Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

...who's the fairest of them all?

…who’s the fairest of them all?

There are two people in the mirror looking back at me.  I see the me of years ago… before the surgeries, before the Predinose weight, before this illness ravaged my once beautiful body.  I see my once graceful curves, full breasts, sinewy muscles.  I see smooth, unblemished skin.   I see a face graced with high cheek bones, and my crowning glory, a mane of hair that honors my Leo birthright.

But then I glance away, only for a second.  But a second is all it takes. And the veil is lifted.  Now looking back at me is this Rubanesque form, filled with mars and scars. An abdomen curved gently into my once proud hip bones is now a patch work of put together pieces. My belly button is all but lost amongst the vertical scar that tracks its path from my sternum to my pubis. There are angry slash marks running across my belly, scars and “striations” chasing each other, competing to see who will get to the other side first.  My hip bones are now buried beneath a belly that no longer has any abdominal muscles (there are only so many times you can cut through connective tissue before it no longer knits together).  My face reflects the “moon-ism” of long term Predinose (*steroid) use; the oval shaped now rounded and puffed out, making my eyes and mouth appear small and timid.  And my once straight, full hair has agreed to join the revolt, each day becoming curlier and curlier.  Which would be a nice change, right? Except that it is only curly in the certain areas on my head!?!

So which woman is the “real” me?  I walk proudly like I am still the woman that was once told should be a model (and, of course, never believed at the time! Sigh.).   But then I see myself in pictures and I wonder in shock, “Who is that bloated version of me?  Must be the angle right? Or the lighting?  Something?!”  And all I want to do is cry.  Weep for the person I was and have lost.  For all the things illness has stolen from me: years lost; weight gained; my dignity, my self-esteem, my sexuality.  My identity.

But, wait.  That would be saying my entire identity was wrapped up in my external looks.  And it never was; that’s why I also didn’t see myself as “model material.”  I walk proudly because of my internal strength and light.  Which leaves me even more confused than before; I still don’t feel like my insides match my outsides.

It’s hard not to let invasive, ill-thought out comments from well-meaning friends become ear worms.  Wriggling themselves into my brain only to be repeated over and over again.  Statements such as: “Oh, wait until you see her when she’s all better, loses the weight and is back to her ‘old self.’”  And, “Gosh, you were so beautiful.”  Or, “You don’t ‘carry yourself’ like an overweight person.”  What the heck is that one supposed to mean?

And, perhaps I don’t carry myself like “an overweight person.”  And I’m glad.  Because my first instinct when I rapidly put on all this weight (*) was to bury it under loose fitting clothes.  But that approach only made me feel worse.  At least when I put on a flowy maxi skirt and colorful top, I feel more like my true self. I am no longer trying to hide myself anymore.  I try to counteract all the negative feelings.  I use positive self-talk. I remind myself that the same scars that have patched me into pieces saved my life!  I was once proud of that vertical mid-line scar, calling it my life line and the rest, a road map to Survival.  I’ve started using a body-image technique post shower that a friend shared with me.  First off, I stay naked as long as I can and then I apply lotion lovingly to each part of my body, thanking it while I do so (“Thank you, feet, for supporting me; I love your beautifully painted toes!,” etc.).  I put healthy food into my system and ride my stationary bike and/or walk everyday (unless bedridden).

All these approaches are positive and important.  But, while writing this painful post, I’ve realized that this is not the most important step in my self-image recovery:

I need to focus on my insides.  To recognize that I was out last night and was approached by half a dozen friends who interrupted my conversations, just because they didn’t want to leave without giving me a hug.  These women genuinely told me how beautiful I looked.  And all of that was not in response to weight, or smoothness of skin; it was in response to my inner light radiating my outer self.  The same light that always made me appear “beautiful.”  People respond to me not for what I look like, but for whom I am.  And if I let the negative thoughts override all of this, I will close myself off like a clam shell, turning inward in a protective pose.  When one is on the defensive, they are no longer approachable.  And that has always been one of my greatest gifts.  I refuse to let this illness take that away from me!  I will not give it that power. 

I am a beautiful woman. An Amazonian Goddess, whose perseverance and tenacity have given her the fortitude to win many a battle.  I radiate with the stunning light of my Soul Beacon that transmutes Hope and Positive Energy to others.  People are attracted to me for who I am. And, if I really want to think about it, illness has only strengthened these qualities in me, certainly not stealing any of them away!  It’s okay for me to mourn the pieces that have been stolen from me and my life.  But after mourning, comes a Celebration of Life… a celebration of the life I live today, of the woman I choose to be.

