So, I’m shrinking. I had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy on 12-12-12. I’m going to write about it here.
And I’m not going to refer to this as a “journey” because I hate that shit. This isn’t a journey, it’s my story and you’re not going to get crappy inspirational quotes here.
My story starts in 1991. I started gaining weight as a 16 year-old with undiagnosed depression. My homecoming dress that year was a size 10 and I finished the school year as a 14. I was short and chubby and had horrible self-esteem, but I had great friends and dated a bunch. I had my writing and art and books and I tried to find myself within those things. I tried Slim Fast. I ate Lean Cuisines. My allergist said I was allergic to yeast, so I cut breads and sugar out of my diet, but that didn’t last long. I was unhappy. My graduation dress was a size 16.
You know know lots of people can look at a photo of themselves and know when it was taken? I have a very weird memory. I can look at a photo and remember when it was taken and exactly what size I was in it. I can also remember conversations word for word like some kind of audio Rainman, but the clothing size thing is the weird things. It’s the first thing I think of.
When I came home for Christmas during my freshman year of college, I bought my first size 18 jeans. I thought that everyone could tell that I was forced to shop at Lane Bryant. That seems ridiculous now, but it was big to me then. My college experience differed from a lot of my friends. I had two daiquiris total. I drank margaritas a few times. It was never about partying and alcohol for me. In college I was free to make my own food decisions, so I chose ice cream, M&M’s, or a Snickers everyday. That is not an exaggeration. I was depressed and I medicated with food. Food was safe, right? It wasn’t alcohol or drugs and I was still the goody two shoes I had been in high school. Hell, it’s my theme song.
My future husband and I started dating during my freshman year. At some point I stopped going to classes because of my depression and anxiety. the anxiety started then. I remember my first panic attack in the Student Center of Louisiana Tech. Each one has been just as terrifying. I decided after three and a half years at Tech that I should leave. I clearly wasn’t going to graduate. My husband and I married in July of 1997. My wedding dress was a size 22.
Over the years I tried Atkins, South Beach, Nutrisystem, diet drugs, and Weight Watchers. I yo-yo dieted myself up to 326 lbs. No one believes I weighed that much because I’ve always been a firm believer in looking cute and owning whatever size I was. I may have been a 4x, but I was going to be the best looking 4x anyone had ever seen. I thought I looked great. I felt horrible. I was borderline diabetic, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, and asthma (on top of the depression and anxiety). My husband was more and more concerned with each new medication I was put on. My best friend and I had lots of talks about weight. I had convinced myself that I was okay because I thought I still looked good. I’m sure people would disagree, but that was my reasoning.
In 2012 I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d looked into weight loss surgery off and on for years, but it scared me. I wasn’t to THAT point yet. But I was. I was ready to stop taking 9 pills every morning and 4 in the afternoon. I was ready to be more active. I was ready to have more energy, I was ready for change. My insurance company wouldn’t pay for any type of weight loss surgery, but the hubs and I decided it was worth it. I was worth it. A couple of people I knew had Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomies (VSG or The Sleeve) and were doing great, so I did my research and called my cousin’s bariatric surgeon for a consult. He said I was an excellent candidate for VSG and that I would most likely be able to get off of several of my medications once I started losing weight. That’s all I needed to hear. My surgeon ordered lots of lab work, a psych consult, visit with my primary care doctor to be cleared for surgery, and an online seminar on the surgery and my needs afterward. After lots of test and paperwork, my surgery was set for 12-12-12.
Of course, I have chronic ginormous anxiety, so surgery is freaking huge for me. It would be routine for the surgeon, but not for me. VSG is the bariatric surgery where the stomach is stapled into a banana shape that can only hold a few ounces and the rest of the stomach is removed. 85% of my stomach was taken out of my body. I acted like it was this “no big deal” thing and it was major surgery. People think laparoscopic surgery is easy. It’s not. I had a lot of pain. It was not fun. In the hospital, I couldn’t get enough fluids down and it was the same way when I got home. Dehydration is the worst. My surgery was two weeks before Christmas and I was stuck at home feeling like crap. I was on a liquid diet for two weeks, then mushy foods. No breads, pasta, rice, breaded stuff, corn, or grits. I ate a lot of sugar free pudding and drank a ton of Crystal Light. Gross.
