Looking in the mirror is kind of odd these days. I still look like, well, me, but yet not me. The steroids to get my ulcerative colitis under control, which I have been tapering, have been causing me to retain water in my knees and ankles for several weeks now, and one day I looked at my reflection and realized that my face doesn’t look quite like my face. It’s rounder, puffier, all things to be expected from an extended course of steroids.
When I finally mentioned it, my mother said she thought it was actually getting better since the last time she had seen me a month before. Which made me feel almost worse-had everyone noticed but me? My body (knock wood) seems to be healing to some extent, which is so, so great, but the residuals of the steroids keep coming, including some awful shooting pains in my legs and ankles that keep me awake at night.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone my age who has never had a body image issue. I know my high school and university were both breeding grounds for eating disorders. I’ve had my fair share of issues, but in recent years, I like to think I’d come into a place of relative peace. I know I like to eat (and eat sweet things), but I balance that with lots of healthy meals and an active lifestyle. Having kids and wanting to be a good role model for them has also put food into perspective. I want them to have a healthy relationship with food, one in which they understand how food nourishes them, satisfies them, energizes them. At dinner, I try and say a little grace as often as possible: “Thank you for this food and the energy it gives us”.
Joe fell in love with me when I weighed the most I ever have (and yes, I am 99% sure that includes my entire pregnancy with Elijah). And that was right after one of the best experiences of my life, my first summer at Double H, when I subsisted on camp food (ie French fries, grilled cheese, and pasta), supplemented by nightly ice cream runs (Ahhh, Martha’s and Doc’s). Have I truly been happier at times when I looked thinner? Not that I can recall. My children are much more likely to notice that I gave them the wrong “milk” or skipped a page in their story than they are to see that my face is rounder than usual. So all signs point to the fact that a few pounds doesn’t really matter that much.
Except maybe to me. I don’t consider myself a super vain person. My hair routine: approximately 15 seconds a day plus a haircut once or twice a year. My last manicure: my wedding day, 6 ½ years ago. Not that I think that there’s anything wrong with getting split ends trimmed and highlights every 6-8 weeks and nails buffed and polished every week. It’s just not what relaxes me and frankly not what I want to spend my money on (which is usually food!).
I think there’s also a “Mom thing” that happens when the time we spent in front of the mirror or pondering our next outfit is slashed. Remy’s clothes are infinitely cuter than mine, and I love making sure she looks put together. She loves it too, and is super excited about certain outfits and less than thrilled with others (opinions that she makes very clear!). Between getting the kids ready, the breakfast made, the dog walked, etc, some days I throw on some sporty clothes and sneakers, and shrug on the way out the door as I pull my hair in a ponytail.
Most of the time, it’s enough for me. But over Thanksgiving, I avoided picture opportunities, I found myself wanting to tell everyone I ran into back in Richmond about WHY I looked the way I did.
The steroids make you hungry. So insatiably hungry. I lost quite a bit of weight as I tried to navigate my ulcerative colitis journey. I wasn’t very hungry at all, plus I was terrified of eating anything due to its uncertain effects on my digestive system. I used to go an entire year without knowing what I weighed. With all the doctor’s appointments in the past few months, I now have the up-and-down-and-up records. It’s not that big a number: I think it’s just that the “weight” is in my face, and my face is what people see, especially now that we’re all bundling up for the winter. My smile looks strange to me.
I am hoping to embark on a new professional journey next year as a holistic health counselor. I am so excited to help others find health and wellness and to guide them towards a better, happier self. After this experience, it looks like I should be starting with myself.
And now for some Thanksgiving pics: