Thursday, July 30, 2009

Clear the Path, Life is Waiting...

I had a very interesting weekend dealing with friends and their psychological limitations. Now I am in no way a psychologist, or even a social worker. But as a fellow acromegalic and high school teacher, I feel I am somewhat of an expert in how people can be cruel to those who look “different.”

One friend was acromegalic, and one was completely healthy. My friend who was acromegalic was invited to a party where they had not seen people since before their diagnosis. My friend who is in perfect health was afraid to attend a gym because they may not be as strong as their contemporaries. While these people are on different life paths, the similarities in their reasoning were striking to me. Both friends were primarily worried about what other people would say if they chose to participate in their individual social activities. While I am sympathetic to their fears, my own experiences made me feel badly that they were voluntarily standing in their own way.

Before I was diagnosed with acromegaly, I was tremendously obese, I was 6’3” and weighing in at just under 350 pounds. My shoes were size 16, and my hands BARELY fit into XXXXXL gloves! As to the gym, when I did try to go to the gym, I was barely able to do anything without my chest hurting. In hindsight, it was probably the tumor, but at the time I heard the whispers when I couldn’t hack it at the gym(which may or may not have been limited to my own brain): how do I expect to get my heart healthy if I don’t exercise because its too tiring. What a loop! If I go to the gym, I feel lousy and fear people are ridiculing my workout ability. If I don’t go to the gym, I feel lousy and fear that people are ridiculing my weight.

After diagnosis and treatment, I lost a good deal of weight for about six months before it started creeping back up. I was at a crossroads. I didn’t want to gain the weight back, but how I feared what others were saying. So I started to just watch my diet. Eventually that weight loss plateaued and I needed to either accept where I was stuck, or risk ridicule. I finally decided to take the plunge, laughing be damned. While I felt like everybody was looking and laughing at me, eventually I noticed that most people were busy working out, with no regard to anyone else in the gym. Most people there were either they were in love with their own look, or were worried about the same thing I was: ridicule from fellow members. After that epiphany, I was able to go work out at my own pace without fear of ridicule. And yes, I did see people laughing at me from time to time, but by then I was far enough into my routine that I just didn’t care. Parenthetically, this morning I was at the gym and noticed a guy doing cardio who was tremendously overweight. My first thought was, good for him! He took the first step!

So what does all this have to do with Acromegaly? Acro’s are typically very self-conscious of how we look. “Chris” chose not to go to the party because of a fear of ridicule. This is a shame because Chris is a very kind and generous person and I am sure that the party was poorer for Chris’ absence. Moreover, I am confident everyone else going to the party was afraid of something embarrassing including (choose any or all): weight loss/gain, job/career status, clothing label, paycheck, kids, house, life goal, addictions, fears, etc. We don’t need to apologize for our own inadequacies because most people are too busy focusing on their own shortcomings to notice what we fear most about ourselves.

My friends, I am both happy and sad to announce that no one ever really leaves behind the pettiness of high school. It is sadly unavoidable that people will always judge other people; and I am sure that at one time or another we are all guilty of it. The trick is to not let other people’s value of you paralyze your life. When we choose to not be social because of fears over that which we cannot control, we stay home and trap ourselves inside our own brains with our own endless chants of inadequacy, ensuring those negatively skewed self-evaluations will set in mental concrete. We have an obligation to those we love, and those who love us, to battle those insecurities and live every moment to the best of our abilities.

I admit that some days are better than others and when the acro is running your body, it can be tough to face the world. On sick days you may need to take it easy, and that is fine. But on those other days when we are healthy but may be feeling a little crummy about ourselves, I feel that those are the days we need to work extra hard to face the world. Worst-case scenario, we go out and have just as bad a time as we feared we would. But in all likelihood, if you are social, something good will happen while you are out. Even just faking it can change your mood for the better… you will have far more fun than locking yourself in the house. Who knows, maybe you go out and have a wonderful time and make new wonderful memories.

We only have one shot at this life. We need to make sure that we do waste a single day because of a fear that someone you don’t know may disapprove of you. Go have a great life, and if someone tries to stand in your way, walk around them and keep going!

1 comment:

polarchip said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post, and so well written! Thank you for sharing this with everyone.

I have felt so many of the emotions you describe, and I agree that we need to overcome this disease mentally- as in, we can't let it stop us from living our lives! Yes, it makes it harder, but it has also taught me to appreciate what I do have more.