This is the eleventh installment of the Body Diversity Stories from the models who participated in the Social Outreach Seattle Body Diversity Project. Meet Justice McCartney.
Body Diversity and the struggle of acceptance.
The day I was born I had a lump. It was the size of a grapefruit and it was because I had a cystic kidney. I almost died. Thanks to the doctors at Children’s Hospital I was saved but it came at a cost. I bear a scar across my midrift that I would see as a blight. As soon as I was old enough to regularly interact with other kids it was pointed out to me that I was different. My scar haunted me. I would look in the mirror and see it as a reminder that I was not complete. There was a part of me that had been taken. It meant that I couldn’t be involved in full contact sports and even the ones like Basketball and Soccer at the first sign of them being aggressive it would cause my mother to be frightened that my remaining kidney could end up harmed. It also meant that no matter what my wieght was I could always pinch a mound of flesh. Remember the cereal commercial that equated health with being able to pinch an inch on your waist, well that always made me think I was fat. Even when I was 6’2″ tall and 120 pounds I thought i was fat because I could pinch an inch on my waist. I eventually didn’t get hungry from starving myself in my attempt to reach an impossible goal. I wanted to get that inch off my waist and never could.
When I came out in the early 90′s and moved away from home it was even worse. I was suddenly immersed in the gay community in the middle of the dying years. I still had my adolescent acne that would often present itself in the form of large oil patches that when they burst resembled Kaposi Sarcoma lesions. People started asking me when I was diagnosed and I was clueless as to what they could possibly be talking about. It never occurred to me that it was my skeletal frame with the lesions from the acne that made them think I was HIV positive. I was ostracized to some degree because of this. I finally got health coverage and a doctor pointed out that I was anemic and terribly under weight and malnourished because of my quest to loose that inch on my waist. I didn’t think of it as anorexia. I just didn’t get hungry so I didn’t eat. I walked everywhere because it was cheaper than the bus, but i was a skeleton. I decided to learn how to eat again. I learned how to enjoy food and my doctor finally explained to me that the inch i was pinching was scar tissue and without plastic surgery I would always be able to pinch an inch.
With eating better came weight gain. I also realized that I didn’t really feel full right away. I had a few years at 180 pounds which was a perfect weight on my frame. I looked great and loved my body for the first time in my life but eventually I passed that. Slowly but surely over a few years I gained weight up to 250 pounds. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. My face that had once been so angular and sharp was now round and puffy. My body had bulges in all the wrong places and my clothes didn’t fit. New pains from carrying the extra weight started to become prevalent in my life. Once again I hated my body but now I was always hungry. Now I couldn’t lose the weight and actually needed to. I worked in an office and didn’t walk everywhere anymore. I learned to dress to hide my body so people wouldn’t realize just how fat I had become unless they knew me when I was so gaunt before. I’ve joined a gym, and am altering my diet and am down to 230. I am not ecstatic about my body but have learned to accept it. I no longer see my scar as something where a part of me was taken, but see it as the point where I was allowed to live. I still want to get my weight down to where I feel healthier, about 180 lbs which will be about 4 inches off my waist. I still see every flaw when I look in hte mirror, as we all do, but I have learned to accept my flaws and turn off the tapes that tell me how disgusting I am and revel in the fact that I have had 38 years of life that, had i been born just 5 or 10 years older would never have happened. Yes I am a work in progress but I love myself. I love my scar. I love that I can’t count my ribs when i stand naked in front of the mirror anymore, but i still look at myself in a funhouse mirror through spectacles made of carnival glass and will probably never see the me that other people see.