"Are you trying to kill yourself?" asked my doctor in 2001. I was 5'1" and weighed 235 pounds. For years, I had battled my weight, but now my blood pressure was soaring, too. I needed to lose weight, he said bluntly, or I would die.
I knew my weight was a problem, but it was also my solution to a childhood plagued with sexual and physical abuse. For years, I ate myself into oblivion, letting the fat surround me and hide me from the world. Initially I resolved the problem in my mid-teen years with drugs, leaving me addicted to prescription meds. Through early intervention by friends and teachers, I have been clean ever since, but I was still trying to stay hidden from the world.
Though I married a good man and had two beautiful children, I continued to feed the pain I felt inside.
As I drove home from the doctor's office that day, I knew that I had to forgive and accept myself.
After slowly losing 30 pounds and getting my blood pressure under control, I joined Weight Watchers. Through their support and education on food choices, I lost another 60 pounds over the next five years. I now maintain a healthy weight through exercise and a nutritious diet.
Losing weight was a slow, difficult process, but I had years of external and internal abuse to repair—which takes time.
One thing that helped me was a character I created in my fantasy fiction series of books. In The Quest for Excalibur, Arianna Lawrence is a mild mannered mom, much like me, who becomes empowered through her adventures. As I wrote about Arianna, I realized I wanted to be like her, and the more weight I lost, the more empowered I became. And that is how my memoir Living with Rage: A Quest for Solace came into fruition, and helped me find my voice and unleash the pain of years of silence.
Like Arianna, I was looking for something—for my best self, the one who could love life and not feel shame about my past—the one who could put down those blankets of self-destruction. Losing weight and finding acceptance were intertwined, and each aspect was essential in my own quest to find Angelica.
Angelica Harris, author of Living with Rage: A Quest for Solace, is a victim, survivor, and now a conqueror of sexual and domestic abuse. By lending a voice to those who have been abused, Angelica increases awareness and support for those affected. Angelica has partnered with Amnesty International, the Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma, and the Center for the Women of New York. Angelica speaks and writes about these issues. You can learn more about her at www.angelicaharris.com.