The last time I wrote about body image and chronic illness was around 18 months ago now – I talked openly about how although I wasn’t body confident, I had finally reached a point where I had accepted my new body shape – you can read the post here. Recently I haven’t been feeling as good in my own skin again as my body continues to change for numerous different reasons – changes in medication + side effects are causing my hair to fall out again and weight loss in certain areas, and gastro issues causing my stomach to be constantly very painful and swollen to the point where I look about four months pregnant all the time.
I wouldn’t say that I am unhappy with the way I look, it’s just I don’t like that these changes are out of my control and down to my illness/consequences of treatments for my illness and the fact that I can’t do anything about them. If I didn’t have chronic neuropathic pain for example, I wouldn’t have started taking Tramadol which causes my hair to fall out in large handfuls when I have a shower/brush my hair. I have very thin hair anyway so it’s not like I have a lot to lose and small bald patches are beginning to show. Despite knowing this I still often take it when I go out somewhere to help manage the pain. Sitting is incredibly painful so if it helps me to sit in the wheelchair, then I will accept the hair loss. Seems crazy doesn’t it, the lengths us spoonies go to to be able to go out for a little bit?!
I’ve been feeling a little less feminine recently too. I’m not quite as curvy as I have been and it doesn’t help that I have to wear the baggiest clothes all of the time. I’m either in pyjamas or culottes/flowy midi skirts (which are already very loose) that I buy a size too big so that I am extra comfortable. Anything tight on my lower body causes a lot of pain due to my allodynia/hypersensitivity, and I can no longer have fitted waistbands as my stomach is so sore and tender. Not being able to shower as often as I’d like, or do much with my hair or wear make up also gets to me sometimes as every girl likes to make themselves look pretty.
I had a big cry the other day about it (which I don’t normally do as I try not to let it affect me too much). I cried because I hate that I even let it bother me as it’s so insignificant in the grand scheme of what I go through every day. But it’s hard to feel comfortable in your own body when you don’t have much control. For many with chronic illnesses the sad reality is that we have bodies that not only don’t work the way they used to, but also don’t look the way they used to.
After my big cry, I immediately felt better and like a weight had been lifted. Perhaps I needed to be sad about the new changes for a little bit in order to move forward – I’m not sure. But it didn’t take me long. A really great thing that has come from me being ill is that it has shown me what is really important. Before I was ill I’d often scrutinise my body for being ‘too fat’ or ‘too pale’ etc, but now even when changes happen to my body that I really don’t like, I quickly learn to accept them. These things are all part of my journey to get better – if I lose some hair along the way or change shape several times – I will take the hit as the end goal of having a healthy body is without doubt worth it. Yes, those things aren’t nice and are yet another thing us spoonies have to deal with, but it will all be worth it in the end. What’s more, as I touched on in my previous post, despite what we may think of our bodies’ exterior, what they do on the inside is simply amazing! Mine is currently spending every second trying to fight off a very powerful disease plus several co-infections and viruses and it’s not giving up. It has been doing this for a number of years now, isn’t that incredible? When I have a slightly better day and I’m able to sit in the garden in the sunshine, or get out for a bit of lunch, I am always so thankful to my body for managing those things. And even though at the moment the bad days are much more common than the ‘good’, I know a ‘good’ day is always around the corner somewhere.
So be kind to your body today, focus on the things you like about yourself and what your body is capable of.