Since becoming ill, I’ve not been able to exercise as much as I’d like to. Exercise was a huge part of my life before and I loved the gym burn and the feel good factor after a hard work out and a lot of sweat! I really enjoyed exercise and thought it could fix most of life’s problems. Yes, I’ve been that person.
When I first started with symptoms yet was still slim and toned, people would say ‘surely doing exercise would cure the majority of your symptoms.’ I knew they meant well and truly believed it. I would simply explain that I’d tried but the pain was too much and it did more harm than good. As I was slim and looked fit and healthy, they just believed me. They were empathetic and offered me help if I ever needed anything.
However, now, being a much heavier girl, people suggest exercise in a completely different tone. I feel more like I’m being told to lose weight than to exercise. If I explain as I did when I was slim that exercise causes a lot of pain and exhaustion and not in the ‘good workout’ kind of way, I don’t receive empathy and offerings of help. Instead, I’m offered alternatives such as yoga, pilates or swimming. Upon explaining that I can’t bend and flex or even lie flat on the floor or a mat and I find swimming painful because my joints struggle with the resistance, I’m met with a facial expression like this…
No matter what I say, people will think I’m making excuses…..because I’m fat.
I’ve had this from doctors, consultants, ex-colleagues, friends and even family. It makes me feel extremely shit about myself. Nobody takes into consideration my lifestyle pre-illness or the fact that I’m riddled with osteoarthritis because of a medical “professional” suggesting exercise instead of properly looking into what was causing my symptoms. I have tried to make myself better with exercise and it has made symptoms worse every.single.time.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do still enjoy exercise and for mental health, I do believe it is extremely important, so I take Gus for walks in the park when I can. The park is my happy place. I go there to escape the hectic world and it does do wonders for my mental wellbeing. However, I’m in pain constantly, I have to make sure I’ve taken adequate pain medication beforehand, I walk the same route every time so I know where benches are for me to take breaks, I know a way of cutting the route short on particularly bad days and I make sure I have minimal activity planned for the rest of the week to rest and recover. I’ve had to do the route in my wheelchair before and often have to use my crutches too. It’s not an easy task but I enjoy the escape. I’m very lucky that I am still able to do that. Many people with chronic illness can’t leave the house or even their bed due to pain.
Going for little walks in the park is nothing like running 10km or taking a spin class but it’s something. I’m not going to lose weight doing it and it won’t do my physical health any good. I do it for me. For the person I used to be. I would love to be in the same health as I was pre-illness but that’s not going to happen until there is a miracle treatment or cure for my multiple problems.
I’ve decided to stop trying to justify myself, my weight, my size or my diet to anyone. I am the only person who knows my body, what it needs and what it doesn’t. This is huge progress for me, having been so body conscious for so long. I’ve now accepted that my waistline, like many other things in my life, have changed dramatically and I have to just go with it.
Acceptance is a difficult quality to achieve. I will always envy my old, 21 year old body, but most women (and men) in the world will. I’m not going to let worrying about my size take up any more precious time. Of course I will have my off days but I’m going to focus on my happiness and my family’s happiness instead of the bad things in life. We all have difficulties but without them, we would never appreciate how amazing the good times are.