I found myself doing something yesterday that I don’t do a lot, looking in the mirror, no not just long enough to put on my face cream, I mean really looking in the mirror. I have avoided it now for many years, well anyone who is physically limited in what they can do and of course aging, mirror aren’t exactly our best friends, something that after yesterday, I feel even more strongly about. It actually really surprised me when I found myself standing there really looking, I had just got out of the shower and I was stood in the biggest space in the bathroom as it is the easiest to get dried in, when I looked round to my side and there I was. It seems like just a few days ago that I didn’t mind in the slightest standing there naked, I used to be proud of how well I had survived physically into my late 40’s without time taking too much of a toll on me, now in my 50’s and all that good has been totally undone. You don’t realise until it is too late just what any chronic illness does to you other than just the effects of the condition you are diagnosed with or just how fit pushing yourself around in a wheelchair actually keeps you. When I closed the front door for the last time I still had a flat stomach and a good waistline, not to mention firm arms and thighs, now every part of me is covered in a layer of flab, flab that is there despite eating virtually nothing. When you spend more than half your day asleep and the rest just sitting every muscle you had just turns soft and can’t hold anything in place and I do mean anything. In just 8 years, I feel as though I have aged 20, but the worst bit of it isn’t what I saw but what I felt, for the first time in ages I felt really bad about myself, so my ban on “looking” in the mirror is well back in place.
When you have spent your life being physically active, refusing to sit for more than few minutes at a time, disability is a hugely difficult thing to accept. I was the type of person who never shied away from doing anything physical, I never even learned to drive, I had a perfectly good pair of legs that even when I lived in the countryside, took me to the nearest town to do the shopping and back, even with two kids in tow. There are people you can look at and see in your mind clearly what they will look like as they age and I never saw me like this. My future had me remaining slim and fit right into my latter years, there was no reason for me to ever be overweight and flabby as I still loved to walk right up until it was too painful and too dangerous for me to do so. When you become too ill to live the average life, your weight and body shape do somewhat disappear off the edge of your mind, but even in those early days I saw no reason why the “me” of later years would be anything less than the “me” I had always imagined. Weight gain and flab weren’t even mentioned in any of the sites that I visited desperate to get a fuller picture of my new future, none of them spoke of anything other than the standard symptoms and the standard results of them. Your mind doesn’t go along the logical lines of lack of mobility equals weight gain and flab, your mind still holds on to the glossier pictures, the one that show happy slim people talking positively all the time about their lives. I did have slight blip, where my weight did climb a little for about a year, it was at the point where I had given into the walking stick and I had had to admit that life had to slow down and I with it, but within weeks of being in my wheelchair the weight started to fall off. I had freedom, freedom to move faster than even those around me, I went nearly everywhere at full speed. A manual wheelchair is a total body workout, you don’t realise it at first but you use every muscle right down to your feet, as you lean back and forwards, turn tight corners at speed and enjoy being able to travel where you want again. I went overnight from athletic to pathetic, well that might be a little strong, but you get the picture and as the years have passed the pounds slip on and without any exercise of any type now possible, there is nothing left that I can do about it.
I find it kind of ironic as I really was a person who did everything I could, accept giving up smoking to be a fit and slender person, yet here I am like the majority of the western world, anything but either. I get angry when on the TV I hear all those reporters going on about obesity in the UK and how people just need to lose weight and get fit, I always want to shout loudly back at them this isn’t my fault and I’m not just looking for an excuse, there really isn’t a single thing left I can do. I know that when I check my BMI I am not obese, but I am overweight by about 10lbs, which now makes me 22lbs more than I ever weighed before, on my personal scale that makes me huge. Diet now makes not the slightest bit of difference, I have cut back and cut back until I was nearly eating nothing and nothing changed, without exercise I can’t lose this weight. On the good side though, I have held it nearly steady for a while now, plus I am convinced that the problems I have with my bowels isn’t helping me in the slightest. What I see appears worse than it really is, I know that it looks that way as I no longer have the muscle to hold it all in place and that is why I look like a saggy baggy series of balloons, loosely held together. What makes it even worse though, is what it is doing to my health, especially my COPD as breathing is never helped when you are carrying more weight than needed and in time it is going to make everything else worse as well. I don’t know if it would really have made any difference, but I can’t help thinking that if someone had taken me in hand years ago and shown me what could be and is now my future that maybe, just maybe I might have done more than I did when I could, now it’s too late.
All the way through my blog I have listed thing that no one tells you when you become ill, well this is another one of them. I honestly do believe that it is time they gave us all the full picture and armed us with the training on how to stay as fit as we can for as long as we can. If I had done some form of exercise, even the most gentle when my muscles could still take it, I might still have enough none wasted muscle to actually exercising a little now. Humans have this horrid ability to give up when everything is taken away from us, when my mobility in the outside world was taken away from me, I admit freely that I gave up, I sat back with the well what does it matter now attitude. When your body hurts and your energy has gone, you see no point in fighting anything, but I admit that there was a time when I could have lain on my bed and done gentle lifts, muscle tightening and stretches, they might have made a difference, even slightly. The whole idea of even that type of exercise now is out of the question, my body firstly couldn’t do it and secondly would make me pay big style for every muscle used. No matter how intelligent a person is, if we aren’t given the full information about every possibility that lies ahead of us, none of us can do the right things and none of us will ever be able to keep ourselves as well as possible, for as long as possible.
Read my blog from 2 years ago today – 24/03/13 – The end of the day (prt. 2) > http://bit.ly/11xTobx
I think I made a mistake starting this as my body last night decided to give a full blast reminder just in case I missed anything. I was a little late yesterday going for my nap and I didn’t get up until 5pm, feeling very much as I did when I went to sleep. Saturday evenings have been really bad for programs on TV so I was happy to be sat here until after 7pm. I usually find I suspect like most people that when I am busy, I really don’t notice things in the same….
YOU ARE NOT PATHETIC. THIS IS THE PART OF THE DISEASE,THAT IS HARD TO ACCEPT AND EATS AWAY AT YOU;IF YOU LET IT.THERE’S NOTHING THAT YOU COULD HAVE DONE IN THE PAST, TO AVOID THE WEIGHT GAIN.AGING IS A NATURAL,BUT CRUEL PART OF LIFE.EVEN THE HEALTHY PEOPLE CAN’T AVOID IT.BEING TERMINALLY ILL, JUST MAKES IT HARDER. DON’T WASTE PRECIOUS TIME WORRYING ABOUT WEIGHT GAIN. I PERSONALLY NOW WEIGH, WHAT I DID WHEN I WAS 9 MONTHS PREGNANT.LIKE YOU, I WAS ALWAYS ON THE GO,NEVER STOPPED,UNTIL I WAS FORCED TO. I’M SURE, THAT YOU’RE BEING HARD ON YOURSELF.MOST OF YOUR POSTS,MAKE ME THINK THAT YOU ARE TOO CRITICAL OF YOURSELF. IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER,EVEN THE HEALTHY CANNOT ESCAPE TIME.SO, BE KIND TO YOURSELF.
This is the first time I’ve read your blog, I will read more. I empathise so much with what you say. I don’t know the answer..sorry, but I think there must be people feeling this too.
You are so courageous for sharing the reality of your journey. I appreciate your strategies to avoid things that discourage, such as mirrors and scales.
Please be kind to yourself. Be mindful of how much your readers appreciate you!