Mundane Monday: on being optimistic

On Saturday, I spent perhaps an hour and a half crying — no, sobbing, raging with tears in my eyes, lamenting my situation to the heavens above. They didn’t listen very well, but I don’t expect them to.

Then on Sunday I did things. I was generally productive. My boyfriend came to visit me and we got to watch some TV together, because I was feeling well enough to sit up for a little while. It was a fairly good day.

Today I got around all day without the walker. A big feat, considering I had to go get bloodwork done at a lab and then went to physiotherapy (which was nice, though a bit tough at points). And then I walked back to the apartment after physio. (It’s across the street.)

I was upset on Saturday, and I had every right to be. You see, I’ve never been young. Well. I’ve been young, but I’ve never felt physically young. And I’ve suffered enough emotional traumas to age me prematurely, so I’ve never felt mentally young, either. I’ve never fit in with my peers — never understood them, or been able to relate to them. What has seemed important to them has always baffled me.

My obesity started when I was a young child, and it complicated health problems already extant. My inability to stay healthy continued my downward spiral, and as a consequence I’ve never felt like a young person in this body. I’ve never felt that youthful joy, that energy, that feeling of immortality. I’ve always felt older than I am.

I sort of had this dream of getting healthy, presumably losing some weight, though perhaps not all of it, and then becoming young. I had this dream that I’d get healthy and then finally be able to do all those really spontaneous things that young people do: sky-diving, maybe, or a four-day hike through the wilderness. Maybe I’d take up street hockey, or horseback riding. All those physical things, those things that make it a joy to be in your body, those things I’d never really enjoyed before because it was exercise and exercise has always been tainted in my mind by both emotional trauma and the fact that it’s difficult for me to do.

I’m fat-positive, and I do believe in HAES. But the fact is, my body is not healthy at this size and it never has been. I felt much better when I was 60 pounds lighter. My frame operates better when there is less adipose tissue weighing it down.

Now, my discs are bulging.

And what that means is that my dream of being a young person is gone. I’m not being overly-dramatic here — I have to be careful. I’m forever that unfun friend with the back issues, who has to constantly be on guard lest she injure herself doing something completely normal that everyone else can handle. And the thing is, even though I had my issues, I tried to never let anything get in the way of doing things.

Which is possibly what led me to this predicament.

So no, I’m not going to be fun, spontaneous Katje anymore, and I’m never going to be able to feel that youthful immortality. Which, perhaps, is better for me in the long run — but at the moment I’m having trouble seeing the bright side.

I’m trying to be optimistic, though. I’m looking at what I can do.

I can go jogging (once I’ve lost some more weight, and once the back is healed). I can take up boxing. I can probably do some forms of martial arts. I can write, I can paint, I can sing, I can dance burlesque. I can go swimming. I can canoe and kayak. I’m going to have to be careful doing some of these things, but ok — that’s my new reality, now, and the point is I can do them in the first place. They’re not completely stricken from my list of options.

And I have to force myself to be optimistic. To be happy with what I can do. Because I’m basically a cat declawed, and there’s no going back from that.

Whatever Wednesday: Banned Books Week and full disclosure about my adolescence

This is cross-posted from katjevanloon.com

September 24th through October 1st is Banned Books Week. Over the years, many books and writers have been banned or challenged — for political reasons or just some vague feeling of “needing to protect the children”.

Until this year, I’d never sought to read a banned book. Then I decided I’d try and find one, and saw on the list of top ten challenged books for 2010 were two books I’d already read this week — The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I’d picked these up because I’m on a bit of a YA bent right now, and because I’m a First Nations major who had the privilege of seeing Alexie speak at a conference several years ago.

What’s amazing is the amount of YA novels that get banned or challenged. We feel that we must protect children and teenagers from darkness, danger, naughty words. The fact is most kids these days already live in hell, and as Sherman Alexie says, those dark, dark books give them weapons with which to fight for their lives.

When I was 11 I was sneaking booze from my dad’s liquor cabinet. By the time I was 15 I had already tried to kill myself numerous times. When I was 18 and my mom sent me to get tested for diabetes (it runs in my family and I was showing symptoms), the doctor asked me what I would have done had I tested positive.

“I’d probably just let it kill me,” I said, completely serious.

He said he was going to recommend me to a therapist, and I said that was probably a good idea.

Eventually I got onto anti-depressants, and then I got off them for a while, and continued in my deep spiral of depression. I was living in the States, under-age, and drinking a case of Smirnoff Twists every other night, taking pain pills along with it hoping to slip into a coma while I slept (I just woke up in the middle of the night with a headache and needing to piss like a racehorse). I would drive my car fast on dark, curvy roads, hoping to lose control at the right moment. I cut myself a lot and screamed out my anguish.

Moving back home to Canada helped, but not much. It was legal for me to drink here, so my problem just intensified. I careened from one bad relationship to another and began to believe that I deserved the abuses they dealt out.

In June of last year I decided I was tired of wanting to die all the time, and went to my doctor and said “I need help.” She put me on pills which balanced me and stopped my drinking habit. Three months later I met the love of my life, and finally realized that I deserved to be loved and cherished.

I can now honestly say it’s been a year and four months since I thought about committing suicide, and even longer since I’ve attempted it (directly, at least — a year and a half ago I was still trying to drink myself to death). While I sometimes say, tongue-in-cheek, that life would be easier if I just offed myself — that is an example of dark wit in the face of crippling debt and chronic illness, self-hatred and despair.

So, I’m sorry, but just where were these people who so desperately wanted to “protect” me when I was enduring the horrors that led to this sort of depression? They want to ban books that may give me hope, because heavens forfend I read about kids overcoming insurmountable obstacles, about how friendship can get you through anything, about how it’s okay to be a smart girl, about a parent’s divorce not being the end of the world, about fighting off myriad enemies with only your wits and luck to guide you.

Now I read YA books and think “I hope that somewhere, a kid with the same crippling despair I felt is reading this and thinking life is worth living, if only for a little while longer.”

Because life is worth living. I am so happy my suicide attempts all failed, because no matter how bad the economy is (I still haven’t paid all of September’s rent), no matter how dark things look — my life is better now. In ways I couldn’t have imagined when I was 11, 15, 18, even 23. Books gave me weapons. Many of the ones I read that helped me have been challenged enough times to make the list, because they’re “dangerous” for kids to read.

The only thing that’s dangerous is for kids to stop reading.

Had I stopped reading…well, I may not be here today. Reading gave me courage, hope, and the strength to see it through to the end. It’s not the end yet, and I’m not going anywhere.

For Banned Books Week, pick up a YA book that’s been challenged. It shouldn’t be hard; they’re everywhere. See what’s so dangerous about giving kids hope.