I have an important professional mission as a nurse and patient advocate to destigmatize and normalize topics that tend to make ignorant or bigoted people uncomfortable. A short list if topics would include body positivity, my queer agenda, reproductive health & rights, sex, sexuality, mental health, the gender spectrum, safety from sexual and intimate partner violence, and anything blanketed under feminism. This is more about destigmatizing and normalizing these topics than making people uncomfortable. I can discuss these things over dinner, in elevators, in crowds, or in private. I want you to tell me everything you know on these topics too, let’s teach other, and spread awareness by demonstrating what a safe and accepting world can look like.
Now, what the fuck does this have to do with surgical weight loss? I find myself experiencing a topic that can be polarizing and I am reluctant to discuss it with anyone. In fact, I find myself feeling shame as though I gave up on myself. Am I taking the easy way out of sickness? I sent a Facebook message to one of my oldest friends and asked for help. I have known this woman longer than I have known my wife. I have known her more years than I have not. She had a gastric bypass late last year and just knows things. I wasn’t sure what I needed or wanted to hear, but I needed something. She e-slapped my hand for wanting to emote via messenger and we set up a time to talk on the phone. Like good adult friends should!
Early last year, she had told me when she was considering bariatric surgery. I knew it was coming. She didn’t give many details, but let me know the big dates as they came up. Now several months post-op, she told me more about her journey just before and after the surgery. She told me the emotional side of surgery and the changes she sees. Then after hearing me try to express my concerns in a mess of words she told me honestly, “This surgery is just a tool. It is really hard work.” I needed to hear that, not just to understand that there will be a lot of effort, but to validate this pathway as a legitimate way to help heal my body. It is not the “easy way out.” Next, she hit me with something I knew, but hadn’t really understood I was worried about. She told me that I was an emotional eater and that this surgery would affect my digestive system, not change my brain. I would need to seek additional help to be successful. BAM! Friend slap! I needed these things from her, I didn’t know how to ask for them, but she knew and gave them to me. After hanging up I thought on her words, wishing I had formulated better questions. I am glad she left off saying that she was there if I needed her.
It felt good to speak candidly with someone outside of my home, even if it was a brief conversation. I want to reach out to others who have had bariatric surgery, or those who are considering it, and I don’t want to be secretive about this process. Omitting a major life event out of conversations with those I love makes me feel isolated! It is very unlikely that I am alone in my feelings, so why isn’t my need to normalize and destigmatize kicking in?