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