All posts by Bettina Restrepo

Bettina Restrepo is a writer, a mom,a wife, a daughter, a sister and twenty-six other roles. She lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband, son, and very naughty dog.

Naked

“You’d be surprised how many people will invite you inside their home but not let you near their closet,” Dorly said as she peered into my closet door.

“How do you find the best looks if you don’t go inside the closet?”  I’d already picked most of my outfits and matched up the accessories.  A fuchsia sheath dress, a leather jacket, my favorite jeans, a lace mini and a fur vest my mother gave me.

Dorly said, “Your closet is immaculately organized.”

I beamed.  “I really enjoyed throwing my old clothes away.  Now, I stick with the basics and a few special pieces.”

Because I threw out my old clothes
Because I threw out my old clothes

“Did you keep a pair of pants from before to show how much you’d lost?” Dorly asked.

The Before.  “No.”

My old closet symbolized the weight of emotional crap I’d carried through my life.  3 different sizes of fat clothes, things I’d purchased because nothing else was in my size, shoes that pinched, belts that held up nothing.

She nodded in understanding.  “I believe a woman’s closet shows her emotional state.  You need to give yourself credit for more than your weight loss.”

I nodded, trying to absorb the magnitude of what I’d accomplished.  The satisfaction with reaching a goal carried little weight with me.  Once I was close to the finish line, I’d make new goals for the Next Thing.

My story was still unfolding.  The only goal was to finish and I had no idea how to get to that mythical place.  Once again, Dorly knew.  “You are ready,” she announced.

I arrived at Dorly’s inviting studio and snuggled into her grey tufted couch.  Even though it was cold and rainy outside, I felt like I’d stepped into a place of comfort, “We’ll show your best self.  I’ll help you plan out the clothes and jewelry that will pop in pictures.  The hair and the makeup mark the beginning of the day of the shoot.”

She handed me a few fashion magazines.  “Look inside and tell me what you like.  I also have boards on Pinterest to help you along.”

I thumbed through a few pages and returned them to the table.   “I want you to reveal the Real me.  The one that has been hiding underneath.  The one who doesn’t know how to be shown yet.”

“I’m so touched that you’d trust me like that.”

It wasn’t just trust.  She had proven to me that she could understand my vision through the story without me having to describe each step.  We could again work in tandem and find the inner story.

Dorly reassured me.  “My clients are always experiencing transition.  They either want to change, swimming through the middle of it, or now at the end of a long road.  The honesty of the transformation will be validated through the photography.  I already see it.”

I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Good, because I’d like to know what it looks like.”

Two weeks later, I relaxed into the make-up artist’s chair as she gently painted every nook and cranny of my face with foundation.  The floor gently creaked as she danced the brushes across my face. When my bladder signaled for a break, but I didn’t want to look in the mirror.  I stumbled into the dark to avoid my reflection and hoped I wouldn’t fall off the commode.  I couldn’t face what I might look like.

Click, click click came from her camera.  As dappled light passed through the window sheers, Dorly pointed me in different directions.  Look down, then up, shoulder forward, fewer teeth, and longer neck.  Fluid.  Easy.

I never had a chance to grow uncomfortable.

Becoming Real

 

Yes - that's me!
Yes – that’s me!Days and months slid by and I hit my two-year surgery anniversary date.  I’d been successfully at my goal weight for eighteen months.  I still didn’t like shopping for clothes and my feeling bristled less from weight loss compliments.  My wish of visiting Dorly’s studio still existed, yet fear continued to push making an appointment away from my conscience mind.

I followed Dorly’s work on Facebook.  Each portrait was better than the next.  I gaped at people who were already beautiful transforming into angelic creatures she captured with her camera.  I continued to avoid the camera as I struggled with my own body image.

I was revising a rough draft of a novel and posting comments about the work on Facebook.  I wrote, “I need to let these pages rest a few days before I contract a case of Edward Scissorhands.”

Dorly responded.  “I feel the same when I’m editing photos. “

I typed back.  “Editing – the work that is never completed.”

Dorly nudged me.  “You need to visit me at the studio.”

Then I realized – I was the work that didn’t feel completed.  I’d been waiting for

The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

‘something else’ to happen.  I still felt stuck in the editing process.  I needed to find an ending so I could start at another beginning.

