Learning to Love Our Broken Bodies
July 31, 2017 | Posted in: Chronic Illness and body image
Some might say my body has been through a lot. Yesterday, I cleaned out my dresser drawers and found five pairs of hospital issue no-slip socks. I also discovered clothing in sizes 4-16, old nursing bras, the remote to my bladder pacemaker, and a bikini that would now fit one-third of my body. It’s hard to fathom the number of procedures, tests, surgeries, hospital admissions, new medications, physicians and ailments my body has endured within the last seven years.
Due to all this fun I’ve been having, my weight has fluctuated drastically. With little to no ability to exercise, it’s the first time in my life I’ve felt the judgment and shame of strangers who assume I simply don’t care enough about my appearance or health to change it. It’s also the first time I’ve felt hatred towards my body, not only for its physical attributes but for the repetitive, lingering feelings of sabotage. Why does my body hate me so much? Why couldn’t it simply allow me to have this one day or this one thing?
There have been entire years within my chronic illness journey, perhaps the ones heavy-laden with procedures and prednisone where I could barely look at myself in the mirror. Hearing words of praise from my husband or others was painful. I felt I was disgusting and unworthy of love.
As strange as it might sound, I realized one day I needed to forgive myself. I owed my body an apology for the horrible words I’d been speaking over it. Here, my body was in the fight of its life, and all I could do was rail against it for being ugly and letting me down time after time. I realized the things that made me beautiful had nothing to do with my appearance. Click To Tweet These things hadn’t changed in spite of rare disease.
This revelation caused a deep-rooted shift in the way I felt about and received my husband’s praise. My eyes opened. It became apparent to me he could still see all of these beautiful, true pieces of me beneath a physical body falling apart. Suddenly, his love felt exquisite, prized, and rare. If he could still love me, no matter my pant size, shouldn’t I be able to as well?
Embracing this broken body hasn’t been an easy feat. We live in a world that worships image and perfection, neither of which I can offer. I’m covered in stretch marks and scars. My right eye often sags. My joints swell and contort grotesquely during flares. I have a battery pack in my right butt cheek. PICC lines and ports aren’t necessarily the hottest new fashion accessory. My hair often falls out in handfuls. My stomach alternates from bloated and distended to an assortment of sagging stretched out skin looking somewhat like a kangaroo pouch I could place my seventeen-year-old son back in if the need ever arose.
Yet, this body is fierce and life-giving and amazing. In the midst of this fight, I’ve had a baby, cared for a newborn, raised middle-schoolers, went on amazing adventures, and loved harder than I’ve ever dreamed possible.
This broken body? It’s served me well. Click To Tweet In spite of all it’s been through, it’s still taken me to preschool graduations, to the ocean, and the occasional movie. I think that’s quite remarkable, even if it’s covered in stretch marks and my legs haven’t been shaved in three months. I’ve learned in these years, beauty is so much less about pant size and so much more about what you can overcome. Click To Tweet It’s so much less about how much hair you still have and so much more about how much joy you still have. It’s so much less about whether you still fit in the bikini and so much more about embracing the moment.
So friends, here’s what I say to you: You is fierce. You is strong. You is beautiful. Rare disease can’t change that. Don’t forget it.
Feature image courtesy of Pixabay