On Loving a Body with Chronic Illness

Body positivity is a difficult thing for pretty much everyone I’ve ever met. None of us are perfect, and we’re reminded of that a lot. We try a lot of things to feel positive about our bodies, from pushing them to the limit with exercise to thinking about all the bodies that we say are “worse” than ours.

I know a few people who respect and care for their bodies in a healthy way, but it’s pretty rare. We hide and over-correct and ignore the issue entirely and fake confidence thinking it’ll come eventually. At least those are some of the strategies I’ve tried so far.

And then there’s diabetes. If you find a way to love your body in the circumstances we all face, you’ve done something pretty incredible. But if your body fails you in this huge, permanent, constantly irritating way, it’s so so hard to forgive it.

I feel angry at my body for the weakness of chronic illness a lot. I think it’s especially hard because diabetes has sort of a moral failure stigma attached to it. People believe that if you eat too much cake, you get diabetes. You couldn’t control yourself like the rest of us, so you gave yourself a disease that you probably won’t be able to control either.

Of course, that’s not how it works. People do not eat cake and give themselves ANY type of diabetes. Type 1 doesn’t even have any correlation to lifestyle choices. But I still feel like this disease and the difficulty of its management are seen as character flaws by a lot of people. It’s pretty hurtful to have healthcare providers insist that every problem with management is caused by you when diabetes is so complex and sometimes so random.

And I wouldn’t have to deal with any of this if my body had just kept it together. If my pancreas would do its job, none of this would be my problem. So it’s hard to love a body that has failed in keeping me healthy AND brought the emotional stress that comes with diabetes.

So I tried hating it for a while. I thought it was okay to be mad at a body for failing me in ways that it wasn’t okay to be mad at a healthy body. Maybe that was part of my acceptance process, but you can’t stay there. This body is mine, and I have to make peace with it.

So I did some soul searching, and I think I know how to love my body now. It can’t power itself without my help, which is infuriating. But it’s the only way I get to be with the people I love.

My body keeps me here in a world where I hope I have a lot to do. It lets me cuddle with my husband and hug my friends and see movies and go to beaches and restaurants and malls and art museums. My body, even in its broken state, is what lets me be a part of all the families I’m lucky enough to call mine.

So sometimes when I’m tempted to hate my body, I look at my feet on the floor or hold my husband’s hand and say thanks to it for doing its best. It’s not perfect, but thanks to a lot of hard work from a lot of people, it’s keeping me here.

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