This is STILL me
This is ME
I’m in my living room with my seven year old and we are singing “this is me” at the top of our lungs and I have never felt like such a fraud.
The song is all about acceptance, loving the skin you are in and not judging a book by its cover.
I absolutely agree but I cannot see past my own reflection.
It’s a funny thing not recognising what is staring at you in the mirror.
Two years ago I went from fun, active, full time (probably verging on workaholic!) friend, wife and mother of two to desperately ill and not being able to move enough to tie my own shoelaces. I lost all feeling in my sensory nerves and had little feeling in my limbs. This happened almost overnight and was an almighty shock for me, my family and my friends. I had to give up my job which was far more than a job to me, it was a major part of my life – I am the founder and was the CEO of mental health charity Cocoon Family Support. This was all due to a neurological condition that caused lesions to form in the protective barrier of my spinal chord, leaving my nerves exposed and able to be damaged.
When I was diagnosed my consultants thought the best course of action would be to fill me up with an insane dose of steroids (500 mg daily) in the hope it would heal the lesions and “normality” would resume. This however didn’t quite go to plan, my body decided it didn’t want to play ball and a few days later when I was taken off the steroids my adrenal gland decided to give up on me and refused to function without the help of their new friend Mr steroid. So I was put back on the lovely drug and the decision was taken to wean me off very slowly. This was September of 2017, I am still weaning off them.
As with every medication you have a list of wonderful side effects. The one however I have struggled with the most is the insane amount of water retention, swelling and weight gain. I got so large so quickly that my body was ravaged with stretch marks so deep they look like rivers as my skin just couldn’t keep up with the growth. It may sound very self conscious and you would think with all of the horrible pain, loss of mobility (I now get around on a mobility scooter and use a walking stick as I still cannot walk for much of a distance) fatigue and strange nerve tingling’s this would be the least of my worries, but looking in the mirror and not recognising your own reflection is very disconcerting and can be deeply upsetting. The face I see in my head when I close my eyes has effectively disappeared.
I am fazing back into the working world and loving my new lease of life…
… I am so much better in so many ways. My lesion has reduced and my mobility is improving daily, I am able to lead a somewhat “normal” life again. I will never be as I was but I am enjoying my new normal, it’s much more relaxed and has allowed me some time to focus on my family, re-prioritise what I want from life and re address my work/life balance. But as I go back to work and reconnect with old colleagues I can see the shock on their faces when they see me for the first time, I don’t blame them, I still sometimes get a shock when I look in the mirror.
I know I should learn to accept the way I look, I am all for body confidence and positivity, I have never been into fad diets and I am lucky that I have a loving husband that has never blinked when my weight has fluctuated in the past.
But I’m standing in my living room singing this song, looking at my daughter who Dances around me without a care in the world, who still sees her mum standing in front of her and It hits me, this is me. Regardless of the water retention, swelling and weight gain I am still me. I am still Lily’s and Rhianna’s mum, I am still Jon’s wife and I am still Jessica. Nothing can take that away, I am proud of who I am, I am proud of what I have achieved and been through and I am proud to be standing here and able to sing with my daughter, I didn’t think that was possible 18 months ago. So yes this is me, my swelling will reduce and I will look like “me” again but quite frankly who gives a shit. I realise this song isn’t just about body acceptance it’s about accepting who you are inside, kindness, courage, warmth and strength shine through. You can be the most beautiful person on the outside but if your soul is hideous nobody will ever see that beauty.
This is the lesson I will take with me, who I am will shine through and I will hold up my head high and be proud of the person I am. This is me.