Body acceptance and fat positivity, and how that connects with having an STI and being disabled, are issues I regularly write and talk about. Here’s a secret: I don’t always love my body.
Here’s another “secret,” because people so rarely say this out loud: It’s ok to not always love your body.
So, who the heck am I to try to tell you anything about loving your body? Even if you read my poetry on OTV, you probably still haven’t gotten a picture in your mind of my body “issues.” I am super-light-skinned, multi-racial (Indigenous, Black, & white), multi-gender (I prefer the terms Queer, Two-Spirit, and non-binary), and I have several disabilities of the “invisible” (i.e. not readily apparent or obvious) sort, including chronic pain, auto-immune issues, a difficult STI, and PTSD. I am also fat and have disordered eating patterns.
After writing the above, I needed to take my dog outside, where I proceeded to permanently alter my body. Just like that, in an instant, my body has changed again. And this is one of those times I really hate it.
It’s not a very funny or inspiring story. It was dark and my dog’s favorite neighbor had stepped outside for a smoke. We crossed the street to say hello and ended up walking up the handful of steps to the porch for a chat. When my neighbor went inside, I made my way down the stairs to go home. Halfway down, I fell. Trying to get up, I realized something was not right. Eventually I gave up on getting any of the help I was calling out for. I staggered up, lumbered down the rest of the steps, limped barefoot through the last remaining snow, slowly made it up my own steps and into the house.
By the time I sat down in a chair and called my mom, I could barely speak through the pain but managed to gasp out “broke… ankle… I think.” The rest of the evening was a comedy of errors trying to receive urgent medical treatment on a weekend late night in an urban environment, punctuated with excruciating pain. Eventually it was confirmed: two broken bones, one on each side of the ankle, and a misaligned major bone that may have actually been the cause of the fall.
See, amongst my chronic pain and PTSD-related symptoms is a frequent falling habit. This particular ankle has been severely sprained more times than I can count. I even have a broken toe on that foot, which I re-break about once a year, and that makes it difficult to find comfortable shoes that fit right. Turns out, repeated injuries like that can lead to weak ligaments and even misaligned or displaced bones. When you frequently sprain your ankle you don’t always get x-rays done, so signs of potential problems can be missed. Even if seen, there isn’t really anything that can be done about some of these problems until something extreme happens. This was my something extreme.
So here I am, stuck in the house, missing school, in a lousy splint. I live alone with my cat and dog, so I’ve had to rely on others to take the dog out, get me something to eat, and wash the dishes. It takes me about 20 minutes to pull myself out of my chair, crutch the 20 feet to the bathroom to use it and crutch back to my chair, by which time I am so overheated I am nauseated and parched. Some of my helpers understand my dog’s cues and are quick to give her attention or take her outside; others get busy doing their own thing and have to be asked repeatedly to handle these little tasks I once took for granted.
I feel like my body hates me, and I certainly don’t love it right now.
Accepting that my body can’t do everything wasn’t that difficult for me. Accepting that it can’t do things it used to do has been a little tough. New lovers require negotiation around the limits of my flexibility, being extra sensitive to the slightest touch, and illnesses that last far longer than they are used to that make me unavailable to keep dates for weeks on end. With each new illness or injury I add a few more “can’t do that anymore” items to the list. I suspect this injury will be in the “can’t wear platform shoes anymore” and “can’t leave the cane at home ever again” range – both seemingly minor concerns but sad changes nonetheless.
Here’s a secret I had already learned before this latest mishap: Sometimes you feel like your body is betraying you, and it’s ok to feel that way. You will not ever have 100% body acceptance and approve of everything your body does or refuses to do. That’s not really what body love is about anyway. Body love and acceptance is about knowing you are a worthy and whole human being no matter what your body type, disability or struggle might be. You are more than your body, and your body is also beautiful and perfect as it is. You don’t need to be fixed, corrected, or forced to be something you don’t want to be or to conform to anyone else’s expectations. Some days you will be disappointed about your body changes or how your life is impacted by injury or illness. Some days you will wish for a fix or do-over. You have a right to learn to accept your body your own way, in your own time.
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All images created or captured by the author.