September 24, 2015 | Posted in: Chronic Illness and body image
It’s been a year. A year and a half, actually. Eighteen months since I began a health odyssey that started as an innocent stomach bug and ended much later. Well, it hasn’t really ended, but I can see the finish line from here.
The stomach bug didn’t end in 24 hours like it’s MO says it should. It didn’t end at all. To summarize, for over a year, I could not eat much, had constant abdominal pain, could not get up and do anything for more than fifteen minutes before exhaustion set in, had a body temperature like I was floating on an iceberg, and had to stay in immediate proximity to a bathroom at all times. TMI? My friend, you have no idea. I will never again underestimate the value of normal bowels. Just saying.
I lost over 50 pounds involuntarily. That’s not as awesome as many women assume. Because it was so fast and unhealthy, all the muscle mass has gone bye-bye with the fat. Do you know there are muscles in places you never even thought of that you need to function? Like even vocal muscles? Yeah, truth.
Why am I inflicting this story on you, like you just got stuck in the DMV line behind the old lady who wants to tell you her entire pitiful health history, in graphic detail, just before getting a driver’s license you are quite certain she should not have, given that history?*
There is a point.
A year and a half ago, I could not imagine uttering phrases like “I really need to gain some weight.” A year and a half ago, I would look in a mirror, or at a photograph, and think, “Eew. Look at that fat stomach and those chubby short legs. I hate the way I look.”
I knew this was wrong. I preach all the time about girls owning their bodies and not being ashamed of them. But what we say and know to be true and what we feel in our hearts are not always the same deal, are they?
Now I look at photos and think, “Eeew. I look like a poster child for a “Don’t Do Meth, Kids” campaign.”
My arms and neck are scrawny; they look like I imagine my mom’s would have if she had lived to be 80. I am not 80. Or even orbiting in its proximity. I have bags and creases the size of an elephant’s under my eyes as a result of chronic dehydration. Half of my hair has gone AWOL. And that famous thigh gap? Yeah, got that, too. It’s not nearly as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
Too fat. Too skinny. Too fill in the blank. Whatever, people.
I am over it.
For about ten seconds in the last eighteen months, I looked like we always fantasize—exactly the right weight. Then the scales tipped too far the other direction, and self-criticism set in again. And I realized, how dumb is that? To only feel confident about how you look for ten seconds of your life? What a waste of the other millions of seconds.
Is constant self-criticism really a good use of the time God gave me?
Is a focus on the unattainable a colossal waste of what I can attain right now, today?
Do I care too much about what counts too little?
Have I failed to be grateful for the amazing gift of a body that’s alive, no matter what it looks like? Have I failed to be thankful for a soul that’s alive?
So you know what? I’m owning it. At least, I’m trying to. Let’s be real, here, I am a proud creature, as are most of us. I don’t like looking at photos of myself when I look far worse than I want. Yet I want to want those photos. I want to own them. This is who I am, this is what I look like, and this is where God has brought me.
And to deny that and be ashamed of seeing it, looking at it, letting others see the truth and beauty of what it looks like to be deconstructed and revived? That’s a worse kind of pride I don’t want to harbor. It’s a pride that won’t let others in because I only want them to see the image I want to portray. It’s not ministry–it’s just selfish. It’s thinking so much about me I don’t ever look away from the selfie to see the ones who need me to be real for them.
Today, choose grateful instead. Grateful for where I am. Grateful for what I’ve learned. Grateful to be alive, getting healthy, and to see an end to this long tale. I do NOT take for granted that I can get up and have energy to do life anymore. A year and a half of enforced nothingness has taught me gratitude for just about everything my body can do and did do before without considering what a miracle that is. I am grateful for whatever that body looks like, in whatever stage it is, because it works. It functions. It is capable of doing whatever it needs to do to be what God wants me to be. I have been forcefully reminded that this is really all it needs to be.
*True funny/slightly terrifying story. I once had a woman hit my car five times with her car door because she could not figure out that she had parked too close to me to be able to get out of her car. (The full parking job is a story unto itself.) She just kept hitting me, perplexed as to why it would not open. I was Sitting. In. the. Car. She proceeded to get out of the car (after finally reparking, a half dozen times), grab her walker, and get into line at the DMV. Jesus hold us all if that lady actually got a renewal and is on the roads.
Connect with Jill here: