How To Embrace Body Image Insecurity Surrounding Chronic Illness

Ever since I was a little girl, I was picked on and called names like string bean, daddy long legs, shrimp or toothpick. I remember feeling more sorry for the people feeling the need to call me these things than I did for myself. I was happy with my body. I was a strong athlete in gymnastics, tennis, and dressage. I used my skinniness to my advantage to reach under sofas, sleep under my own bed frame, dart between crowds and reach to the high cabinet. 

In my teenage years and early twenties, I was perfectly content with my almost six foot size eight body, and I was happy with my clothes. I loved eating, especially meats and hefty food, and I could eat steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not gain weight, and I felt great (nerve pain aside). Go ahead and hate me for that, because now I understand how frustrating it is to not eat what you want whenever you want without serious health problems. 

But in December of 2015 I contracted a virus that has changed all of that. Those of us with CPS know very well that getting sick doesn't mean getting sick for a week or two. It means your body will continue to fight off the offending cause long after your body has actually supposedly “healed” itself from that sickness.

 
Image Credit: © Kelsey Rein

Image Credit: ©Kelsey Rein

 

So long story short, I lost 30lbs from this virus. Thirty pounds that I did not have to lose. I went from a size eight to a size 0-2 in a matter of weeks. Every time I ate I felt nauseous and when I didn't eat, I was extremely faint and nauseous. I was oddly averted to every ounce of protein, especially oily meats (what I thrived on previously). To boot, I already had a tremor and a stutter at age 23. But I forced myself to eat anyway, eat healthy and eat often. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I was told on a daily basis by friends old and new that, "Gee, you're so thin!" or, "Yeah, I was going to mention that you look skinnier.." 

And you know what? For the first time in my life of being a tall and slender person, I was struggling with body image insecurity. I found myself wearing baggy sweaters and scarfs to hide my obvious rib cage, bony hips and protruding collar bone. Sure, I was struggling with feeling accepted for how I looked, but I also just frankly didn't care what anyone thought of me except for myself. This is proof that you can house two feelings simultaneously and it will be okay.

I'm not telling you this because I want attention or want you to feel sorry for me. I didn't even feel sorry for me. It is what it is and I did everything I could to nourish this beautiful tent. No, I'm telling you this because you need to know that we will always have it at both ends. It doesn’t matter your skin color, weight, background or talents, we as humans will always tend to point out the extreme and small differences between us. And I think that we can learn to be pointed out without the need for revenge.

And you know what? It's not our job to make others feel some kind of way. It's our job to simply give love. Give love to others and give love to ourselves. Love others and let their response be whatever their response is. Their response is not your responsibility, your response is your responsibility.

And now, thanks to a doctor recognizing the signs that I wasn’t absorbing any nutrients, and after he helped me with some specific supplements, I have since gained back the weight I lost from that virus and am finally starting to rebuild muscle.

Questions or comments? Join the CPS patient conversation at our closed Facebook group or email us at info@cps.foundation