Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I Am Lovely

I've debated sharing this for a really long time....but I think it's time.

I love the lyrics in this song-- I feel lovely just the way that I am

In a way, this post is a love letter to myself. A lot of people might think I have the best self-esteem in the world. I mean, I have everything going for me so of course I think I'm great, right? Not always so. I've battled body image issues since high school. At times it has been worse than others. Particularly my last two years of college. I was married and a highly competitive college athlete (which alone spells disaster for body image problems). I got really sick for a while and dropped a ton of weight. Then it went to my head. I loved it. And then since I was working out so much and so hard, the weight stayed off even when I got better and started eating gluten free. Also, I think subconsciously I knew I wasn't as happily married as I thought I was. Obviously I didn't see it at the time. But as time wore on, the view I had of myself became more and more warped. I was freaking out when I started to gain weight my senior year of college (Spring 2012). Then I was diagnosed with cancer. They removed 3 huge tumors and I was in the hospital for 9 days not eating anything because I was so sick. I dropped all that weight again. It was great. Then I found out about my husband's infidelity. Now I am NOT blaming him for my eating disorder or my body image problems. To his credit he tried to do all he could to make me like my body. However, hating myself and my body became the way I dealt with the problems and stress in my life. I was happy in every other way. I was dealing with cancer and treatment and making the most of life. I was working through marital problems best I could. But my body became the thing I took out my stress and anger on. It got to the point that I couldn't think about anything else except how fat my legs were and how skinny every other girl's legs looked. I let it consume me. I tried everything I could to be anorexic (now I say try because 1. I love food 2. I love to run 3. You can't run well on no food and 4. I have very little willpower). I tried everything I could to be bulimic. [Un]Fortunately, I guess I have been blessed with a gag reflex of steel because not a thing in the world could make me throw up (except being in the hospital for 9 days).

I hated myself. Literally. It was terrible. Finally, I broke away from the unhappy situation I was in. I moved home. I was surrounded by people who loved me. I didn't have to deal with anything. I had a broken heart and time on my hands. My family embraced me. I did things with them. I did things with my girlfriends. And most importantly I went to cancer camp. I had friends who loved me more than I've ever had a friend love me. They loved me because of my smile, my happy attitude, my love for life and adventure. And suddenly my body wasn't me. I was me. My character was me. It didn't matter what I looked like or where I came from.
It's still taken time, I still would love to have skinnier legs (and no, no matter what you tell me, your words cannot change my perception of myself). See that's the problem with having a body image disorder, it doesn't matter what people think or say to you. Every person in the world could have told me I was the prettiest, skinniest girl they knew and it wouldn't have changed my view of myself. It's hard because when I felt that way, I wanted everyone to look at me and think "wow, she's so skinny" and yet I wouldn't believe it if someone told me. Or if I did hear it, I would force myself to fulfill that expectation and it would just perpetuate a vicious cycle. I had someone tell me "wow, you've really gained a lot of weight haven't you?" It just about killed me. I knew they meant that I didn't look sick from chemo anymore. But my brain heard those words as "you are a huge fat whale. FAT FAT FAT".

In our world today, hearing about one's body is inevitable. It's nice to hear someone say you have a nice body or nice legs or you are pretty or whatever. Everyone likes those compliments. No one likes "you've put on some weight, you're looking good" no matter how kind the intent is behind it. Well I bet some people do like that actually. I don't. At all.

I don't know exactly what has happened that has helped me love myself. I think a lot of has to do with getting out of a destructive and loveless relationship.(Like I said before, it wasn't his fault. My own problems were just exacerbated by the problems in my life). A lot of it is that I'm not competing as a college athlete in a situation where my body is everything; where you constantly compare yourself to every girl that is faster and come to the conclusion that if you were just a few pounds skinner you'd be able to shave an extra 10 seconds off your mile. A lot of it is that I have learned to be independent again. I'm not relying on someone else to make me happy. You can never rely on someone else to provide for your happiness. Especially in a marriage relationship. You HAVE to be happy all by yourself before you can be happy with someone else. A spouse should add to your happiness. Not create it.

For whatever reason, for the first time in my life, what other people think of me doesn't affect how happy I am. This is why we have trials. This is why you hear cliche phrases like "trials are blessings in disguise", "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and "God gives us trials in order for us to become more like Him". Everyone has to learn to stand on their own feet no matter how many times the storm knocks you down. That's why every person's storm is different. We each have to go through the storm that will teach us the lessons we personally need to learn and that we couldn't learn any other way.

What inspired me to finally admit and talk about my struggle? I looked in my swimsuit drawer today and saw my old bikinis (yep, sorry I am very immodest. Judge away). When I had surgery I thought I would never wear them again. When I had my second surgery I KNEW I would never wear them again. My stomach was hideous. It was lumpy and misshapen with a weirdo belly button and a huge nasty scar. But today I looked at those skimpy pieces of clothing in my drawer and I pulled them out. I tried them on. I looked in the mirror. And I didn't hate what I saw. I didn't see a nasty hideous stomach. I still saw just me. Just little old me who is the same no matter what I'm wearing. (Of course time has smoothed out my weird lumps and bumps and my belly button has gotten a little more normal so that helps :) haha). Just to try and give you an idea of the extent of how much I hated my scar and my stomach, I have to admit that I chewed out my surgeon for making me so ugly. Like literally. I told him, "you did a terrible job on my scar. Why couldn't you have made me less bumpy with a prettier belly button. I need plastic surgery to fix it". He replied "well that wasn't very nice" and immediately I felt like the meanest most horrible person in the world. Because I had been planning that retort for months. And I thought for sure I'd be getting plastic surgery. Can you believe how vain I am?

I never ever thought in a million years I would let people look at my stomach. Remember this first picture from my first surgery? It was a battle scar I was proud of. Now, more than a year later I am ready to show off my second battle scar. Because this scar is proof that I survived something crazy. This picture is proof to myself that I am okay.


So, Self: You are awesome. Your life is great. Your Father in Heaven LOVES you. He's given you so many trials because He knows that you can be great and He wants to help you get there.
I know this is the exact same quote as the cat/lion one, but this picture is so dang adorable!

A few people I've gained inspiration from:
This article: http://www.beautyredefined.net/to-the-mom-who-taught-me-everything-a-body-image-breakthrough/
Lindsey Stirling: this interview in particular. Also watch her "I'm a Mormon" video on the sidebar of the article
Andrea Bolles: she gave a short talk in relief society one night about overcoming an eating disorder and now she's started this cool blog, Creating a Life I Love
And a few others I won't mention because I think I might embarrass people.

Oh holy crap, I just realized.....Today, January 7 is exactly ONE YEAR since my LAST CHEMOTHERAPY treatment!!!! Oh my gosh that is the craziest thing ever!!! HAPPY CHEMOVERSARY TO ME!!!!!!!

Note: I've been very hesitant about sharing this very personal struggle of mine, in part because I don't want people to comment things like "Oh Kalina you are so beautiful and skinny, I wish I could be you" or whatever silly something someone might say. I don't want my family to make comments to me about my body. Any of my family. But I know I'm not the only one who has struggled with body image. I think every girl to some degree deals with it every day. I think admitting this so publicly is a huge step in overcoming it. At times when I am really struggling I want to be able to look back and be able to read this and remind myself that it is possible to not be consumed by the desire to be thin.