depression

All posts in the depression category

Broken…

Published October 9, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

I was feeling like crud.  Stomping my way in to work this morning, really fighting with the black dog of depression, feeling like dirt.  And there she was.  An angel in a floral skirt and cream top.  The young woman I had been standing beside at the lights about 10 minutes before – I had been staring at the print of her skirt trying to grasp the one thing that was nice in my brain at just that moment – a pretty pink floral.  I was walking back towards my office having stopped off in the markets to pick up some breakfast, when  she stopped me on the street and told me that she really loved my blog, and that even though I hadn’t posted in a while she still hoped I would.  She complimented my taste in clothes, mentioned that we had the same dress (the hot pink one from Autograph) and that she loved my fatshion reviews.  I was a bit flabbergasted and I forgot to ask her name, which I always do, because it always takes me by surprise.  She made me smile, she thanked me and touch my arm, and we parted.

Five minutes later I was sobbing in the ladies room at work, finally able to feel something.  That’s what depression does to you, it robs your ability to feel.   You might walk around talking and even smiling and laughing, but you don’t really feel it, instead you’re kind of just going through the motions, performing as yourself instead of being yourself.  At least that’s what it does to me.  I wasn’t crying because something had upset me, I was crying because I’d finally felt something (surprise, pleasure, even a glimmer of joy) and that caused the floodgates of all the feelings I haven’t been able to feel for weeks to open and let them all out.  The crying was a good thing.  Embarrassing and uncomfortable, but ultimately good for me.

The past months have been hellish for me with my depression creeping up stronger than it has for some time.  It isn’t just the usual chemical stuff either, usually brought on by hormones and stress, I began to recognise it a few weeks ago.  It was emotional burnout.  It had all got too much for me.  My job is a bigger workload than it has ever been (it’s that way for everyone at my work these days) and I feel like Sisyphus, having to roll the same boulder up the hill every day only to have it roll down again.  (If only it was like Loki, burdened with glorious purpose.)

Add to that the fact that I’d been doing fat activism for over four years, 95% of it for free, out of my own time, pocket, talent and energy only to be constantly bombarded both by general hate as a random fat person on this earth, and deeply targeted hate from really fucked up people out there who cannot bear the thought of an unapologetic and even proud fat woman existing on the planet.  Even still, even though I haven’t posted in months, there are days when I get over 4000 hits via a Reddit hate forum alone, filled with people who spend hours and hours of their lives hating on me and other visible fat people for a hobby.  They dig up old posts, they steal the photos from this blog (and my Tumblr or Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook), they spend hours and hours and hours discussing my life in minutiae… as a hobby.

One nutter even keeps a dossier on every food post I ever make online and keeps tabs on what I eat (or at least the bits I post online) and then crops up on old articles about me, or anything I comment on online to try to “discredit” me by “proving” that I’m a “liar” because of how “unhealthy” I am using the posts about food as “evidence”.  They send me long, rambling emails detailing how many calories are in every item of food I post, and how each morsel is hardening my arteries and sending me to my grave.   Who has time in their life to do this shit?

As much as I block, spam and filter all of that hate, it still gets through.  I still see bits of it.  I still see the referring links on my dashboard of my blog posts, all coming from a Reddit fat hate forum.  I still see old blog posts targeted by thousands and thousands of people in one day.  I still see the hate comments that I have to delete, block as spam, report as abuse.  As much as I rationally know that their hate is not about me, it’s no reflection of me and my worth, it’s still toxic.  I’m still being bathed in this venom all the time.  Some of it has got to sink through my skin.  I am a human being, I do have feelings and I’m not made of steel.  People can hurt me.  This shit eventually does hurt me.  There is no shame in my being human, and vulnerable.

However, that wasn’t the worst of it.  The worst of it was that all that hate and harassment robbed me of the one thing that is most precious to me – my ability to write.  It did EXACTLY what they wanted it to do, it silenced me.  I was so battle scarred by all of that shit that the minute I started to write anything, instinctively I shut down, as a protection mode.  My brain would simply block any flow of thought, any language out of sheer self-protection against the rightly anticipated onslaught of hate and harassment.  I had the worst case of writers block I have ever had, because it wasn’t just fatigue or lack of creativity, it was like a great big door slamming shut in my brain and locking all the good stuff in to where I could not reach it, and to further the torture, I knew it was still in there but it was out of my grasp.  This is what caused me to spiral further and further into depression.  The more I couldn’t write, the more depressed I got, and the more I felt like I had abandoned my activism, and the more it made me depressed, which then blocked me from writing… and so on.

