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How I'm Learning to Love My Body After My Disability Caused Weight Gain

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Body image is a funny thing. I really believe that so much of my journey has been a process of emptying.  Since the traumatic brain injury (TBI) that changed my life a little over six years ago, I have been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses. Ever so slowly, I have walked the path of healing while enduring significant progress along with crushing setbacks. For the most part, my illnesses have been invisible, until now. I can’t hide the disability. Why? Because I have gained weight since this photo was taken.

When I first saw this photo, I couldn’t stand to look at the picture. I filtered it on Facebook to make my stomach look smaller. Silly me! I looked great in this picture! More importantly, I was sitting atop my beautiful warhorse Harvey – a dream come true in every way.

This was a moment in time, captured on film. It was after the TBI, but before being diagnosed with dysautonomia, Pituitary dysfunction and adrenal insufficiency. It took nearly six years for the failure of my pituitary to show up in testing, and I am so grateful for an amazing neuroendocrinologist that carefully monitored me the entire time.

At the time of this photo, I was in therapy adjusting to my new life, which included a divorce along with learning to fall in love with my new post TBI brain. We talked about the eating disorders that had held me hostage since I was 19 (anorexia, orthorexia and exercise bulimia), and my therapist said that I had recovered. Still, I struggled. I skipped meals due to the medication that I took for chronic migraines and I never consumed enough water to remain hydrated. Moreover, I slowly came to realize that my eyes didn’t see the reality of me in the two dimensional reflections of photographs and mirrors. In the absence of my own self-image, I attempted to see myself through the eyes of others, and therefore became dependent upon external approval for my own self-esteem.

The writer on her house, Harvey.

It is through radical body transformation over the last few years that I have finally stripped myself of the need to seek validation from others – especially men. Imagine trying to emerge as a feminist theologian when I was desperately in need of male attention. Letting go of this deep need has been painful to say the least, but it has also been incredibly freeing. More importantly, I feel as if my life continues to come into alignment with my purpose as I let go of old patterns.

This picture is now filled with gratitude and insight. In this moment, there was so much to be grateful for…yet I was blinded by my preoccupation with things that didn’t really matter. My body is now completely different. I still don’t recognize myself in the mirror, yet I am making peace with the flesh that is me. I have deepened over the last few years, and I wouldn’t change any aspect of the journey that has led me to this moment. It has been one filled with suffering, yet I have been held in grace the entire time.

I am climbing out of a particularly brutal crash. As I look in the mirror now, I try to remind myself that my body will find balance again. In the mean time, I am finally learning to love every cell, every organ, every inch of my entire being along the way.

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Originally published: November 7, 2017
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