Twice The Woman I Used to Be: How My Autoimmune Diagnosis Changed My Relationship With My Body

     Back when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2013, I weighed about 120 pounds. I was so sensitive about my weight, that I called 140 pounds my “bridge jumping weight.”

     I was joking.

     Kind of. 

    I also distinctly recall sitting in a classroom in nursing school, way back in 2002, learning the side effects of long term steroid therapy – moon face, “fat pads” on the shoulders, a “buffalo hump” on the back, abdominal fat, red striations all across the abdomen, poor wound healing… I prayed I would never need such a terrible thing. The images they showed were awful.

     Enter my autoimmune diagnosis. Sure enough, since 2013, I’ve needed daily maintenance steroid therapy, plus frequent steroid “tapers” (higher doses), plus MANY steroid injections and IV infusions.

     Not only have I taken all of the steroids (which alone are enough to cause major weight gain), my disease has progressively worsened, limiting my mobility, and the steroids have also caused the bones in my feet to begin fracturing and not healing, so walking has been a major issue for over a year now.

     The end result of all of this for my weight? I am literally almost twice the weight I was when I was diagnosed.

     And clearly, I did not jump off the bridge after all.

     But there has been a hell of a lot to take in, adjust to, and learn.

     As I began the steroid therapy and my weight slowly began creeping up. Initially, though I hated it, it wasn’t so bad. I told everyone that I was on medication, so they were “warned,” and I fully believed I had accepted it.

     That was in the early stages.

     By 2017, I had gained a significant amount of weight. My feet started breaking. I had to give up my work as a nurse due to my illness, and, at one point, another of my meds made so much of my hair fall out that I had to just shave it.

     Then I was quite heavy, unemployed, and bald. That’s when all hell broke loose. I felt just plain UGLY. I felt like there was nothing of me left. I had the steroid moon face, the abdominal fat, the red striation across my abdomen, my feet were broken, I was bald for goodness sake. I was just disgusted with myself. I honestly wanted to crawl out of my skin. I would just sit and cry.

     It was a difficult spot to be in, both fighting for my life and hating my body. The body doesn’t respond well to such conflicting messages. That’s when I came to understand just how much of my self-worth this feminist had placed in a certain ideal of an outside appearance.

     At that point, I had to really begin working through who I am and what matters. I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a writer, a person with much to offer. I had to really focus on my value, who I am, which has nothing in this world to do with my size. I began writing about some of my body issues on my blog, both to get them out and to help other people. I began praying over them and meditating and deep breathing through them. I also went back to nutrition school, which I just recently graduated from, to be a health coach. I felt that I could use all of my experiences with my illness and with body image, food, and weight, to help others through theirs.

     It is astonishing – and so sad – how quickly a woman can feel totally worthless when her weight changes. I say this because I know it isn’t just me. Far from it. And I want to be part of the conversation about this – and, more importantly, part of the change.

     It doesn’t matter if you’ve gained weight because you had to take medication or you were fighting depression or just because. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your body or an apology for your body. We aren’t obligated to be a certain size.

     Our size isn’t what we are here for.

     We are here to spread so much love and create amazing creations and live our dreams and enjoy this world and care for others and make a huge change and follow our passions and do fabulous, world-changing things.  

     That is our purpose.

     At a size 4 or a size 24.

     Who really cares?

     It’s up to us to decide that we are so much more.

     These days I am twice the woman I used to be in so many ways.

by: Miranda Herring 

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Instagram: @theautoimmunehippie