Prior to falling ill, I had a fairly stellar physique. I worked out daily, completed all of p90x (an intense workout program,) and I ate extremely well because I had the energy and means to do so. I worked at my job frequently and supported myself financially. About four and a half years ago, my life took a turn.
What felt like out of no where, when I’d run, I’d be met with overwhelming, incomprehensible fatigue. The whole rest of my day was shot and soon enough, even my daily run I’d been doing for years became arduous.
Next, there was pain. A lot of it. My joints got red and hot with inflammation. My muscles ached like I had come down with the flu. Pardon my language but it fucking hurt. I had already battled with migraine as well but now they were a daily occurence and they were resistant to any treatment.
Soon came many emergency room visits, endless doctors appointments, lots of blood work, some invasive testing, MRI’s, cat scans, and finally, some answers but no cure. It took two years for some sort of answer and because of my mental health history, I was met with dismissal of my symptoms regularly.
I was first diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome, otherwise known as “Pots.” Hallmark symptoms of pots are dizziness upon standing, fainting or near fainting, tachycardia, severe fatigue, nausea, and a whole lot more. Pots is a form of dysautonomia which means that the parts of your body you don’t have to think about (breathing, heart rate, etc) malfunction. It can affect basically any bodily system as a result. I grew completely intolerant to exercise and eventually, mostly bed ridden.
Next came the fibromyalgia diagnosis, accounting for only some of my pain. Due to severe pain from the numerous illnesses I developed, I gained a lot of weight. A. Lot.
I had a history of anorexia so this wrecked me internally. For seven years of my life, my entire self worth was based upon what I consumed, what I weighed, and how I looked. Weight gain was my literal worst nightmare prior to being sick, and it had come true.
I felt utterly helpless. I had ZERO energy to prepare the healthy food I loved. Pain and fatigue felt too insurmountable to exercise. I had no idea how to control my weight anymore. I tried all sorts of preventative tips in the beginning; sneaking in exercise any way I could, buying pre prepared meals. But as I got sicker, I couldn’t work as many hours and eventually, I had to quit. This meant losing my financial independence as well as my means to try and buy healthier food.
I grieved and I grieved hard. Things that used to be easy for me were now almost impossible. I felt useless to the world for not financially contributing. However, there are some positives I have taken away from my weight gain and sickness experiences.
1. I learned my worth does not come from my weight. The content of my character is far more important and longer lasting than an external appearance. Inner beauty doesn’t fade but external beauty does so why do we fixate on preserving what doesn’t last? And why did it even matter? Yes, being physically attractive is enjoyable, no doubt, but does a pretty face or body make you kind? Does it make you smart? Does it enable you to help other people?
2. I valued my time more. I have a limited energy bar, kind of like a Sim in the popular video game. Except mine drains faster than your average, healthy person’s. So, I’ve learned the value of my time, where I want to distribute it, and what things aren’t worth the energy investment.
3. I learned to say “no,” to things I didn’t want to do. As mentioned above, I’m no longer wasting my energy on things that don’t fulfill me in some way. Of course I still help people; helping others gives me purpose, however I no longer drain my cup fully to give others a drink.
4. I became more empathetic. Having understood deep pain myself taught me to be far more understanding of other’s circumstances. I’ve always been an empathetic person but being sick brought it to the next level. And I wouldn’t change that.
5. I found new, low impact hobbies. I write daily to relieve stress and share my story. I also enjoy painting and photography. My appreciation of these things has grown tremendously because they keep me sane through my hardest moments.
Weight does not define anyone. It isn’t a marker of your worth. Some people struggle with weight gain, while others struggle with severe weight loss. Do not shame anyone for their body because there is SO much more to them than their figure. You haven’t even scratched the surface. Judge the weight of their character before you judge a number on the scale.