It’s been four years now that I’ve fought severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. Four years of pain, suffering, sleeplessness, weight gain, and judgement. Not only judgement from the outside world, at a disease that no one can see, but also judgement from myself.
Despite my doctors and nutritionists telling me for YEARS that the weight gain wasn’t my fault, that it was the steroids keeping me mobile, I’ve hated the weight that has sat on my body. Being six feet tall has had its advantages though, the weight distributed evenly, and I was never really obese looking. Even though doctors told me I was toeing that obesity line. My long legs and torso helped slim me down, and at my heaviest, I really wasn’t that bad. Or at least that’s what everyone told me.
I, on the other hand, hated it. Gone were my hip bones, and curvy figure, now encompassed in too much flesh. Gone were my high cheek bones and smooth skin. My face now had taken on the characteristic of Prednisone called Cushingoid, or “moon face”. My eyes were sunken in and dark, my chin now had a friend to play with, and my hair hung lifelessly to my shoulders. I did not like the girl in the mirror. She was a stranger, an impostor, and yet there was nothing I could do. Not that I didn’t try.
I spent three years dieting, trying every new fad and hippie trick, trying to lose the steroid weight. I almost gave up hope when my Neurologist told me I wouldn’t lose it until I stopped taking the steroids altogether. Well, shit. I couldn’t do that yet. They were keeping me alive, up and moving, and out of bed, for the most part. I started to hate the girl in the mirror. I blamed her for having to buy bigger clothes. I blamed her for how I could never quite look right. Clothes just didn’t fit how I wanted them to, and no matter how much makeup I put on, I couldn’t lose the dark circles under my eyes. That bitch.
Then four months ago my medications changed again, and I was put on a form of chemotherapy. Man, were they not kidding with the warnings of nausea and vomiting. I spent the better part of two months puking. And when I wasn’t puking, I certainly wasn’t eating. I lost my taste buds and the desire to eat altogether. And the pounds started to melt away. But that wasn’t the healthy way to do it.
Eventually the nausea and vomiting stopped. Well, for the most part. My taste buds came back and I enjoyed food again. But my stomach had shrunk. So now I could only eat very little at a time, and only need one or two meals a day to sustain me. My weight continued to drop. I knew it was happening because my jeans started to get really loose. I was using holes on my belts that had never been touched before. For some reason though, I still couldn’t recognize the girl in the mirror.
I knew I was changing back to my original self. But so much time had passed that despite the fact that I’d lost 52lbs, I couldn’t see it. I started to buy smaller clothes, opting to wear leggings more because they were so versatile (plus I loved that I finally looked good in them). I started to enjoy clothing shopping again, although I would constantly pick out sizes much too large for me, because I still couldn’t comprehend the weight loss.
I stared at that girl in the mirror. Was I in there? I couldn’t see myself, but others could. My mom kept commenting on how skinny and slim I looked. But I was almost defensive about it. There was nothing wrong with being bigger, I’d say. But the truth of the matter was that I not longer was.
The weight continues to melt off my frame, and I’m starting to see my hip bones again, and my belly doesn’t obstruct the view of my feet. My face has slimmed down, and while I still have dark circles, they have faded and I’ve found makeup that covers them.
But I still don’t recognize that girl in the mirror. I know she is me, but she is not the me that I see.