Shame – A Personal Story

It’s time to admit that I’ve been in chronic pain for the last five years with leg achiness and weakness from spinal stenosis, made worse this past year by a heel spur. My close friends have known because I’m always looking for a place to sit, I don’t mingle at parties, and I let my husband do nearly all the shopping and errands that might require standing in a line for more than a minute or two.

If I’d developed these problems from excessive mountain biking or marathon running, I’d wear them like a badge and my doctors and friends would probably high-five me. But my problems developed due to age, and have been exacerbated by excessive weight. So there it is, I’ve neglected my body to the point where I feel so much shame that I haven’t been able to talk about my pain. But it’s time.

I know there are lots of people, both young and old, who haven’t always done the best for their bodies and are now struggling with the consequences that make them less physically able to live their best life. How I periodically neglected my body affects my behavior when I go to the doctor seeking treatment because I feel less deserving than say a mountain biker. I’m afraid the doctor will think or even say, “You’re fat; you don’t take care of yourself. I’m not going to provide treatment to make you better.”

My friend Adam is thirty-five, tall and trim; he looks very fit. When I told him my fear that I won’t get the treatment I need because of my weight, he started laughing. “I’ve been just as stupidly hard on my body probably as you, but it doesn’t show, and that’s unfair.” Evidently Adam has ridden his bike at 50 to 60 mph on treacherous stretches of road numerous times, knowing full well he was taking risks with his well-being. Both arms and legs are decorated by permanent scars from scrapes with the pavement. He actually broke his collar bone three separate times in crashes where he was going way too fast, yet, every time he sought treatment for his broken body, he was welcomed as a road warrior, a seeker of excellence. His story reminds me about the guy who broke his heel completely off his foot during a competitive trek and continued the last twenty-five miles of the walk without seeking repair. He too was lauded by friends, fellow competitors, and the emergency personnel and doctors who treated him.

If you’re heavy, you know the feeling of being judged as uneducated, slovenly, lacking in self-esteem and incompetent. If you’re not heavy, you won’t believe this, but fat people know what you’re thinking. And they are putting themselves down more than anyone else can.

Now I’m at the end of all the possible treatments for my heel spur, and surgery is next. It’s been two days since I reached out to the doctor, and neither he nor anyone from his office has called me back. No doctor has spoken the words to my face, “You’re too fat to justify treatment,” but it’s my fear.

I know in my head that accepting myself is key, and I’m working on that. Hopefully, with this post, my heart can jump on board.