When you read this article you will feel warmth, honesty, love, and passion flowing from every word. Stacey Robbins has become a dear friend to me and she is all of those things. Stacey tells her story in a way that will inspire you to look at thyroid disease differently and to consider loving yourself as part of your treatment too.
Written by Stacey Robbins, Wellness Coach
“You’re so beautiful, funny, smart, strong, generous, loving, and gifted…”
It sounds like the affirmations of Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley. His needy, lispy voice encouraging his reflection in the mirror to get laughs from the live audience, and to convince himself out of his neurosis — always ending with the infamous phrase, “And doggone it, people like me.”
But before he ever came on the scene, these were the words my parents spoke to me.
It was the list I could practically recite myself with a “blah, blah, blah’ on the end when I was a teenager and I wasn’t buying it — because you know, parents are ‘weird.’ But the truth is: I was all of those things. I ended up starting my own business — a professional music career — at age 15. I was well-read, could do great impressions of comedians that would leave my family peeing in their pants, and we turned heads, all five of us, when we’d walk into a restaurant. My whole Italian family was beautiful. Crazy? Yes. A little extra in the fanny? Yes. A little signature Sicilian bump on the nose? Yes. And could go from zero to bitchy in about a second?
Hell, yes. But always beautiful. And I didn’t realize how important beauty was to me, until it went away.
I think it was likely the perfect storm of circumstances in my life that landed me with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The stress of my household growing up (my parents weren’t always spouting my positive attributes, trust me), the gobs of secret trauma I had gone through as a child outside of the home and the very fundamentalist religious belief I chose to ‘save’ me from all that trauma (with a punishing God included).
All of those set me up perfectly to become a perfectionist, workaholic, who was uber-hard on herself, felt guilty all the time, and rarely gave herself any slack.
I didn’t really have any sense of rest and peace.
‘Peace’ for me, was having my house look good, my reputation look good and my body look good.
Rock and me in 1991. We were both pretty then.
“Peace” wasn’t an inside state of being, coming from an inner state of acceptance and contentment. No way. My thoughts were going about a scrillion miles an hour about what a failure I was and if I could just figure out that one thing to do better then, I could finally be ‘good enough’ and relax. I was like that duck in the water that looks like it’s gliding but is paddling like crazy underneath the waters surface.
That was me.
Eventually, at around 27 years-old, it all caught up with me: The stress from the past, the current stressful marriage, the ridiculous work schedule I had with a demanding music career, two car accidents, and losing my dad to diabetes when he was 49.
I found myself changing. Not just moody or bitchy or tired. I mean, yes, all those things, but my body changed too. I had gained a little weight in the past, but had always been able to do some ridiculous fad or crash diet, with a little extra exercise to get it off in a blink. Not this time. This time, I was gaining 10-15 lbs in a month and no amount of dieting or working with my personal trainer was getting it off. The scale was creeping up. And sometimes leaping up.
I felt so out of control.
I went to my doctor. He put me on three times the dose of Fen-Phen to lose weight.
(Remember Fen-Phen? Remember when it was going through all the scrutiny from giving people mitral-valve prolapse? Yeah. I was on three times the regular dose. My doctor was a dingbat.)
Still gaining weight. Only this time with anxiety attacks from the medication and the still undiagnosed thyroid disease. My scale kept climbing: 175. 180. 185. My legs got so dry, they looked like the Sahara.
I lost 1/3 of my eyebrows. I looked like Mr. Spock on Star Trek. Not my best look. The scale reached that unbelievable number 200 and I was pretty sure that the ground trembled at the thought of me getting out of bed each day.
I worked out even harder with my personal trainer and wrote down every bite of food.
205. 210. 215. My hair stopped growing on my legs. I said to my husband, “I think that I’m getting fatter, faster than my hair can grow.” We laughed for a second. But only a second ‘cause I was kind of serious. I went to doctor after doctor. Specialist after specialist. At least 10 in that year. Everyone scratched their heads.
Some told me I was dying.
Several told me that if I lived, I’d never have children.
I was depressed.
I was getting fatter.
But not just that, I was getting uglier, too.
My hair turned Bozo-The-Clown orange (not kidding) and became as rough as a Brill-o pad.
Yup. That was me. Somewhere in there…like my orange hair and my penciled in eyebrows?
My face got welts and scabs all over it.
My arms looked like someone had pricked me with a pin. If you touched my skin, it would literally bleed.
I topped the scales at 240 (or so I thought) by the time I collapsed, with a ruptured ovarian cyst, while working in the school I was teaching music. A colleague took me to a local urgent care. The doctor took blood work that the other doctors had failed to take or to see clearly.
She called me a few days later, “The bad news is you have hypothyroidism. Your TSH is 19.0. The good news is, we’ll put you on Synthroid and you’ll be back to your normal weight in three months.
I swear, I heard the angels sing.
I was so relieved. I was going to get to not only ‘be’ me again but look like me again.