Yet today, a living angel pops into my life and reminds me just why I became a fat activist.  Who reminded me that what I do matters to more than just me.   Who jolted me out of the bleak headspace and reminded me that by letting all the shit that the haters heap on me STAY on me, they don’t win – nobody with that much hate in themselves actually wins anything, but WE lose.  We lose community, we lose our voice, we lose visibility and we lose strength.   This is how they wear us down, by attacking and attacking individually until we individually can’t bear it any more, which breaks our collective strength.  They can’t break us as a collective, so they work on breaking each us one by one.  You are my strength, my fellow fat community.  You folk are why I stand up and say “I’m not taking this shit any more.”

Individually, it’s really hard being strong in the face of all that hatred spewing in our direction.  But collectively, I believe we are unstoppable.  I believe we are all heroes for each other, even if it is only in tiny ways.  A friendly smile, a kind word, a gesture of support.

By giving a spontaneous moment of kindness, this lovely woman jolted me back from a dark, painful place.  It let me get out all the anger and hurt and frustration.  It’s like her kindness broke the crust of hate that had formed from all of the abuse I’d received over the years.  Which means I sit here in my morning tea break (and again in my lunch break) with all of this stuff pouring out of me at last, onto the page, finally able to write again. I can’t say I’m back to my old standards, but I have taken that first step, and it feels like a huge one.

So thank you to the lovely young woman on George Street (do leave a comment and identify yourself, I won’t publish it if you don’t want me to!) in the floral skirt and cream top – you can’t know just how important you are right now!

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I Am NOT a Disease

Published June 19, 2013 by Fat Heffalump

One of the things about being a highly visible, deeply combative fat activist is that everyone seems to think you’re made of steel.  That you are so strong and confident, that nothing ever hurts you or makes you feel bad.  Nobody believes that you have bad days, that there are times where the fight just goes out of you and you can’t face another moment of trying to claw your way out of the hatred and stigma that surrounds fat people.

But that’s not true.  It’s not true in the slightest.  Even the most radical fatty, the most sartorially brave, the fiercest fighter, the strongest critic of the dominant paradigm around fatness struggles.  Every single one of us have those times where we just run out of oomph.

I am having one of those days today, and have been really struggling all afternoon.  You see, the American Medical Association today declared obesity as a disease despite a report from their own council on science and public health urging them not to.  According to the AMA, we fat people are no longer just people, we are diseased, defective, damaged, broken.  We are officially diseases to be cured, prevented, eradicated.  And this news has shaken me to the core.  I simply feel so defeated right now, like all the work that I and many other fat activists have done, and are doing to claw back our rights and improve our quality of life has just been taken away from us.

Rationally, I know why the AMA has made this ruling.  They’ve done so because big pharmaceutical companies, the weight loss industry and big health insurance companies, have lobbied, threatened, bullied and bribed them to do so.   Rationally I know that the reason these big corporations have done this is because it’s in their best interest financially to do so.  After all, they’re raking in HUGE amounts of money by convincing society in general that appearance = health, and that if you don’t meet the arbitrary levels of appearance that you must be sick, and surprise surprise, they have a drug, or a surgery, or a device, or a diet plan or an extra expensive health insurance plan to sell you to fix it.  The weight loss industry alone was worth almost $800 million just here in Australia.  Can you imagine what could be done for $800 million per year in this country?  We could all have completely free health care for every Australian, more than we would ever need.  People with disabilities could have all of the equipment that they would ever need, and any support and care they would ever need.  No human being in Australia would go without food, water or housing.  Education would be free for our whole lives, from kindergarten through any university studies that we would care to take on.   Medical research into every known actual disease, from the common cold to cancer could be funded fully.

