I get sick about once a month, with a recovery period lasting a week or more. For the longest time, I’d put the blame on my “shit body” and “shit immune system”. That’s just how it is, I’d reason to myself.
Proof of abnormality: legs, about as stable as a three-legged desk; a mild limp; a back brace I refuse to wear, gathering dust as an artifact in a medical school. Red welts; crumbling skin; topical and oral medications in a large Tupperware; soap that could only ever be unscented. Faded scars on the right wrist.
I’ve already written about it, but a tl;dr of psoriasis vulgaris makes it sound as bad as it looks. It involves a faulty, overreacting immune system that marks my skin at places where false T-cell signals are sent. My lumbar levoscoliosis with leg length discrepancy affects my posture and gait–a highfalutin excuse for clumsiness.
Being in an all girls-school did nothing to quell my insecurities: before and after PE was always a kerfuffle of rising skirts and undone blouses, no big deal for prepubescent little girls. Come middle school, though–the era of training bras and discreetly asking for extra napkins–I became painfully aware of how I lacked a certain smoothness, a grace that should have been heralded by the onset of womanhood. Everyone was blossoming, while I awkwardly stumbled through. In high school, I listened to songs that told me that my body was a wonderland and a weapon–or at least it was supposed to be one. My body consistently disappointed me because I was stuck on the mentality that it existed just for the viewing pleasure of others. I paid so much attention to what others were thinking about me, yet did so little to actually take care of myself.
I’ve spent more than half my life abusing my already-malfunctioning body: I self-harmed, self-starved, binged, scratched lesions, pushed bruises, pulled all-nighters. I was remorseless as I operated on the inane logic that my body hated me, and so it didn’t matter that I treated it badly, too.
The fact of the matter is that I haven’t been completely honest with myself. Accepting that “that’s just how it is” was a denial of crimes against myself–an odd form of Stockholm syndrome, where I was both the abuser and the prisoner.
It’d be apropos to make the last couple paragraphs of this post about the things I’ve learned, but I’m honestly still in the process of breaking the mindset. Being uncomfortable in your own skin is the worst, and it really doesn’t help if the only reason you try to get better is to please others.
It brought me down all the time to always fall short of others’ expectations, else the conventional notion of female attractiveness, whatever the hell that is now. I will always have flare-ups in times of stress and cold seasons; a slight limp; scars on my right wrist; zebra-stripe stretch marks on my upper thighs. Those who actually care about me would much rather I stay healthy, than compromise my immune system with meds that are harmful in the long-run (I’m looking at you, methotrexate).
Conversely, those who do mind what they see on the surface are superficial and rather rude to point out flaws that are not immediately fixable. I’m still in remission for certain personal issues, so a lot of mundane comments (e.g. “Your skin thing’s flaring up”, “You should lose some weight”) still feel like personal attacks.
It takes so, so much effort to change a mindset ingrained in you for years–but it’s not impossible, as I’ve found it’s a gradual shift to the right direction. I’m sick of spending so much time and energy hating myself, yet trying to maintain functional relationships. The tired platitude of “loving yourself first before you can love others” doesn’t necessarily follow; I’ve found that my family, friends and significant other help remind me why I need to be good to myself, in case I forget.
I used to dismiss frequent sicknesses, autoimmune flareups, and constant aches as completely random. I admit I haven’t been very good to myself for the longest time–there has been incriminating evidence of it written all over my skin, after all. Perhaps my body’s been onto something all these years.