 

*MORE INFORMATION ON THE SIDE-EFFECTS OF LONG TERM PREDNISONE (STEROID) USE:

Outlines all the (ill) effects of long term or high dose usage (weight, hair, striations- the whole gamut!).  For me? Went right down the list. Check, check… and, check!

http://www.hopkinsvasculitis.org/vasculitis-treatments/prednisone/

Summary:

http://ibdcrohns.about.com/od/prednisone/f/predweight.htm

Discussion board with testimonials on individual’s experience with Prednisone induced weight gain:

http://arthritis.about.com/u/ua/prednisone/prednisone_and_weight_gain.htm

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…

  1. Tamara, this post just touched me very deeply. I can only say that sensed the beauty that is you from the first time I read your words… it was energetic – and radiated through immediately. You have expressed here, a subject that is so very relevant on many levels. Seems our society places way too much emphasis on external beauty… Personally, I struggle with a different kind of dilemma. Often friends/family and even doctors dismiss pathology quite because they say, ” But you look good” –?! The last hip specialist I consulted was super emphatic about the fact that my joint is not being held in socket because I am lacking bone around the head of the femur(Dysplasia) … but yet in his notes he states – “athletic appearance” — I had to scratch my head… I have “athletic appearance” because I often can’t eat (pain) , and spend 90% of my time on the floor doing exercises/maniplulations trying to reduce the pain and dislocation I experience 24/7 – the one he confirmed by my 3D CT scans. That is just one example – there are so many, but it is interesting how this dilemma of outward appearance can effect us as we try to heal and survive in broken bodies! Ok ~ we could do a Ph D thesis I am sure! Suffice to say, this was a wonderful post – and you my friend are on the right path – you are beautiful! x Robyn

    • Thank you, lovely soul!
      I didn’t realize how much this particular post was going to touch people. It just naturally came out of me; and obviously was meant to be shared on that day! I, can, SO relate to the “but, you look good” comments, too. I already starting drafting a post on that one (we”re not alone!). Because a lot of my scars, etc. are hidden to the outside world just as my disease is. So, on the surface I look just fine. What a conundrum! At least, I have a amazing core group people that “get it.”
      I am so grateful you are now in my circle of hope.
      (Love your avatar pic- it’s like you’re lit from within; which I know you are!). Truly, Tamara

    • You’re deeply welcome.
      I just spent a little time on your site; very inspiring. And filled with truth. I look forward to exploring it further.
      Thank you for finding me!

  2. Tamara, this hit so home with me from the minute I saw the headline and then the photo all the way through your Blog. You are not along by any means! I feel EXACTLY as you do. “But you look good” I despise that phrase. XOXO

    • I’m so glad this touched you; we are all struggling with so many of the the same challenges. And that darn statement, “but, you look good:” UGH! I’ve got a whole other post rambling around my brain on that one alone!
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing in my experiences!! xo- tamara

  3. Tam- You expressed beautifully the situation so many of us find ourselves in as we struggle to accept what our diseases have done to our external appearance. I often think, If people could only “see” my chronic pain…I present pretty well physically, so people have no idea what my life is like living with my disease.I can totally relate to the roadmap of scars. Usually I like maps, but this one I find difficult to embrace. Fortunately my mind is slowly improving in it’s willingness to accept. It’s one day at a time learning to love the woman I am, not the woman I wish I still were. I know I’m not alone and I have immense gratitude for that. I say we let our soul beacons shine bright and proudly own the amazing souls that reside within the bodies that often disappoint us! Love ya girlfriend.

    • Thank you for your hope and encouragement! So many people have related to this post; both to the changes our bodies have undergone and also to that insidious comment, “but, you look good!” Ah, the “invisible illnesses!” At least we can find others that “get it.” And, you “get me” Peggy. I am so grateful for that.
      I know this is a BIG week for you, too. Don’t forget to reach out for yourself. You are in my prayers, and in my heart.
      You have one of the brightest Soul Beacons I know; thank you for shining your light on me!
      xoxo- tamara

  4. Pingback: Stuck in What I “Used” to Look Like | Nature's Peace and Hope

I gratefully welcome your comments...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s