Body Confidence & HS: How I Fell In Love With My Body Even When It Felt Like It Didn’t Love Me Back
As someone with a multitude of chronic illnesses, I often felt at war with my body. HS was the first chronic illness that I was diagnosed with, and as a 13-year-old girl, I was HORRIFIED to see the way it changed my body. Who wants to wear those cute denim short shorts when your inner thighs look like swiss cheese?! Who wants to explain the blood seeping through their gym shirt, or the smell that hung around me? I was left scarred, scared, and feeling completely put out by my body.
No one else I knew was ending up in the hospital time after time or had to carry around a wound care kit, or couldn’t eat certain things for fear of a lesion popping up. For many years I gave up on trying to treat it at all. I felt doomed to be in pain and isolated. I never thought I would end up in a relationship, because how could anybody be attracted to me when half the time I couldn’t even stand to look at myself?
Sharing my insecurities
It wasn’t until I was 19 years old and found an HS support group on Facebook that I connected with other HS warriors, and I couldn’t believe my eyes! Here was a group of people not just surviving but THRIVING. People posted photos of themselves in bikinis, grinning ear to ear, and in wedding dresses, in tank tops, in those short shorts I coveted so much - scars and flares completely visible!
I nervously made my first post. I shared how long I had been suffering and all of my insecurities. It was so cathartic to finally tell people how I had been feeling! After debating about going through with it for three whole days, but finally added a photo of myself in a pair of workout shorts and a sports bra and hit send. Within seconds I had multiple comments telling me that they understood my pain, and I knew they did. People commented and called me beautiful, and unique. They asked about my tattoos and told me they loved my hair color. I cried as I read them. For the first time in my life, I showed my scars and flares and people didn’t recoil in disgust or hurl insults the way I expected them to. One comment stuck out in particular, and I still have a screenshot of it saved it this day.
You don't have to love your body to treat it well
“Your skin is not what makes you beautiful- it's YOU who makes you beautiful. Also, you don’t have to love your body to treat it well. Have you ever tried just being neutral about it instead of striving to love it?”
It sounds like such a simple message, but it resonated with me so much. Here I was, 19 years old, and I had spent the past 6 years absolutely hating myself, and for what?! What did that get me? How had hating my body benefitted me in ANY way?! From that day forward I made a vow to just accept my body as it was. Body Neutrality is a branch of the Body Positivity movement, and I embraced it with both arms. I practiced saying mantras to myself in the mirror every day, like ‘You don’t have to love your body to treat it right.’ ‘ALL bodies are good bodies.’ ‘ALL bodies have flaws.’ ‘I have a body.'
Fighting alongside my body
Over time I realized I wasn’t meant to be fighting my body, I was meant to be fighting ALONGSIDE my body. Neither of us wanted me to have HS, and the lesions were the way my body was trying to heal me. Once I started to see myself as separate from the disease, I was able to start to move from just being okay with my body as it was to liking my body most of the time.
Now, at 28, I ADORE my body. She fights every day to keep me upright and I couldn’t be more thankful for this home I have built myself- scars, lesions, pain, and all.
How has your HS affected your relationships with friends and family?