Sunday, 24 January 2016

Everything Is Beautiful (In It's Crohn Way)

Since I began writing about my condition back in 2010, I've gone through countless physical and mental changes. My outlook on my own mind and body has altered tenfold - sometimes for the better, and sometimes, well the less said about the worse the better. 
Right now I feel good, and maybe even content. My health is improving, my treatment is working, and although I seem to be kicked in the teeth every few days with colds and bugs and the ilk, I'm not in constant and unmanageable pain - which allows me to live a relatively 'normal' life. I've got loads of exciting things to look forward to in the coming months which are giving me purpose I've lacked for a while, and goals to aim for. I'm setting myself hoops to jump through and applauding myself for the little (and large) things I do achieve instead of berating myself for the things I don't.

Perhaps the most telling thing I've discovered in the years following my diagnosis however, is that doing the work on my mind has changed my opinion of my outer-casing too. Becoming mentally happier has made it harder to internally punish myself for putting on/losing weight for example. I've almost stopped worrying how I look; no that doesn't mean I've 'let myself go', but I've tried to concentrate on what the changes inside and outside of my body mean for my health - not merely my vanity. 

Of course, just because I feel better about my body, doesn't mean everyone else will necessarily follow suit. 

Over the years I've been accused of portraying an 'idealised view' of life with chronic illness, I've been maligned for complaining about steroid weight gain because I'm 'skinny', criticised for mentioning I've lost weight because 'well it's easy my body does it for me'. Amongst many other inane and insensitive comments.

It's easy, for the most part, to let this slide over me of course, mainly because I'm so skinny and svelte, built much like a slalom in fact; but the anger tends to rear it's head when I think of others who are perhaps struggling with their appearance due to the toll chronic illness takes on the body. Some people don't find comments like the above so easy to laugh off or tolerate. Some take them to heart and go insular. They stop talking about their illness through fear of judgement or mocking. They feel shame and embarrassment about their own skin and what lies beneath. 

So how to deal with this?

For me, I feel it's important to try to educate rather than take umbrage at insults or ignorance. I can take such an enlightened view you see, as I'm so slim I'm basically weight-less. 
When outsiders make mention of my weight/appearance/startling beauty/comment on what I should or shouldn't do to 'cure' my incurable condition, I begin by mentioning that my weight fluctuates as my illness and medication cause it to do so, and that although I very much appreciate you taking such an interest in my body, I have doctors and a lover to do just that, of which you are neither. 
When I can eat well, I do, and I don't make any apologies for that. I am happy when I am healthy, not 'skinny'. (and as a quick reminder: skinny has never been default for beauty).

Over the years the parts of my body i've hated have been in the hundreds (at least). As a teen I hated my 'flat' chest; as an adult I hated my 'big' bust. I've always disliked my 'big' nose, my 'pointy' chin, my 'squint' teeth, my 'uneven' hips, my 'chicken' legs, my 'knobbly knees', my 'massive' forehead, my 'kinky' hair, etc etc TO INFINITY. 
Then, PC (post-Crohn's) i hated my 'dry' skin, my 'falling out in clumps' hair, my 'bloated' tummy and my 'unsightly' scar. Do you see how everything is pre-cursed with an insult? Why do we do that? Why don't we ever enjoy our bodies?

I gave up hating every freckle on my body when it struck me that I was alive.

If I looked like [enter your own definition of ugly here] or [enter your own definition of beauty here], it didn't matter one iota. It mattered that my heart was beating and my lungs were breathing. It still matters.

I'll continue to talk openly and honestly about my struggle to accept something often impossible to accept because it helps me feel less alone, and because I want YOU to feel less alone. I don't ever want to feel singled out or vulnerable due to something that chose me to inhabit. My body just happens to be an unwitting vessel for an incurable illness: I have to accept that but I don't have to lie down to it. I have to maintain how I want to seen by myself and by others. 

So there you go; having a chronic illness makes me feel pretty ugly a lot of the time, but courage and beauty is more than skin deep. Don't listen to anyone implying you are somehow less of a person because of your disease; you are so, SO much more. 



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