All this just from the money that the diet and weight loss industry is worth in a single year, and there would be change.  In fact, if we only took their profit margin for ONE year, approximately $63 million dollars, and applied that to public funding annually – we could fund a lot of the things I’ve listed above.  And that’s just here in Australia, a country of only about 22 million people.  In the US, the weight loss industry is worth 66 BILLION DOLLARS.  Let alone the cumulative value of the rest of the world’s weight loss industries.

There is NO WAY ON EARTH that the weight loss industry is not behind this ruling from the AMA.  They have $66 billion dollars worth of power per annum in the US alone.  $66 billion dollars they can spend on lobbying, propaganda, graft, legal threats to anyone who opposes them, you name it to make sure the ruling falls the way they want it to.

Rationally I know this.  I know the facts.  I’ve done years of my own research into this because what I was being told about my fat body wasn’t matching up to reality.

But despite that knowledge… I feel so defeated today.  I feel so disheartened.  I feel so cheated.  I feel like I’m being marked as inferior, defective, broken.  Simply because my body happens to fall on the far end of a bell curve of diverse human bodies.  Simply because my body doesn’t fall in the small peak of the bell curve, the median of human bodies, a tiny arbitrary band of people who are granted the “normal” status just because they’re in the middle statistically.

But being at one end of the statistics doesn’t reflect who I am.  It doesn’t reflect how I feel.  It doesn’t reflect what my body can do.  It doesn’t reflect my value as a human being.  The AMA doesn’t know what it feels like to exist in my fat body.  They don’t know what it’s like in my body to wake up after a deep sleep, stretch and feel that stretch go down to my toes and up to my outstretched fingertips.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to go swimming, feeling the cool water soft and cocooning around my body, and the wonderful sleepy feeling I get afterwards.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to walk along the waterfront near my house on a windy but crystal clear winters day, with the sun warming my back as the wind nips my nose and fingertips.  They don’t know what it feels like in my body to laugh with my friends, my belly rocking, tears rolling down my face and my ribs hurting from giggling so hard.  They don’t know anything about what it feels like in my body.  All they know is that I am at the far end of a bell curve, and that someone out there can make money from making me hate myself and by encouraging society to hate me, and to repeatedly attempt to move myself to another point on the statistical bell curve, something we scientifically know fails for 95% of all attempts.  And with that they have marked me, and people like me, as diseased, defective, broken.

The only time I feel diseased, defective, broken is when society repeatedly pushes me down because of how I look and what numbers show up on a scale when I step on it.  I don’t feel those things unless I am taught to feel them.  Not even when I actually suffer illness or injury.

How is simply declaring me as diseased based on statistics, and despite how I feel or the quality of my life, good for my health?

How is that good for anyone’s health?

The inimitable Marilyn Wann has started a petition against this AMA ruling here.  Please sign.

*Edited because the figures I got from a study were incorrect – not that they change anything.  Let’s try to not kick me while I’m fucking down, OK?

Living Large

Published May 12, 2012 by Fat Heffalump

Well you can take the fatty out of the blog but you can’t take the blog out of the fatty!  I still don’t have full internet access, waiting on it to be connected by my Telco, but I can’t stay away.  I’ve got stuff burbling around in my head and I need to share it!

As you probably know, I moved house a week ago.  I’ve moved to a lovely seaside suburb, mere metres from the bay.  Every morning when I wake up, the first sounds I hear are seagulls and other water birds.  At night, other than the occasional passing car, all I hear are the sounds of ocean breezes and lapping water, punctuated occasionally by the chime of the town clock.  It is so peaceful here, and so beautiful.  It was a hard wrench to move from the place that had been my home for almost 15 years (in fact, I only did it because I had to), but now that it’s done, I am so glad I have.

I mean, look at this place:

This is the first time I’ve had a major lifestyle change that I haven’t attached the goal of losing weight to.  In the past, every time I had a major life change, I would convince myself that this time, it would be the thing I needed to help me get thin.  That new job with the higher pay, meant that I could afford more weight loss programmes and gyms.  Moving away from the country meant that I would have access to more options to help me lose weight, and I could find more diet foods in the supermarkets.  Every time I changed my life somehow, I would desperately cling to the notion that it would be the change that would make me thin.

