One of my most vivid childhood memories is from when I was eight years old, standing naked in front of a mirror and thinking how much I hated my body. I wanted to change everything about it. I hated that I had a round belly, so I started sucking it in in family photos. I hated that I had curly hair, so I started straightening it religiously. I hated how tall I was, so Id always try to be shorter.
That mentality grew stronger in my teens, where it culminated in an eating disorder. I wanted to leave my body behind. I spent a lot of time torturing it and trying to make it look a way it could never look naturally. I felt like my body was a burden that I had to drag and carry around with me. Luckily I was eventually able to recover over the years, but it took a long time and its a journey Im still on.
While dealing with the lingering feelings of hatred and self-doubt from my eating disorder, I got sick. I had extremely bad period cramps, intense pain during intercourse, stomach aches, nausea, cold sweats, fainting and dizziness. In October 2017, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis. I think it took so long because society doesnt validate womens pain. I was told so many times its period pain, its normal that I started to normalize it too.
Oddly enough, getting sick was one of the most body-affirming moments for me. Although I can mitigate the pain and help the symptoms, I have a serious chronic illness that is going to be with me for the rest for my life. Ive realized I can be angry with my body, or I can listen to it. Im no longer looking at food as good or bad and worrying about exercising everyday. Thats been a huge shift for me. Nurturing your body seems simple, but for me it feels like an extreme act of self-love.
Ive let my body put on weight and take up space. Ive started wearing my hair curly, being loud in places where I was silent, and being tall in places where Ive tried to shrink myself. Its time for me to stand up and say, Im not afraid anymore.
See last year’s Body Issue here.