I took the meds faithfully, exercised regularly and gained 30 more pounds in three months.
I’m not kidding.
I was 270 lbs.
Rock and me. Same pose as 1991 only I’m 100 pounds heavier. Oh joy.
I looked like I ate myself.
I’d walk past the windows of the businesses and see the reflection of my huge self and I’d stop.
That couldn’t be me.
Where did I go?
The sales people who used to walk right up to me when I was skinny, now ignored me in the store.
The days of people asking my husband and me if we were models were traded for people rudely telling him, “You can do better.”
Right in front of me.
I’m not sure I can completely express how completely this sucked. And how horribly fat people are sometimes treated when they’re not being ignored.
Here I went from ‘beautiful’ being at the top of my list, to not anywhere on it. But not only that, I had to confront one of the biggest things I didn’t even know I needed to address:
I had to look at how I had made being beautiful so important to my identity.
That it wasn’t just an adjustment in my looks that I was dealing with. At some point, I had to have the honest conversation with myself about how I had allowed myself to believe the press I had received my whole life:
that being beautiful meant you were worth more.
More worthy of love.
And kind treatment.
And good service.
And a good life.
I was getting the opportunity (which didn’t feel like an opportunity at the time, trust me) to examine my crappy thinking
And to love me.
I didn’t do that.
I didn’t love me unconditionally.
I thought that because I had a successful business, and a great reputation and an attractive appearance, that I was credible.
That whole list I had grown up with had turned from a list of affirmations, to a standard of acceptability.
If I was funny…
If I was smart…
If I was gifted…
If I was beautiful…
I could be loved.
They had become terms of agreement in my heart instead of qualities I possessed.
So, when I had lost my sense of humor and started to stutter (because it can actually affect your speech when your brain is so toxic from an underactive thyroid) and when I couldn’t provide financially and I couldn’t perform
and I definitely
I didn’t believe that I was worth loving.
When all those went away, I didn’t know who I was.
It became my journey to examine those beliefs. Where they came from and how to shift to a more internal, and eternal perspective on my worth.
I will digress for a sec to share this TMI moment with you: My husband, had issues with pornography since he was a teen and his mom had died. He used it to cope with the pain. I didn’t know about this until after we got married when I was 20. It felt so rejecting. There I was, 135 pounds and sexy and his eyes were everywhere but on me.
We went through seven years like that. You know what happened? He got over the issues he had with pornography when I was at my heaviest.
So, there he was, doing a whole lot of inner work and I was 270 lbs — looking and feeling like a beached whale — and he would look at me like I was the only woman on terra firma.
Do you know what a great story that is? (Even though it sounds like an awful lot of information for not really knowing me).
It’s a great story because it showed me that love is about a heart that see things differently and not about a woman who has herself put together perfectly.
I needed that message sent to me.
I needed to live that message inside of me.
My husband’s heart changed for me when he did the inner work on his issues.
I needed to do that work in me, so that I could shift and love me… For me.
I went on that journey for a few years. And yes, I learned to appreciate my internal qualities like my integrity, my character, wisdom and grace.
And yes, I got the right meds and foods going, which helped my metabolism work on my behalf instead of against me, all while learning more about the intricacies of Hashimoto’s.
And yes, I took care of myself externally instead of doing that whole “waiting until I’m skinny to take care of myself” bullshit. I’ve done that before during my heavier times…where I hid in dark clothing with ratty hair, and no makeup because I wasn’t at my best weight. I’m not doing that anymore.
I’m loving me. Right here. Right now.
I attended a class years ago and someone asked me, “What would you do if you were your goal weight?”
“I’d wear cute clothes. Laugh without worrying about a double, or triple chin appearing. And I’d dance with my kids without worrying about the size of my butt.”
The teacher said to me, “The secret to getting there, is doing that stuff now. Live your life now. Don’t wait for your idea of ‘perfect’ in order to live a self-expressed life.”
So, I laugh.
And I dance.
And I put on cute clothes instead of my family threatening to nominate me for the show “What Not to Wear.”
I’m not done but I’m different.
My thighs aren’t as big as they were, but they’re not as small as they once were either.
I love my thighs. Even though they remind me of a Shar Pei puppy sometimes, they’ve carried me through life.
My arms might be flappy underneath, but they are the arms my children run to because they know that love is there.
And I let my husband ravish me with his love, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year, even though old tapes sometimes tell me I don’t deserve it.
Because the truth is this: I am smart and funny. I am gifted and generous. I am loving and strong.
And doggone it,
I like me.
And that is what makes me beautiful.
About Stacey Robbins
After almost 20 years of dealing with symptoms, gathering wisdom, and doing tons of inner work, wellness coach Stacey Robbins wrote You’re Not Crazy And You’re Not Alone: Losing the Victim, Finding Your Sense of Humor, and Learning to Love Yourself Through Hashimoto’s.