I divorced my ex-husband five and a half years ago. Our marriage was more of a blood sport than a relationship. From the day I married him until the day I divorced him, I gained 80 pounds. In the year following the divorce, I gained 20 more.
I now know that I let myself gain this weight as a form of self-protection. This was my second divorce. My entire adult life, I was with someone. I never looked for the relationships but they were always there. And I was clearly not the best decision-maker in the relationship department. When I was obese, I was invisible. Being invisible was both comforting and liberating. Without men in my life, I could just be. And I could figure out how I got to this place in my life.
I don’t have a strong family background. I was not raised with unconditional love. Instead, I learned that you had to fight to be loved, suffer to be loved. I would allow myself to stay in unhealthy situations because I knew that love was never free, and always conditional.
In my second marriage, I did not want to get divorce again. And I desperately wanted a family. I didn’t like being alone in the world, although being married to him was the loneliest time of my life.
When we divorced, all I had was myself and my two kids. I didn’t have anywhere to live, or anyone to help. That first year was particularly difficult. I had to prove residency to the elementary school with an electricity bill containing a shut-off notice. I had to get food stamps because I couldn’t find a job that would give me set hours and I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids (ages 6 and 9) on evenings and weekends. I would pay utilities on alternating months. If this doesn’t inspire serious self-analysis, I don’t know what does.
Over the next few years, I focused on rebuilding a career that I had given up and on loving the people who mattered, which now included me. With great intention, I sought to fill the gaping hole inside with faith and self-love. I recognized that I DID have a family, a small one, but a family nonetheless.
This summer I made a decision to regain control of that last piece of me that remained neglected: my body and physical health. I’ve lost 55 pounds so far and will be running my first 5k tomorrow morning. Part of loving myself is accepting and loving my body. My body has been a faithful vessel, successfully carrying me through this journey and giving me two beautiful, bright sons to walk it with me. My body deserves much better than I have treated it.
Alice Sebold wrote, “you either save yourself or you remain unsaved.” As painful and scary as it was, I saved myself. And I did it because I was the only person on this planet that could.