Who Am I? A wife of almost 19 years. A mom of 14 years. A daughter of almost 42 years. A friend. A co-worker. No, really – WHO – am – I ? That’s the question I have been struggling to figure out over the last several years. Somewhere along the way, I lost the definition of ‘me’. Don’t get me wrong, I love being all of those things to all of the people in my life and I try to be my best at each one. But deep down, I realized that in order for me to continue to be my best at each one, I needed to re-establish what made me tick. In my teens, it was figuring out the coolest outfit ever to wear to the dance, which boy I had a crush on at that moment and what I was going to do after high school. In my 20’s, it was being in a long term relationship then getting married. In my 30’s, it was watching my child grow. Now, in my 40’s…..Hmmmm. That’s a good one! I am having the most fun I’ve had in a very long time, I do know that….reconnecting with my husband, building a different type of relationship with my teenage son, and really thinking about what my inner core is all about.
I’ve been overweight my entire life. As in I should have been wearing a bra in 4th/5th grade but wore overalls instead to cover up my B.O.B. (big ol’ boobs)! HA Throughout elementary school, I was always one of the ‘big girls’. I didn’t like it, but I knew it and I accepted it. At the time I thought I did anyway. I tried to be ‘one of the boys’ so boys and girls alike would think I was cool. That worked for a while until I went into high school. Things changed at that point. Then I was just one of the ‘big girls’. I had lots of good friends – guys and girls – but only went on a few dates throughout the entire 4 years of high school. To a big girl, when a guy paid attention to you in whatever fashion, it was pretty much life altering. I spent a lot of time romanticizing my dream guy, my dream career, my dream life. During that time though, I went through a phase where I dressed away from the ‘norm’, listened to alternative 80s punk and rock (definitely not mainstream) and dreamed of living far, far away from the tiny town of Fowlerville, MI. That was my attempt at expressing myself, for sure and I was happy about it!
In the late 80s, I met Todd (my husband of almost 19 years). He was different than any guy I had ever met and was attracted to him from that first introduction. And what do you know, after my BFF Sherri and I hung out with him and his friends for a while, he started to show an interest in me! It blew my mind that someone that awesome would be interested in ME….the ‘big girl’. At any rate, we started dating in 1989, moved in together in 1991 and got married in 1993. Over the years, we experienced many wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful things together, as I’m sure any couple does. In 1998, our son Jake was born. I went into full blown ‘mom mode’…..meaning that pretty much anything and everything I did was because of or for Jake, which is what moms do.
However, looking back, I was no longer just ‘Jenny’….I was the ‘Jenny’ part of ‘Todd and Jenny’…. After Jake was born, I was also ‘Jake’s mom’. I absolutely loved being those things and still do today. The fact is I know I let myself go physically and mentally because those things were the #1 priority to me at the time. I got to the point that I was extremely unhappy – more so with myself than anything because my weight climbed higher than it ever had been before. I translated being that fat into not being worthy or deserving of the things that I had in my life. I guess after spending my entire life being overweight and not liking myself because of it, getting to that point was bound to happen. My breaking point showed itself in 2004 -- for about a 3 week period, I had bad panic attacks, was extremely depressed and was actually physically unable to eat anything but cottage cheese and potato chips (totally bizarre, I know!) because I literally could not swallow food. I missed a lot of work and more importantly missed a lot of life. I finally decided that I needed a third party to help me get through it which to me at the time was unfathomable because I should have been able to pull myself out of it with the things my family and friends told me – that I was a great mom, a great wife, a great friend, a great person, beautiful, smart, funny. The problem was I could not say those things to myself and believe them. The good news is that I saw a wonderful therapist for several months -- she helped me work through it and see the things I couldn’t see. Not to mention the better living through pharmaceuticals!
I wish I could say that was what magically changed things in my life for good. It started to go downhill again in 2009 - to the point that Todd and I almost got divorced. He was tired of me not being the me he knew and fell in love with years ago. And, he was just straight up unhappy. Our relationship was dicey at best. But alas, out of all bad things come good things -- as much as it didn’t feel like it would ever be good again. I had a lot more introspection to do. Since then, we have had our ups and downs. We are stronger and more committed to each other than ever. We are best friends. He wants nothing more than for me to be an individual and to do things that make me happy. He is one of the rare men that think it’s what’s on the inside that makes you beautiful and not always about how you look on the outside. (But he still thinks I’m the hottest thing ever! J ). I thought I knew what it meant to love and be in love. I definitely learned that being able to do that fully is a result of loving yourself first (which I learn to more and more every day).
Since April 2011, I have lost 95 pounds and a total of 24 inches off my waist and hips. I still have several more pounds to go, but I am proud of what I have accomplished – without drugs, surgery or wacky gimmick diets. I feel a lot better physically and no longer take blood pressure medication. I am able to do things I haven’t been able to do in a very long time and this summer am looking forward to hitting the amusement parks to ride roller coasters for the first time in about 17 years. Sweet!
Going through the journey of rediscovery is not always easy. It may take a lot of years, cause a lot of heartache to you and your loved ones, and just generally suck sometimes. It’s a work in progress. I am not fond of saying that part of rediscovering myself took my marriage almost ending and me losing a lot of weight. However, those significant things happening in my life led me to where I’m at today…it changed the way I think about things, how I view things around me and just me in general. I realized it’s a very good thing to get back to being ‘just Jenny’ – to enjoy the things that make me happy (not just what I think will make everyone else happy), to have my own thoughts and feelings, to read a book if I want to, to hang out and drink adult beverages by the bonfire until 3 a.m., to sing again with a women’s chorus, to get another tattoo, to be the older version of the teenager that was just doing her thing. And I am having an absolute blast now!
I’m exactly where I want to be. I’m happy with me. I’m thankful and grateful for all the people and relationships I have in my life. And I deserve all of it!
PS...Note from Teri
Jenny is a great co-worker and an awesome friend. She is inspirational and a wonderful person. Plus, she makes me laugh everyday at work! You can't ask for more than that. Great job, Jenny and I know you'll touch so many people with your story.
Thank you so much. You ROCK!
With infinite love and gratitude,