Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sticks and Stones Pt 1

But names can never hurt you, we've all heard the phrase and repeat it for our kids, but I have to say I think it's a bunch of BS. Maybe it's just me, but names/words have hurt for as long as I remember. Now I recognize that they aren't supposed to hurt, but no matter how many times I've told myself that over the years, it's never really processed. This is a look at some of how I’ve dealt with it over time and some theories on what’s bugging me today.

It's funny; most people from a physical view of me probably wouldn't take me as someone overly sensitive. I'm 6'1 and have weighed anywhere from 190-320 pounds since high school. I'm wide shouldered, have a shaved head, and what I would consider myself to have defined facial features including a strong chin and eyes. So I'm probably not the prototypical sensitive type from a physical standpoint.

I'm also not the most engaging person, I'm severely guarded around people, and I don't tend to smile easily, that is unless I'm extremely comfortable with people I'm around. The smiling part isn't really intentional. I just hate the way I look when I smile, I can smirk just fine, but my smile feels forced and I think I look like a dork when I’m smiling.

Combine these things and I think it puts me in a bad spot, emotional people tend to be engaging and look a certain way (well at least for guys) so an average person might say something to me that they wouldn't to someone else. At least in some cases that maybe the case, but in truth it's the things that people intentionally say that seem to hurt the most.

I was picked on relentlessly in middle school, I had a 45 minute bus ride to and from school so and hour and a half on a bus filled with kids that had nothing better to do. Now take into account, I was an extremely late bloomer from a physical and cognitive standpoint add in the fact that we had so many kids on the bus, many of us had to stand for the whole ride and it was a recipe for disaster. My stop was one of the last, and I learned very quickly that school was every man for themselves, friends I would think I could count on to move over and let me share a seat, quickly spread out and ignored me, scared to be targeted by association. So I'd stand and try and hold on as our crazy bus driver drove us the whole way to school, being pelted with a variety of objects, flicked, hit, spit at, all the time trying to keep my balance and being assaulted with names.

I probably should have fought back earlier and by the second year when it continued even with kids my own age, I did. I got off the bus one day and this particular girl who was relentless (her brother who had moved on was actually the worst offender from the first year) kept running her mouth, as she was kneeling on the seat, her head was above the window, I snapped, I walked by and slammed her head against the metal of the bus. I should clarify here, I didn't really slam her head, but I gave her head a solid push. My goal wasn't to harm but to embarrass and shock a bit and I accomplished it. To this day I can't believe I did that, it's the only time I've ever harmed a girl. I have no excuse though, it wasn't a moment of passion or loss of control, and it was completely pre-meditated based on all the factors at the time including opportunity. I know there's a cowardly side to it, as I should have stood up for myself anytime over the previous year. However in many respects it finally took me this long to start to understand why people picked at me in the first place and it also took this long for me to get to the point, where I felt the need to stand up for myself. Make no mistake; while it was a girl, she was undoubtedly the ring leader for that current year. I will say this, she never said anything derogatory to me again, nor did she direct her minions to bother me either. Unfortunately there was only a month left of school anyway, but it was a fairly relaxing month.

The next year I moved to Streetsboro, for the beginning of high school. By this point, my junior high years were in the past and I did feel like I could get a new start. At that point though, my depression was already in full swing and I did nothing but sit at home and eat for the majority of the time from junior high all the way through high school. At the end of high school I was up at about 325 pounds. High school was pretty uneventful for the most part, I learned from Jr. High that keeping to my self and keeping a low profile worked. Mind you, I was miserable, but when I was picked on, I usually confronted it pretty quickly and survived. My self esteem sucked, I hated my body and my self. I had essentially one friend in high school and one from where I moved from. When I was around them, I was comfortable. There were others I hung out with, but I'd consider them acquaintances for the most part. I had developed a shell and I wasn’t using it very effectively to protect myself.

I finished high school and started college, working at a local retail store, I developed a crush on a girl who worked there and was still in school (a junior or senior at the time). Needless to say, she enjoyed talking with me and was going through a rough relationship, but she had very little interest in me outside of what emotional support I could provide. I realized one day at lunch, sitting in the car, that I couldn't possibly think of someone liking me if I couldn't even like myself. I was fat and hated it, how in the world could anyone like someone that looked like me?

So I got motivated. For that lunch I was just having a snack, a carmel and nut Reeses cup. I stopped myself from opening the pack and set it on the dashboard and left it there for the next year. (Maybe longer) I started planning on how I was going to lose weight. I bought an exercise bike floor model from the store and put it in the basement. I rode the bike and recorded my weight daily. I tracked the results in a journal with a line by line entry.

We had a 40th birthday party for a friend a couple weeks ago, and during the night the subject moved to weight loss. My brother and others were a part of the discussion. I’ve been concerned for him on how he's taking care of himself, so I was offering suggestions. So as we were discussing options, he told me he didn’t feel like he could do it the way I did. His exact comments were “You were driven and extremely focused; I’ve never seen you do anything like that.” He's right the focus I had was extreme, it was the first time I remember ever consciously setting my mind to something that seemed insurmountable and deciding that I was going to accomplish it.

Within 3 months, I was down at least 40-50 lbs. I changed my eating habits, rode the bike everyday, and continued weighing myself. I moved from fast food and fries to subway sandwiches and sunflower seeds. (If only I would have known Jared would have made a crap load of money from his weight loss promoting Subway, and if I'd have only written a letter :) ). The weight continued to come off, I'd plateau, and continue pressing. The research I did showed that 3lbs a week was about the best you could expect over a course of time, so even if you lost 20lbs the first month your plateaus were going to make that average about 3 lbs. At about 9 months I was down to about 215 and felt good.

While I wasn't quite where I wanted to be, working out became a huge part of my life. Even now, while I don't keep up like I used too, when I don't workout regularly, the level of grouchiness I feel is unbelievable and I'm amazed at how good I feel from one or two workouts. However even weight loss couldn't resolve all of my depression. I discovered my weight loss meant nothing for the girl I was pursuing. I won’t bother with the details, but she didn’t think much of me and I ended our ‘friendship’ once I learned this. Losing weight had at least given me a bit of self esteem. This realization also caused me to protect myself more emotionally.

This things getting long, so breaking it up into Part 1 and Part 2.

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