One of the consequences of Crohn’s disease has been my constantly shifting body. Throughout my entire adult life, there have been fleeting moments of control. In the rare occasions where I pieced together months of continuity, I still lived with the fear that at any minute the hard work I invested into keeping myself healthy would go to waste. The cycle of flare-ups took a toll on my body and mind that left me thinking, “Why do I even bother?”
My self-image has too often taken a hit because I have never had a sense of myself. I have been sick my entire adult life. I don’t know if my body type is the lean, skinny teenager I was before my diagnosis, or the slightly curvier woman I became during my last year on Remicade. I don’t know if the reality of my twenties will creep up as I continue my life disease-free. Whatever the case turns out to be, I can take comfort knowing that the cycle of dead ends, ends now. For once in my life, I have control.
I have told myself that as my body changes I am going to rid my closet of my old “sick” clothes. Last week I said goodbye to jeans I had from high school, not only because they are tiny, but also because they are in no way a representation of whom I am now. I also gave away the size 10 jeans I wore when I was on steroids. I know I could be that size one day, but having them in my closet just reminds me of where I was in my life when I wore them. I know that never again in my life will my weight fluctuations be dramatic and unhealthy. If nature wills me to progress to a larger size, it will be gradual and un-dramatic.
In the past it was always a struggle for me to appreciate the process of gaining weight when it meant I was healthy. Because I have never really known what my natural size is, I have often thought that having no ass and looking “sick” was how I was supposed to look. Every time I gained weight it felt like once again I was being punished. I have only recently come to understand that I wasn’t mad to be gaining weight. I was mad that the sense of self I had attained from being a certain size for more than a month was being taken away once again. The loss of that certainty, of knowing who I was and what looked good on my body--losing that was what made me angry.
As I regain control of my life, I will also regain control of my body. As my appearance changes I will understand that it is only because nature is taking its course. I have reached a point in my recovery where I am imagining the excitement ahead and I have allowed myself to consider that this happiness is permanent. Everything I embark on from now on is only limited by me. If I fail, it is because I did not try hard enough, not because Crohn’s stopped me. This is both the most frightening and amazing thought I can imagine.
This entry veered off what I was trying to say about body image but maybe that's a good thing. I do want to say that today while being with my nephew I felt a sense of happiness I haven’t felt in a long time. Each of his giggles made me cognizant of the fact that for the first time since surgery I could lift him into the air with ease. I was happy, too, because I knew he would never know a day when I wasn’t present at a birthday, graduation, or swim meet. Maybe one day when he is older I will offer stories of his first months of life and how they coincided with my own new beginnings but for now he will know this version of his Aunt. He will know me as a presence in his life because my illness will never relegate me to my previous life of emotionlessly moving through the days just to pass the time.
Finally. I am present. And it feels good.