Okay so I may not be chubby. And I may be able to rock my green Lulu Lemon capris but that certainly does not mean I am "in shape." The truth is that I can barely carry groceries from my car into my house. And that's on a good day.
It's weird sometimes. I am a pretty outspoken person but when it comes to defending my illness, I just get lost and so flustered.
I can think of three particular instances where I was misunderstood because of my age/body that really still weigh me down (no pun intended).
One involved an older 'gentle'man yelling at me and shaking his fist because I was parked in a handicap space. I guess he thought the placard belonged to my grandma? I wanted to say, “My heart’s probably in worse shape than yours, mister!” but instead I just blushed and froze.
The second one involves my old next door neighbour threatening me with his "connections" with a local by-law officer because he got ticketed for parking in front of my house in my clearly marked handicap spot. Yes, he was quite obviously a supremo douchebag, but it still bothered me.
And thirdly - and this, for some reason felt like the worst one - the memory I have of a new mom with a stroller waiting with me at the elevator. Her eyes went through me like daggers. I can still hear her making rude remarks under her breath to her partner and about how “people are so inconsiderate” because CLEARLY she has a stroller and other people around her are capable of taking the stairs. Wow - how rude of me. Maybe I should get a t-shirt made that says "This is what someone with a disability looks like" or maybe an ad on the side of a bus with my photo?
Anyway - that was a little tangent. The point of this post is that this whole not-being-able-to-carry-groceries business was/is pretty depressing. As a solution, I recently decided to get a gym membership. Build up some grocery muscles. It's actually really good for my heart too - the more muscle I have, the less work my heart has to do!
I was never really intimidated by gyms. I even debated getting my aerobics instructor certification in my second year of my undergrad. I looooooved step class. But ever since all this heart stuff went down, the gym has been a place I avoided. After I was diagnosed, I had to do cardiac rehabilitation. Twice. And I think something about being the youngest in my group by at least 30 years and wearing a special plastic card around my neck at the local YMCA made me feel a little self-conscious. Although I did get to flash it on two occasions - power trip:
1. Staff at the Y telling me I can't be on the equipment because it's reserved for rehab patients.
2. Fellow rehab participants assuming that I am staff of the program, not a participant.
OK - back to my membership. I connected with this really great personal trainer at the local YMCA who, by the way, had no front teeth. You know you're in Sudbury when... hehe. I'm just kidding - I mean he was missing four front teeth, I'm not kidding about that. But I am certainly not going to judge him on that after my above rant - and he did get those four teeth back about a month later (lookin' good, Kev).
Not only was he super helpful, he made me a really great program! Some people won't help me because of my health history (seriously - I had a Yoga instructor request a Dr's note). But when people do trust that I know my body and my limits - I truly appreciate it. I understand both sides - it's just nice to be able to get things done sometimes.
On my first visit, Kev walked me through my program. We were at the shoulder press machine and he was adjusting the weight and I was trying it out and so forth, when he made this awkward face (nothing to do with the lack of teeth). He said: "I don't really know a nice way to put this...but you have like NO upper body strength." I just about spit out my water - in a good way. For some reason that was the funniest thing to hear!
Actually, it really helped me out. Not so much in a motivational sense, but it’s given me a different reason to turn down requests for help rather than get into the whole heart blurb! And it just feels so much more legit:
"Jess can you help me *insert pretty much any task here*"
"Oh, sorry - I would but I'm not strong at all...seriously... my personal trainer told me I have like NO upper body strength."
So onward I go with my shoulder press machine set at 5 pounds. Oh and ... try not to get distracted by my huge biceps as I carry my grocery bag PACKED full of bread to my car.