doctors and d-bags: a ranty blog post

(cross-posted, slightly edited, from my LiveJournal)

So I’ve been dealing with chronic pain issues for, oh, maybe a little over a year now. Before that I had back pain for roughly 8 years, and now it’s pretty much everywhere. I have good days and bad days, and today was not a good day.

I was 30 minutes late to work because getting out of bed took longer than I thought it would, and I figured I would feel better as the day progressed (it’s often bad in the morning and then gets better as I start moving around and doing stuff). I was supposed to teach today–I had to cancel last week to process some family shit that’s going down (everything will be fine in that department, a lot of stuff just happened a couple of weeks ago), and I was in tears when I had to call the treatment center to cancel today’s classes.

Then I felt stupid for crying, which led to a mini-breakdown in the bathroom.

I feel like people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m in too much pain to do something, which sucks. It’s also why I tend to overexert myself and “suck it up” rather than stop when my body tells me I need to stop. When the President was in Minneapolis on Saturday I was too distracted by pain to pay attention to what he was even saying–I caught snippets here and there, and a lot of his speech seemed like stuff I’d heard before, but shit. I was hoping I would be totes inspired once he started speaking and my pain would go away because of his magical Presidenty powers, but that didn’t work.

I went to the tribal clinic at home (~1.5 hours away from where I go to school) about six months ago and the nurse practitioner told me to lose weight. Then I tried to go to Health Services on campus and when I called to make an appointment they said I needed to get records of my visit from the tribal clinic faxed before I could be seen, probably so they could make sure I wasn’t just looking for pain pills or something. That took forever and I never made another appointment.

Now, it’s getting bad enough that I know I need to see a doctor but I fucking hate doctors. I need to find a PCP that will listen to and believe me instead of being a douchebag, but I don’t have time to go looking for one.  SOMETHING’s going on here. I just don’t have any fucking clue what. I’m lost.

Maybe, JUST MAYBE (I know I’m not the first person to say this), people perceive fat people as unhealthy because we (and I can only speak for myself here) put off going to the doctor until something’s massively fucked up and preventative care isn’t taken into consideration, and when we DO go to the doctor they don’t listen to us because they see fat and think “oh, this person just needs to lose weight and all of their health problems will go away.” Yeah, not a super effective approach.

When I’m stigmatized by the people who are supposed to help me, I have a rough time trusting that the next person won’t treat me like crap.  This leads to a difficult relationship with everyone who might judge me based on how I look, and doesn’t make me want to find another doctor.  I’m constantly reminded of the uphill battle we fight in order to show our faces in public.  Yes, sometimes I have difficulty walking because I’m in pain.  No, it’s not because I’m fat.  No, you do not have the right to judge me for taking the elevator because walking down the stairs aggravates my knee.

And when doctors are seen as authority figures in our society, we pick up signals from them about the acceptable treatment of fatties.  Oh, just lose some weight and you’ll be healthy.  Just go on a diet and all of your problems will go away.  Just get some exercise and you won’t have depression or anxiety anymore.  Hey, if you took the stairs, maybe your knee wouldn’t crumble under the sheer mass of your fatz!

These judgments seem to give people the right to be openly disgusted by my body.  Eww, fatties making out?  Gross!  Who wants to see that, amirite??

And it’s totes reasonable to be offended by fat bodies on television.  No, really, how dare I exist so that people have to (gasp!) look at me when I am in their line of vision! Anything I do in front of other people (walking!  standing!  sitting!  talking!)  is definitely offensive to innocent bystanders, and I would be silly to think that someone who looks like me has the right to make out on television.  What was I thinking, assuming that people wouldn’t automatically barf at the sight of my flabby arms or my double chin? </sarcasm>


P.S. Neglected blog is neglected; hopefully I’ll have more time to post regularly sometime soon.

October 27, 2010. Tags: , , , . real-life wtfery. 4 comments.

Sarcasm: the emotional barrier of champions

Hey blog, it’s been a while!  It’s mostly been a while because I’ve been working nonstop for the past ~2 months and have finally got a break (and by break I mean I’m done working for the summer).  I should be blogging more regularly now, so yay.

My first job this summer was through the medical school at my university.  It was for Native high school kids who want to pursue careers in medicine.  This is awesome.  We need more Native doctors and I’m glad to help.

