I wish I could take credit for all of this post but it took a friend to help me open my eyes wider and start opening up. Eyes that had been closed for so long. So very, very long. She has my thanks for the push but I know the hard work will have to be mine.
I read a post today from a friend who had posted about how she felt about herself since she had become ill. Her body has changed and she wasn’t as happy with her looks anymore. What a brave soul she is! … So many of us think and feel it but few of us admit to it. Not publicly anyway.
When illness steps in and takes over we will fight so hard to keep control. We don’t want everything stripped away and we feel so deeply hurt when we can’t stop everything that is happening to us. Especially the way we look and feel about ourselves.
As I read her post I was immediately feeling for her and me at the same time. You could replace her words with my own. I admit that I dont really know all her story, but I do know mine.
Even from a young age I was taught to never be happy with how I looked. I learned to shy from cameras and accept that I would never be thought of as attractive. So … to this day I have very few pictures of the first 30 years of my life! I can count all of them on one hand!! … Even including baby pictures.
I was always told that I was too plain, too fat, too shy, too (insert adjective) … and therefore I had a very poor self esteem and body image. The only things I felt I had going for me was a good brain and a good sense of humour, so I clung to them to get me through my life. They have been my pillars.
As I always enjoyed using my mind a lot, my studies and my work were filling a huge part of my life and I was pleasantly distracted with these pursuits to the point that my looks no longer occupied my thoughts, and my relationships were never really based on my physical appearance anyway; they tended to be more a connection of the mind and emotions, which is arguably a better basis anyway.
However, I did all the usual things that women my age and generation are encouraged to do… exercise, do fad diets, change my hair, buy new clothes, and all the other usual things that women do to feel attractive, validated and appealing; but I always felt that it was never going to make me feel or look any better.
In the decade leading up to what would be my health crash I was really enjoying myself and felt the most confident I had ever been with the direction of where my career and experiences were taking me. I left a lot of the people who made me feel my most unattractive behind me and I realized that there was a whole world out there! A world of different people and different experiences … and then the crash.
Sadly, along with the crash in my health and abilities I rediscovered new negative feelings about my body… betrayal! It is heartbreaking.
My body no longer moved the way I need it to. Feel the way I expected it to and so many things started to unravel that I can barely know where to begin describing it all.
My weight yoyoed from putting on weight with medications and physical inability to losing weight from being unable to eat or digest foods. It’s painful and unpredictable.
My skin has changed from the dryness of sjogrens and the bruises of steroids. My joints are becoming visibly changed and my eyes are sore and constantly painful. I am pale from the painful results of chemotherapies and unable to handle sunlight. My hair is brittle, dry and thinner. The damage to my nerves causes all sorts of issues that I wouldn’t wish upon another living soul, let alone someone who struggles with body image!
I don’t see the person I thought I knew when I look in the mirror. I am aging but I mostly feel the years are being robbed from me!
I force myself to take selfies to show those I love that I am still trying so hard to keep my emotional strength going through all that I do but I admit I don’t like taking pics of me in my wheelchair or walker. I try to make sure the pics are from the waist up!
It’s clear that I am not the poster child for how someone should aim to be with disease, but when I set out on this journey of blogging I only ever wanted to be honest … not perfect.
I want to face my demons and share my thoughts and hoped that by doing so someone out there would identify and maybe, just maybe, we would see that there are more like us around the world.
Women are judged on their looks very harshly in this world but women who are also disabled or chronically ill are judged much, much more harshly!
Perhaps together we can help each other make a peace and make a difference?