It was my 32nd Birthday recently. Birthdays are a really good time to take stock. Every birthday from 16 to 30 I cried. Not continuously, but certainly for enough of the day that it annoyed whoever I was with.
At 16 I remember being frustrated that I felt so tired, that I couldn’t concentrate and that I didn’t look like the pretty, womanly girls I went to school with. Although I didn’t know it at the time it was the beginning of a chronic illness.
By 17 I had lost so much weight I could see every bone in my body, my family and school suspected anorexia but I knew I was eating and couldn’t understand why my body was shrinking. At 19 I was hospitalised, the first year of university had sapped my energy reserves and the rounds of CT Scans, MRIs, ECGs and poking about began. The doctors started to rule out tumours, benign cysts, heart defects, then when the symptoms (primarily black outs and seizures) didn’t improve they would discharge me only for the GP to refer me back to the same specialists as an outpatient.
In desperation we tried alternative medicine, although the practitioners listened more and were sympathetic they too were unable to help. I moved abroad and had medical treatment with world leading doctors. Finally, still blacking out every few days, I was referred to a consultant who could help. At 30, after years of fighting my body, I was given treatment that worked.
When I went six weeks without a black out I began to believe that my life could be more than an endless round of medical procedures. I wouldn’t have to keep taking casual shift jobs to avoid being sacked when I blacked out (yes I know it’s legal, yes it still happens). Maybe I’d even get a boyfriend who wouldn’t dump me if I stayed over, passed out and frothed at the mouth a bit (all without the help of alcohol!).
The past two years have been years where possibilities opened up for me, but I feel like I’m ten years behind my peers. Graduating, getting my first job, beginning a stable relationship…it like a race against time to fit everything in.
My illness meant that I couldn’t really exercise. As I’ve recovered I’ve gained weight on my previously skinny frame. It’s all flab and no muscle which takes me back to the reason I started this blog and my fitness journey.
At 32, after weeks of exercise and big rethinks about what I want from life I feel happier than I’ve ever been. What’s more I’ve stopped resenting my body for not working and started to celebrate all the things it has been able to do. It has legs that walk and run, arms that can lift weights and hug my loved ones and it’s the only body I’m ever going to get. I didn’t cry this birthday, I smiled.