The most radical, difficult thing I could ever feel as a woman with a body like mine is self-love and appreciation. A body, that I have often said with a laugh, has been trying to kill me since I was fifteen. Or at least, I used to say that— it was the way of looking at it that made sense. I spent years in the mirror asking what I’d done to make my body hate me so; how any of it made sense. Why it decided to take so much away from me when I’d done nothing but try my best to appease it. This way of thinking made my body the constant enemy of myself. For years, when I said I hated my body, I meant that I hated this perceived idea that it was somehow trying to destroy me; constantly lurking in the dark ready to strike. It was a separate entity; something that did what it wanted without my permission.
I realize now that it was just doing exactly what it was meant to do. My disease was my body’s own natural function; the inability for my own blood to stop itself from being a little too helpful at times. If anything, my body was overachieving. It just got a little bit carried away. I’m not sure I can blame it for that. The last couple of months, as I’ve sat with it through its destruction and revitalization, I’ve come to a sort of understanding. This entire ordeal is not my body’s fault. It’s not my fault either. There’s nothing I, or my body, could have done to prevent it because this is the way that it is and has to be. Whether or not that’s unfair, I don’t know. I’m not sure that fairness has much to do with it. This is just what I got in life— just like everyone else. How I respond to what I got is what matters.
At the end of the day, the fact that my body has even managed to survive everything is impressive. It’s done some truly amazing things. Yes, they’ve complicated my life. That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve some credit. When I think about all of the things it’s been through, all of the insane medications, the thousands of blood draws, the near-death situations that’s it’s had to endure, I’m kind of proud that it’s mine. I live in a body that’s managed to bring me back from the brink of death and recovered 5 times in 5 years. The chances that I’m alive today are slim to none and yet it’s still managed to pull through. I live in a body that has gone from swollen joints and limited mobility to repairing itself beyond my wildest dreams. Somehow my body has managed to survive a bone marrow transplant, engraft new blood in 11 days, and help me learn to breathe again. I’m a Chimera— a living thing with two separate kinds of DNA. Now I get to live the rest of my life because of it. From an overall functioning standpoint, my body is a badass. Sometimes when I’m laying on the bathroom floor curled in a ball, reminding myself of that isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but I try my best. That’s all I can ask of myself.
But body positivity comes in a lot of different forms. Like any 20 something, I want to look and feel a certain way. I want to feel pretty and confident and sexy. I want to like what I see in the mirror. When my face is swollen and puffy and my stomach feels bloated, it’s hard to be in love with myself. But I also live in a body that’s constantly changing and adjusting, and finding enough stability in that constant shift can be exhausting. I often find myself grasping at straws to try to maintain some sort of control over the way that I look and feel. There are days when I just want a break— I want some sort of balance in my everyday life. Part of me has realized that despite wanting to feel that way now, my body still needs time to do its thing. I once heard it said that “pretty isn’t the price that you pay to live in the world as a woman.” Sometimes life is really ugly. That’s okay. I’m not going to look and feel my best all the time. Especially not right now. Beauty is such a subjective concept. To be fully confident with our flaws is a freedom. Basically, it’s really beautiful to accept that sometimes you’re going to be a mess and that’s perfectly okay.
I like to believe that someday I’m not going to be a mess. Someday all of this is going to end, just like everything else. But one thing’s for sure: my body and I are a team. I can’t separate myself from it anymore. I have to accept that it’s mine, that it’s wonderful, and that sometimes it’s going to be a bitch. No matter what it does, no matter how inconvenient or scary, it’s mine and I have to love it. We must all learn to love ourselves through difficult things. For me, after everything my body and I have been through together, I can honestly say that I do love it. It’s a badass. And maybe, I am too.