Love My Body?

by Claire

Rachel from Do I Look Sick wrote an article about Love Your Body week at her university – as someone with an invisible illness she found it challenging for many reasons.

My comment on her article kept growing and growing and I realised that I did have issues with my body, and that acknowledging them was probably healthy and exploring them was cathartic. Thank you Rachel for getting me thinking about my body in new ways.

I try not to think about my body that much. I had my fair share of body issues growing up, but in my mid 20s I reached a really good place with my body – I liked the way it looked, and I felt relatively in control of the muscles and fat because I was able to exercise moderately and I could eat whatever I wanted to.

Having a chronic illness really pulls your focus onto the things that you can and can’t do; not many and lots respectively. I am a fairly utilitarian person to begin with so it’s no wonder that my view of my body has become quite Stoic; my body is what it is, my liking or disliking my body doesn’t have much to do with my chronic illness. I am as capable as the Chronic Fatigue will let me be and aesthetics and emotions only really come into it when I’m trying to get dressed for an occasion (an extra 15kgs really messes with your wardrobe options).

But much as liking or disliking my body won’t change anything, those feelings are there. And while I can think of my body as a broken-down robot that’s housing my consciousness, my body is so much more than a machine that allows me to complete physical tasks.

I don’t really like the 15 kilos I’ve piled on in the last 2 years, but I have bigger things about my health to strongly dislike – I’m not wasting my energy on the small fish! I love my leg muscles – I used to be pretty toned and even though I’ve lost all that definition I can still remember how I used to be when I stretch and flex my stiff muscles in the mornings. The dysautonomia can give me muscle weakness to the point where I have difficulty sitting up, speaking or even swallowing (although that’s mostly under control now), and the fatigue can make doing anything so hard. I like my hands; they’re knobbly and not beautiful but I love their utility – I’ve always been musical and crafty. It really upsets me when my hands get weak sometimes and shake and drop things. I’ve been very lucky and I only occasionally get fibromyalgia badly. One of my eyes has a brown spot on the iris which I quite like. My heart is medically sound, but I get a low pulse and heart palpitations quite often which isn’t pleasant. I get shortness of breath if I’m quite tired or have eaten the wrong thing. The blood pools in my extremities very easily due to the NMH and my feet can get so cold it makes me feel ill. CFS comes with a complement of cognitive problems, but when the thoughts are there my body can get them out through speaking or writing. I get extreme bloating, stomach pains and nausea (although these symptoms are getting better). I like my skin – it’s soft and I like having it stroked and touched. I think my face is pleasant, although I still get surprised at how fat it is when I see it in the mirror. I show too much gum when I smile, but I don’t really mind this. My hair is greying and I can’t dye it because of the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. My lower back is completely, painfully stuffed, but I am making small improvements. Overall I like my body. It’s the only one I have, and when I’m in a warm bath or revelling in a luxurious yoga stretch it feels good. It allows me to feel the sun on my face and the sand beneath my feet. It’s good for cuddling and allows me to perceive and interact with the world around me.

Thank you body.

Please enjoy these photos of my wonderful, useful, broken, ugly, pretty, fat, changing and challenging body.

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