After All These Years, I Have Learned to Love My Imperfections
How do you learn to love your body while struggling with a rare illness? I used to ask myself this almost daily.
I love to eat, and comfort food provides just that — comfort. Vegetables and fruits sound delicious, but they wouldn’t be the first thing I run to at a buffet.
I loved being active when I was in high school, but I was much younger, and my endurance was out of this world. It’s different now that I am competing with a rare illness. To make things more difficult, I just don’t find exercising all that fun.
Still, I push myself to exercise and eat well. Keeping myself physically and mentally healthy is part of my treatment, though it’s not easy.
After having my daughter at 17, my physical and mental health went through some changes.
I noticed that my body didn’t magically bounce back like it used to. I became discouraged with how my body looked and gave up on my desire to be healthy, both physically and mentally.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw someone who was “fat.” I stopped wearing makeup and fixing my hair, which I’d just put in a ponytail. I didn’t believe the person staring back at me deserved to look good. I started to shop in the men’s section to find clothes that would hide my body.
At family gatherings, I would liven up the party by being funny and silly, in the hopes that no one would pay attention to how “fat” I was.
I began to eat my way through depression, which caused me to reach my highest weight of 300 pounds. I took all the mirrors down, not wanting to see how I had let myself get to that point.
While struggling with my weight, self-esteem, and self-image, I started to notice the first symptoms of my illness, which gave me another reason to go deeper into my hiding hole.
After my diagnosis of lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia, I became even more discouraged about my body. I knew my unhealthy weight could make things worse.
My pulmonologist kept weighing in (no pun intended) on my body mass index (BMI). He reminded me that my weight would be a factor in my eligibility for a lung transplant. This pressure brought my anxiety to new heights.
These discussions made me feel more disgusted with myself. I felt like others saw me as a poor soul who couldn’t control her eating habits. I felt like a failure.
I knew something had to be done. I needed the will to overcome my bout of depression, so I decided to see a counselor about my mental health.
After a while, I started to see myself in a different light — as worthy. I began to love my body the way it is because this body held and nourished a beautiful life. How could I hate my body when it created life?
I learned a lot about myself. I learned why I was beating myself up about my body. I learned that becoming a mother at a young age came with challenges. I learned it’s OK to own my body.
I began to realize that this is my journey. I choose how my journey maps out.
I now counsel with a nutritionist, exercise, and eat well. Though I have cheat days, I work hard at staying on track. I still have a ways to go to reach the BMI that is required for a transplant, but even when I do, I will continue to keep myself physically and mentally healthy.
My depression is now a part of my past. I allow myself to be imperfect and I like it. It makes me unique. I am just Ann. A mother, a wife, and a rare illness fighter. I love my body. I feel beautiful and I have come to love the woman I see in the mirror.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News 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 Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.