I have struggled with my body image for a long time, but have always found it a difficult subject to broach. “I feel like my hips are fat.” isn’t the most glamourous way to start a conversation. For the record, I am self conscious of my thighs, especially my hips. Also from a women’s studies perspective, it is worrisome that talking about negative body image as it may create more negative body image amongst my friends. I never really had a safe way of talking about it with my friends, as it is hard to know who may feel triggered by certain comments. Additionally, I never thought that body image and chronic seizures could have any form of correlation. Through having severe seizures and the feeling of complete loss over my own body has made me feel negatively towards my body in general. Also going from completely active with regards to working out at least 6 times a week to only going for moderate walks every day (if I could muster it) was a complete life style change that I was not sure I was willing to accept. These added on challenges to an already feeling of insecurity towards my body has been a difficult path in these past couple of years, especially because I want to feel at peace with my own body and how I relate to it.
Sometime in late 2012 I was put on Topamax, which is an anti seizure medication. Topamax completely suppressed my appetite, which is a common side effect, although it does not occur in everyone who takes it. Dinner became the most painful meal of the day, as I had to sit at the table with my parents and literally shovel food into my mouth. Eating was no longer enjoyable and started to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable way of socializing with my friends and family. I felt full all the time and no longer had any cravings or desire for some of my favourite foods. I still ate food, but the pounds fell off as they pleased. No one said much, except for the scale screaming my weight up to me past my toes. I began to notice that my face was slimmer and my jaw line seemed to be less cushy. It wasn’t until I went to a program coordinator for the Social Work Program at my university did I realize how evident my change in weight was. Although I wasn’t there to discuss my weight, she had no issue in telling me her thoughts on my appearance. “Wow Sita! You’re so slim! I can’t believe it! You’re just so tiny! You look so great!” I ignored her comments and looked helplessly at my friend who had come to the meeting with me. I pushed past her comments to further discuss the academic matters I was there to see her for.
After the meeting I just felt so confused. Was it good that I was “so thin?” Did everyone secretly think I was fat beforehand and now was just a convenient time to tell me that I was too skinny, yet looking great?My current ‘skinny’ weight also happened to be my stupid self internalized “goal weight”, but I here I was getting a slap across the wrists saying I was “too skinny!!” Due to my insecurity of my body image I should have been elated at losing so much weight, but I started to worry that I would continue to lose more weight. I didn’t have much more to lose! Although I did not have an eating disorder, I felt uncomfortable having lost so much weight. My old weight was healthy! I had more muscle on me and I exercised at least 6 times a week. At this weight I was so sick I couldn’t even go to the gym and my friends and family were constantly watching my back, braced for my next seizure.
Okay let’s fast forward to 2013. Thank gawd I was taken off of the Topamax (which was a relief because it slowed my brain processes in addition to making me lose weight). It was great to have my brain processing at a sharper speed again but I had lost so much muscle due to my sedentary lifestyle. I was also fearful of having a seizure while exercising at the gym, and ultimately that fear came true when I fell off of a stationary bike. After that incident, I felt like I did not belong in the gym anymore. For a period of months I started to feel more and more like a blob, while constantly reminiscing over the days when I could run 5 km in 30 minutes, and when I took Burlesque classes with my friends. (Yes, that’s right! Burlesque!) This feeling of being ‘too soft’ and ‘not muscular enough’ trickled into 2014 until the beginning of May when I did a fitness class with a friend. It was a Barre class which was high intensity yet still close enough to the ground in case anything happened. Also the fact that I had a friend there helped a lot. Today my thighs are killing me but it was so worth it! I also bought a 10 class dance pass from Groupon which was valued at over 100 dollars but I paid only 19 dollars for it! I can’t help but say that it’s a helluva deal! I can’t wait to do some more Zumba, Burlesque, hip hop, and the other styles of dance that are offered. Dancing isn’t super close to the ground like the Barre class was, but I am too excited to back out now! Since I will be working out more, I bought a pair of cross trainers for the dance classes and other aerobics classes in general. I love them! Aren’t they cute?!
I guess I’ve kinda come full circle: supposedly too skinny, to feeling like a blob, and now back on the dance/exercise bandwagon again. It’s amazing how seizures have affected my body image and how I view my body. Even though I was insecure about my body image, it has intensified during my period of illness. It is slowly recuperating, but it just goes to show how illness can affect how we view our own bodies and or our loss of control over them. In this case, epilepsy is highly relevant as epileptics literally have no control over their bodies when they are seizing, which is absolutely terrifying. It is also amazing how the intensity of a person’s seizures can limit them from every day physical activities that people who are not affected with some sort of illness may not think twice about. Remember to count your blessings, and if being fit for you means taking a short walk every day then pat yourself on the frigging back! You deserve it! Yay for being fit again! I can’t wait! Love you all! xox