This post talks about body image issues. If you are sensitive to this topic, please do not continue to read. This is not meant to be harmful but rather to share my experience with body image & epilepsy.
Body Image issues in teen girls is a pretty common topic. Today, with the body positivity movement, it's easy to get lost in it all. Knowing that “all bodies are beautiful,” but then having stores that only sell "one size fits all" still exists and plummets your confidence to an all-time low because “one size fits all” DOES NOT fit all. Even though we are trying to erase a beauty standard, it still happens to be there. Epilepsy & body image is something not commonly talked about. Maybe it's because my experience is rare, or because it's a “taboo” topic. Today, I’m breaking my silence.
Growing up, I was always the tallest in my class & on the chunkier size. I was told by a friend in the second grade to “loose a few pounds” after I ate lunch. I had the perception since the age of 8 that I was “fat.”Growing up, all my friends were short and slim, but not me. I didn't fit the mold. I came from a very supportive family, and they continued to help me view myself in a positive light. Unfortunately, negative words tend to stick a bit more.
When I was 13, my family was at a crossroads. Yet again, another medication had failed me. We decided to try a new one, with more “permanent” side effects (and by permanent I mean emotionally). We decided to go a more creative route. So, after lots of conversations about body image and how to love yourself no matter what weight you are, we agreed to use a weight loss pill… the SIDE EFFECT was it helped people with epilepsy.
A month later, I was 13 and had already lost 15 pounds. After a few months, I started looking like a skeleton. I was so tiny my hair started to look big on my head. I had lost my appetite & when I would eat, it wasn’t much.
I know what you’re thinking, how does all of this tie together?
If I was never put on epilepsy medication, I probably wouldn’t have looked at myself as negatively as I did. Now, after gaining healthy weight back, I look at it as awful. Because, at one point, I was smaller. I used to walk into stores and get the smallest sizes. Walking in and getting a small was almost rewarding because, for ONCE, I felt like I had finally fit in. It was the one thing that set me apart. I wasn't getting pulled out for SPED in front of all my friends, I wasn't getting called stupid for once, and I didn't have to be good at losing weight because it was a cheat sheet. Now, when I go shopping I get mid-sizes. Most recently, I went to the doctor to be called “overweight”. But when I was on my epilepsy medication, there are no notes in my chart calling me underweight.
In this battle of womanhood, I truly never feel enough. “You're too skinny”, “you're too fat”, “you're so pretty”, “you're so ugly,” “Aren't you too young to be handling milo&me?”, “amazing job handling milo&me!” “you're only 18?”, “you don't know what you're preaching!”, “amazing job preaching epilepsy awareness!”. All these things race through my mind from time to time. Because the truth is, when you're a teenage girl spreading awareness over a topic not many know about, you tend to intimidate many people. This causes many people to question me; I even have people who try to take advantage of what Milo&Me is. And even though this isn't exactly “body image” it plays with your mind, just the same. Because, at the end of the day, it's the same. The only person who makes me feel better or worse when I look in the mirror is myself. It's my mind. It's a constant mind game.
So, here we are again. My family is still picking up my pieces, as they did ten years ago when I told them, “I need to lose weight.” Every time I feel broken or imperfect, they are here to remind me I was made in the most perfect image of all. And if I wanted to change the way I look, to remember to be gentle with myself.
It's been almost 5 years since I was on said epilepsy medication. I’m still healing. I’m learning how to care for my body and nourish it. Understanding that I can't just eat a milkshake and chocolate chip pancakes and NOT gain a few pounds! Knowing that bloating is normal and having a balanced meal of both veggies & fun foods. Going on runs every day or every other day. Being conscious that certain months will be harder than others. Understanding that the scale shouldn’t be used every day and that a number does NOT dictate my happiness whatsoever. I am more than a number. And if I was a number, I’d be a 10 ;).
I’d be lying if I said this journey was easy. I’m still gradually learning to deal with the fact that losing weight on a pill when you're 13 and already slim isn't normal. So, for anyone else who has had the same experience as me- it gets better. I promise. You are beautiful before medication, during, and after.
This conversation wasn’t meant to hurt anyone's feelings or trigger any unwanted emotions. If this does, I am truly sorry. This is a way for me to share my experience.