those who can’t teach.

I would like to preface this post by saying, I was a total a**hole in high school. It was 2006, the height of all things emo. I had short hair, dyed my hair black and listened to ridiculous emo music. Keep that in mind when reading the rest of this post. 

As the school year in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end, I can’t help but think back of my time in school. I look at my girls and hope that they have better luck than I did when it came to dealing with low self esteem, mean teachers, and bullies.

I was bullied pretty badly in elementary and middle school, so much so that I made it a point to apply to a magnet school where I would know NO ONE and be able to start fresh. Little did I know that I would never really fit in there. People tried to get to know me but I lived an hour away from most of my classmates and couldn’t form any solid relationships outside of regular school hours. Mix that with teenage hormones and repressed anger,  you’ve got yourself a staring down the barrel of depression and anxiety.

Sophomore year was when my parents decided it was time I start seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. I tried Zoloft, Prozac, and Adderall. It was also the year I started hanging out with friends who drank, smoked, and dabbled with illicit drugs.

Junior year I was desperate. I was fat, lonely, and at the time, thought I was going to die a virgin because I didn’t have a boyfriend. I was so starved for attention from boys that I was trying to get it any way I could. And so I started talking to Toby*. Toby and I were friends who had known each other since freshman year. He was one of the popular kids at school. Always involved in extra curricular activities and on the school broadcasting channel.

We used to take the bus and train home from school together. One afternoon, during our commute home, we somehow kissed. I don’t remember the details other than he and I started writing notes to each other afterwards. At a certain point I realized that I didn’t actually have feelings for him  and couldn’t lead him on. Being the teenage idiot that I was, decided that the best way to express that to him was to write it in a note and deposit the note in his locker.

In my note I wrote about my smoking and depression and probably a bunch of other stuff that was way too personal to put on paper but didn’t have the foresight to know better. I walked into my AP Composition class and see the note I wrote to him stapled onto the class bulletin board. Needless to say, I was stunned. And while my teacher, Ms. Ruiz, didn’t say anything directly to me, she made sarcastic offhand remarks alluding to the letter. And that’s when the floodgates opened to my being bullied again in my new school.

My classmates took her lead and started laughing about it openly. I was mortified. I felt betrayed. I felt worthless. I found myself dreading school and longing for the days when all kids teased me about was my weight or purple hair. It got so bad that I had to switch schools midway through the year.

Now I see that event as blessing in my life. I was able to reconnect with my best friend. I was able to pull my grades high enough to go to college and get a scholarship. I was able to have a true high school experience filled with clubs, dances, band, and football games.

But that experience led me to be wary of teachers. I never allowed myself to open up in class again. It makes me wary of those who teach my daughters. I’ll forever be cautious of those in positions of power because this one woman, who is still an educator, decided to belittle me instead of pulling me aside and asking if I was okay. Instead of offering help, sending me to the counselors office, or even calling my parents, because what 16 year old should be smoking or drinking, she used my weaknesses against me to make me feel minute.

If you’re a teacher reading this, especially a high school teacher, know that your indifference to your students emotional wellbeing causes as much harm as the hurtful things their peers say or do to them. It is your job as an educator to uplift and encourage your students. If you can’t do that then at the very least don’t be another stumbling block in the already bumpy road that is adolescence.

*Name changed to protect myself from drama. 
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Food: Friend or Foe?

I love the holidays. I love spending time with family, decorating the house, and most importantly all the special Christmas treats.

But this time of year brings out the worst of my food anxieties. Half of my brain wants to devour every sweet and delicious treat I lay my eyes on, while the other half is shaming myself for craving and/or devouring said food that is clearly bad for me. And I know I’m not alone in that struggle.

I’ve had a pretty unhealthy relationship with food most of my life. My mom never told us we couldn’t have junk food. On the contrary, if we ate the whole family-size bag of chips, half-gallon carton of ice cream, and drank that three liter bottle of Ritz soda in one sitting she wouldn’t chastise us, she would just tell us we would get more tomorrow. Sundays were spent eating five $0.39 cheeseburgers (each), bag of puffy cheese doodles (each), and whatever soda we wanted. These were good days for us. On bad days? You can’t even imagine how much we ate.