Of course, I know now, that it just doesn’t work that way.  My body is a fat body, and no matter what I do to it in an attempt to lose weight, there is a 95% chance that it will fail to actually make me thin.  I would say a 100% chance for me – after all, I’ve spent over 25 years trying to make my body thin – and no matter how extreme or whatever I did, nothing made me thin.  This is my body, and it is a fat body.  I am very comfortable in my body, more comfortable than I have ever been in my life.

But it’s funny, but after a week, I can already feel changes in my body.  For the first few days I think my body was desperately trying to shake off all the negativity, and toxicity, that I was carrying around before.  A few lungfuls of clean ocean air and my body seemed to go “Right, let’s shake all this shit out.”  My skin broke out in patches, and got terribly dry in other patches.  I seemed to produce copious quantities of snot and ear-wax.  My fingernails got all brittle.  And I was SO DAMN TIRED.  Some of that can be attributed to the exhaustion and stress of moving, but I really do feel like I was getting something out of my system.

A few days ago, I came good.  My energy levels came back.  My skin is starting to settle down.  I’m sleeping really well at night, but am not feeling tired during the day.  I’m off work at the moment so I am getting a lot of rest, but I think it’s about more than just time off work.  I think I’ve cast off the stresses of living in my old place, plus the new place doesn’t have carpets that I believe hold a lot of dust and stuff either.  Not to mention that I’m getting those lungfuls of fresh sea air.

There are other changes afoot too.  When I go back to work on Monday, I have a slightly longer trip, and now on a train instead of the bus.  That will give me 40 minutes each way that I can sit and read (I can’t read on the bus, it makes me pukey), which I think will be really significant on the trip home each day, in helping me let go of work for the day.  I have access to a really large supermarket which has much more choice than my old options, and is very close by.  Not to mention a lot of other small shops that I had no access to before.  Besides, groceries are significantly cheaper up here than they are closer to the city.  Don’t let anyone tell you that the big supermarkets don’t vary their prices by neighbourhood!  But most of all, I have daily access to this:

A beautiful foreshore where people walk, cycle, rollerskate, scoot, get dragged along by their dogs!  I have a beautiful bicycle – you’ve all seen my bicycle Iris haven’t you?  Here is an old photo of us together:

I now can go for a ride in my favourite place, every single day, without having to worry about being mowed down by traffic (I was always terrified to ride in most areas around my old place).  Not only is it my favourite way to move my body, but it’s also incredibly relaxing.  I always sleep so well after a bike ride.

But most of all, I feel relaxed an happy here.  My anxiety and depression is feeling lessened already.  It’s amazing what being somewhere you love and letting go of stress can do.

So you can see, I have a lot of changes in my life lately, and those changes are going to play out on my body and my health.  I hope the choice I have made to move here will mean they are positive changes, that I will feel more relaxed and stronger.  I hope that the exhaustion I suffered regularly before will be a thing of the past, now that I’m not living in such a stressful environment, am able to relax and put my head away from work, and can get out into fresh air, moving my body in a way that I enjoy, in a place that I love.

But for the first time in my life, I’m not pinning my hopes on these things making me thin.  Because to me, while being thin has cultural privileges, I now know that it is not a worthy goal to work towards.

And that is an incredibly liberating feeling.

How Does Dieting Benefit Our Health?

Published September 29, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

**Trigger warning, topic is about weight loss diets and disordered eating.**

I got a fantastic question on my Tumblr yesterday, that got me thinking a bit about diet culture and the constant calls for fat people to go on diets “for their health” and “take care of yourself”.

I was thinking about my own life of dieting, and how I felt all those times, and what my own health was like in those years.

When people say fat people should go on diets “for their health”, they’re not factoring in a) how dieting  affects the body and b) the mental health of the fat person.  Even if they are genuinely concerned for someone’s health and not just using concern trolling to police fat bodies because of their appearance, how much thought do they give to what dieting turns people into?