Well, a few weeks into this six-week program, a Diabetes Team from the local reservation came to talk to the kids.  I’m not going to claim that diabetes isn’t a problem in Native communities; it is, and that sucks.  However, I believe that IT IS NOT BECAUSE WE ARE ALL TEH FATZ.  The “team” consisted of two women (at least one of them was white, I’m not sure about the other): a personal trainer/fitness expert (or something) and a nutritionist.  They did the standard “exercise and eat healthy food and lose weight and you’ll greatly reduce your risk for the diabeetus” spiel, and they did not fail to mention that losing 10-15% of one’s body weight is, like, totally good for you.  (I posted last month about this.)

The whole weight loss component of the presentation made me uncomfortable, and the nutritionist had blocks of fake fat in the amounts of 1, 5 and 20 pounds.  The 20-pound chunk of fat was kind of like a front-facing backpack so you can totally know what it feels like to be 20 pounds heavier!  Because whenever you gain 20 pounds, you carry it with straps on your shoulders.  She had a volunteer go up to the front to wear the 20 pounds and proceeded to ask her, “how does it feel?  Is it harder to move around and do things?” (it was.) and asked the room “Has anyone here ever lost 20 pounds before?”  I bit my tongue instead of saying what was in my head at that point, which was Yeah, when I was depressed/had severe issues with disordered eating/was crash dieting and hated myself, thanks for bringing that up. The BMI was mentioned once or twice.

The students did sessions of Problem-Based Learning (PBL), which is apparently what they do in med school; they were given a medical case and had to see what was wrong with the person.  The very last one involved a woman who had pain in her mouth and dwindling eyesight and rapid weight loss, and it turned out she had diabetes.  I don’t remember her height, but she weighed over 190 pounds, to which one of the two boys in this particular group responded:  “DAAAYUMMMNN!!”

I felt a little uncomfortable, mostly because I weigh >100 lbs. more than this hypothetical woman, and I’m pretty sure their facilitator, associate something-or-other for the medical school, assumed for the few weeks we interacted with each other that I was about to die of fat.  This happens every time my friends/whatever people I’m with (like the students at work) talk about other fatties when I’m around; I can’t help but think “what do they say about me when I’m not around?  Do they not see that I’m fatter than [whoever they’re talking about]?  WTF?”  My default defense mechanism is sarcasm, but that doesn’t really seem to work when I’m confronting issues of fat, because I forget that people actually believe that fat people don’t deserve nice things, or that no heterosexual male would ever want to have sex with a Fat Chick, EVER.  Sarcasm tends to be lost on people who have been socialized to believe what you’re saying, or they sense the sarcasm but don’t understand why it’s there because these statements are OBVS TRUE.

At the end of the program, the kids did presentations about different health issues:  COPD, pandemic influenza, asthma and smoking, healthy aging, something I don’t remember, and “Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles.”  The Nutrition group started out by saying (and I may be paraphrasing slightly) “it’s common knowledge that obesity causes a myriad of health problems” and encouraged everyone to lose weight if their BMI was in the “overweight” range.  Common knowledge is something that irks me, especially when used about something that ISN’T common knowledge–or, in this case, something that is widely accepted but not true.  It’s like saying “it’s common knowledge that fat people never exercise and binge eat 24/7.”  There are people who actually believe this shit, and if they happen to come across a fatty who does exercise and doesn’t gorge themselves constantly, it’s “oh, but you’re the exception!” and/or “it’s okay for you because you can’t help it!”

I’m at the point where I’m finally comfortable calling people out about fatphobia, but I’m not comfortable enough to do it in a serious way.  My response to a friend who has made an effort to eat healthily and exercise tends to be “I heard fat is the worst thing anyone could ever be in the history of everything.”  It’s taken her a while to get that I don’t want to hear about how she OMG gained five pounds and that is definitely the end of the world!!!11one, but it’s happening.

I use sarcasm as an emotional shield for a lot of things, which I realize is probably unhealthy but it’s how I do.  When friends or even acquaintances say or do things that make me uncomfortable I tend to panic and revert to sarcastically remarking, “Rape is hilarious!” (why do I have friends who make rape jokes?  sigh.) because if I didn’t have that defense mechanism I might start crying and screaming at them instead.

Other fat bloggers have explained the concept of intellectually understanding fat acceptance while emotionally holding onto the Fantasy of Being Thin or just thinking “if I were X pounds lighter/X dress sizes smaller, I could really start accepting my fat body!”–or the Fantasy of Being a Little Less Fat.  To be completely honest with you, it’s only been half a year (almost 7 months!) since I was intellectually introduced to the concept that OHAI, fatness isn’t the end of the world.  I totally got it and I was ready to jump on board with the whole FA thing and fuck diets and whatnot, but there are still times when I catch a glimpse of my body from an unflattering angle or something and think “how could anyone ever find this attractive?  I’ll probably die alone,” moments after I’ve looked at photos of gorgeous fat girls who are roughly my size.

