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The Struggle to Make Peace With Your Body When Living With Chronic Illness

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If you have endometriosis, there’s a chance you may struggle to love your body. I believe it’s a struggle most people with a chronic illness face at some point in their journey. A lot of our illnesses require invasive tests or surgeries over time, and it can be hard to look in the mirror some days and be accepting of our bodies now compared to back when we thought things were “normal.”

Hah, do any of you even remember those days of feeling “normal”?

Nevertheless, there are days I struggle to love my body now. We shouldn’t feel bad or guilty for feeling this way though. Does it make me less confident as to who I am as a person? No, I still know I have a lot of value to bring to the table and that I am more than enough, even when I don’t feel like it some days.

(I am more than enough and so are you. Repeat as needed.)

Does it make me second guess if I will wear a bikini or one-piece in the summer though? Unfortunately, yes, especially if I’m going somewhere in public where I may be judged, because others don’t know my struggles or story behind my appearance. The fact of the matter is our culture is still so obsessed with the way a woman looks and makes snap judgments. I think this is changing, but it is a slow-moving change. I’m also trying to shift my mindset and not let others’ potential judgments of my body influence what I want to wear.

Some days, I find myself in a battle that might sound familiar if you struggle with loving your body. It goes something like this…

My mind, which loves to be logical, tells me the following repeatedly:

  • Your body is doing its absolute best day-to-day.
  • Your body is not a miracle worker. Healing and disease-management take time to find the right routines and treatments.
  • Your body is influenced by things you can control, such as what you eat and what supplements or medications you take.
  • Your body is trying so hard to get where you want it to be.
  • Your body doesn’t reflect who you are as a person or what’s in your heart.

My critical side, that I think a lot of women deal with (especially with endometriosis) has to do with the fact that our body changes drastically with this disease, not just on the inside, but also physically on the outside.

Some personal changes I’ve endured during my endometriosis journey include: 

  • Diminished skin color, and now the dark circles I had under my eyes before look so much darker.
  • Severe weight loss from not being able to eat from persistent nausea and worse pain after eating.
  • I donated over 12 inches of my hair because it became too heavy, hard for me to manage and even wash some days during my flare-ups (and yes, I donated it).
  • I have erythema ab igne scars (aka heating pad burns) from using heat too much to try and soothe the endo pain inside my pelvic/lower abdomen area.
  • Scars from two surgeries – two incisions from my first laparoscopy and five more from my second (but successful) excision surgery.

There are days I will be working out or getting dressed and I’ll see my lower stomach area. It’s like I’m looking at a stranger’s body and not my own, because that’s not how I remember my stomach looking. It used to be flawless — no scars or burn marks, not as bloated, the list goes on and on. 

When this happens, I recognize the critical voice inside my head and will check myself to soften it. This is what I tell myself:

  • This is my body now and I do not need to be ashamed of it.
  • These scars prove I was willing to do whatever it took to try and find some form of relief and attempt to get my life back from a disease.
  • My excision surgery scars should be respected on the highest level because that was the beginning point of me getting my life back.
  • My heating pad burns remind me I wasn’t “crazy,” regardless of what all my tests said before my first laparoscopy confirmed my endo, that I felt real pain though it was considered invisible and I was doing the best I could during that part of my journey.
  • My body may not be what it used to be, but it’s never failed me. It keeps trying, and for that I will always be grateful.
  • My body does not make me any less valuable in any shape, way or form.

I’m telling you this because I want you to think about what you can tell yourself if you struggle with these types of thoughts the next time you find yourself criticizing your body in the mirror or getting dressed. Don’t let that negative, critical voice get to you and pull you down. You have enough to deal with already and not feeling great about the body you’re in shouldn’t be another thing on your list of worries.

Instead, recognize that critical voice, address it with logic and be kinder to yourself. You are beyond beautiful, scars and all. Don’t let yourself or anyone else let you think otherwise.

Embrace your body for what is – a true warrior constantly in battle trying to make your life easier to live.

Getty Image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: November 11, 2019
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