Each time we receive a submission for our #SurvivorSunday series we are in awe of the courage and transparency of each survivor. This week is no different. While most of the submissions we receive revolve around surviving domestic violence, we realize that every day there are people overcoming other battles such as depression, bullying, suicidal thoughts and more. Their stories also deserve to be told. Kudos to this week’s feature, the beautiful LaDrina Simmons, for being bold enough to share her truth with us all and confident enough to embrace it.
Hi, my name is LaDrina Simmons and as of August 31st, 2017, I became the best version of myself.
As a teenager I was always slightly bigger than the other girls and more developed but also very proportioned. I made sure I looked the best, dressed the best and did everything I could to make myself feel the best. I reached the high 200lb mark during my college years; not because of eating (I stayed very active) but because I developed a tumor which caused my body to function as a pregnant woman. As the doctors put it, my body was functioning as if I were having twins so my hormones and everything was out of wack. Finally, after countless visits to the doctor, I was put on pills, told I may not be able to have children and that I needed to try to get my weight back under control.
I started losing 1lb here to 2lbs there but not enough to start feeling good about myself. I became depressed even though everyone that saw me would say things like “You’re so beautiful” or “You have a pretty face”. Meanwhile, I believed I looked disgusting and at this point I started to give up. I was now up to about 320 lbs. I would always ask my family how I looked and they would tell me I was beautiful. Truth be told, they never made me feel like I wasn’t but when I got home and took my clothes off I felt like horrible. The way I saw it, everyone around me was lying to me so they wouldn’t hurt my feelings. So not only was I fat, I was depressed. When I was at work I would smile, laugh and joke as if everything was ok. My friends would tell me I was always happy and that they wished they could be as happy as me and I would reply “Hey, I have a lot to be happy about!” Yet when I was home by myself I would look in the mirror and cry, scream, talk to God and ask Him why I was this way. Weekends were spent alone and eating. It was horrible. While everyone was out with their boo or their friends, I was at home eating in the dark asking myself what do I have to live for. Here I was, 30 years old with no husband, no children and nobody wanted me. My depression became so consuming that I tried to take prescription pills just to be done with life.
Anyone that knows me well knows how much I love rollercoasters. In the summer of 2016 my family and I went to Busch Gardens and I was excited to get on my favorite ride. Once I made it to the front of the line, I sat in the seat and the seat belt wouldn’t lock. They even tried the extended one and it still didn’t work. Finally, three of the employees came over to try to push it down and all I could hear in the crowd was “Oh my God, why did she come up here? She’s a Linebacker. Didn’t she check the weight limit?” I was so embarrassed but I got up with dignity and pride and kindly walked off the ride. I didn’t look back because deep down inside I was hurt. My family was so sweet, they tried to comfort me by saying the seats were too small but I knew they were just trying to make me feel better. Later, I sat with my mom (who is my best friend by the way) looking at photos and she said, “Ladrina, I have something to tell you.” She continued, “You are my child and you are beautiful, but this is not you.” I asked her what she meant and she told me to look at the picture. When I really looked at the picture I realized I looked like I was somebody’s Auntie, lol. I looked so old and puffy, it was just a mess. She told me I needed to lose weight and from that day I decided to make a change.
I knew I needed a jump start and couldn’t do this on my own so I began attending a clinic called Southampton Health Services once a week. They did a B-12 shot and I had to take water pills. I also started working out 6 days a week. The weight started falling off until eventually I was losing about 5 to 7 lbs a week! Weeks went by and I was down about 40 lbs but I still felt big because I now had a lot of loose skin and it was a mess. My stomach was the worst thing I had ever seen in my life but I hid it well. Once again, everyone would tell me I looked great, this time adding compliments on my weight loss. I would thank them but I still felt fat and depressed.
A year went by and amazingly enough, I was down 77lbs. I started toning up and eating right but my skin and stomach still bothered me because it was sagging more and more. In June 2017 I went in for a routine doctor’s appointment and mentioned to my doctor that I was having irregular periods. Mind you, the tumor I had as a teenager was under control with medication but as a 32 year old woman my body was a lot different now. My doctor knew the saggy skin was a result of the weight loss but she also felt a lump in my lower abdomen that caused her concern. A MRI was done and what do you know, the tumor was back! Now, don’t be sad ladies, this turned out to be a good thing. On August 31st I was down 125lbs and feeling amazing when my doctor decided it was time to remove the tumor. By doing so, all of the excess fluid in my body would be flushed out and my saggy stomach would be no more. I broke down and cried because night after night, year after year, I wondered what I could do to make me feel better about myself. I even “joked” about cutting my own stomach off. My friends and family would laugh but little did they know I was serious. When it came time for the surgery we found the tumor had spread across my entire lower abdomen. In order to remove it in its entirety I had to get something like a tummy tuck. My mom always told me to watch what I pray for and I always prayed that the Lord would just take this saggy skin away. August 31st changed my life. Tell me God ain’t good.
Today I am still in the process of healing and know I have a long road ahead of me. I am sad that I had to wait until my adulthood to feel like a confident woman who can now conquer the world. But, I’m glad I kept the faith and that what I asked God for came to pass. I went shopping the other day for the first time in a long time and was able to pick and choose what I wanted to wear! I purchased some size large shirts and some size 14 pants, which was my goal. I’m so proud of me! My weight was 361lbs, a size 22/24, when I started my weight loss journey in February 2016. Now I am down to 239lbs and wearing a size 14/16. I no longer feel depressed, hateful, or jealous of others. Long gone are the days of being lonely and mean. I’m still single (lol) but I’m happy and I am confident. My faith is stronger, I’m no longer mad at God and I’m at peace. I’m a new me! I hope my story will show someone that they are not alone and that they are beautiful. If you want to be the better version of yourself you can’t sit around and feel depressed and sorry for yourself. You have to get up and do something about it.