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of the first books I remember reading.  As an adult, I cherished my tattered and worn copy.  It was this particular quote that always brought me to tears.  I thought it was the rabbit becoming real that would get me so emotional, but after booking my consultation with Dorly, the book’s message took on an entirely new meaning.

The best line of the book is, “You can’t become Unreal again.  It lasts for always.”

I was Real before I lost the excess weight.  I loved myself back to a healthy weight with a lot of work.  Like the Rabbit, I’d taken a beating over a long time.  His fur was my weight.  His eyes falling out became my healing psyche.  I was ready to show my Real.

Not Yet

Less than a week after hearing about Dorly’s studio, I had gastric bypass surgery.  Over the past year, I’d researched, prepped and tackled the mental work surrounding my body size and weight situation.  With careful consideration, I decided on surgical treatment.

Only my husband and my mother knew what I was doing.  I wasn’t ashamed, but I felt very protective of my surgery.  I didn’t want anyone else’s opinion or advice – the process would be mine until I was ready to share.

This is a simple picture of what the surgery did.
This is a simple picture of what the surgery did.

Perhaps I was prepared or maybe I was blessed and lucky.  I was in and out of the hospital within a day.  The recovery and transition through my first few months were easier than expected.  The pounds peeled away revealing a different me inside.  While I was exhausted as my body changed, mentally I was fascinated by the metamorphosis.  Looking in the mirror, I felt like I was watching someone else as the Fat me stood just outside the view of the mirror.

April 4, 2014 - down sixty pounds. Apx 180 lbs. I celebrated by buying 1 dress!
April 4, 2014 – down sixty pounds. Apx 180 lbs. I celebrated by buying 1 dress!

In the late spring, I ventured out to more public events, even though my vulnerability begged me to stay home.  I’d receive compliments on the weight loss and respond.  “I had gastric bypass surgery.  I’ve lost thirty pounds and I’ve got sixty pounds and a lot of work in front of me.”  A canned response to a complex issue.

Most would respond with gasps meant as compliments.  “You’ve lost THAT MUCH?  You want to lose HOW MUCH MORE?”

Actually, the compliments made me very uncomfortable.  I never realized how my ‘fat’ was a suit of armor protecting me from the outside world.  Even kind words felt like a pelting of spring hail.  I’d brave through the situation by trying to change the subject but women tend to be fascinated by diets and weight loss.

“I started at 240 pounds.”  No one believed me.  I didn’t want to come across as a hokey TV infomercial.  I feared others would think weight loss surgery would be some sort of miracle cure while it was merely a tool in a greater puzzle of health.

A family picture in 2009 where I weigh approximately 230 lbs.
A family picture in 2009 where I weigh approximately 230 lbs.

So I gave my disclaimers.  “I have to watch what I eat and plan.  I exercise a lot and must take vitamins every day.”

I’d explain, but few heard me as their mind spun off into their own weight issues.  I continued to worry that people believed it was a ‘magic cure’ when the weight loss was the result of so much work that was invisible to the outside world.

Dorly passed me at a spring event then stopped with a double take.  “Bettina?”  I was now almost 50 pounds lighter than she saw me in the fall.  I braced myself for the questions that inevitably always happened when I’d see someone who hadn’t seen me.

But, she didn’t.  Instead she hugged my entire being.  “You look fantastic.  We’ve got to get this on film.”

“Soon but not yet,” I stammered.  It wasn’t about hitting my goal weight and then I’d go for a photo shoot.  I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

“You don’t have to wait,” she said softly.  It wasn’t a pushy sale – more of a caring question of Are you all right?

I teared up.  “How can you take a picture of a person I can’t even see?”  I’d kept my emotions buried because I didn’t think anyone would understand how I felt.

I could see hundreds of questions flowing across her face but she replied.  “I can see you. The real you that has been there all along.  She hasn’t changed.”

“I tried to go shopping, but it freaked me out,” I confessed.  “I don’t recognize myself.  I’m not ready.”

My version of a Frieda Kahlo.
My version of a Frieda Kahlo.

 

 

 

 

 

Then she turned my own words on me.  “You’ll be ready soon.  Just think about what story you want to tell.”

It was my job to let the story unfold.story