F'ing Trevor stole my breath and my words this week, so not too many posts. I think it may have been because I smelled peaches, but it's taken a ridiculous amount of steroids, antihistamines, sleep, benadryl cream, and inhaler doses to counteract a small whiff of sweetness. F'ing Death. F'ing Sickness. F'ing Peaches.
Ruminations on My 600 LB Life
The TLC show My 600 Lb Life is one of those "reality" shows where the suffering and misery of others is to serve as both inspirational and cautionary tales. The show follows people who have been slowly killing themselves with food until they've reached the point where their bodies are about to fail. Since, at 600 lbs or more, these people are medically fragile and most other doctors refuse to help them, they must make a pilgrimage to Texas to find Dr. Nowzardian in order to have any hope for salvation.
It is a show full of contradictions. It at once both humanizes and dehumanizes its participants. On the one hand, the viewer is invited into the spectacle of addiction and self-harm. We see how when people have their hearts gouged out and their wills broken, they might turn to something toxic to fill the empty and shore up the weak. We see how rape and abuse leave us hungry beyond reason for the the world to make sense. We see how resilience is a better hunger. And sometimes, we see that some demons just won't let us heal. On the other hand, we are invited to enjoy the spectacle of someone else's pain and to indulge ourselves in the condescension of the whole for the broken.
There is, of course, a process or script. In the beginning, there's the obligatory bathing scene where we see these people stripped naked of dignity as they struggle to get clean. We see impossibly large bodies in showers, on beds, trapped on toilets, while folds of flesh are hefted and scrubbed. The camera especially loves bedsores and lipedema. It zooms in close to show the bulges of fat hanging from bellies and legs and buttocks that impede movement. It lingers on seeping wounds, discolored, angry, flesh. It passionlessly records the distress of humans caught up in this too intimate dance of love and obligation, shame and discomfort. This first stripping is a metaphor for the entire show, this exposure -- being willing to become a spectacle, to be vulnerable for the pleasure of others, all to save yourself from dying.
Dr. Now begins by requiring proof of the supplicant's willingness to change. He imposes a strict diet, the adherence to which will offer evidence of the kind of fortitude needed to live beyond this particular televised moment.
It's the time-tested sink or swim method of caring. Most of the participants, having just cut ties with their families and support systems, having moved to a new, unfamiliar place to live, having been asked to change decades of habit in a day, having to confront the ugliness of past and present trauma, do not fare well in the beginning.
We, the audience, are invited to sneer at their food-related weakness, their hunger and brokenness. Dr. Now is a kind but vengeful god. He has the power to deny that surgical salvation, and he will, because he loves you, and you need to be strong.
Eventually, most of the participants find a way to change. They discover how to heal and move closer to the person they need to be to live. They learn to forgive themselves for being human and imperfect. They learn to forgive the many who have hurt them. They learn to trust, at the very least, themselves and sometimes others. They learn to let go of shame and self-harm. And it is this transformation, this ending, that makes suffering through our voyeurism worthwhile.
600 lb Life (song lyrics)
Too much on my plate Can't carry it Heartburn and heartache Can't bury it Hunger sears my soul Can't parley it Into healthy greed
Every time I hear I should settle down Release the guilt and fear Gotta push it down Hunger's always near And I'm starting to drown
My 600 lb life I'm bursting at the seams I'm living larger than life Living the American Dream
Having lots of panic now Gobble it down Life is dramatic now Gobble it down Feeling lots of sadness now Gobble it down Gobble it down
Having lots of panic now Gobble it down Life is dramatic now Gobble it down Feeling lots of sadness now Gobble it down Gobble it down Needing something sweet
My hand starts to shake Can't steady it My smile's always fake Can't ready it I'm feeling emptiness And I've got to feed
My 600 lb life I'm bursting at the seams I'm living larger than life Living the American Living the American Living the American Dream
Cynthia is a 50 something mom to 2 talkative, creative, whirling dervishes. They're not feral. Honest. Just homeschooled. In her free time, Cynthia enjoys being a hot mess whose neuroticism makes excellent song and story fodder.