I used to wish I was shorter, because at 5’7″ I’m too tall for the category of “spunky because they’re short and chubby” girls–Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray and the like.  Oh fucked-up body image issues, you are so odd.

So it’s really sad, but if I didn’t deadpan “fat people don’t deserve nice things” or something similar, I might slip and let myself go back to an emotional place that involves a lot of self-hatred because there was a time at which I believed this was true and I’ve had a hell of a time figuring out that it isn’t… if only it were simpler.

I’m working on it.

August 1, 2009. Tags: , , , , . FA, intersectionality, real-life wtfery. 4 comments.

kids these days; also, I’ve come a long way.

Ohai blog, it’s been a while.

Warning:  The last part of this post contains potentially triggering material.

I was going to post about HAES and a job I might have this summer(!), but literally a couple of minutes after I got home one day last week I came across this article, which seemed oddly appropriate after what happened on the way home.  I’ll make that other post later.

When I was walking home, I passed a house not too far from my own apartment and there were some kids playing outside.  They might have been 10 or 11 (I don’t know, I’m no good at guessing ages), and there was at least one of them who was yelling “douchebag!”–which, I have to admit, amused me a little even though he probably doesn’t know what a douchebag is. Anyway, I was looking straight ahead and about half a block away from my apartment when the same kid (I think; I wasn’t looking) yelled “Fat lady in a dress!”–which was true.  I’m fat and, like most days, I was wearing a dress.  I’m guessing he wasn’t just making an observation; personally, I don’t tend to yell out everything I observe… but the notion does kind of remind me of Real Life Twitter:

So I kept walking and ignored the kid, just like I learned to ignore the kids just like him when I was in elementary school; the house was completely behind me when I heard him yell “there’s a planet on the sidewalk!”, presumably referring to me and my fatness. This would have upset me a lot if I were in elementary, middle or high school–or even my first 2.5 years of college, probably; years ago, I would pretend that the boy or girl calling me fat like it was a terrible thing to be (which I believed for a long time) wasn’t affecting me at all… then I would go home and cry and/or engage in self-destructive behavior.

This was actually the first time in a while someone’s maliciously called me fat to my face, and you know what?  I didn’t cry.  I wasn’t depressed for days. This is what I call personal growth.

I already posted about the fact that I now have something in the area of self-esteem, but FA for me has gone a lot deeper than that.

Warning:  potentially triggering material below.

A little over a year ago, my father passed away.  I was an emotional wreck; I spent the remainder of the semester (3 weeks) and some of the summer at home with my mom and siblings.  Exactly two months later, I was raped.

Like so many other victims (I was still a victim at that point; I now consider myself a survivor), I believed it was my fault despite my better judgment.  A lot of my close friends are sexual assault advocates and I’ve been participating in and organizing V-Day at my university for years, helping to raise money for a local organization that works to empower survivors and recognize that it isn’t their fault.

I convinced myself that this happened to me because of some bad decision I made; my common sense was compromised and because my dad had died, I wasn’t thinking straight.  Therefore, it was my fault. In addition to this misconception, I figured that I deserved it because if I had just done things differently, it wouldn’t have happened.  I also somehow figured that I should be grateful for being raped because hey, who wants to have sex with a fat chick?  No normal, self-respecting person.  Clearly, no one besides a creepy fetishist chubby chaser would ever love me enough to want to have consensual sex with me, so I should just take it where I can get it.

All of this sounds like something a particularly douchy troll would say.  When an asshole on the internet makes comments like these, we as bloggers and blog-readers can ridicule him and kick him in the face with feminism.

My experience is eerily similar to one described by Kate Harding in her essay for Yes Means Yes, called “How do you Fuck a Fat Woman?”, except all of the horrible comments were made by me inside my own head. I didn’t speak my truth until 10 months later at the speakout portion of the local Take Back The Night; I had an intense fear of judgment.  For a long time I thought people would think “who’d want to rape her? She’s FAT!  Eww!” but I felt an enormous weight lift when I spoke at that podium and had an amazingly supportive group of feminists who supported me afterwards.