Now let’s just establish here that we know that fat people aren’t lazy gluttons and that we’re not all stuffing our faces 24 x 7 and that “dieting” doesn’t equal “just eating healthy”.  I know that’s the rhetoric that is spouted at us all the time, that we just have to “Put down the donut/cheeseburger/whatever.”  Let’s make it nice and clear that I’m talking about food restriction or replacement, rather than the mythical “just eat healthy” that the anti-fat seem to think we are not doing already.  When people say “Just eat healthy.” they don’t actually mean that, they mean diet, because hey, there’s no possible way a fat person can already be “just eating healthy”.  I’m talking about weight loss diets.  Calorie counting, no carb, no fat, no sugar, cabbage soup, replacement shakes, Atkins, South Beach, Pritikin, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, grapefruit, high protein, high fibre, high cardboard… whatever the fuck diet we were on at the time.  And this includes any of the disordered eating habits too – bingeing, purging, starvation, laxative abuse, diet pills, exercise bingeing, and even weight loss surgery.  Anything that is designed to restrict, reduce or purge for the supposed purpose of making us thin.

Can I ask… have any of you ever known a person, fat or thin or somewhere in between, who has been on a weight loss diet/programme, who is/was actually HAPPY while they are doing so?

*crickets chirping*

I know I was never happy.  I always felt like shit.  Having to measure every bit of food, count points, calories or grams, having to think about what I was going to eat every minute of the day.  I couldn’t just relax and spend time with friends, because I’d have to think about what foods met my diet.  Organising lunches for work was a headache and I was always on my guard for people questioning my eating habits (or lack of them).  Grocery shopping was even more nightmarish than I find it now (and I hate it now, thank God for online grocery shopping!) because almost everything was “forbidden” on whatever diet I was on at the time.  I was always hungry.  When I did get to eat, it was shitty.  Either it was really bad food (cabbage soup?) or it wasn’t even food at all, it was some powdery substitute or rubbery/cardboard diet version.  I never wanted the things I was “allowed” to eat, and yet I was so unbelievably hungry all the time that I had to eat them when I could.

Physically, my body fought me all the way.  I was constantly sick with every cold and virus that came around.  My skin was bad.  My teeth were terrible.  I constantly had to fight bad breath and diarrhea.  I had constant hayfever and headaches.  I never had any energy and never slept properly.

Emotionally, I was depressed, anxious and obsessive.  Depressed because I hated being hungry all the time and having to eat things that tasted like cardboard or rubber, depressed because no matter what I did, I could never lose weight and keep it off.  Anxious because I never knew where I could get “suitable” food, and I hated anyone knowing I was on a diet.  Anxious because my blood sugar was always low and I was shaky and couldn’t concentrate.  Obsessive because food might actually GET me, if I let down my guard.

Yet all of this was supposed to benefit my health?  How?

We all know that diets fail on the long term in 95% of cases, with weight regain plus more, but we never talk about how bloody miserable dieting is.  How nobody is actually happy while they are dieting, and because 95% of them find diets fail, they’re not happy in the long term either.  The whole diet culture just sets people, particularly women, up to be miserable all the time, both during dieting and then when it inevitably fails.

And this is supposed to be for our health?  This is supposed to be “taking care of ourselves”.

I call bullshit.

Instead, we can put all that crap behind us, re-learn to eat to nourish us, let go of exercising as some kind of penance and learn to find activity that we enjoy and live our lives to the fullest no matter what our weight.

I know which sounds like taking care of myself to me.

A Bad Day Get’s Better

Published January 28, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

I woke up feeling pretty good.  I had my outfit picked out (something I could never wear to work – denim skirt, leggings and a leopard print camisole), and was excited to be going off to get my next tattoo today.  I showered and dressed, and realised I had a little bit of time up my sleeve, so I jumped online and went to my Facebook page.  Unfortunately, the first thing I saw was a post that was intended innocently by the friend who posted it, but was actually a big ole pile of fat hatred.  Even though it was posted in good spirit, it was painfully clear that the person who made the meme (one of those Demotivational posters) was being hateful and pushing more fat stereotypes (the junk food loving gluttonous fatty) and some of the comments were of very bad taste.

I was so hurt.  I plummeted into a spiral of self loathing and shame.  It took every ounce of my intestinal fortitude not to cancel my tattoo appointment and go back to bed.  Then it took every ounce of my willpower to not change my outfit and cover my body, to stay in the outfit that bares my fat arms and shoulders, that is visible.

