Remember, this is just a journey
I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile.
I have been convinced that when I finally sat down to express my thoughts on the subject of Crohn’s and what it has done to my self worth, it would be a long, tedious post that would express my rage and frustration. Anyone who came across it would surely cringe at the thought of reading it in it’s entirety and skip over it, carrying on with their day. This idea where I pour my soul into a post about the disease that has taken over my life and then no one bothers to read it, terrified me.
Then I remembered that some things need to be done for ones self, regardless of whether it is acknowledged or not. Maybe this post will be 12 paragraphs long, maybe it will be 50. The point is that it’s happening.
Let’s get one thing clear, right off the bat: I have a condition that is categorized as an IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This commonly gets confused with IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which, coincidentally, I also have. Lucky me.
The first time I recall something being weird with my digestive track was when I was in my pre-teens. My parents split long before I can remember and it was a week night at my mothers. I went to bed early (as I still do to this day) and was dead asleep when something jolted me awake: I couldn’t breathe. I strictly remember being in a dream state and then suddenly, my body was trying to shock me out of it. Still half asleep, I somehow managed to roll out of bed and into the hallway, gasping for air. For 45 seconds, I writhed on the floor and choked on what I immediately realized was vomit. My mother came racing up the stairs, not sure how to help or what was even wrong. When it all finally came up, she understood and slapped my back like I was a child who needed burping immediately.
I didn’t really get much more sleep that night, nor did my mother. I was scared shitless to close my eyes for fear my body would try and throw up again when I was at my most vulnerable.
This went on consistently every few months for years. As I got used to it, I was able to recognize the pattern, even in a dream, and promptly force myself awake.
Then I hit 16 and, while the “sleep puke sessions” continued, something else progressed: out of nowhere, I became so violently ill, I lost 25 pounds within 72 hours. Nothing stayed and everything went. Oh, and major TMI alert, it was no longer coming out of one orifice. Being a teenager and having to cover that up was no small feat.
I had a job at the time at a Mimi’s Cafe and, as expected, after being out for nearly a week, my supervisor requested a doctors note to allow me back to work. When I arrived to hand over said note, he stared me up and down. I thought perhaps I was wearing something that looked weird when he opened his mouth:
"I don’t think I really need the note, Bridget."
"Wait, why?" I asked. "Is something wrong?!"
He shook his head. “No, I’m looking at you. You’re bone.”
And there it was, the first time I encountered the one thing with Crohn’s Disease they NEVER prepare you for: the consistent weight loss and gain and the remarks that come with it.
"Oh you have Crohn’s? You don’t look that skinny so you must be healthy now!"
"Bridget, you’re far too skinny, please eat a cheeseburger."
"You just have a curvy body, don’t worry too much about it."
"Jeez, Bridg, you not feeling well? You look awful and sickly."
These are all real comments I have heard over the last 10 years. Even my mother has made the off hand remark of “Oh you’re gaining weight? Well don’t gain too much!” without knowing the effect it would have on my mentality.
Here’s the truth: these little snippets that I hear on a near daily basis, these opinions and observations of others about my physical appearance at any particular time, they affect me profoundly. They bring my self esteem down and force me to contemplate, even if just for a moment, to abandon all self love I have garnered for myself. But that brings us to the even bigger problem: I have never, ever, not once, expressed this.
And therein lies the real issue: me, not disclosing all this and speaking up about what something as small as words can do to my mindset. How can anyone know what they are saying is inappropriate if they aren’t told so in the moment?
That right there is no ones fault but my own. So I am taking my stand today.
When that first comment was made to me over 10 years ago, the one about me “being bone”, I had not yet been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. In fact, while I had the inkling that I had it, I was not officially diagnosed until I was 23. By that time, I had 2 extended hospital stays and countless ER visits under my belt. I don’t know how many times I have had a colonoscopy.
To date I have been in the hospital for longer than 2 days 4 times in the last 7 years, the most recent being a wondrous nearly 5 day visit this past March. And guess what? I lost 12 pounds when I was there and gained 5 of them back within a week. IT’S WHAT MY BODY DOES.
So after years of a voice in my head jump from saying “You really are too thin” to “Shit, they are right, now you’re curvy!”, how the hell do you switch it off and move forward?
The answer, though simple, is never easy. It involves learning to let go and enrolling in the school of acceptance. I am never going to be a size 0, nor will I ever NOT have an ass. I’m going to lose weight around my mid section and it’s going to come back. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but if it does, then so be it. I am learning to love myself, no matter the difficulty associated with it.
I know this whole thing seems all over the place, with little direction, but when it comes down to it, my point is pretty straightforward: I know I’ll continue to hear the comments, I know the remarks will go on. And that’s just fine. I can live with myself just marvelous.
The question is, can you carry on knowing in order for you to feel “ok” with my appearance, you must comment on it?
Yes, you can see all the bones in my back. Yes, I have a stomach pooch. Yes, I have wide hips. Yes, when mashed together, it looks “rather funny and awkward.” No, I no longer give a shit.
When I sat down and asked my buddy JC to take some raw, real photos of me, I was initially petrified to step in front of the camera. But I soon realized it was the most empowered I had ever felt in my life and that was the whole point. People need to know the story, people need to see the story.
Today is my 27th birthday and I am the strongest and happiest I have ever been in my entire life, both mentally and physically. I’m ready to see this new chapter of my existence through, weight loss and weight gain be damned.
I want it to be known that I’m sexy as is. And the rest of the world is just going to have to deal with it.
**Special thank you to Honor with #HonorMyCurves and Chris Kasianczuk for unknowingly giving me the confidence and power to move forward and learn to love myself for the first time in over 10 years**