My name is Thabiso Mahlape, and I live with several addictions.
When I was commissioned to write this piece this is not the statement I imagined I would open with. But the events of the past two weeks have absolutely dictated that I must. The death of a famous person has the ability to plunge us into an introspective darkness. When US Rapper DMX died after he had a drug overdose, the only I could think about was how heavy addiction is, and how while mine isn’t drugs I can’t help but think about how it would one day most probably claim my life as well.
I have many reasons why I write, but one of the most important ones among them is to heal myself through my own writing. Over the years I have realised just how cathartic writing about the things that have caused me pain start me on a path of healing and this is why I am doing this piece in the way that I am.
One of the things I am addicted to is food. I eat for absolutely every mood that I am in, but more so when I am in a dark place and need to hide myself from the world. I have been in therapy for years trying to work on this. Not just the addiction but the incredibly heavy blanket of shame that comes with it. I have spent so many years beating myself up for not being able to just stop my self from eating or rather eat the things that were good for me and not the ones my emotions demanded.
I am currently the heaviest I have ever been, or at least it feels that way. With the help of many a body positive activist, I have made peace with the way that I look. I am comfortable with the idea and knowledge that I will always be a big girl. I have stopped lying awake at night imagining how I would look trimmer. I have stopped wondering if the boys might see me different. Would sex feel different?
This in no way means that the worry has left me all together. Living as a morbidly obese person has its very real and very worrying afflictions, especially as one grows older.
When I was younger things were a lot easier physically, but now there are parts of me that have begun to creak from the burden of carrying more than what they were intended to. Which really speaks to the absurdity and continuous fight that life is. Why create body parts that will buckle under heavy weight but also create a body that can become heavy. I am not God or anything, I am just saying that had I been one, I may have thought things through a little better.
In any case while I still struggle with emotional aspects of eating, I have really begun to worry about how I can start to help the physical parts of me heal and cope better with this weight. The pandemic has also really hastened this thought as obesity emerges on top of the list for comorbidities for Covid-19.
One of the chats that led to this piece was a fascinating fact about the liver and its ability to recreate itself. It is a fact that I had always known, but never that it can do that even at 51% of itself. And so I thought if there is a good place to start, why not start with one organ smart enough to want to be helped by helping itself?
I did some reading and some of it left me really bleak and quite despondent. But now is not the time for despondency.
The facts as I found them are this, obesity leads to what is known as a fatty liver disease. It happens when too much fat accumulates around the liver. While it is reversible at an early stage, it can often go undetected leading up to irreversible advanced liver disease. Are you as scared for me as I am right now?
I have no clue where I am on the spectrum. I booked a Dr’s appointment to go check and then I got really scared. Once again, because of the shame that eats you up as a fat person in need of medical help. Everything that ails you, is seen as something you have brought on upon yourself. And no other group of people have reacted towards me with as much fatphobia as medical doctors have. Fat people are often misdiagnosed because we are diagnosed as we enter the rooms before any kind of exam.
However, based on the absolutely frightening findings from my little research, I absolutely must go and so I have rebooked the appointment and I will go face whatever music I find there.