I’ve always had a weird relationship with my body, and I’ve always struggled to put that relationship into words. I don’t struggle with self-image; my reflection isn’t distorted. Most times, I just wake with an impossible disgust. It’s not that I hate my body, or even want a different one — I just see it through the eyes of others, and so I am predisposed to see its abnormalities, to pick apart its failings. The crooked teeth. The thin lips, large nose, spindly arms and legs. Even my fingers are bent, hands small and pudgy, distastefully unfeminine.
I don’t always feel this way. Most days, I’m fine with myself. Content, only because I know better — this is the body I have, the body I am to live with. There is no time for regret, no room for grief. But some days, it weighs me down. How strange it is to be a body, in a body, stuck with a body. What do you do, I wonder, when a body is all you have, when all you have is never enough.
We fight, my body and I. There’s always something to fight about: fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath. Even my acne is cystic. Angry. I’ve tried everything: topical ointments, skin care products from late-night infomercials. I have flare-ups, and the only thing that helps is a steady drip of antibiotics. At least I have amoxicillin. Without it, my face would be covered in red welts, painful to the touch, bringing tears to my eyes every time I’m touched. Just another thing to dread. It takes months, or years, for the scars to heal.
I’ve started calling these feelings “bad body vibes.” My skin is awful right now, and whenever I look in the mirror I get the faintest prickling of shame. Wanting a different body, one that’s less embarrassing, with smoother skin. Straighter teeth. Petite hands, dainty, just like I’ve always dreamed. I don’t want to leave the house. I don’t want to see anyone, don’t want to be seen. These vibes are a burden, a heaviness I cannot shed. Most days I shy away, desperate to hide. Desperate to disappear, at least until I’m presentable again.
The past few weeks have been full of this anger and shame, eating away at me. I focus on the things I can change, things I can hold. Classwork. Poetry. Star Wars. Bad body vibes are, in many ways, isolating — they tear me away from myself, my support system. I try my best, muddle through on my own, but someone eventually reaches out, asks me how I am. I exit my body. For a moment, it is easier to breathe.
I am trying to forgive my body. It is not perfect, but it is mine. It has gotten me this far. It has made the best of awful circumstances, and I love it for that. And for its mess — its badly wired brain, the hallucinations, my body’s breakneck earnestness. We still argue. I still break out, still get annoyed at my acne stars, my chipped teeth. But I’m still trying, and every day it gets a little bit easier.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ugliness lately. What constitutes ugly, how ugly is defined. I wouldn’t call myself ugly, but I’m sure there are people out there who would, and I think the key to forgiveness is embracing that. I’m tired of these vibes. I’m tired of lugging this body everywhere. I’d like to leave this feeling behind in 2017. I’d like to reach a place of acceptance, contentment, joy — in myself, my body, and everything we’ve conquered together.
Tomorrow morning, I will forgive my body, just as I have every day this week. I will see it for what it is, and love it tirelessly, just as it has loved me.
Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.