Day 8: Sore. Yesterday I spent about an hour walking outside. I needed to scratch some of the itch I had to exercise. It felt great to sweat again, but I pushed it a bit too hard. This morning, my back hurt and my knees creaked under pressure they haven’t been used to. My surgical incision lines feel stretched. On the brighter side, only a few more days until I can shower and be done with these sponge baths where I manage to get more water on the floor than over my body.
I’ll paste the G rated summary of today’s blog entry on Facebook: It was the unrelenting bullying in middle school that shattered my self-image and self-worth, driving me to eat until I was 280 pounds.
Some details below may be disturbing to some readers.
At age ten, I felt old, spiritually and physically. Sore back, creaking knees, the works. Riding my bike fifty feet made me wheeze and sweat.
We moved later that year. I was promised that the new school would be bigger and better, and the other kids more understanding than at my last school. I hoped to loose weight. My parents hoped for better jobs. I think we were all disappointed.
When I stepped in to classroom 5B, its students erupted in to laughter. Fingers pointed and mouths dropped. As I walked the slow march to my assigned desk, I heard the whispers between the students. Fat. Lardy. Huge. My assigned desk was too small. I had to crouch down and shimmy left and right in the chair to squeeze in to it. Finally in place with my stomach resting on the tabletop surface, a boy whispered in my ear, “fatso”. The teacher was less than five feet away, and my father was standing in the back of the room.
I lived every moment of every school day for the next five years in constant fear. Although I hid in the shadows as much as possible, I would always be found in this twisted game of hide and seek. I was name-called, spit-on, tripped or laughed at daily. In gym glass, balls, gloves and other equipment always wound up at or near the back of my head.
I was not allowed to leave my seat in class without someone making a fart noise or fat joke. If I raised my hand to answer a question, laughter would follow. If I laughed at a funny story, someone would point out how the rolls of my stomach flapped as I laughed. I stopped laughing, smiling and moving altogether in school. Although I was a year advanced in music and played an instrument, I quit, because of the constant barrage of jokes comparing my size to that of my unfortunate choice of instrument (a horn similar to a tuba).
At home, my parents and I were three angry obese people, together in the same house, but very much separate. There was plenty of yelling and word slinging from all sides but no dialogue or meaningful relationship. We peeled away and retreated to three separate levels within the house.
The bullying got more sophisticated over the course of those five years. It transitioned from attacks about my body to attacks about my being. I was told I was worthless, despicable, undesired and lazy. My only reprieve came because I had a decent mind and the favor of a few teachers. Answers to homework assignments earned me rights to small compliments. If I provided what was asked for, perhaps I wasn’t that big. But when I refused to cheat on tests, I was punished double-time for several days after.
Adolescence is a particularly inconvenient time to be obese. When the queen bee of my class chose me as a partner for a project, warning bells raged. Blinded entirely at the attention from a confident, beautiful girl, I accepted her and her friend’s offer to come to my house to complete the project. Trip wire crossed. As I glued the final piece to the poster board, she took my hand and put her arm around me. Before I had time to think, she and her friend threw me off balance, pinned me to the ground and, cackling, started taking off my pants and shirt. I broke free, but not before they both had a chance to pull down the front of my underwear, look inside and laugh convulsively. I remember the horrible sinking feeling set in as I sat there on the floor, shaking. As they explained it, my boobs were bigger than theirs, and they needed to know for themselves if I really was just a fat boy or an ugly, fat girl. I was 11 years old.
Eating excessively didn’t make any of the issues I was facing go away, but it did numb me. So, I just kept eating until I peaked in 44 inch pants and XXL t-shirts.
In terms of my story, this is the darkest part. It does get lighter from here.
Sadly, in a recent survey, one in four sixth grade boys experienced teasing, bullying or rejection because of his size. When I did a search for medical studies that documented how obese children were bullied, I came up empty.
But, it does appear that I am not alone in blogging or writing about the details of some of the worst instances of obesity related bullying. Most of the stories come from women.
Come on guys, when you’re ready, let’s share.