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Unnatural Appetites

June 16, 2017

Since I was 11 years old I have been on a medication called sodium valproate.  For the first few years I came off the medication twice but had further seizures, so at the age of 17 I was put on them permanently to control the tonic-clonic/grand mal (depending on your age when I was diagnosed, the medical term changed) seizures I suffered having been diagnosed with epilepsy.

The medication has several side effects, none of which were explained to my parents or myself at diagnosis.  I did not find out about them until I asked at 18 years old, having done a bit of research myself.  It was not until my first smear test that I was told getting pregnant would be a big no-no due to severe foetal abnormalities, and should only be attempted under the guidance of medical professionals.  How lucky I have never wanted children then

Me & Lynne aged approx 12

Me on the left aged 12, the age of diagnosis

The biggest and most impactful side effect is that of the unnatural appetite.  This is something I have struggled with and will continue to struggle with for the rest of my (hopefully long and delightfully weird) life.

I have an identical twin sister.  Until the point of medication, she and I weighed the same.  After diagnosis and medication, I put on at least 14 pounds and since that time was “the Fat Twin”™.  It’s a thing with twins by the way.  You always get “the Clever One”, “the Pretty One”, “the Good One”, “the Weird One” or some such ridiculous definition which limits and boxes you even though it is simply meant to differentiate you for the benefit of people who cannot be bothered to learn your names.

Me aged 13 ish

Aged 13 or 14.

I could see what I SHOULD look like, given the fact we ate pretty the same things and were the same height, and did the same activities.  We did not, and I continued to be bigger as we got older.  I had an Unnatural Appetite.

To help explain what that means, imagine you are really hungry.  I don’t mean just in need of a snack to raise your energy levels, or possibly thirsty as that feels the same as hunger.  I mean a gnawing pain in the stomach which causes you to wake in the middle of the night, to want to or actually to cry, to be unable to rest and to know, without a doubt, that unless you eat something you will not sleep/concentrate/be able to do anything.  Now imagine never knowing if your hunger is because your body needs sustenance or because your medication is telling you lies.

I have burst into desperate tears whilst at work behind the Student Union Bar, I have woken in the middle of the night more times than I can remember and have been unable to sleep without eating a bowl of cereal (which my husband can attest to), I have felt faint (not fun when you have epilepsy as you immediately think you may start seizing), I have become snappy and desperate, and the mistrust of my body and the messages it sends will always have a detrimental impact on me.

All of this I could cope with, all of it, if it weren’t for the fact I live in a society where women are not supposed to have appetites let alone unnatural ones.  I have had abuse hurled at me from passing cars, I have been teased since I was 12, by adults and children, I have had it made very clear to me that I am considered ugly by societal standards, and I call BULLSHIT!

Me aged 38 at the slimmest I've ever been as an adult

Aged 38, and the slimmest I have ever been since the age of 21.

Because part of my weight is due to medication side effects, I will never be the model of societal beauty.  The pressure and the cruelty most certainly impacted my eventual diagnosis of clinical depression (which I still and always will suffer from, and I am currently on a very low dose of medication for this too).

That should not matter though.  It is entirely irrelevant if there is a reason for a woman’s (cisgender or transgender, the societal pressures are the same as they apply to the perceived gender) size, it is no-one’s business but their own and it is a ridiculous, cruel and sexist standard to hold anyone to, let alone to oppress and suppress an entire gender identity because of it.

Consider the knock-on effect. As a result of the poor self-image I have, I may model poor self-image to others although I try extremely hard not to.  I don’t judge anyone in the way I am judged because I know how it feels, but these things are very deeply ingrained.  I am sure I have treated past partners badly, ready to disbelieve their attraction to me and run at the first hint of any trouble or assume the worst at all times.

No-one exists in a vacuum, untouched and unheard, nor unhearing.  The abuse I have received and that I perceive against people of all colours, all gender identities, all disabilities, all sexualities, has an effect as well.  It is inculcated societal bullying, behaviour we do not accept on the school playground, and damn well should not accept as adults and yet we do.  Myriad internet posts refer to the fatness of celebrities, female politicians are harangued for their looks instead of their policies (and no, if a man is harangued for his looks it is not seen as affecting his ability to do his job whereas it does for a woman, so it is NOT the same thing).

SFW44

This picture is of me, now, cosplaying Willow Rosenberg at the SFW8 convention last February.  I may never be comfortable in my own skin, but I am going to strive to ensure that no-one else feels the same way as me.

I have an unnatural appetite due to medication, and I have a large body due to disability, medication and a joy of sweet foods.  I never was a ‘pretty young thing’ nor will I ever be a pretty old thing.  But as long as I get to be an old thing I’m going to do my absolute best to be happy about it, even if it is despite myself.

So, don’t fat-shame or body-shame, all it does is show your ignorance, prejudice and bigotry.  I’d rather have a fat body than be a fathead, and so should you.

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From → Autobiography

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