my body image

There are countless ways in which my life has been divided between ‘before disease’ and ‘after disease’. A mental separation of events, between a carefree time and then a big thick black line gets stepped over into ‘post diagnosis’. Before I was diagnosed I valued my body primarily for its aesthetics and its strength in terms of lifting and moving objects. I was always pushing, pushing, pushing. This has changed drastically for me.

When I realized I was actually sick with a disease that was ravaging my insides I was completely disgusted and disappointed in my body. It had been an avenue to freely enjoy my surroundings and seemingly all at once had left me in crippling pain. How could it leave me in so much discomfort and with so much uncertainty?!

I was on prednisone and not sleeping well (read : at all) so I had a lot of time to think about the countless ways my body let me down. I represented myself socially with slouched shoulders, I avoided eye contact and limited the clothing I wore to baggy and boring things. I didn’t want to draw any attention to what I perceived was a mangled and malfunctioning reject of a body. After a few months of feeling down about my body I developed a massive amount of empathy. What a struggle it was going through.

I began to view my body as a finite resource, a beautiful and intricate casing for me to experience life in. Me and my body … We became battle comrades. I researched and dug for answers, ate what I thought was best, rested when I needed, medicated as safely as I could and I gradually got better. I was able to sleep through a full night. I could have a small snack and not worry that I would look pregnant with a painful and distended abdomen. I could walk a few flights of stairs without seeing stars and needing desperately to sit. I began to feel so much pride for the fight we were making our way through, together.

When I think of my body with colitis I am filled with so much pride. I am proud when I have a good run or a fabulous workout, it represents coming out on the other side. I am proud of the visual accumulation of the many years of dedicated, relentless weightlifting and various other activities. I am proud of how clothes drape on me. And not just how they look but the complex layers of my cells that fill out the fabric. Decoration of a masterpiece. If I had had surgeries I would wear my scars with pride, reminders of the strength, perseverance and will to be healthful.

A part of my making peace with the fact that I have a chronic auto immune disorder has been cultivating compassion and empathy for the struggle my body goes through daily. To appreciate its will to heal and experience calmness. I hold my body in the highest regard, it is such a warrior.

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