Today, at the gym, I had my first "girl, you are lifting too much weight" interaction, with a trainer working his client near where I was doing my thing. (This never, ever, not even once happened to me in months of lifting at the Bed-Stuy Y, which is one reason among many that I pine for it.) He walked by when I was squatting and said, "You shouldn't be lifting too heavy." (Why? 'Cause I'm gonna get bulky? Bite my fat ass. 'Cause my ovaries are gonna fall out? Bite me harder.) I said, "I've been doing this awhile; I'm fine," kind of testily. Then he watched me rip 135 for 5x5 deadlifts, which apparently changed his mind. He said some stuff about how hard I was hitting it, introduced himself and told me I should take his Monday-morning boot camp because "if anyone can do it, you can do it." He was waiting for me on my way out to give me his card. I was like, "I can not afford a trainer," and he protested, "no! For the class!" But seriously, I do not need his card to go to his class. And his card doesn't have any information about his teaching schedule on it anyway. I am just saying.
You know what I want to be able to do one day? A pull-up.
Monday my squat weight goes up to 120 or 125. I'm back in form, feeling good; it's time to start getting the load back up.
Yesterday I got a voicemail from my endocrinologist with my latest test results. They're impeccable. My cholesterol is "magnificent," which I am keeping in my back pocket for the next time my dad implies that I eat too many eggs. Best of all, my IGF-1, which gives a sense of average growth hormone levels over time, has edged up into the low end of the normal range. You know what raises growth hormone levels? Resistance training. It's still low, but it's high enough that my insurance would never approve the expensive treatments—it's normal enough. "So just keep up what you're doing and come in in the fall," she concluded her voicemail.
That growth hormone thing feels like a big deal to me, somehow. I remember seeing the pediatric endocrinologist. I had stopped growing; my dad's markers of my height on the wall near the laundry machine were barely distinct from each other. My height had slipped downward off the percentile chart as my weight ticked up. I remember this being pointed out to me with percentile curves in her office at St. Luke's Roosevelt. She tapped the charts with her pencil to draw my attention to the problem. The pediatric endocrinologist was also a pediatric obesity researcher. I was eleven, in the fifth grade. I had several sets of x-rays done (growth hormone deficiency is diagnosed in a preliminary fashion by looking at the spaces between the bones of your non-dominant hand) and then an MRI in a closed machine. The thing that piped in music was broken, and I listened to the banging of the machinery as I tried to stay completely still. They pulled me out to inject me with dye, and then slid me back into the clanking, claustrophobic tube and scanned some more. And the conclusion of all of this was an epi-pen and lessons on how to inject myself daily and a calendar with stickers to keep track of my injection sites and the promise to lose weight and a diagnosis I don't think I really understood. I remember telling a friend about the height and weight lines. "When they cross, I explode," I said. I knew this was a joke, but I also could not explain the actual situation, what was wrong with me. And the lines weren't going to cross; it didn't work like that. I did not understand.
I took that epi-pen to camp. Every night, when the rest of my cabin walked back together in the dark towards their bunks, I had to go by myself to the nurse's office, dial in the dose, find a site, swab that site with alcohol, set the pen carefully flush with my skin (hurts the least), click the plunger down slowly, re-swab and bandage, remove the needle to the sharps container, record the dose and injection site in a log, and walk back by myself to the cabin, where the other girls were already in bed, the companionable lights-out chatting winding down into sleep.
I'm glad that I was diagnosed and treated. I do think that the freight attached during that treatment to my weight, which well might have evened out as I grew (and in fact, initially did) was misguided and ultimately counterproductive for my health and well-being, but I am glad that I have always had access to good medical care, that this rather urgent endocrine dysfunction was caught early and its symptoms corrected as well as they could be corrected. I am glad that I am not going through life well under five feet tall. Nevertheless, I have sustained from this experience and others a deep resistance to being a medicalized body and also a baseline sense of myself as physiologically dysfunctional, as broken. I have been pretty upset at the prospect of going back to those daily injections. I am really, really glad to hear that I do not have to, that it is off the table.
And yes, this reading is just barely normal, but it is normal, and it never has been before without medical intervention. I have never been as healthy as I am today. My endocrine system has never functioned so smoothly and so normally. I still take medication for the PCOS, but there are people who even when medicated do not have a regular period, and I do. I have a regular period without birth control and my growth hormone levels are normal, and my blood tests are the blood tests of a healthy person, and it kind of makes me want to cry with gratitude.
And what have I been doing? The shit I am not supposed to do. Feeding myself when I get hungry even though I am fat and am supposed to resist my hunger in penance for my fatness. Eating until I am all the way full. Eating things I like and want. Eating saturated fat even though fatties and cheeseburgers and heart disease. Eating without a plan, eating without knowing how many calories, eating, to the best of my ability, without restriction or control. Lifting weights dudes will tell me are too heavy. Never, ever, ever getting on an elliptical machine. Fuck you. Fuck you. You don't know what's best for me. You don't care what's best for me. But I feel more sure than I ever have that I know, and I care, and I can act on both of those things. I feel like I've gotten a toehold into something good, something powerful and real. Dig in. Hold on.
It is summer. I am grateful to be young and strong and healthy. I am grateful to be a sensate body, to feel the sun and my hips swaying when I walk and my legs trembling on the stairs down to the locker room.