknowledging my trauma is hard for you. Or if you're one of the other people in my life who have pinned all your Strong Black Woman fantasies on me, so it's hard to see me vulnerable and small.
But I am, sometimes, vulnerable and small. I get tired of being everyone's Magical Black Girl Mammy. I get tired of being strong. Of using humor to obfuscate the fact that I am still hurting, still healing, still struggling to be whole. Of having to disguise the reasons I'm still fat and haven't learned how not to be.
I spend a lot of time thinking about how I may die too early and too fat. And it won't just be because I didn't learn how to eat more vegetables or go to the gym or lose the weight. I know how to do those things. I've done them before. I may die because I never learned how to inhabit this body after someone made it foreign, made it some place I don't want to be.