Insomnia, insecurity and anxiety… oh my.

It is 2:00 am. I see 2:00 am most nights. Sleep and I have been on rather rotten terms since I was 25 and first began having symptoms of fibromyalgia. That being said, in the past 18 months things went from not good to truly horrific.

I can’t remember anymore what it felt like to just sleep. To slip into crisp, cool sheets and drift off peacefully and wake up well rested the next day. I know I used to do it, and like so many things I used to do with my body, or even things my body did for me, I took it for granted. That is the gift of the young and/or healthy, and one you never see in the moment.

We leave for vacation in a few days. A massive road trip, the sort we love to take. On this trip, I will see young people — and older people — geared up for hiking, doing things I could’ve done once upon a time. Things I didn’t do because my fat body wasn’t supposed to be able to do those things, and because clothing manufacturers (even more so then than now) didn’t make it easy to find comfortable clothing to wear for such adventures. I will watch them with envy, an emotion I so rarely feel, one that makes me feel like I have a full body itch and need a shower or a bath in calamine lotion. I will feel a bit of rage bubble up into my throat, fueled by the desire to yell at them, you have no idea how lucky you are! Don’t take this for granted. Truthfully, it’s as much a desire to go back in time and shake some sense into my younger, healthier self and tell her, stop it. You CAN do these things. Don’t let what they say stop you. Train for that long hike you want to do. Go join the Y and swim your heart out in a bathing suit; yes in public! You can do it. You should do it. Someday you’ll have to battle hating yourself for not doing it, knowing the regret is futile but sometimes unable to hold it back at the same time. It will bubble to the surface, and sometimes not letting it out only makes it turn volcanic; the results of which are lashing out at people you love, people who do not deserve it — and yes, that includes you yourself.

Anxiety over traveling is inevitable when you’re very fat. Will the chairs in restaurants be as sturdy as they looked in the pictures you found on Yelp? Does this particular attraction have turnstiles? Will the hotel rooms have chairs you can sit on, or will you be stuck on the bed the whole time you’re in the room? If you’re flying (which thankfully we’re not), there’s the whole fiasco of getting an extra seat, asking for a seat belt extender, dealing with the stares of horrorstruck fellow travelers saying silent prayers of, please don’t let her be sitting next to me.

Here’s the thing. I’m a happy person. Despite my limitations due to living with chronic pain, despite being a fat person in a world that reviles fat bodies, I am generally happy. This is literally in my DNA (I know, I had a test done and one gene mutation known to make people happy is one I fortunately have). Beyond that, it’s who I am. I have a loving and supportive partner, something I was always told I’d never have as a fat kid or fat teen. I have friends. I have hobbies I enjoy. I have a dog who is my kid and who makes me laugh daily. My life is — despite the hardships — good. In fact, my life is the sort that internet trolls hate to hear about because it goes against their strongly held beliefs that fat people can’t or shouldn’t be happy. That we don’t deserve it because our bodies somehow threaten them and their perceived superiority. Or, they envy us happy fatties because we’ve managed to do and find things they haven’t. We’ve found peace, love, life. None of this sits well with trolls or outspoken fat phobes. I’ve encountered plenty of these people in my life online. I’m strong enough to take it. It has little bearing on my day to day life. Sometimes I take them on to protect others who may be more fragile, more vulnerable. My pen name of “Fragile Fat” is meant somewhat tongue in cheek, though it’s also somewhat true given the chronic pain of living with fibromyalgia.

It’s not just fibro that I deal with, though. I’ve had generalized anxiety disorder basically my whole life. I have had panic disorder since a nasty bout of asthmatic bronchitis as a teenager. It’s pretty normal for my anxiety to spike at night. It’s ironic because I love the night. I’ve been a night owl since childhood; sneaking a flashlight into bed with me to read under the sheets. I could function just fine on three or four hours of sleep, though typically I slept more than that. Chronic pain interferes with sleep. Add to it that staying in bed too long just plain hurts, and well it’s kind of a clusterfuck, to put it bluntly.

So tonight I am awake. My brain is overflowing with thoughts. Did I forget to mention I was also diagnosed with ADD as an adult? Yeah. You can see the problems all of this can cause. Or maybe you can’t. I hope you can’t, to be honest, because then it means you’re probably pretty physically and mentally healthy. If that describes you, take a moment now to inhale deeply, exhale quickly and just… well, be.

As for me? Eventually I’ll fall asleep. I don’t work, so I can sleep during the day tomorrow if I need to, and it likely won’t be optional, because oh yeah, I forgot to mention I can sleep easily when I don’t want to be asleep.

For now, I’ll try to find a distraction. Writing this — my first attempt at writing on Medium — was one way to get it all out of my head. Honestly, I’m holding back. This is new and a bit scary. But if you stick around I’ll probably overshare before long. It’s what I tend to do. Some people find it off putting. Some find it endearing. As for me? I don’t generally care what they find it. I’m just being me.

And that’s imperfectly okay.



Words are my superpower. Pan. Queer. Wife. Dog mom. Spoonie. Novelist. Unapologetically Me. HuffPost published.

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Juliet James

Juliet James

Words are my superpower. Pan. Queer. Wife. Dog mom. Spoonie. Novelist. Unapologetically Me. HuffPost published.

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