Treating someone like shit is not automatically justified if they’re fat. Fat women don’t deserve to be raped, nor should they feel gratitude for the experience. It seems like common sense, but just imagine if we could actually realize it. If I hadn’t accidentally discovered fat acceptance a few months ago, I think I’d still have the I’m-a-horrible-person-because-I’m-fat mindset, including thinking I deserved discrimination and ridicule and rape and thinking no one in their right mind would ever be attracted to someone who’s fat, EVER.

I’m so glad I know better now.

May 24, 2009. Tags: , . FA, real-life wtfery. 1 comment.

I have a love-hate relationship with Lane Bryant…

…except for the love part.  Maybe more of a “kinda sorta like a few items sometimes-frustration most of the time” relationship.

I went shopping a few days ago.  LB is pretty much the only brick and mortar store at which I shop for clothing; it’s the only plus size store in the area (that I can get to by bus, anyway, since I don’t have a car and I normally shop alone*) apart from Catherine’s.  While a lot of their stuff is just plain ugly, I like their camis and some of their lingerie and Right Fit jeans, so I decided to give it a shot.  When I saw this dress, even though it’s a bit out of my price range, I came this close to buying it.  I was having an internal struggle trying to decide between it and this one while looking at some tops and shorts when I noticed that two of the saleswomen were watching me like hawks.  I thought it was a little weird that the older of the two came up to me with a big phony-looking smile, asking me if I was “finding everything okay” (a phrase I hear there approximately every 5 minutes when there are more than 3 shoppers in the store) almost immediately after the younger one welcomed me and asked if I needed help finding something, etc.  I told both of them I was just looking (which was true), and it kind of looked like the younger one (probably in her 20s) was looking to the older woman (older than me and the other saleswoman, she looks like she’s in her 50s) for some kind of consultation before the latter approached me.

I honestly don’t think I look like a shoplifter, and I feel like I’ve spent enough time and money at Lane Bryant for them to know that I don’t steal their shit–two of the same salespeople are there at least 90% of the time I’ve been there, and because their clothes are a tad overpriced for a college student’s budget, I’d think they’d realize by now that I’ve been a loyal customer for the past 2.5+ years.

This has happened to me before; maybe I do look like a shoplifter (but seriously, do I?).  I was actually accused of shoplifting a tube of Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer, valued at a whopping $5.00, from the bookstore at my university even though I purchased an item of greater value.  The person working there apparently reported to the university police that I “looked nervous,” and I had been walking around holding the damn thing with the intention to buy it but decided not to and put it away before continuing my perusal of the gift section.  I only GOT nervous after I noticed that she was staring at me suspiciously; I had a feeling she would confront me in the store about it, and during my freshman year of college I tended to avoid confrontation, because I get nervous when confronted even if I didn’t do anything.  No one said anything to my face while I was in the store, and I bought a makeup bag or something without any further complications.  The next day, one of the university police called me while I was at the mall with my roommate and kept trying to get me to confess.  I met with the chief of university police a few days later to complain about the treatment I received and it got sorted out, but it was an unnecessary, stressful experience.

I walked out of LB without buying anything (and my checking account will probably thank me later), but I still need cute sundresses for the forthcoming warm weather.  Oh well; the mail carrier is a lot nicer and a lot less rude than the cashiers I’ve encountered at my local Lane Bryant.

FYI, retail employees:  I am not a shoplifter.

*I need more fat friends/shopping buddies.  And more places to shop where I can actually try on clothing.

March 17, 2009. Tags: , . fatshion, real-life wtfery. Leave a comment.

Do we all look the same or something?

There is another dark-haired fat woman with glasses in my department, and people seem to get us confused often.  I’m not sure I would mind so much if the other person was cool*, but COME ON.  Other than being fat and having dark hair and glasses, we don’t look alike at all.  Our hairstyles, fashion styles and glasses are completely different.  She’s 13 years older than me and at least 6 inches shorter and tends to make racist and/or misogynist comments almost every day.

Earlier this semester, a professor actually called my by this person’s name in the hallway after I was in her class last semester and the other girl wasn’t.  Now, we’re in a class together with a different professor, whom neither of us has had before and the professor, while I love her, mixes us up ALL THE TIME re: who talked to her about what, which of us had to leave early/miss class, etc.  This is understandable, I guess, since we only have the class once a week and we sit next to each other (meh) and we’re both fat girls with glasses and dark hair, but it’s really frustrating… especially since the aforementioned professor will probably be my adviser next semester.  Sigh.

