I have always thought that it is a good thing that we all have our own personal image, not just in our heads, but even in our mirrors. If I had trusted and believed my mirror, I would have been heading to the surgeons asking for chunks to be cut off, for no other reason than they looked wrong that particular day. I believe that we all have a very mild form of body dysmorphia, which for us, is a good thing. The proof is simple, we can look in a mirror and think we look wonderful, then see a photo even just days later, and see ourselves as everyone else saw us, the two images, just don’t match. Which is just one of the reasons, that I hate having my picture taken. Yes, I know I have some great pictures of me, but those few somehow captured what was in my mind, rather than what was in the mirror. Mirrors, normally, live in a space where they are bathed in bright sharp light, great photo’s, are blessed by great lighting. How we see ourselves, be it in our favourite mirror, in our heads, or in those pictures, always matters. It doesn’t matter if you are a teenager or an old fogy, we always know what we want to see, and for the majority of us, we always want to improve it.
I thought by now, that my arms would be getting just that little bit stronger and that I would be seeing the results in my upper body. It is now well over 2 months that I’ve using my wheelchair, even though I knew my arms had become severally weakened over the years, I thought, there would have been some improvement. There is a tiny one, but so tiny, it’s hardly worth admitting to. I’ve never done any research as to the effect of exercise on muscles that are being attacked by both PRMS and Fibro, I just based my expectations, on my own history. It’s about 8 years ago, that I for the first time used my wheelchair, back then, there was a marked change within the first month. Not so much in their strength, as I had always had good upper body strength, but they regained their tone. After years of carrying incredibly heavy record cases, plus having been keen on exercise of all sorts, I just stopped. A change in lifestyle, thanks to my work, meant all of it stopped. I gained half a stone in weight, and my body tone rapidly felt as though it went south. I had tried to do what I could, but I was by then sat on my backside on a phone for 8 hrs a day and walking the mile and a half there and back, just wasn’t enough. Then when my health went into rapid decline, the exercise levels fell off the planet, as my legs were badly affected very quickly. It had been 6 years since I had last been happy with my body, so seeing at least my upper body tone reappearing, was a joy. Not too surprisingly, when I sat in my chair again 2 months ago, I expected at least a small improvement. I know I am at the age where bingo wings begin, but I just hoped they might retract a little, but nothing.
So, OK, my house isn’t the size of a call center, but all of that taken as fact, how is it, that in a smaller space, I have managed to do what never happened at any time, ever, before, I have destroyed my hands. It appears as though life still finds ways to laugh at me, even when I’m locked away from it. No muscle improvement, no new strength, just hands who’s knuckles find it hysterically funny, to jump our of their sockets and cause indescribable pain, just because they now can. If that wasn’t enough, the tendons in my forearms have also found their voice. I had such high hopes when I asked Adam to bring my chair out of the cupboard and to give it a clean. I thought that I had found the answer to legs that collapsed and bingo wings in one. Well not just the wings, using a chair, tones right down to your stomach, they really are the perfect upper body workout that has ever been created. Yet here I am, with not the slightest sign of anything good happening at all. Since I became housebound, I have found it totally impossible to lose weight. I do so little, that it is just physically impossible to shift even a pound. Thanks to the pain that is throughout my body, conventional exercises are out of the window too. Even the physio’s won’t prescribe any form of exercise for me, as the balance between use and pain, is so fragile. I had my fingers crossed that removing the strain from my legs, would mean energy wise, I could shift to my arms, but with an extra positive twist. That twist is totally missing and it’s is so annoying.
For my entire diagnosed history, the effect that my health has taken on my looks, as been a roller coaster. The first few years, the weight piled on. Then I lost the ability to eat for nearly four years. I lost so much weight, that I landed up with a gastric tube as I weighed just 7 stone and I was on the verge of malnutrition. My clothes sizes had gone from my normal of a size 10-12, up to a size 16 and crashed to between a size 6 and an 8. I am talking UK sizes here, a size 6 is nothing, the literal skin and bones, with the emphasis on bones. Since I became housebound, up my weight went past my norm and on, it’s held at 18, which to me is huge, ever since. I hate what I see in the mirror as much as I hated the size 6. This is why I say, I think we all have a touch of body dysmorphia, as I usually didn’t see the 6 any more than I always see the 18, I’m still a 10. I know without a doubt if my health hadn’t stolen my body, that size 10-12 is just where I would be. I also know it would be toned as that is just me, I never let me body win, it did as I said or else. I know I am not alone when I say, that in some ways, the cruellest thing our health can do is to change our looks, and to remove the control we had over them. I may have all the time in the world now, but I can’t do a single exercise to help with what I see.
None of us want to be anything less than the person who lives in our heads. We want to measure up in every way, not just looks, but looks is what the world first judges us on. That’s why it’s extra cruel, we’re being judged on something we have no control what so ever on. So OK, if I were to make a list of the horrid things my health had done to me, my looks wouldn’t be the uppermost one, but it wouldn’t be far below it. It isn’t vanity, it’s about being a perfectly normal human being. Show me the person who doesn’t brush their hair and look in a mirror before they leave their home. There isn’t one. I can show you millions of people who say they can’t do anything about their weight, or the flabby muscles, their liers, they can. When I was 19, my weight ballooned to 18st 6lbs, I was pregnant and OK, over 11bls of that was the baby and a huge amount was proved to be fluid, but I still had 4 stone to lose. I lost all of it, and never, put it on again, we can normally all do it if we are determined. We are the real deal, that small number of people who really can’t do anything about it, and it’s just not fair. Just because we have an illness, or even a rather large collection of illnesses, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to be who we believe we should be. We can switch off that part of our brains, that keep telling us that we can be, or still are, that slim, well dressed and smartly turned out person we always were. In our heads, we’re still there. All those years of dieting, exercising and doing everything right, with the plan of long healthy life, were for nothing.
In my opinion, there are just too many brightly lit mirrors in this world, for us to be able to forget what the truth is. Sadly, it doesn’t matter how many times we tell ourselves, or others tell us, that it’s not our fault; that they love us regardless and always will; that we’re not the ones all those ads, and health warnings they roll out on the news about obesity, are aimed at; it’s always going to hurt, it’s always going to feel unfair. I can joke about it. I can even be positive about it. I can set my eyes to history and see what I want, but it doesn’t change reality. Nothing does.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 30/11/2013 – Never alone
I made a wonderful discovery last night, nothing that will change the world but something that made me feel just that tiny bit more sane. Anyone who has a condition that effect their nerves will have had spells where their skin feels……