But I did the old “fake it until you make it” and set out for the day.  I’m so glad I did.  Wanna see my outfit? (Click here for outfit details)  Here you go:

OOTD 28th January 2011

I’m fresh out of the tattooist chair, their apprentice took the photo for me.  There’s nothing like the adrenaline high after a tattoo to lift your mood.  I went from hating myself to feeling amazing in the time it took my tattoo artist, Victoria (from Wild at Heart Tattoo in Charlotte Street) to do the piece.

The piece is very significant too.  I know you want to see it.  But I’m going to tell you about it first, before I unleash it.  It’s a piece that Victoria and I designed, inspired by the art of Rubens Cantuni, a fabulous artist from Genova in Italy.  He does these pieces called Tokyo Candies that I fell deeply in love with a little while ago, after seeing some of his sexy fat lady artworks pop up on Tumblr.  (Rubens is on Twitter and Facebook if you’d like to follow him too.)  I saw this picture over a year ago and absolutely loved it, but it was seeing this one on Tumblr about a month ago that made me decide I absolutely HAD to have a tattoo piece inspired by his work.

I took a bunch of his work to Victoria and between us we came up with a design that was just perfect.  Not only is she beautifully fat positive, but it’s a celebration of the things I love about myself too.  I only have to look at her to be reminded of the things that I feel good about myself.

Yeah yeah, I know, you just want to see the damn tattoo.  Well here she is…

New Tattoo

See, I told you she was beautiful.

Fat in a Swimsuit

Published January 1, 2011 by Fat Heffalump

Well, whaddya know.  Guess who fell into a big pile of self loathing in the past 24 hours.  Yup, you’re looking at her. (Ok smart arses, you’re READING her!)

Yes, it still happens.  As positive and as confident as I get, sometimes it just happens and there’s no rhyme or reason for it.  Yesterday, I wrote my previous post for the New Year’s Revolution, was feeling good, and spent considerable time posting body positive messages to my Tumblr until midnight rolled around and it was 2011.  I was feeling good.

But then, in preparation for going to the beach with my friend Kerri today, before I went to bed I decided to pull out my swimmers and pack my stuff up ready to go again.  I got a pair of new swimmers on sale the other day, so I planned to wear those.  I tried them on (I knew they’d fit, but I wanted to make sure the straps on the shoulders were the right length) and looked in my full length mirror… and it hit.

In hindsight, it’s because the top half of the swimsuit had NO bust support.  Which meant that my magnificent rack of doom had nowhere to go but down.  And it was uncomfortable, no – PAINFUL.  But instead of doing what I should have done, which is cursed out the manufacturers of a size 26 swimsuit, it became a spiral of self loathing.  I hated my breasts.  I hated my belly.  I hated my thighs.  I hated my back.  I hated my chin.

I agonised over that damn swimsuit and my body for a good hour.  Eventually I decided to put it away and wear my old swimsuit (which I only bought last year) which also doesn’t have adequate bust support in it, but I can wear a bra under that one and it isn’t visible.  I can at least know my back and chest aren’t going to hurt because I’m properly supported by a bra.

Just an aside, who the hell makes a size 26 swimsuit without adequate bust support and thinks that’s ok?  Who do they think is going to wear this?  Ok not every size 26 woman has big breasts, but wouldn’t it be better to have too much bust support than none at all?

Swimsuit designers, manufacturers and retailers, here is what I want.  I want a two piece swimsuit, the bottom half doesn’t matter that much, briefs, skirt, shorts… whatever, I prefer the shorts but will wear the others.  But the top half, I want a HALTER necked tankini style top, with fucking UNDERWIRE and proper adjustable halter-neck so that I can fit the damn thing properly, and not have my boobs dragging my back and shoulders and chest down.  I want one that has REAL support, like a proper bra, but is made of decent swimsuit fabric, in cute colours and prints, and I want you to put a reasonable price tag on it.  Not $300, but under $100.  If my size 12 friend with B cup tits can get this, why the fuck wouldn’t you be making it for people with bigger breasts?  SERIOUSLY.

Anyhoo..

Off to bed I went last night, feeling crappy.  I woke up feeling crappy.  Yes, in the midst of all the body positivity of the New Years Revolution campaign, all my talk about giving up dieting and self loathing and so on, it hit me.

