Chronic Illness, Body Image & Getting Married

Seeing my wedding photos felt like staring at a stranger, who has somehow managed to impersonate me on that special day. 

I quickly click away, before the tears reach my eyes, before I have to acknowledge that this – stranger – is me.

My illnesses have been hard on me, and they love to multiply their effects, making even the simplest tasks incredibly difficult.

Earlier last year I was grateful, because I hadn’t had many side effects from the Prednisolone (steroids) I have been on almost continuously since getting sick.
Turned out I just hadn’t been on them for long enough.

June 2015 was absolutely awful. Thanks to side effects from Methotrexate (originally used as chemotherapy), I could barely get out of bed, was throwing up every day, and frankly, I began questioning whether life was worth living, if that was to become my new normal.

RKS June 2015

June 2015

As I went off the Methotrexate and the side effects diminished, I tried to get back to a healthy weight.

I put on 1kg in July, another in August.
Then in September I suddenly began having issues buttoning up my beloved new jeans.

When I stepped on the scales I got a massive shock; I had put on 10kg in a month.

My doctors have all agreed that it is due to the steroids, and encouraged me not to worry about it too much until I am off the steroids (a date that has kept getting pushed back, as I continue to experience severe side effects to any new medication we have trialled, including landing me briefly in hospital back on November).

And then there was that whole “getting married” business.

I am so incredibly grateful to myself for choosing a dress that would fit a vast variety of shapes and sizes, so at least I didn’t have to worry about fitting into my dress.

However, with that being said, going from a BMI of 20.2 half a year ago, to 29.7 today is concerning. And frankly damn frustrating, when the majority of your clothes won’t fit you any more. I would also have been happy to skip the steroid side effect of “moon face“, which led me to staring into the mirror, wondering “who are you, stranger?”.

bryllupsbillede æresport

Wedding Day, 21st Dec 2015

I know it’s the illness, I know it’s the drugs, I know it’s not my fault, and I know it doesn’t make me any less valuable, or worthy, or loveable.

But…

But I’m the product of a society that drills into us that our value lies in our looks.

I worry that when people look at my wedding pictures they will not see me, that they will not see how incredibly happy I was that day. That instead they will either pity me, knowing that it’s the illness and the medications, or judge me for “letting myself go”, if they aren’t aware of my health struggles.

I know there’s an important lesson for me here, about learning to love myself and my body, even without my previous privileges of size and beauty.

About learning to hold space for me, being okay with where I am, even as I take steps to fit into most of my clothes again.

Knowing that looking after myself and my body, to the best of my abilities, doesn’t mean that I can’t love myself where I am right now.

And right now, today, that means getting to know and love the stranger in the mirror.

6 Comments

  1. Kim Taylorman

    I understand your wish to have your body back, but what you’re currently doing is attempting to have a functional body. A body that works and carries you. One that would not exist if not for the steroids, awful side effects and all. As someone who does not know you, I would never have known that you were once a different size, one bordering being too small at that. What I see is someone fighting hard to have a life worth living but getting lost in mental struggle that accompanies it.

    Take a breath.

    Self care, self care, self care. What do you need to do to take care of yourself? Take time away from Fb? Take a relaxing bath? Journal? Mediate? These things can help bring you back to center.

    Next, seek out a body image therapist. They usually are also eating disorder therapists, I’m not suggesting you have an eating disorder but I think their specialty can help you come to terms. You can learn ways to accept where you are in the moment and that it probably won’t always be this way. They can help you to strip the thoughts that “everyone else” is thinking certain things.

    You are perfect as you are and as you will be. Don’t let these thoughts steal the thunder of your big day. Your big day was probably exceptional and nothing less!

    Like

    • Thank you for stopping by Kim, and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate your thoughts.

      I’m not really looking to get my body “back”. Yes, I do want to eventually get back to a size that feels healthier for me, but I am not rushing anything, or going on a crash diet. I am paying attention to what I am eating, choosing things that truly nourish me.

      I think what has been the most difficult for me has been the speed of the changes. We all have a mental image of what we look like, and it is difficult when reality suddenly doesn’t match.

      Like

  2. I can completely relate-I just got married in October. I’m so sorry for everything you’ve gone through. And in my experience most people do see the happiness more than anything. There are people here who understand. You are beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment Susie, I really appreciate it. Thank you so much – and congratulations on your marriage as well!

      Like

  3. Thank you for writing this Rebekka. I cried when I first read it and have read it a few times since.

    Truthfully, I could have written something similar. Due to a whole host of chronic health issues and the medications used to treat them, I put on a lot of weight in short space of time last year. When I got married last March I was recovering from a reaction to steroids that affected my eyesight. I also had “moon face”. It was a glorious day filled with happiness, laughter and loved ones, but looking at certain photos still catches me off guard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. This is exactly why I wrote this post, because I knew that I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way – and I knew that I felt like the only one. And I think it is so important that we share our experiences, to know that we are not the only ones. And to know that we are okay. I am happy you had a beautiful day – in spite of all the difficulties.

      Liked by 1 person

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