The Tale of the Merry Wench, part 1: Ramble On…

(or…”In which Merry gains weight, makes some bad choices, loses weight, makes some more bad choices, loses weight, and, in the process of turning it all around, has three beautiful kids within 8 years who, while she loves them, completely wreck her body…”)

Readers, I have been feeling…inspired? No…um, impressed upon? Yes…I have been feeling impressed upon to share my story. Let you get to know me a little better. I will not know how long this will be until I am done writing, but if it gets too long (I can be rather wordy at times), I will split it in parts. In the event that I mention anyone outside of the Wench household by name, that name will have been changed.

Let me let you in on a little secret. I was once skinny. Oh, I was fat in high school…until a raging case of anorexia exacerbated by…well…other bad things, we’ll just put it that way…led to me shedding 100 lbs. Not a healthy way to get it off…I don’t recommend it.

At my lightest, I weighed 125lbs, and I looked like a skeleton. Thanks to my Irish-German genetic heritage (among others), I have a rather large frame. I do not have tiny bones. Or medium ones. Even when I was upwards of 240-250, I never looked like I was carrying that much weight on my frame. It distributed rather efficiently. Anyways.

But I was picked on for my heaviness, among other things. We won’t go into that, because I’ve made my peace, and I’m actually good friends with a few of those people now. I only mentioned it because it correlates to my self-image, and contributed to the emotional issues that led to me becoming a compulsive eater. Food used to soothe me, and comfort me. But it had a price. I put on weight, which led to a vicious circle. After graduation, I was removed from the daily teasing. Unfortunately, other traumas, emotional and physical, took their toll, and to cope, I did some really stupid things. I will not bore you with details you may or may not understand or sympathize with, suffice to say: I starved myself, cut myself, did some bad substances, attempted suicide, and nearly succeeded in the process.

Again, I will not offer details, unless you are struggling with something on that list, and wish to reach out privately, and even then in will be only in a relatable capacity. But I make no bones about my past. They’ve shaped the merry wench I am today, so I can’t say I’d change anything. C’est la vie. But though therapy helped me make peace with the actual things that led to my unhealthy ways of coping, and eased the emotions associated with them, the insecurities and doubts birthed by those emotions have been a little more difficult to reconcile myself with. Bear with me as I go off on a tangent here, but it does have bearing on all my rambling, I promise.

I have never, ever, thought I was pretty, or gorgeous, or beautiful, or yes, sexy. I’ve never looked in the mirror and thought “damn I look good”. There are aspects of me that I find, on the rare instances that I am able to look at myself objectively, very pretty indeed. My hair, my gorgeous, gorgeous hair: I have put my hair through hell, and it still remains soft, shiny, silky. I have very healthy hair in spite of the plethora of punishment…dye/bleach/grow out/dye/dye/strip/dye/bleach/tint (it stained, leading to my boldest hair color choice, black, to cover it)/dye/dye/bleach/dye. I am growing it out at the moment. It used to be that, towards the end of summer, those hottest days of August, I would either chop it to just below my chin or change it radically by color or style. I used to hate taking public transportation, because random strangers would just reach out and touch it. I used to wear it down all the time, now I wear it up. I say it’s because of the kids, but in all honesty it’s probably because I’m still afraid some random person will reach out and touch it. In my junior year of high school, I took a creative writing class, and what do you know? Someone wrote a story about me. And the focus was on my hair. A story about *my* hair! I am still very flattered by that memory, and though the person never let me read anything save for the snippet I caught when I peeked over their shoulder, that snippet stayed with me.

The other physical characteristic I am proud to the point of vanity about are my eyes. They’re blue. Any joe schmoe can get the proper genetics for blue eyes. What’s made me rather egotistical about them are the various remarks I have gotten on their *expressiveness*. I suppose that’s not exactly a physical quality though.

Back to the subject at hand. The insecurities and doubts foisted on me by various happenings and emotions have stuck with me. I still have a hard time accepting a compliment. If you were to say “oh Merry, you’re pretty”, I would feel rather awkward and uncomfortable because 1) I wouldn’t believe you, 2) There was a period in my life when anyone giving me a compliment had a hidden agenda (“You’re pretty, can you help me with this assignment?”), and 3) There was also a time when people just told me whatever best served their own ends. So compliments make me feel backwards, and I still have a hard time with it. The only person who isn’t a blood relation that can compliment me and I feel completely okay about it is the Mister. I am getting better, but it still makes me feel odd.