Because it does.  It doesn’t just go away overnight.  It doesn’t go away at all really.  And no matter how immersed you are in fat acceptance, body positivity and surrounding activism, it still whomps you on the arse unexpectedly at times.  Some days you just can’t avoid it.

However, now that I’ve got through today, I think it’s a good thing that it happened to me when it did.  Because then I can share with all of you that it still happens, it still sucks… yet we survive.  We go on.  We keep going with this body positivity and fat acceptance stuff… because it really, truly does make it better.

Because of being part of fat acceptance, I was able to take a moment this morning, acknowledge that I felt crappy, and then consciously ask myself what I could do to try to make myself feel better.  The first thing for me is music.  I made sure I was armed with a couple of songs on my iPod that I know just lift my mood.  The second thing was to pop online and go through my Tumblr stream.  Sometimes, I need to hear those body positivity messages too.

Most importantly, I knew that the best thing I could do was put my damn swimsuit on (with bra on underneath), grab my stuff and get my arse out the door.

Kerri picked me up, I put my happy song on in her car, and I spent the day with my friend who makes me feel good about myself.  I went to the beach as planned, chucked off my sarong and went and got in the water.  I swam and fell over and laughed and got sand in places where sand should just not be, I swallowed great gobs of salt water, I talked with my amazing friend about life, the universe and everything, I let the power of the ocean take over and spent a good hour and a half being hammered about in warm salty water.  Then we went and got changed into comfy maxi dresses (I wore this one), headed up to Australia Fair, got a decent feed and wandered around the shops together.  I saw a dude who was so smoking hot that he took my breath away, our eyes met and we had a flirty moment.  Kez and I talked some more, laughed some more, shopped some more and then had a ridiculously flavoured coffee before heading home, salty, sandy, sunburnt and sleepy… but feeling great for having spent the day hanging out together.

When I hit the shower as soon as I got home, I realised I didn’t hate my body any more.  I was angry at the damn swimsuit manufacturers/designers/retailers for not providing me with adequately made swimsuits.

This is how it works my lovelies.  Through giving up the dieting and trying to change your body to something it is not, and focusing on caring for yourself, building up your self esteem, working through the tough bits, immersing yourself in positivity, surrounding yourself with people who build you up, not tear you down and living your life to it’s absolute fullest, you get through the bad times.  You learn to be able to put in place the strategies you need to get back on track.

But most importantly, you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, like spending the day at the beach with a dear friend, because you’re too filled with shame and self loathing to put on a damn swimsuit.

Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got to go shake more sand out of uncomfortable places.

Shall We Dance?

Published December 7, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I used to dance.  A lot.  Some of my first memories are of dances and dancing.  I started learning to dance when I was a toddler.  Ballroom dancing.  Ballroom dancing has always been important in my family.  I have an aunt and an uncle (siblings) who both competed in ballroom dancing competitions, my aunt did very, very well in it.  She taught ballroom dancing.  All of my maternal family ballroom danced.  The same man, a family friend, who taught my mother to dance when she was a girl, taught me most of the dances.  I remember him teaching me to waltz, going around and around and around, him forcing me to look up into his face so that I didn’t look at my feet, and just when I got the knack of it, he’d change it up and we’d reverse waltz until I got the knack of that.  I just remembered his big belly, which meant I wouldn’t have been able to see my feet even if I did look down!

As far back as I can remember, I was going to dance halls in the small country towns where my family lived, with my grandparents, with aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles, various cousins.  I can remember sleeping behind the thumping piano, groggily watching the dancers swirl around and around the dance floor as I dozed off.  I remember the smell of the Pops that they used to sprinkle on the beautiful wooden floors to make them slippery.  I remember the smell of my aunts hair spray and perfume.  The tulle petticoats under her ballroom dresses.  The t-bar shoes the women in my family wore.  My Grandad’s Californian Poppy hair oil.

In rural Queensland, Australia in the 70’s and 80’s, kids learned ballroom dancing in both primary and high schools.  I remember that I already knew how, and I had to deal with smelly, sweaty boys who didn’t want to hold my hand.  I did my junior debut when I was about 5 or 6.  I remember the mint green satin dress I had, and my deb partner was a boy called Duncan Bucknall.  Funny how I’ve remembered his name.  I remember the posy I carried too.