And it just went on like that most of my life. I ate when I was happy, sad, anxious, angry, got good grades, got bad grades, got into a fight with my best friend, got asked out by my crush, etc. If I didn’t have food on my person then my mind was on food. At home it wasn’t a big deal because I knew that my family was just as consumed by our consumption. Because of this I was always bigger than my peers.

Look, I don’t want to turn this into a ‘I was bullied and cried and hated my life’ post because I’m over whining about stuff I can’t change, but it is relevant to how I currently interact with food.

I was bullied because of my weight for most of my life. If it wasn’t by classmates then it was by teachers. The teachers hurt the worst because I was taught to look at my teachers as people to be respected and admired but unfortunately I was placed in the care of very nasty and hurtful people. And unlike the youth of today, when I was growing up society couldn’t have cared less about a child being bullied by anyone because it was seen as a character building life experience. Looking back today I feel like it’s a half truth but I digress.

Eventually I found my core group of friends and my weight was irrelevant. I had people that wanted to hang out with me because of our shared interests and enjoyment of each others company. I won’t say that I stopped caring about the pounds creeping on during ages 12-18 but it didn’t matter as much when I had friends that never focused on my need for two orders of Taco Bell taquitos instead of their one.

When I started college I became more aware of my dependency on excess food. I also think that’s when my friend(s) started noticing how I ate on a normal basis and they shared their concern. So I started going to the gym, attempted to eat right–let’s be honest I had an unlimited meal plan and it was my first year in college, unlimited pizza for the win!–and focused on school. I may not have gained all of the freshman fifteen but I sure didn’t lose any weight.

I wish I could say I adopted the whole working out and eating healthy thing as a new lifestyle by the time I graduated but it was a no-go. When I moved back to Miami, I got married and started looking for a ‘big girl’ job. The anxiety of the real world and my first year of marriage led me to making secret Wendy’s runs two times a day on top of whatever I had eaten at home/work. By March 2012 I was weighing almost 260 pounds (117kgs to all my non-USA readers) and literally hated myself.

I felt like I had lost control of my life. Every time I binged I would hate myself  even more but find myself unable to stop, as if there were a physical block somewhere along my nervous system preventing the sensors from my stomach to tell my brain, “Hey! Quit it! You’re poisoning yourself!” I would sit there eating until I would want to purge, my conscience yelling all the criticisms and obscenities people had told me throughout my life.

Shamu! Fat f*$%! Disgusting sloth! Sausage fingers! Jelly belly! Hamburglar! 

It’s been a few years since I’ve allowed myself to get into that deep of a depression, but there are days when I feel those negative thoughts creeping their way back from my subconscious. And recently my relationship with food has been at the forefront of everything.

Since getting released from the hospital in October I have had to focus more on food than normal. The doctors put me on a restrictive diet–for good reason–and have really been emphasizing on my need for weight loss. I was doing really well up until my mother-in-law got here for her visit. I’m sure those of you reading that have mother-in-laws can only imagine the stress and anxiety that ensues when they come for a visit.

I was totally on edge those full two weeks. So much so that I ate a whole kilo (2.2 lbs) of Nutella, a jar and a half of cookie butter, two bags of Reeses, bag of flaming hot Cheetos, and whatever sort of dessert I made for the night. Needless to say I’m almost positive I gained twenty pounds during her visit. I’m embarrassed admitting that but I figure honesty is the best policy for this sort of thing, right?

I will say that the past few months I’ve had a great support system, great friends that has been encouraging me to learn more about what I put in and on my body, cheering me on through every workout and meal planning session. I’m grateful for those in my life that have been, and always will be, there to support me when I’m at my lowest point.

I’m realizing that my relationship with food and its connection to my emotions is something I can’t work on by myself especially since I’ve been trying to do that for the past 26 years and nothing has changed.I’m afraid that my issues with food will somehow find their way projecting themselves onto Paloma. I want her to love food AND love herself. I want her to see food as something life sustaining but also something that can be enjoyed rather than depending on it to process her emotions. I’ve been debating going to therapy for awhile now to work on the deeper issues and find healthy coping mechanisms when I get anxious. I need to work on me so I can be stronger for her.

If you’ve made it to the end of this post then you get a gold star, a high five, and if you’re over the age of 18 a shot of tequila for dealing with all my long winded emotional baggage.