Empathy & Television

I can’t stop watching¬†“My 600 Pound Life”¬†on TLC. It started, oddly, on the day I started Weight Watchers (which was also the day I fell down a few basement stairs and twisted my ankle and was confined to the bed for a bit with ice on said ankle). I had been browsing through the channels and came across the show, so I watched it.

And now I don’t know if I should be. I’m a pretty empathetic person. If I watch a movie or read a book, I tend to find a character I relate to and form a connection with them. After the entertainment is over, it sometimes takes a bit before I can shake that connection.

The same thing is happening with this show. And it’s not all positive. Sometimes, an episode leaves me bursting to continue on my journey, filled to the brim with hope and drive. I just KNOW I can do this and it’s going to be okay.

But sometimes, especially that first episode I watched while I was stuck in bed with my twisted ankle, I take on the negative. I watched as Charity walked so painfully because of the extra weight, and when I finally got out of bed to test my tender ankle, I felt like I was walking the same way. And my brain went a bit haywire, and in that moment, I *was* the 600 pound person. My body felt so much heavier and I wanted to cry. I was disgusted with myself.

Let me also say that this lasted maybe 10 minutes after the episode was over. I snapped back to reality and saw that while I am severely overweight, I am not even remotely close to 600 pounds. My weight does not make me waddle when I walk (but the stupid ankle does), and I am not dependent on others to take care of my basic needs.

I am SO lucky.

Without going into too much detail yet, my greatest fear in life is being like my mother. I look a lot like her, and when I see myself in the mirror, especially weighing as much as I do, I see her looking back. She does waddle when she walks (or at least she did the last time I saw her), so when I was waddling, my brain picked it up as another trait we had in common. It’s a paralyzing fear, and yet it has not kept me from staying at this weight for far too long. It was like I was trapped in that fear and punishing myself by staying the way I was so that I would have to see her.

Can I just tell you also how amazing Zoloft has been for me? I have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life. I remember having anxiety attacks in second grade, and nothing was ever done about it. They just thought I was too sensitive and weak. I finally broke down, thanks to the support of an amazing friend and co-worker, and saw a doctor in February of this year. My anxiety was just getting worse and worse, and I had an upcoming business trip that would require a plane ride that was causing me ALL kinds of angst. So I talked to a doctor, who is now MY doctor, and he just listened to me describe what I deal with on a regular basis. When I was done, he sat back, crossed his arms, smiled, and said, “Well, you have a definite anxiety disorder. But I can help you.”

Since then, I have been on Zoloft and also have a bottle of Xanax for emergencies (like that plane ride!). And it’s been life-changing. I am not overwhelmed by the fear anymore. It’s still there, but I can see it, and define it, and know that it doesn’t control me. But sometimes, my brain fritzes a bit, and I imagine I’m 600 pounds. I’m an oddity, I know. But that’s what makes me ME.

So now I’m going to go drink my morning water and look forward to not being afraid of what the future holds. Because that future is going to hold a lot less of me.