"You're too skinny Lasha, why don't you eat a sandwich!" she growled at me.
I froze at her comment, when confrontation happens my fight or flight mode goes haywire and I freeze... my mind shuts down.
"It looks like you ate all the sandwiches for everyone, Karen" Chris said nonchalantly as he walked by.
I used to get that kind of attitude and those kind of nasty comments in my early 20's. Now, people look at me when I buy an ice cream cone like, "are you really sure you want the large?".
I went from being very fit (prepping for a bikini competition, fit) to being very ill in a matter of years. Now, postop brain surgery, I have been struggling with my weight and how I feel about my body.
Post illness self-esteem is a difficult thing to explain.
When you have a chronic illness you loose your job, you loose your health, you loose your independence, you loose your sense of confidence, and you can even loose your feelings surrounding self-worth.
What caused my weight gain?
I don't know if it's because pre-brain surgery I couldn't eat anything so post brain surgery I gorged? Or,
because of the 2nd brain tumor I have (a pituitary tumor) it causes gain weight and cravings of carbs and sugars? Or,
if removing my Pineal Gland has caused a disruption to the endocrine system in my brain causing me to put weight on more easily? Or,
if it's because I am heading into my 30's and I have inevitably caught up to the Carroll genetics I once thought I was impervious to?
Which one has caused me to gain so much weight? To be candid, it's probably a little bit of "all of the above".
But, the point is, my body has changed post illness. I find myself looking in the mirror thinking, "what the hell happened to you, Lasha? You used to be beautiful and fit. Now you are just jiggly."
I can feel my butt jiggle as I walk, my thighs jiggle and rub together, my pants don't go over my thighs, even leggings don't fit - AND THEY ARE STRETCHY! My arms jiggle when I move them and I'm constantly adjusting my boobs to keep them from popping out of my bra.
To say the least, my self confidence is shot. When I look in the mirror even I am turned off. I feel ugly and I can only see everything that is wrong with me.
I know many of us have struggled with our weight and self-esteem post illness. I know many of us can't workout, or produce a limited amount of energy to expend per day, due to our illnesses.
But, I also know that we are so much more than our physical selves. We have more to offer this world than our bodies. As I head into my 30's I feel that this is one of life's greatest lesson's for me. I may not be 110lbs like I used to be, but I need to start looking at myself in a different light.
So what can we do to help boost our self-esteem post illness, you ask?
Let's name a few ideas:
1) Matching or fun underwear: this is a great way to start out your outfit. For some reason there is something fun and ego boosting knowing your drawers match or you are wearing something cute, or funny, under your clothing.
Personally, I have never been with anyone who complained that my bra and panties didn't match, but it's not about that. This isn't for our partners (though it true, it does benefit them if they like that) it is for us - it is about boosting our own self-confidence and self-esteem.
"That's right, there's one hot human under here but you don't know that do you?"
2) When you look in the mirror don't look at yourself as "yourself". Imagine you're seeing your best friend in front of you, wearing what you are wearing, would you tell your friend that their arms are looking fat? Or that their thighs are getting big?
No, I mean - HELL NO - of course you wouldn't! You wouldn't have many friends if that's how you treated them.
So why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we feel it is appropriate to look in the mirror and point out every single negative body trait in ourselves? Why? Because we are conditioned this way in society. We need to recondition ourselves to be our own best friends. We need to control our thoughts and turn our negative neuro-pathways into positive neuro-pathways surrounding how we see ourselves.
"Damn, you're rocking those jeans today!"
3) Keep off the carbohydrates and sugars. Eat fruit if craving sugar. If you have a crazy carb craving try to go with something like, salted popcorn. Believe me, it helps to satisfy the crunch.
Eat lots of vegetables. Vegetables have so many vitamins and nutrients that our bodies love and need. You'll find the more veggies you eat the better you feel physically and mentally.
4) Drink lots of water. Water is essential for optimal health so remember to drink lots. My husband and I bought Blender Bottles from Amazon (link is provided below) so we will be reminded throughout the day to drink water. Mine is bright red so it catches my eye, and when it does I drink from it.
5) Have a shower, shave, get dressed, do your makeup, and do your hair. Get ready for yourself, even if your whole day consists of only sitting on your couch watching TV or crocheting. I hear it, it sounds cheesy but cheesy is what we need - Swiss Cheese cheesy, even!
If you suffer from a chronic illness more than likely you spend your days home, you don't go out, you don't see people, you spend the majority of your days in your pj's, leggings, sweatpants, and baggy shirts.
It takes a lot of energy out of us to do the above things. Being honest, I don't do them every day - some days I can't even get out of bed because I have no energy... I am too tired... too sick.
But, if I can do this, even once or twice a week, on those 1 or 2 days I feel pretty.
Mental health surrounding post illness self-esteem needs to be talked about.We need to remember we are still beautiful people, inside and out, and we won't let our illness steal that from us too!
Remember my fellow warriors, we have so much more to offer this world than how our bodies look. You are all fighters! It takes a lot of courage and strength to wake up every morning and face another day of suffering with a smile on your face - now, add some lip stick and kiss that low self-esteem goodbye.
May life bring you an abundance of energy, confidence, and self-love in the days to come.
Much love to all my friends fighting chronic illnesses,
The PGCT & Mental Health Awareness Campaign
*Blender Bottles Amazon.ca: