I have always been a very tall female for my age; alas my age has caught up to my height. Along with the gift of height came the gene of addiction. As a youngster I had no idea why I was continually wanting to consume food, my body had /has an endless capacity to consume large quantities of food . No one knew about food addiction, only recently have geneticists uncovered information - similar to the plight of many an early alcoholic; food addicts were and still are blamed for their disease. I digress.
I stood a full head above the next tallest in my kindergarten classroom, looking back at the graduation photograph where I stood in the center of back row, I had both height and weight as focal points for comparison.
Onto the primary grades, my first day of first grade I have a photograph my Mother snapped of my sister and I standing next to each other, She 2 years older than I. It was the last photograph where she was the taller of us two.
Buying large and extra wide shoes for a highly sensitive young redheaded girl with hazel eyes was challenging for my Mother. I viewed her as a Jackie Onassis type, a glamorous brunette with vibrant blue eyes weighing in at '105 lbs soaking wet.' Somehow it was my fault that my feet were akin to those of a puppy - I would soon grow into.
The summer between third and fourth grades I grew an astonishing six inches. Think about it, between late May and early August my height increased at the speed of one-half of an inch per week.
I was the second child of four young children. The only redheaded/hazel in a household of snow white blonds with big blue eyes. Needless to say I took after my Dad, 6'3" 250 lbs with huge reaching hands. What remained of his hair was blond. I viewed him as a massive giant amongst giants in the adult world. I felt perpetually and painfully alone. I was reminded on a daily basis of the fact that I was unlike 'the others.' My weight was a lightening rod for everyone and anyone to comment. And comment they did; children in my public school provided an endless loop of mean-spirited feedback, teachers in my school rarely passed up an opportunity to note publicly. Again I felt painfully and persistently on the outside looking in.
Not only did I have height to contend with, my body developed feminine features at a very early age. By fourth grade I was wearing my mother's dress size and shoe size. My teacher told me not to sit on the top of the square desk, the ones with the attached seat, as he was concerned I would break it. As I watched him, a full grown man casually seat himself on the same style desk of my next row peer.
When fifth grade arrived I stood 5'9 or 5'10. Clothing was costly and money was very tight, my Grandmother sewed my double knit polyester pants, my tops were bought in the 'Chubby' section of one transposed Giant Lane, exclusive styles by the least sought after clothing designer, "Omar, the tent maker'. And to add stress, my body began monthly cycles at the tender age of 11, a full two years prior to my older sister. This caused considerable difficulty in the social status and hierarchy of my family of origin.
The incessant daily ridicule from a certain pack of boys, conjoined with the snubbing from clicks of girls my age ensured continuation of my existing as a silo.
Introduced to many restriction regimes by my Mother I became a fan of Shasta diet soda. My 'treat' while siblings enjoyed strawberry short cake. Not that I had an appreciation for strawberries back then, it was simply the ostracizing that impacted me heavily and served to reinforce my isolation. Thoughts of a pre-teen with limited resources deducted that Shasta diet soda and salads made of iceberg lettuce were the confirming symbols of punishment for being fat. Believing this was my fault as I watched countless other children and adults regularly consume a variety of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, Ho-Ho's and the like.
The beginning of eighth grade brought on new determination and hope for a future in High School away from the stale existence of the past seven years of continuous ostracism. With the added support of medical help, my parents, my physician and myself embarked on a journey to get the weight off of me. I cannot recall the actual poundage, I believe I successfully blocked that memory. So many others were not.
Weekly Saturday morning visits to the doctors office for 'shots' and one week's supply of diet pills. A new diet assigned; skip breakfast - I didn't like the options presented. Lunch was 2oz of processed meat in a package when I remembered to take it with me to school and an apple. I also started running on my lunch hour, five times around the school building equaled one mile. The weight seemed to disappear. My experience with 'runners high' was privately sublime. Finally a place where I felt 'good'.
It was short lived. As we know today anorexia exacts a price from ones body, mine came in the way of erratic symptoms today known as hypoglycemia. Dizziness, ear ringing, tingling of the face and lips, vision loss, & fainting spells. The end result was on my 8th grade graduation day; Thirteen years old, I stood 5'10" with body measurements 36-24-36. And I was off to High School for the summer of 1976. The relief I felt joining in with a larger more diverse group of individuals was indescribable. The mix diluted the toxicity of the concentrated batch of individuals with whom I had existed along side for the prior eight years. What I didn't know then and have come to learn is that our families are a microcosm for what happens in the rest of the world. Survive that and one cannot help but develop a precious tool kit that will equip one for a lifetime on the journey as we all continue to sojourn the winding, twisting, straight and narrow or tumultuous terrain of this life.