Contributed by: Rand
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW, January, 2012
[Rand is 60 years old and he lives in Colorado.]
I’ve always viewed my body as my enemy. I was a shy, dreamy, chubby boy, and my strong, aggressive older brother harassed me constantly for being fat and weak. As an adult, I worked at clerical jobs that involved a lot of sitting, and eventually was diagnosed with an eating disorder and PTSD linked to childhood abuse.
I lost 180 pounds in Overeaters Anonymous, a 12 Step Program for compulsive eaters, and got a job at a nursery selling plants to customers. The job involved a lot of very heavy lifting, and one day I fell when I tried to transport a large, recently watered hanging basket for a customer. That’s when my pain began.
I developed spondalysis of the L4-L5 vertebrae and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and sciatica. The pain was so bad that every movement hurt. Spinal steroid injections and oral steroids helped for about 10 months; then I developed a very painful skin sensitivity to the steroids and had to give them up. I could not sit, stand, or lie down without pain; I thought my life was over.
I slowly gained back 80 of the pounds I had lost. I was transferred to a desk job for about 5 years, then downsized to the point where I could no longer afford to live in the town I’d made my home for 24 years. I applied for disability and it was repeatedly denied; I was judged too competent to receive it.
I moved to another city to live with a friend; without medical insurance, and with an income of less than $600 a month, I would have been homeless otherwise. I worked with a PTSD therapist to help me deal with the depression, anxiety attacks, agoraphobia, and despair brought on by my various conditions.
Slowly I learned tools for coping with my fear and pain: stretching; breathing; journaling about my feelings; pacing myself; and most important of all, asking for help when I needed it, taking life one day at a time. I am hopeful that my life will improve as I keep practicing the coping skills I have learned.
I am grateful to all the family, friends, and coworkers who have contributed time and resources to helping me through my crises. As I grow older, I am realizing that independence –complete self-sufficiency without the need for help from others – no longer works as a basis for my masculine self-esteem. Instead I must work on interdependence – developing a circle of mutual support –as a tool for living and thriving.