The Woman in the Mirror

by Samantha Smith

Body image is something that affects everyone, chronic illness or not. When you are sick, your body doesn't just change on the inside. Many times, the physical changes you can see really affect you mentally.

I've seen many changes in my body since being diagnosed with Graves' disease two years ago. I felt many changes in my body too. The exhaustion and muscle pain made it hard to do any physical activity. My body became weaker.

Enter //">gastroparesis. A few months after my surgery, the real trouble with food began. As much as I liked and wanted food, it didn't want me back. My body began to change before I could even notice. When I began to notice, it became scary. I was losing weight faster than I could keep up with. The frustrating part of that is when I'd look in the mirror, I'd still see the overweight girl I'd always been. The physical changes became a mental challenge. Because I was always on the heavier side, it was hard for me to look at myself and truly see what was happening. Even though I knew what was happening, my insecurities in being heavy made it hard to see the truth. It wasn't until I saw pictures, or bought clothes in size “small” that I began to see what was happening. My body was wasting away. I've lost muscle and strength that I've always had. Yet I was still struggling, and still am, to see myself as I really am.

Samantha_before_chronic_illness Samantha_after_body_image_chronic_illness

The problem here lies within how we see ourselves. We hardly see ourselves for what we are, which is, BEAUTIFUL. Sick or not, our bodies are truly amazing, and do amazing things every day. When you are sick, your body has to fight harder for you. It takes more energy to do normal tasks. Yet it's so easy to get hung up on the image of what we "should" feel like or look like, or to feel lost because we can't be like "normal people."

I struggle everyday with my body. It's a fight to do the things I need to do. Even though I sometimes feel like I'm losing a battle, I realize I'm still winning the war. That realization came when I began to truly LOVE my body for all it is. It hasn't given up on me, even with all that it's gone through, all its flaws, every scar, every fall, every breakdown, and every loss. My body hasn't given up on me, and I sure as hell won't give up on my body.


My advice: LOVE your body. Love every imperfection. Love your reflection. Love the scars that saved your life, and wear them proudly. If you don't like what you see, work with your body to get where you want to be, whether it's mentally, physically, or both. Once you can begin to appreciate the fight, the mental aspect feels less like a challenge. You're only given one body to live in during this life, so treat it well, and it'll continue to fight for you every day.

#Gastroparesis #bodyimage #chronicillness

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