Thirteen years ago I was diagnosed with a blood platelet disorder called ITP -- idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. I know, right? What? It means that my body is at war with itself. My immune system attacks itself, perfectly good platelets, and destroys them.
I'm a Snoopy fan and found a tee-shirt at the time with the quote, "It's a brand new day- the sun is shining- and I'm alive! I still have that tee-shirt. It was a tough battle but I survived. I won. Almost. Not every battle is meant to be overcome. Sometimes, your enemy becomes your companion and you have to learn to deal. The two of you will be hanging out together for awhile.
After many ups and downs and periods of remission, my illness was determined to be ‘chronic'. I have good days, I get "better", but it is always there in the shadows. The battle became management instead. I take a lot of medications to keep myself mostly healthy and well. Sometimes, the side effects outweigh the benefits, but I take them anyway. It's good to be alive.
One of the medications is prednisone, a steroid. Its purpose is to suppress your immune system so that your body will chill out, and stop trying to kill itself. The medication has several unpleasant side effects; the most unpleasant for me was the rapid weight gain. Another has been ever so affectionately dubbed the "moon face," which causes your face to become cheeky, cherubic and round like the moon.
The first time I experienced this, I was seven months pregnant and weighed 125 pounds. Two months later, I left the hospital with a beautiful new baby. My after-delivery weight was 165 pounds. In only eight weeks, I didn't recognize my new moon face in the mirror. By my son's first birthday, I had lost all of the weight and was in my first remission.
I vowed to never take prednisone again but when it comes down to choosing life, you just do what you must do. I was able to try other treatments and prednisone was only my last resort. I would experience a 5-15 pound weight gain at times but got into a routine of losing it fairly quickly. Life went on, almost as usual.
Eighteen months ago, that changed. My platelet count plummeted and prednisone was the only medication that worked. My weight climbed steadily with the high daily dose and in 18 months I had gained almost 60 pounds. In my teen years, I had struggled with anorexia. I thought I had put those body issues behind me, but they stared back at me again from my reflection in the mirror.
I'm in remission again and off of that awful medication. Now, begins the journey to the old me. There is just one problem. The old version of me was never really happy with her body, no matter how thin she was or how beautiful her smile.
I've kept this personal struggle private, out of sight from the great big wide world. My close friends and the people that I see in my daily life are fully aware. However, if we've only been in touch on social media for a while, I've kept this from you. What am I afraid of? That the negative words that pass through my mind will pass through yours too. It's not a fair conclusion. I know that. I would be kind to someone other than myself, why can't I trust you to be?
It's a brand new day. I am here. I'm going to trust you to be kind. Most importantly, I'm going to be kind to myself. I hope you will join me on my journey to a new me. This time, as a person that is as happy and smiling on the inside, as she is on the outside. I need to lose the weight for my heart and health. I think it's still important though to acknowledge the vanity. Yes, I want to be able to wear my favorite dresses again. More urgently, I need to learn to love myself, no matter what the number on the scale indicates. I can't allow that to determine my value and self-worth.
"It's a brand new day-the sun is shining-and I'm alive." ~ Snoopy
- Aimee K.