So, you have a chronic illness and the treatment is to take steroids for the rest of your life. One day, you wake up and look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person staring back at you. You cry because the body you used to have is no longer there. And all you can think to yourself is “How am I supposed to love a body like this?”
Maybe you’ve gained some weight. Maybe you have stretch marks. Maybe you have scars. Maybe you have all three. How could this possibly have happened to me? I barely eat, and when I do, I don’t sit around, eating bon bons all day long. I exercise when my body allows me to. I keep lowering my daily steroid dosage because that’s the advice the doctors keep giving to me. Sound familiar? If it does, you’re not alone.
I’m sure you’d love to read about some magical way to get back the body you had before steroids. Although there are ways to lose weight, I’ll save that for another post. For now, let’s talk about the body staring back at you in the mirror.
First of all, put the scale away. It’s just a number. That number does not define who you are. And let’s face it, even when the number was a lot less, you still thought you were fat, and you beat yourself up then, too!
Secondly, if you’ve reduced your daily steroid dosage for weight loss, how are you feeling? How’s your energy level? How are those symptoms treating you that you get when you’re low in cortisol? Have you gone into an Adrenal Crisis yet? Speaking from experience….every single time I have reduced my steroids for the purpose of losing weight, I have regretted it. Every. Single. Time. Remember those scars I mentioned before? I got those after I thought it was a good idea to reduce my steroids. Did I lose weight? Sure….some…but spending weeks in the hospital on high amounts of steroids only made me gain more weight, and left me with a permanent reminder of my irrational decision. My new philosophy? I take as much as I need in order to feel alive. Not just exist… I would rather have some extra padding and feel happy and enjoy spending time with my family than being a skinny shell of a person who feels lethargic, puking my guts out, and in more pain than anyone could imagine. Oh, also….passing out and not breathing is a great way to ruin any fun you were having that day.
So, what do I see when I look in the mirror?
I see my eyes. Those eyes get to watch my son play soccer. Those eyes get happy tears in them when they read the sweet letters and text messages from my kids. Those eyes look into the eyes of the most amazing man on this planet who tells me how beautiful I am, and he means it.
I see my lips. Those lips get to kiss my husband and my kids. Those lips get to talk on the phone with my mom, after she thought she’d never be able to talk to me again. Those lips get to tell people how much they truly mean to me.
I see my arms. Those arms get to wrap around my daughters when they go through their teenage heartbreaks. Those arms get to make food that my son raves about.
I see my legs. Those legs that have been paralyzed before and have a huge scar from an emergency surgery now get to take walks. And one day, those legs will be able to run again.
I see my pump site. That site makes it possible for me to have 24 hour cortisol coverage. That site has allowed me to be hospital free for 6 months. That site has allowed me to feel alive again.
So, I guess the answer to my question of “How am I supposed to love a body like this?” is…. I will love every single inch of it, every fat roll, every stretch mark, every scar. I will love it unconditionally because although in many ways, I have felt betrayed by it, it is a very strong body! It has survived more than I can possibly explain, yet it keeps just showing up and is there for me every day. It might be the home of some pretty jacked up Adrenal Glands, but it also houses a heart that pumps blood to keep me alive.
Just like the other aspects of my life that I’ve had to adjust to, having my body change is no different. I’ve had to embrace the changes, and just realize that This Is My New Normal.