I honestly felt like crap and wanted to die for a month after having surgery. It was that bad. At my one-month check up, my blood pressure was low and I was taken off of one of my BP meds. I started feeling better and found a protein drink I liked (Premier Protein chocolate shakes). After one month I was down 30 lbs.
March 28, 2013
At three months out, I did more bloodwork and my doctors have taken me off my pre-diabetic medication and backed my BP medicine down to once per day. Things are getting better. I have lost 61 lbs.
For those who think I took the easy way out by having surgery, it most certainly has not been easy. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If I eat the wrong thing, I’ll feel like death. If I don’t eat I feel awful. My typical day consists of coffee in the morning, cheese and multi-grain crackers for lunch, a couple of Lean Cuisine spring rolls for dinner and a protein shake. I usually have a glass of milk before bed. It’s my new thing.
As far as sizes go, I’m back to being a 22. It’s a good feeling. The weight is coming off fast and it’s hard to get used to. I think I’ll always look in the mirror and see a fat girl looking back at me, but that’s me. I still have 100 lbs to lose. That’s a lot, but I have the tools to do it now. Surgery is just a tool. It’s up to me to do the work and not all of it is physical. There is a lot of emotional and mental stuff that goes with it and really, that’s the hard part. Not eating the stuff that made me fat isn’t hard. Dealing with the emotions is hard. Learning that I am not my dress size is the hard part. It sounds crazy, but when you’ve been heavy your whole adult life, it’s reality, it’s how people see me. I’m ready for people to really see me.
May 15, 2013
Okay, so I’ve had a pretty big setback. I had surgery last week to remove an ovarian cyst, endometriosis, pelvic and abdominal adhesions, and a uterine ablation. I’ve been in pain on and off since October, then about a month ago it was everyday. I woke up after surgery and was told I will have to have another surgery in six months to remove the 10 cm cyst in an open surgery (GO ME!) because LO AND BEHOLD it’s a teratoma (ain’t nobody got time for no teratoma) AND my protein levels aren’t where they need to be for an open surgery right now. I hadn’t lost any weight for a little over a month, but now I’m down a total of 71 lbs. I’ll be glad to start exercising in a couple of weeks after I’m recovered.
August 9, 2013
I’ve lost 90 pounds. The photo at the right was taken at 82 lbs down, but since then I’ve dropped 8 more. This photo was on my birthday one month ago.
I still have a good bit of weight to lose, but I’m thrilled so far.
Things are weird. I’m finally seeing a change in what I see in the mirror. For a long time I haven’t been able to see it, but now I can. I still try on clothes that are way too big for me, but old habits are hard to break. I’ve always said that I have the opposite of anorexia, in that I always saw a thinner person in the mirror than I was, but now I really get it. I see someone bigger than I am. Complete 180 from where I was.
So, here’s the latest: my knee hates me. At the beginning of the summer, we went to Gulf Shores and my knee hurt. Then it didn’t. Then it hurt again a few weeks ago. I saw my internist, he sent me to an orthopedist who said I have osteoarthritis in my knee and that my kneecap is not in the right place. Of course it isn’t. He gave me a knee brace and a steroid shot and told me I have to come back for fake cartilage injections and start physical therapy BECAUSE OF COURSE I DO. I’m telling you, I should just get the Wolverine treatment and have all my bones turned to metal. Or maybe I could be the Bionic Woman, I haven’t decided yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.
Because of the knee, I haven’t been able to walk for exercise or ride my stationary bike for about a month, but I’m getting back on the bike soon. I’m going to win the Stationary Bike Tour de France. Yes, I’m making that a thing. I just did. Boo-yah.