Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Conversation . . .

Tell me where this (paraphrased) conversation went wrong and what I could or should have done differently.

PERSON X - "So, did I hear correctly that you have had your stomach stapled?"

ME - "Well, it is not really called "stomach stapling" any more but - yes - I've had gastric bypass surgery. I had it about sixteen months ago."

PERSON X - "Wow. That is fabulous. Do you mind me asking how much weight you've lost?"

ME - "No, not at all. I've lost about 245 pounds or so since my surgery and I'm almost 300 pounds lighter today than I was at my heaviest."

PERSON X - "WOW! Wow. WOW! That must be an amazing experience."

ME - "It has become pretty much a day by day life but I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to avoid a lot of the medical conditions that would have likely ended my life prematurely and to get rid of the physical pain that came with weighing about 500 pounds. The first few months, when I was losing an average of a pound or so a day were amazing. By this point though - my life is pretty 'normal' on this side of surgery and I don't really think about it all that often."

PERSON X - "I guess I don't understand."

ME - "So, my diet is totally different and my behavoirs are totally different but I have been eating and acting and thinking and emoting 'this' way for almost a year and a half. I don't remember what cake tastes like. I don't miss double cheeseburgers. I haven't thought about drinking soda in well over a year. I don't feel depressed and angry all the time any more. It is probably like people who lose a loved one or a limb - or whatever - you eventually just sort of accept and get used to the lossand you adapt and you go on in your new reality."

PERSON X - "Have you ever lost a loved one?"

ME - "Sure. We all have, right? My grandparents are all gone and my wife's grandfathers are gone and I have friends who have lost parents and siblings, etc. "

PERSON X - "And you think that losing weight is like losing a loved one?"

ME - "No. That is not what I said. I said that life after surgery is like life after a death where you eventually sort of have a new reality without the person that you lost. You still think about them and you still think of them and you have memories of life with them and you some days long to have them back, etc. etc. etc. But. No. I don't think that losing weight is the same thing as losing a loved one. I sense I'm not communicating effectively."

PERSON X - "Because, I've got to be honest. You chose to weigh as much as you did and you chose to have the surgery and you chose and choose to lose the weight and change your diet. I don't think we choose our families or choose to lose them."

ME - "And I didn't say you do and I didn't blame anyone for my obesity nor do I discount that all of this has been a choice that I made for me and for my family. I guess I don't understand why we are arguing but I apologize if I offended you."
PERSON X - "Well, I just think that some of 'you people' get obnoxious about how important food is and how important you being fat or skinny is. You are not special because you had this surgery. It is sad, frankly, that you had to have surgery to lose weight to look like a normal human being instead of just a blob of a person. What is more sad is that you would actually liken you leveraging medicine to your benefit is anything like the loss of a loved one. It is insensitive of you and sort of reinforces stereo types about fat slobs."

ME - (Internal Monologue) . . . "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Don't do it. Stay calm. Don't take it personally. Talk your way out of this and exit the conversation. Don't take on the baggage. They don't understand. They don't get it. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10."

ME - "Hey, listen. I've clearly upset you in some way and I apologize if you misunderstood what I've said or what I meant. You asked about my surgery. You said that it was "fabulous" that I had surgery. You asked me what life was like now. I chose the wrong example and insensitively likened my experience to a very, very different emotional crisis that people go through every day. That being said, I don't know if what I said justifies your comments about the obese and that they are 'sad' or simply 'blobs'."

PERSON X - "Were you NOT a blob at 500 pounds? Did you not feel sad? You mentioned you were depressed all the time and you mentioned cake, soda and junk food as things that are different."

ME - "I was depressed, I still, frankly, have touches of it and I know plenty of people, across the spectrum of weight, who struggle with depression too. My sadness has been replaced with a life that I am truly happy to live and a wife and daugther and outlook that encourage and inspire and motivate me. You don't get to weigh 500 pounds without eating too much food - and often too much of the wrong foods. Junk food was part of my life. It no longer is. That is a difference accordingly. I'm not sure (voice breaks) what we're even talking about any more."

PERSON X - "Well, I'm sorry if my honesty and reality have upset you. I just think that people who struggle with their weight feel like the rest of us, who can and do eat sensibly and work out and be responsible for ourselves somehow owe YOU something. Do you know what obesity has done to the costs of medical care in America? Do you know what it has done to our world presence? Do you know what impact it has on our families and will have on the future of things like Social Security?"

ME - (More internal reassurance/dialogue. Mental images of Ava and Joy in sun dresses running through fields of barley with a kite and some puppies and a clown and balloons on a warm summer afternoon.)

PERSON X - "Yeah, that's what I thought. Well, congrats on your weight loss. I wish you continued success in your efforts. Nice chatting with you."
I get so sad some days when I realize how oblivious I was to the importance of my weight on how I was perceived and I get more sad when I realize that - no matter my weight (yesterday, today or tomorrow), I will always have the baggage (obesity created or otherwise) of the insecurity that plagued my life for so many years.
PS - How bald do I look in the picture above? And how cute is the dog?