Two semesters ago, I was pretty much the only fat girl (well, definitely the fattest; there were maybe two or three inbetweenies) in my choir and this semester there are three (myself, the one with whom I get confused all the time, and another fat girl with dark hair that I think people are starting to get confused with the OTHER one even though she doesn’t have glasses).  We’re obvs. very different people who look different from each other; why is it so freakin’ difficult to tell us apart?  There are countless thin blondes in choir (and at my university, for that matter); I can generally tell them apart.  Unless they’re all wearing Ugg boots, puffy vests and miniskirts or are otherwise dressed like clones of each other (even then, if they have completely different faces and haircuts and one were 6 inches taller than the other you’d think I’d realize that they’re individual people!).

*By “cool,” I mean “cool by my standards,” as in someone with whom I’d want to hang out, have a conversation or exchange pleasantries.

March 13, 2009. Tags: , . real-life wtfery. 1 comment.

Weight “problems”/addressing fat

I was talking to an acquaintance while eating dinner today, and the issue of fatness came up.  It was the first time I’ve ever talked with anyone in Real Life about it, and the conversation went like this (semi-paraphrased):

Me:  (blah blah blah, something mentioned kinda-sorta in passing about the fact that I’m a fat Native woman; we were talking about a bigoted assbag in our department who likes to oppress everyone)
Her (direct quote):  Well, despite your… fatness… you dress well!  People with weight problems should dress well.
Me:  Well, I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m actually a very healthy person.
Her:  Yeah, but your self-esteem is up because you dress well, and if you had low self-esteem, you’d probably get bigger, THEN it would be a problem.
Me:  …

I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond.  For whom would it be a problem if I gained weight?  If I gained so much as to be non-ambulatory, I suppose it would be my problem, but my weight has been fluctuating since middle school and it hasn’t adversely affected anything besides my own self-esteem until recently (that is, until I stumbled upon Fatshionista and came across the Fat Acceptance movement).

I remember when I was in seventh grade, a size 14, and I was staying the night at a friend’s house.  She was going to lend me a pair of pajama pants, which wouldn’t have been a problem–they’re usually stretchy, after all–but I went to put them on around bedtime and couldn’t get past my thighs.  I said something about how they didn’t fit me because I was too fat (which was the truth, but I meant it more as a statement of self-deprecation), to which she promptly responded “you’re not fat!” just like any good friend in the eyes of a tween would do.  (I’ve since read Kate Harding’s essay in Feed Me! and am working on my own automatic emotional response to the word “fat.”  Hearing it out loud still makes me cringe a tiny bit, but progress is being made.)

I have all kinds of experiences with the F word, from the first time someone called me fat when I was in the third grade (that person happened to have a lot of the same friends I had in high school, so I felt sort of weirdly compelled to pretend to like her, but we were never friends) to the guy who said “God, Linda, you are so fat!” in a completely disgusted tone while I was getting a drink of water from the fountain before our tenth grade English class (I still see him sometimes when I go home for breaks or a weekend or whatever, and I still don’t acknowlege him when we run into each other at the grocery store or the movie theatre.  He pretends I don’t exist, too, so it’s kind of like a symbiotic relationship of passive-aggression), to the asshole sitting behind me who told me to “turn around, fatty” when I shot him a withering stare while he was being extremely rude and disrespectful during a school assembly, to one of my best friends at the time who said something (I can’t remember exactly what it was) about how I was kind of pretty even though I was fat (I’m sure she meant it as a compliment), and our other friend with whom we were eating dinner got all flustered and kind of angry and said when the aforementioned friend got up to use the restroom, “well, she didn’t need to say it like that!” while I just shrugged apologetically.

I have a love-hate relationship with my fat.  I’m very new to FA, so I’m still in the process of eliminating the hate part of the whole situation.  When I first came across the Fatshionista LJ community, I’d look at someone’s (anyone’s) outfit post and think “Argh!  She’s fat and beautiful, why can’t I be too?  Maybe if I were less fat, or if I were differently shaped, or if I had bigger T&A in comparison to my stomach…”

It’s weirdly similar to the Fantasy of Being Thin, which is ironic.  I went from realizing that fat ≠ ugly/disgusting/unlovable/etc. to immediately comparing my body to others’ just as I’ve been doing for years with thin women.  OHAI, fat acceptance = accepting fat!?!?!?  I’m getting better, at least.  I’m learning to own my fat instead of apologizing for it and being ashamed of it.  That’s something I’ve had to do on my own, no matter how many FA blog posts I’ve read (and I’ve recently spent many a night scouring the archives of said blogs, refusing to believe that they’ll still be there in the morning).

February 27, 2009. Tags: , . FA, real-life wtfery. 3 comments.