It was March of 2019. I got up one morning and stepped on the scale I had just bought online in an effort to jump-start my new plan to get healthy again. But it wasn’t to lose weight – it was to gain as many pounds as I could so that I could live to see the next month ahead of me. I wanted to gain back everything I had lost when life decided to pull the rug out from beneath me.
I weighed 81 pounds that morning and nearly passed out from fear. I was 33 years old and deathly below the average weight for my age group. The sad thing was that I knew this but felt there was no way to change it. I was eating as much as my closed-up stomach would allow, even while dry heaving from severe nausea. What more could I do?
I called out of work that day, sat on my couch, and cried. I rushed to an urgent care clinic for answers, but all they told me was that I needed to eat. As if I wasn’t trying.
I was truly hungry, in every sense of the word. Not only was my body hungry, my soul was hungry. For a comeback. For vindication. For life. I didn’t want to be crawling through each day, wondering if I was one pound away from death. I wanted to get dressed and not have my clothes fall off of me. I didn’t want to get dizzy spells out of nowhere or feel shaky from simply standing upright in the shower.
I didn’t want to be awakened in the middle of the night to the electric shock jolts that hit me out of nowhere from the lack of potassium and nutrients in my system, as the doctors explained.
I wanted the face looking back at me in the mirror to be full and round, with life. In Latino culture, being too thin is synonymous to illness, weakness, frailty and when a Latino says you are too thin, it’s rarely a compliment, at least in my experience. It’s a sign of being unwell and is generally frowned upon. Having some meat on your bones makes Mami and Titi (your aunt) happy. It means YOU are happy because you are well-fed and strong, able to handle anything life throws at you.
But there I was, a skeleton drowning in tears because I wasn’t gaining weight no matter what I did. I had again failed myself and even my culture, the way I did by not being outspoken enough while growing up, or preferring GinBlossoms and No Doubt to Reggaetón. I was a weirdo, a freak, I was skinny. That was just who I was, right?
I was wrong.
And it took awhile to realize it. Yes, I was emaciated, but it was because I was unwell and had taken the brunt of many disappointments and losses back to back to back. I had to give up a job in technical writing that I enjoyed, a life in a city that I had spent countless years building from the ground up and most of all, the longest relationship I had ever had in my life.
But I didn’t want to stay in this place and knew it was consuming me. I had to keep eating, I couldn’t let my pain eat me up instead. It took me a year and a half of suffering from gastritis, potassium deficiency, heart palpitations, and more, as a result of all the stress from starting my life over. It was a year and a half of getting up to work with my head spinning and stomach churning all day long as if I were motion sick, day in and day out.
Yet the first step to getting out of it was to accept where I was and embrace it as a part of me, as part of my experience.
It took two years of nourishing myself physically, mentally, and spiritually so that I could be that much stronger for what was ahead. I eventually found myself over 20 pounds heavier and in awe of what I could accomplish by sticking to it and never giving up on myself.
The ultimate thing I was suffering from, hunger, was what eventually saved me and helped me make the changes I needed to survive. Because when you are hungry for life and your own survival, you will do anything to feed yourself. No matter how long it takes or how difficult it is.