BrandiK said...

Sean- congratulations on just maintaining and being the bigger person during that. I can honestly say I don't think that I would have held it together as politely as you did.

I am also hopeful that I do not know the person you had this conversation with because I can't imagine allowing anyone in my life who is as ignorant, insensitive and downright rude to be a part of it.

Your journey is incredible. It's hard for the average person to even have a conversation about personal life events (such as weight loss) with one other person... there are few who have the courage and strength to speak on such a public and exposed platform such as this blog.

I admire you for doing so. I admire the way you've owned every piece of your journey, start to current. While I didn't know you prior, I am proud of the Sean we see today for overcoming everything you have. For succeeding beyond what I imagine are even your wildest dreams (and forgive me if I'm being presumptuous).

Having shared a story of my own online, which is also deeply personal, I can fully relate to the critical comments people so eagerly express. I've learned that they just don't understand, and in most cases, are not willing to try.

I thought your analogy was spot-on. "That" Sean is no longer here- and from what you describe, everyone got the better end of that deal. There is absolutely a mourning process that must take place. Grief and mourning aren't just reserved for the passing of a loved one. It's necessary anytime a major chapter in our lives closes.

Thank you for sharing your story here with all of us, Sean. Thank you for posting that conversation and for taking the higher road.

- Brandi

Mom said...

Seriously, what is WRONG with people?

Sean C. Amore said...

Thanks for the kind words, Brandi. I don't blame the person for their opinions and I don't have any ill will - I was just SO confused and put out and sort of frustrated in that moment.

I don't know if what I'm doing is all that "brave" or whatever. I DID get myself in to the situatio an I am getting myself out - simple enough. BUT it is helpful to have an outlet and a place to share. THANKS, again, for the kindness and continued support!

Sean C. Amore said...

Nothing is "wrong" with people, Mom (be you my mother or someone else's (smile)). We all have our presumptions and biases and small mindedness and we all let that carry over from time to time. God knows I've been guilty of it many, many times in my life. The person meant me no ill will - they just caught me off guard and sort of brought me back to reality. Let's just say I'll NEVER again liken post-gastric bypass life to losing a loved one . . . maybe the cancellation of my favorite show instead (Oh how I MISS you, Gilmore Girls and Felicity!)

Catherine said...

Slap a ho. You know I've always got your back for a beatdown.

Sorry, I'm probably not helpful with the managing anger thing.

You do not look bald. Ok, well not THAT bald.

MDT said...

It is amazing what you can find bubbling under the surface when you scratch off the top layer of polite society.

It is incredibly bizarre that this nutto would go off on a treatise about personal responsibility and then blame you as a representative of all overweight people.

I mean, weren't you speaking of individual responsibility? So how are you on the hook for the way anyone else acts when dealing with their personal issues?

I guess I don't get it...

We love you, amigo. Take care!

This Show said...

Here's the sentence where it went wrong: "It is probably like people who lose a loved one or a limb."

There's some sort of pain Person X isn't dealing with. "Part of yourself" is a more vague phrase.

When I was going through loss, I was crazy. Remember at Cohn's wedding when I couldn't look at Erica's Grandpa?

Actually I really think it went wrong when you talked to this person at all. But then again . . .

But to be honest, I consider you a very good friend and I don't understand all you've been through. By sharing your experience you're opening up the eyes of ignorant folks like me.

And it's nice to see someone who's ignorant who has worse interpersonal skills than me.

This Show said...

OK reread the article. The person was a jerk.

Janette has a great line. She had massive weight loss by pursuing less healthy means than you. She lost almost 200 pounds at some point. You guys would be great friends for many other reasons.

(She just wrote a book about loving your body called "Embracing Your Big Fat A**).

Her line and I'm paraphrasing is: The manure you had to deal with yesterday is the fertilizer that makes you the beautiful flower you are today."

And you were a beautiful flower when u were bigger. You needed to lose the weight so you could be a healthy flower.

You have to love the guy from the past too. Trust me. He was worth loving too.

(I just think you look hotter skinny and in purple.)

Shib said...

Blah. I have lost a loved one and I haev lost almost half my weight. I think you could compare them. I remember what my aunt looked like and what she was like but I don't remember if she had freckles or if she ever scolded me. I remember I had an additional 80 lbs on me last year, I can see pictures, but I don't really remember it. I think in another year, I might forget what chocolate tastes like.

And I resent that "you people" remark that person made. We DID NOT choose to get heavy, knowing the risks. Some of us fought against it and still lost to genetics or our own bodies. What we CHOSE to do is haev this surgery and make a life altering decision so we'd live better lives and be around for our lvoed ones longer.

Sorry for the rant. You were much nicer than I could ever have been.