Today I looked at myself in the mirror and liked what I saw. Not on a conceited tip like “damn I look good” but I don’t remember the last time that I’ve seen my reflection and felt positive vibes. Most of the time I see all the things that I dislike or that didn’t use to be. It’s a real hit to the self esteem. Having myasthenia gravis has without a doubt challenged me in so many ways, more ways than I thought possible. The transformation physically was severe but the mental and emotional changes were even more dramatic.
How It Began
I think my disdain for my appearance and my drop in self esteem started with my MG symptoms. Let’s be real here. Having the double vision and a droopy eyelid are certainly NOT self esteem boosters by any stretch of the imagination. In a society where we are ever so quickly and harshly judged on our appearance, I became my toughest critic. Torn between showing off my droopy lid, having double vision and getting stared at or getting stared at for wearing an eyepatch which hid the droopy lid and helped me see better. The clear winner was wearing the eyepatch. As if looking like a Pirates of the Caribbean reject is much better..
Thanks to my good friend prednisone, I was gaining weight at an exponentially fast rate, bringing stretch marks on my legs as my skin couldn’t stretch fast enough to keep up with the weight gain. My face became more round than oval, cheekbones disappeared and my “good” skin became laden with horrible acne.
Within months of being diagnosed I could barely look at myself. Not just because the double vision made it hard to see, but I didn’t want to see myself that way. I couldn’t recognize that woman. Who was she? I certainly didn’t know.
Mentally and emotionally I was going deeper into a dark place. Self esteem morphed into self loathing and despair. More often than not, if I wasn’t at work I was home in the dark. Fear and anger (mostly anger) consumed me. I hated my body for failing me; hated all the medications I had to take to make it through the day, hated the “understanding” folks who really had no clue what I was going through. I jumped off the cliff into a pit of despair.
At my lowest, I remember questioning why God would do this to me. Clearly I have been such a horrible person that I have to pay the price for my sins. It was a tough time for me. I didn’t have family, friends or faith to provide me solace. Or at least it didn’t feel like it. In reality, I was choosing to be alone, choosing to be angry, choosing to focus on the negative which only magnified my feelings.
It’s taken (a lot) time but now I see things a little differently. It’s easy for someone who isn’t going through anything to say “it could be worse”. But when you’re going through the sh*tstorm, that’s not what you want to hear. Take it from someone who has weathered the storm… IT COULD ALWAYS BE WORSE!!!
I’ve found that a change in my perspective has jettisoned me into a new level of acceptance. That cliche phrase really does capture the essence of what this post is about. I’m finally at peace with having myasthenia gravis. While I would have gladly lived my entire life without it, it doesn’t define me. It’s just apart of me, like my eczema. I’m grateful. For the past few months, I’ve been focusing on gratitude to shift my focus from everything that’s going wrong to everything that’s going right. Everyday I write at least three things that I’m grateful for even if it’s just “another day alive”. Even when the cards are stacked against me, there is something that went in my favor that day.
So today I looked in the mirror and my heart smiled. And it was not because my physical appearance is perfect by any means. The effects of myasthenia and my medications still linger. I see myself differently because I’m proud of who I am today. I see someone who has been through some things and it may have bent me, but it didn’t break me. I’m still here. My self-esteem is peaking it’s way back up.
I’ve heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The fact that I have been able to find peace in the chaos and appreciation for tragedy. That’s something crazy beautiful to me.