Self Esteem and MY Chronic Illnesses

Self esteem is something I have wrestled with my entire life. When I was a toddler I was chubby and my dad called me munchkin. From about 7-10 I was thin and didn’t realize how lucky I had it. When I hit puberty between 10-11 I started gaining weight. I wasn’t a kid that just sat on my butt all day either, I liked to ride my bike, roller skate, ice skate, shoot hoops and I walked a mile to middle school and back each way, in addition to PE. When I was in high school I walked to and from there as well until I got a car. I could no longer run because of a heart condition but I did basketball, dancing and weight lifting in PE. I walked with my friends and went swimming in the summer but I was always just a bit heavier than the others.

I started doing the NYC Ballet workout which helped with my flexibility and kept me from a rapid increase in weight. Eventually I moved from jobs where I was in customer service so I stood up and walked all day to desk jobs where I sat most of the day. I still did my ballet though, even though I was a little pudgy around the mid section.

I gained 70 pounds with my first pregnancy, everyone thought I was having twins. My baby was huge but so was I. I let myself eat any and every thing I wanted because morning sickness kicked my butt. I never fully lost that weight but I did lose more than half. With a newborn it was hard for me to get back into working out, our first son woke up up to 20 times a night screaming (which we later found out it was from lack of air because his tonsils and adenoids were too large), it took 18 months for the doctors to listen to me. So sleep deprived I napped when he napped, and didn’t do much else except clean and eventually started to take him on play-dates where moms ate and talked while the babies and then toddlers played.d

When our son was 2, I went back to work, first 3 10 hours days and then 4 so I still had 3 days during the week with my toddler and all that comes along with that. When he went to kindergarten I moved to a more standard work schedule, but I will still sitting all day at work. When things get stressful, I eat, that most certainly did not help. When we were told we couldn’t have anymore kids unless we do IVF I started to focus on my diet and exercise because I have insulin resistance from PCOS. I am aware that muscle weighs more than fat, but I was very confused, elated and shocked when I was down 10 pounds but 3% body fat and became pregnant.

With a high risk pregnancy (not producing progesterone and previous miscarriage) they did not want me to continue to work out. This pregnancy kicked my ass, I tried to hide it at least until the second trimester but my stomach popped out really fast and I was running to the bathroom up to 10 times a shift with morning sickness. I had to tell people so they didn’t think I was bulimic. This time I only gained 15 pounds, but I was bigger to start with and it was a rough pregnancy that involved shots, lots of ultrasounds, lot of contractions starting in my second trimester most likely due to the fact that I had a previous c-section, I am hyper-mobile and there was no muscle tone holding up my growing uterus. I ended up working from home during the last part of my pregnancy because they wanted me on bed rest.

Jump ahead two years and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and had numerous high dose steroid treatments that caused me to gain even more weight. Due to Uhthoff’s phenomenon, exercise was not an option for me because we do not have a indoor pool at our house. This UK article notes – “Increased body temperature could be caused by hot weather, central heating, an illness or fever, as well as from physical exertion. Studies have shown that a very small rise in temperature is enough to block or slow the conduction of a nerve impulse along a nerve that has suffered demyelination from MS damage. This can make your existing symptoms worse, but once your body temperature returns to normal, the symptoms generally improve.” My normal body temp is 96.7-97.5, I know this because I log my temp every day along with other data in case it can be useful in my treatment in the future. It’s also good to know when I go to the ER and they keep taking my temp like their thermometer is wrong.

So what does this have to do with my self esteem and my chronic illness? At some point I have to be okay with who I am. My health and the fact that I cannot work has severely impacted my vision of “self-worth”. I know I have too many squishy parts, and I am trying to fix that, and hopefully part of my pain and MS with keto. I know that I am not the mother or wife or friend that I envisioned I would be in my early 20s. My brain is slower, my pain is higher, and I find my self in rooms or doing something where I become confused of the purpose.

What I do know right now, is that in this time of chaos in the world, economy, politics and so many unknowns that make my skin crawl is that my children need me. I still can support them on my ok days, help figure out a different way to solve a math problem so my 3rd grader gets it, discuss friends, fears and whatever else they may need me for, regardless of my squishy bits and frequent confusion. I have moments, brief as they may be, of clarity and love. I know that my kids love me, even if I don’t look the way I want to or my brain doesn’t always cooperate. So for now, my self esteem is based on the knowledge of knowing that I am needed. Hopefully, my body will look close to the way it was so long ago but it will take time and I have to be okay with that.