As I told you last week "it was not like they said." I began gaining weight when I was 7 years old. On my first diet when I was 8. How's that? An 8 year old going to weight loss group. My mother took me to this type of gym. I didn't really understand what it was, a gym with these odd looking contraptions (things that shook one around the waist). I was the only child there surrounded by other mothers. I don't know what my mother was thinking at the time. I didn't last though, only went a few times. It really wasn't the place for an 8 year girl, overweight or not. I know my mother meant well, but seriously?
As I slowly over time began to pack on weight, I could see people looking at me oddly. The expression was always in their eyes. They'd whisper and peer at me like some oddity. I was still too young to really get it. My mother would get angry at them; I never really knew why.
I had won a school wide city competition in 2nd grade for an art contest. I was a fairly talented artist then. My award, everyone in my class could get an ice cream cone. How's that one? Food as the award? When we lined up to get our ice cream, I was in the middle of the group of 35 students. My teacher came over, put her hand on my shoulder, waved her finger at me to follow her out of line. I remember looking at her questioningly, Mrs. Ames a tough act, and her looking down at me. She then told me that I could not have an ice cream because I really didn't need one because I was so overweight. It wouldn't be good for me to be seen with an ice cream looking the way I did. This ladies was my first experience with discrimination based on my physical appearance. I had won them their treat, but could not partake of it because of my size.
From then on, I never went back. Back to being or feeling innocent or naive. Back to feeling as though I belonged or had a real place in the world. I was singled out as different and treated differently and forever would be. That was all in grammar school where I spent grades 1 through 6. By grade six, I was fairly heavy and it began to take its toll on me. Entering junior high (grades 7 and 8), I didn't know what to expect, but it only got uglier. Constant taunts and insults became a daily thing for me. Some boys despised me so much to the point of chasing me home from school hurling insults and jokes at me.
So, I adapted by going to school at 6:45 AM, when the doors didn't open until 8:00 AM so I wouldn't have to walk by the other kids standing around or getting off the bus. School got out at 2:00 PM, but I stayed until almost 4:00 PM so the kids would all be gone and I could walk home quietly, safely, no one to chase me anymore. Junior High School's two years, were the most difficult two years of my life. I learned to hide in plain site as much as possible and dealt with my loneliness through eating in silence. I managed to have one friend in school.
When I left Junior High School to attend High School, I was terrified. The summer before, I was sick almost everyday, having severe headaches and dreading the thought of another school. The thought of Ninth grade scared the hell out of me. I also thought a few times about what if I was dead. This was the first time I thought of suicide as an alternative to end my torture, but I did not do it. Why not try? I don't know. Maybe some toughness deep inside of me said no, stick it out, keep going, you can manage to survive all this.
The first day of high school, I learned there was a rite of passage. I was about 275 lbs at age 14. The freshman came out of the auditorium and had to walk down a long hall to the rotunda to go to classes. Problem? We had to walk in between the long hall lined on both sides with seniors. I was terrified. I never looked up walking behind a boy I remembered who made fun of me in Junior High, he didn't look so tough now.
I was holding my notebooks in front of me and hoping to make it down the hall without anyone making fun of me or laughing at me. Well, a very strange this happened. My older brother was a senior in high school. He was very popular, a star athlete, had all kinds of friends and was in tremendous physical condition. People respected him. His friend yelled to him "hey there's your sister Cat." Holy cow! I heard my name and kept my eyes closing hoping to see the end of that stupid hall. My brother suddenly stepped away from the wall and smiling said "hey sis" and punched me jokingly in the shoulder. I looked up to smile back at him and quickly went down the rest of the hall to the rotunda.
The next thing I knew, three boys surrounded me and said "so he's your brother?" Almost in shock at the idea of it. I didn't know what to think when they asked me...so I answered "yes, he's my older brother." Well whatever it was, I will never know to this day...but I will go to my grave saying my brother saved my life and I survived high school because of him. I don't know what happened, but after that day, not one boy or girl who ever made fun of me or insulted me in Junior High, ever said another bad or insulting word to me. If they thought it, they never said it to my face or where I could hear it.
Then I understood...power. Some kids just had it, others didn't. Everybody wanted it, but only certain ones managed to have it. My brother was one of them. He was one of the nicest guys I knew. He always protected me and because of that one act of stepping away from that school wall to acknowledge me as his sister, all the other students in that school left me alone and I never heard one more insult from anyone in four years of high school.
My older brother became my hero that day and he still is to this day.
I was fortunate that my two brothers and one sister never used my weight against me in our relationships. They never uttered that one three letter word in my direction. If they had, I don't think I would have survived.
Can you imagine, if kids with that kind of power in high school, could be that way for other kids like myself or who have mental or physical challenges? What a great school that would be? It's too bad more kids don't use their personal power to help other kids....maybe one day they will all get it.
I did graduate from high school with a fairly decent GPA, but unfortunately had a guidance counselor inform me that I was not "college material" and "didn't have the mental or intellectual capacity for college." Basically, she told me I was stupid. I remembered saying to myself, ah, "excuse me Mrs. Carroll, but I'm fat not stupid."
However, I never took her advice, thankfully, and did go to college and graduated with three degrees.
Until next week's blog ladies...thanks for all the support!
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