I was in the Brownies (I actually got chucked out, long story, I’ll tell it some time) and because I was musically inclined, I got to be in all of the little dance recitals we did.  I remember playing a robin in them time after time, until something happened to the lead and I was the only girl who fit the costume, so I got to be the fairy princess, in a big pink glittery dress with a wand.

Of course, I got fat at about 11, and the self esteem issues started.  But I still loved to dance.

When I got to high school, I loved going to school dances to actually dance.  Other kids sat around the walls looking bored, but once the music started, I couldn’t get on the dance floor quick enough.  I had a very camp friend named Marcus (who Kurt from Glee reminds me of so very much) that loved to dance with me.  When I embraced Goth and Punk styles, I danced to that music.  At 15, I started going to nightclubs to dance.

When we moved town to where my Grandparents lived when I was 16, and I had to rebuild all of my friend base, I started going to ballroom dances with my aunt and uncle.  I made friends of kids around my own age who went to my school through the dances, and found a few dance partners.  I had one in particular I used to dance with a lot, and we did some competitions together as well.  I discovered that I was REALLY good at ballroom dancing, and that I could really dance all night without stopping except for supper.  I could do complex dances that other people did softened versions of.  I was fucking amazing at a REAL Quickstep, with all the hopping, and people always told me how graceful I looked doing a Swing Waltz, or my favourite, the Maxina.

My self esteem struggled, but I was good at it, so that got me through.

I remember at my high school formal, my friend and main dance partner asking me to dance to one of those Jive Bunny songs, which were remixes of Glenn Miller stuff, and the bullies laughing as we walked on to the dance floor, the fat girl and the geek.  We started dancing and the whole room stopped, and we took over the dance floor.  Everyone just watched with their mouths open as we tore up the dance floor to a Quickstep, never missing a step.  A teacher who didn’t know either of us very well outside of class stopped us as we strode defiantly off the dance floor and said “That was amazing!  You two… wow… you should do that professionally!!”

I ballroom danced regularly until I was in my mid-20’s, and I loved it.

But then depression kicked in.  It robbed me of all enjoyment of most things in my life, and smashed my self esteem into the ground.  All of the shit I’d dealt with about my weight and my looks came bubbling to the surface with the depression, and I stopped dancing.  I stopped believing I had the right to dance.  Instead I believed that people would find my fat body hideous dancing.

Only once since then have I danced.  I went to see a friend’s band play at a pub, and I saw this young cowboy guy trying desperately to dance properly with my friend, who was fantastic at shaking her booty, but couldn’t waltz or any other form of ballroom dancing.  This guy was about 18, and he was desperately trying to guide her into a proper ballroom dance step, and she just wasn’t comfortable.  I tapped her on the shoulder, stepped in to his arms, set my shoulders and we took the first step… and he burst into the biggest smile and said “Wow lady, you know what you’re doing!”  We danced until they kicked us out of the pub.

I want to start dancing again.  But the problem is that there are so few male partners willing to dance (and yes, I prefer to dance with a male partner, because that’s the way I’ve learnt to dance – I don’t lead at all) and the dance groups in a big city like Brisbane are learner groups.  So I end up going and teaching other women to dance.  I don’t want to teach.  I want to be lost in the waltz, swirling around a dance floor like I did when I was a little girl, being led by Mr Sykes or my Uncle Trev.  I want to not have to think, to not have to focus on anything, just to let go and trust my partner to lead me into a beautiful dance.

There is a muscle memory to that.  I’ve seen John Travolta in movies and on Oprah of all places, step up to dance with a woman in his arms… and he has it.  I see that same pull into a leading stance, the lock up to his chest so his partner is not able to look at her (or his, in the case of William H Macy once) feet and off they go.  I remember when he told the story of dancing with Princess Diana and having to pull her out of leading.  I’d kill to dance with John Travolta.  Or to have danced with Patrick Swayze, he had it too.  Hugh Jackman has it.  Ewan McGregor has it too.  When I see these men dance on screen, my body knows how to fit and remembers the steps and the stances.

I’m putting it out to the universe that I want to dance again.  I don’t know how or where or when it will happen, but I’m trusting that I will find my way to do so again somehow.  I will not be ashamed of my fat body dancing.  I will remember how good I am at it and let that shine through.