By Shauna Lange
The day I found out I was having a heart attack, was a day like any other. Other than the radiating pain in my arm and chest every time I moved, it was a fairly average day. I smoked my two cigarettes on the way to work. I typed my spreadsheets, drank my coffee, enjoyed some laughs with friends, binged at every meal, and smoked my last 2 cigarettes on the way to my second job. Most importantly, I spent a good portion of the day internally bullying myself for every calorie, every mistake and bullshit excuse, with the good old stand-by “I’ll just try again tomorrow” – rationalizing every ugly moment.
Since complete self-loathing accompanies the decision to eat a few too many McDonald’s french fries, sans ketchup (to save some calories) you can only imagine my emotional state when the ER doctor came to me later that evening. With a look of shock on her face, she told me that I was having a heart attack. As the tears streamed down my face, with a gaggle of hospital staff staring at me, paralyzed by my meltdown, I realized how truly broken I was.
I felt rejected by my own body. How could it do this to me? Stupid heart. Lazy ass. Ugly idiot. Fucking food addict. I stayed up all night in the hospital in this state of anger and loss. I cried or I berated myself. I sat there for hours and tried to figure out all the things I had done that lead me to that moment. The years of poor eating and binging, the avoidance of exercise over the last year, the decision to take myself off my diabetes meds while putting myself on birth control to avoid my fear of pregnancy, all the way to the final cigarette I tried to have in the car as I drove myself to the hospital with pain shooting from my chest to my arm.
March 22, 2017 was my day of reckoning. It was time to pay for my sins. At 34 years of age, I was now confronted with the reality that all aspects of my life needed to change. Each health issue needed to be addressed; each coping mechanism needed to be taken away and replaced with something healthy. And while I had spent the last four years of my life making some healthy strides emotionally and physically, it was time to take off the kid gloves and dig into the mess. Quit smoking, control my diabetes, exercise, and most importantly, finally deal with my compulsive eating.
I spent the first few weeks after getting out of the hospital lost. For me, it’s been difficult not to blame my own actions for my heart attack. “If only.” The words circled around in my brain every day. While I was able to quit smoking and start exercising fairly easily, the food continues to be a struggle. For the last 15 years, binging has been a way of life. Food is used to celebrate or mask all emotion. Hating myself for eating is an automatic response. Choosing to eat poorly is easy, and frankly, safe and comforting. Once that food is shoved into my mouth, an insult immediately follows. With each bite I take, I berate myself, and imagine years of fast food piled on top of each other, an impenetrable wall in my stomach while the self-hate has created a wall around my heart so I feel loveless. No love can get in, and no love will come out.
Where did my love go? I don’t have problems expressing love, or cheering people up. In fact, making people laugh is my favorite thing about life. Making someone truly laugh is powerful. So, why do I stop the love from penetrating my heart? Where is my self-compassion, my patience, my own truth? Even when people asked me how I was doing, I replied very upbeat and excited and made sure to reassure them that I was good.
I finally admitted to myself that I failed. Not at losing the weight, or taking care of myself, or listening to the experts, or any of the shit the world throws at you. I failed at loving my body, inside and out. I became loveless at 34. “You gotta love yourself first” they say, right? Fuck that. You have to love period. I realized that so often, I’m not actually sad or mad or angry. I THINK I need to feel this way. That my life should have some drama in it, or it’s not worthy. But when I asked myself – “Worthy of what?” – I came up with a lot of bullshit and decided enough was enough. I admitted that while I can enlist the help of family, friends, doctors, nurses, nutritionists and therapists, they can’t do the work for me. They can love me, and I can love them, but I still need to love myself. This is starting to sound like an ad for masturbation….Let’s move on.
I admitted that regardless of the number on the scale, size of my boobs, the strength of my arms, the color of my nails, or the shininess of my hair, what is actually important to me are the beating organs that keep me alive. The gifts of the senses. The ability to sleep and dream and wake up rested and ready to take life by the proverbial lady balls. My body is not a garbage disposal, a punching bag, or a broken piece of glass. It’s fucking beautiful, in all its messy, fatty, sexy glory.
I may have a stent in my artery, but that just means I’m one piece closer to being bionic! I’ve got amazing bedhead. I love my eyes, and sometimes I look at them in the mirror because the color is so unique. If you ask me, my boobs are perfect. I hate wearing a bra, and thankfully, my breasts are still a little perky! My brain never stops, and while sometimes it’s exhausting, I love the constant state of randomness it’s in.
I’m learning to love the bloody, messy bleeding heart inside me. I want to tear the wall down and build a nice soft pillow to protect it and keep it safe. My heart is my queen, and she’s getting stronger every day.
I am beautiful, and I am fat. I have heart disease, and I am a diabetic. I am both complicated and simple. I am love, and I am pain. I am loud and shy. We are all these amazing dichotomies and creations of our own choosing, and I am learning to embrace all the good and the bad, because I no longer want to be perfect. I just want to be me, and as corny and cheesy as it sounds, it took breaking my heart to find the courage to accept that I want to live a life full of love.
Shauna Lange was born and raised in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. She has a BA in Psychology from Lemoyne College in Syracuse NY. While she dreamed of being a writer since she was a kid, it’s only been recently that she has allowed myself to write, and share it with the world. Shauna can be found on facebook and on instagram. She also loves photography, comedies, and the beach.