When Endometriosis Caused Me to Face My Body Image Demons
If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741741.
I admit that I have never had a true healthy relationship with neither food nor my body image. While I will be the first person to support someone else’s journey to body acceptance, point out a negative comment about weight/appearance or push someone else to love themselves as they are, I am the last to practice what I preach. Talk about hypocritical, right? I know this about myself and I won’t lie about it but let me shed some light on how my own struggle with body image along with my chronic illness has made accepting my body a true journey.
I was a chubby kid. I grew up in a complicated household so no one truly monitored what I ate, myself included. The “baby fat” that was easier to brush off in my younger years became a health issue when I started to become an adolescent. I started to get that “look” from nurses and doctors every time I stepped on the scale and the number got higher and higher. It didn’t help that my primary care doctor’s nurse was a real peach… a very slim peach that liked to point out weight loss isn’t very difficult (insert eye roll).
So, at the ripe age of 13 I decided “screw this,” and began to change my diet and started exercising at least three to four times a week. I discovered I loved yoga and was good to go. After losing some weight, the nurse at my doctor’s office stopped giving me that “look.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me. I kept thinking about how great it would be to lose more and more weight… how awesome I’d look at this weight or that weight. I was obsessed.
Enter stage left, endometriosis. I was diagnosed at the age of 22 after continuous issues with my periods, bladder pain and ongoing pelvic pain that persisted outside of my cycle. After my diagnostic laparoscopy, I was put on the birth control shot. I’m ashamed to admit I was more concerned about the weight gain than if it would actually help relieve my pain. The numerous birth control pills I had been on in the past never really affected me as far as weight, so this was new territory. I only gained maybe a few pounds, but it felt to me like I was blowing up like a blowfish. Luckily though, it helped with my pain for around two years – until it didn’t.
The beginning of 2016 started with another laparoscopy surgery and continued with treatment, after treatment, after treatment. In that July I was put on leuprolide which puts a woman’s body into medical menopause. While I was told it doesn’t cause weight gain… it did for me. My body changed and I gained weight until I couldn’t do the treatment anymore. I had another surgery mid-2017 and continued to gain weight thereafter due to recovery and trying another round of the birth control shot.
A couple months into 2018, I had gained every pound back that I lost. Exercise was too painful and I had some days where moving was pretty much impossible. I quickly was falling into a downward spiral of self-hatred. No matter what I ate I kept gaining weight due to the hormone fluctuations and it just made me angrier. My body was my own enemy. So, then I said “f*ck it,” and didn’t care what I did, ate or what happened. Now with endometriosis, diet can affect your symptoms, and it does mine, so I was only making things worse.
Fast forward to now. I ended up going to my primary care doctor – not the one I mentioned before FYI – and actually reached out for some help. I knew how to “diet” but talking to a nutritionist helped show me how to eat healthier and actually eat. So, now I’m eating right to (hopefully) get me where I need to be weight-wise. I also plan on seeing a counselor regarding my ongoing negative self-image since it has always been an issue for me.
Focusing on my weight with this disease has brought out old demons. As I write this I am emotional and just yesterday I was so frustrated because the scale had fluctuated a few pounds. I am older and so the weight isn’t going to come off as easy as it used to and my expectations are always unhealthy and abnormally high. I question myself every day, wondering if I’m doing enough, eating well enough and crunching calories over pretty much everything I eat. I realize I have to take a step back and not basically punish myself for gaining weight. Endometriosis took away what I considered a huge victory for me by causing me to gain the weight I originally lost, but in the end, it has made me face the reality of my broken relationship with my body. We all know loving ourselves – not just our bodies, but as a whole – is not just something you deicide one day and then magically do. It takes practice, patience and a willingness to accept not just our imperfections but the obstacles in our journey to acceptance.
Getty Image by borojoint