I spent a long time mulling over this image. I debated on posting it and showing the world such a close view of my legs. Anyone who knows me knows how much I dislike that part of my body. For many reasons. From shape and muscular structure, to girth, fat, and how scarred they are. It began from when I was a teenager. I had body dysmorphia even then, although I didn’t know it had a name. I only knew I hated the sight of my (tree trunk) legs and that if I could help it, no one would ever EVER see them.
That continued for many years until I was 26. I had a spurt of post-natal body love and participated in a beauty pageant which necessitated that I parade up and down the runway in a bikini (I know I know but it was an interesting experience). After that concluded, I retreated back into my shell. More than 1.5 decades were to pass before I, at the age of 40, felt they were sufficiently toned from working out that I could “bare” (and bear) them in capris. Big step for me. Until 2 years later, in 2014, when I began a 3-year long period of unexplained rash and hives. Peppered with bouts of Angioedema. All of which required local steroid shots to treat, at times numbering over 80 in a single sitting. Shots which left, in their wake, so many scars that my legs were beginning to look a lot like the rough, speckled surface of Mars.
I was devastated.
Now, it’s been 3 years, and whilst I still do need the occasional localised steroid shot, frequency has dwindled from every other day to 4, 5 times a year. And for that I am grateful.
But it does not take away from how my legs look. Rather, my right leg. Although it’s still scarred, my left has been spared for the most part. The rash (caused by Systemic Lupus Erythematosus or SLE, I was diagnosed with it in May 2015) seemed to be particularly fond of the right shin. Oh, and there are also the scars/keloids from (a) a motorcycle accident when I was a teenager as well as (b) incision scars on my kneecap from a micro-fracture surgery in October 2014.
Yes, I went back to wearing pants and skirts and dresses. Long ones. And at the gym, pulling my capri workout pants as low as they would possibly go to hide the scars. Hide. Hide. Hide.
Which is why this photo here is a big step for me. And although some poses have me covering my right with my left, you’ll see in some other shots, a full-tilt frontal display of the scarred shin. This isn’t the first time I’ve shown them. A while back, in February, I wore a miniskirt which, to be perfectly honest, shared the shit out of me. And after I saw the photos, I swore I’d never ever do it again. My hatred for my legs was renewed with a vengeance.
True. I didn’t know how else to style this gorgeous ruffled denim jacket, and it IS a sponsored item of clothing so I have an obligation and responsibility to showcase it in the best possible light. At the same time, I look at these photos and I still don’t like what I see BUT I think I hate what I see a little less. Perhaps by 5%. I don’t know. It’s not something easily quantified. And it could very well change tomorrow, the next 10 minutes, depending on how quickly I find myself in an unflattering position. But as of right this very moment, I am 5% ok with how my legs look.
I spent the last half hour trying to come up with a suitable closing para to this and my mind is blank. I suppose it’s because this isn’t the sort of issue one writes about and then makes a concluding statement on what’s next. It’s one of those things that oscillate from here to there and back again, depending on how our day has progressed, isn’t it?
One thing though. I’m not writing this because I feel sorry for myself. Or want validation because I know it has to all come from within me to be lasting. I’m writing this because body dysmorphia is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time, and I’m continuing to struggle with it on an hourly basis.
I look in the mirror and I still see an elephant. I still see a woman who went from tiny to massive, and who, as a result thereof, had to use a cane to walk for the most part of 2015/2016. Who went on to become a recluse. Not leaving the house for almost two years. Who wouldn’t let anyone outside of the family see her, making up excuses to not attend important school events and activities, missing birthday celebrations. Who still purchases XL clothes because that’s how she sees herself.
I know it’s in my head.
And I want it out of my head.
One hour I’ll feel that I’ve made major progress, building muscle, shedding fat and toning up. And the next? I’ll be hating the crease near my armpit or cursing that fold under my chin which stubbornly refuses to go away despite having lost 80lbs. Even now, when I sit on the couch, I cover my midriff with a blanket because, well, it looks like the midriff of a bloated whale. To me.
I’m writing this because I hope that it will help me. I think it will. And maybe if others feel the same way, it could be of some use to them too. But mainly I’m writing this for me. I’m not even completely certain I’ll post this. I share a lot of myself, it’s true, but this is very personal even for me. Nobody likes to admit to having insecurities, or that something’s wrong. Particularly when it’s something wrong in our minds. The world at large tends to respond far more favourably to physical ailment than it does to mental and emotional.
If you’re reading this, then it means that for better or for worse, I clicked on the Publish Now button. And that I truly do believe writing is my therapy. What’s yours?
p/s my photos are by Sofia Touassa
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