Before becoming poorly, I was very athletically fit, slim and toned. I absolutely LOVED exercise; boxing, synchronised swimming, athletics, hockey, running, you name it, I’ve done it! Even at uni when my chronic pain started, I was still managing to do some exercise, particularly when I had periods of being pain free. All of that came to a very sudden halt in May 2012 when my pain condition got considerably worse and spread. And since the beginning of this year when I was diagnosed with POTS, I’ve been even more limited. I am pretty much housebound now and spend the majority of my time lying down. And, when I do go out, I use a wheelchair so I’m not walking around at all. My figure, in my eyes, has changed quite a lot over the last couple of years because of this. Even though others may not be able to see the physical changes, I know that they are there. I feel a lot more ‘wobbly’ and a lot of my uni clothes don’t fit any more or are a lot tighter (not that I’d wear them now…if you could see how short some of my dresses were…eek). What’s more, I am not wearing make-up at the moment and I don’t wear really fitted fashionable clothes, I wear what’s comfy (which is more often than not, PJ bottoms and cami tops). So, as you can imagine I don’t feel remotely glamorous and I often feel like a shadow of my former self.
Initially, when I suddenly couldn’t exercise anymore I panicked and cut down on food quite considerably because I thought I would put on weight. But that just made me miserable. I could no longer control how my body looked and I hated it. I would spend time in front of the mirror scrutinising the changing shape of my body, and wishing something could be different or somewhere else. After a short while though I gradually got used to my new body and started caring less and less about having a toned stomach or skinny arms, and I began to embrace my new slightly more curvey figure. This was a major turning point as, even when I was well and exercising as much as I liked, I wasn’t happy with my figure anyway!
Changing my diet at the beginning of this year to primarily plant based really really helped (for more info on my diet change see my previous post on how I took control using food); I no longer count calories or fat content, I now count nutrients and feed my body with foods containing the most vitamins and minerals! I realised what we eat has a huge impact on our health – food isn’t the enemy trying to make your bottom and thighs bigger, but rather the powerful tool we can use to heal our bodies and make them stronger.
What has also helped has been my boyfriend Paddy. Having someone who loves you just the way you are is a powerful thing. I’m not saying your happiness within yourself depends on having a supportive boyfriend or girlfriend, I’m just saying it was one of the things that’s helped me personally. Paddy is always saying he wouldn’t change anything about me, which has enabled me to relax and not worry to much about how my body has changed.
I also often remind myself that my body has survived incredible things – so many examinations and invasive tests, the flare ups, the spinal injections that caused increased pain, the slow recovery, and for that I do feel some love for it and respect. I have to believe that my body is so much more in the grand scheme of things than just a fashion accessory. And while I do everything I can to make my body strong and healthy, I can’t hate it for showing the weathering of my chronic illnesses.
Although I can’t say that I am body confident, I now have body acceptance and I am happy to just embrace what I have.