When I became a mother, I had someone more important than me to worry about, and that baby was more vital to my very existence than each and every breath I took. For her, I tried harder to love myself, tried harder to erase the issues I had that I definitely did not want becoming issues for her. I had some success.

ToddlerGirl came along, and along with her brought a mild case of the baby blues. The Mister and I had a rough spell, but it was not, in retrospect, horribly long or terribly bad.

You’ve all read about the depression that hit me after the birth of BabyBoy, so I will not bore you with that. However, after going on medication, I had a bright period of about 6 months, after which I slipped farther down the abyss, and had it not been for my selfish love of my kids, I can’t say for sure that I’d be here to write this. My medicine was increased and for a few weeks, I started to feel slightly better until winter brought the usual winter blues and yet again, I was knocked back down, even further than before. It hurt so bad, and in a horrifying turn of events that I felt powerless to stop, Mister bore the brunt of it. He’d also been the misguided target before, but this time, it was awful. My temper, which had been successfully watered down over the years, flared up in a fire brighter than it had ever burned. I was angry, I was hurt, I was frustrated, and *I was on the warpath*. We would have minor disagreements, and they would escalate into horrific arguments, loud in volume, wounding in their words, and utterly senseless. Something he would say would get ridiculously twisted in my head, and, rather than being ruled by the logic I’d so prided myself on, irrationality would take over. I would scream horrible things at him until I was blue in the face, and while you’d think that screaming would release some pent-up steam, it didn’t. The words coming out of my mouth made no sense at all. I knew they didn’t make sense, and that made me more frustrated. Mister, my poor, poor Mister…he’d try to make sense of the nonsense (which truly just could not be done), and his inability to make sense of it, my inability to make sense, period…

I won’t say I got angry to the point of blackout. I would have days where I would get short with the kids, but never anything even remotely close to the wrath I flung at the Mister.

I flip-flopped between anger and despair. And when I was stuck in despair, I had myself thoroughly convinced that I had managed to kill any love the Mister may have had left in his heart for me. After all, he never said it, so he must not have been feeling it, right? Right. And I really, truly, in my heart, felt that all was lost. That *I* was lost.

Mister and I decided that I would go to counseling. All that anger and rage and hurt had to be coming from somewhere, maybe a therapist could help me work it out. While waiting to get an intake appointment (which can take a while), I reached out to one of my friends who works as a counselor back home in PA, to see if she had any exercises I could do in the meantime. My “assignment”? I tend to lock unpleasant things in figurative “boxes” in my mind. They are hidden away, but they still take up space and emotional resources. Our brains don’t have infinite capacity. Maybe these things that I had not dealt with were tying up my system resources, so to speak. So my task was to clear up some memory space.

I unlocked all those boxes, night after night, after the kids had gone to bed. I sorted through those memories, those experiences, those emotions. I tried to spend two hours each night writing. One hour for my creative endeavors, and one hour for the salvation of my sanity. If I came across something that moved me to write, I wrote. I wrote happy memories. I wrote sad memories, and I obliterated the “files” in my brain by purging them onto my computer screen. I kept the happy memories and went all “Sherman’s March to Sea” on the bad ones. I burned them, smashed them to the ground, and walked away.

At first, as it often happens, I felt angrier, even more unhappy and confused. But as I began to write, my healing began. I felt my mood lighten. I felt my patience grow infinitely. And then I got the best gift of all: I was finally able to understand the unspoken words beneath each and every one of my Mister’s actions. I had, until the age of 23, lived my life ruled by words. I was rather naive in that I thought that people didn’t tend to lie about things like love…I believed words. My dear Mister is not a man of words. I can text him “Love you!!” and I get a “U2” in reply. He’s not one to randomly profess his love for me each day, or compliment my appearance. He is a man of actions. He never deserted me, not even during the worst of it all, when he would have had every right to do so, and I wouldn’t have been able to hold it against him. But now I know. Now I can understand what he’s saying when he says nothing.

I have never been happier, never felt more complete than I have these past couple weeks. I know it won’t always feel this great. I know that there will still be arguments, but hopefully, my depression, and my own internal issues will not fan the embers until they leap up into flames. I very nearly burned us to nothing but ashes left to scatter in the wind.

My success with freeing up figurative mental capacity to deal with my life now has given me hope that maybe in time, I will have similar success with snuffing out my insecurites…or at least muting them to a level where they won’t be an every single day issue.

I have run on longer than I wanted to about this, but if any part of this post helps you feel better, or less alone, then I’m glad I told it.

Coming tomorrow: The Tale of the Merry Wench, part 2: Battle of the Bulge.

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