September 26, 2012

Confessions of an Unhealthy "Skinny" Woman

Every now and then, I'll go on a sociology/feminism/body-image-activism binge. I try not to do it too often, for the sole reason that I then become persnickety for weeks on end. The sheer scale of bigotry in modern North American society just boggles my mind, and discovering yet another way in which I've been socially programmed to participate in that bigotry just pisses me off more.

What can you tell from this picture of me?

The tiny percentage of the internet denizens who happen to read my blog are likely thinking I look pretty good. I'm "relatively" slim. My BMI, that insidious ratio of height and weight, is smack in the middle of "Normal" at 22 on the nose.

What you can't see is my health. My size, my figure, my height-to-weight ratio, are not an indicator of my wellness.

Last week, all the pieces of my ill-health puzzle finally came together, FOURTEEN years after the saga began. That's HALF MY LIFE spent living in constant pain and ill-health. I did a video conference with the doctor who manages health concerns for CMHA Temiskaming, and was it ever a doozy!

My legs hurt, ALL THE TIME. I take forever to fall asleep and don't sleep well because of the pain. Apparently, being calcium-deficient is a major cause of leg pain. So is being diabetic. *LIGHTBULB* I've been slightly insulin-resistant since puberty, and my leg pain started around the same age. I also hate dairy products, and my dislike and stomach-aches are consistent with being lactose intolerant. Oh, and I'm perpetually anemic (since puberty, again), despite the iron supplements I've been taking for 4 months now.

Oh, yeah, don't forget that being in constant pain has a negative impact on one's mental health. Just in case you didn't know that I'm a crazy person riddled with anxiety on a near-daily basis.

So THIS skinny gal is a verified mess of ill health who has been ordered to write a food diary. If I can't increase my calcium and iron intake just from changing my diet, I'll be eating calcium chews and doubling my iron dose. AND still keeping track of my diet to make sure I continue to keep my iron and calcium up and my sugars low.

*EDIT TO ADD* I've eaten healthy meals since childhood. Even when my family was horrendously impoverished, my parents would make sure my brother and I ate well. I cook almost every meal from scratch and have since living on my own 7 years ago. A well-balanced diet for the average person is not necessarily a well-balanced diet for EVERYONE. My deficiencies mean I am not processing those minerals properly and must over-compensate by eating more than the average requirement.

It's going to be months before I see results, but in the meantime, I'll continue to struggle through the pain and fatigue that make it difficult to hold down a job or even get out of bed. What makes the struggle that much harder is the lack of acceptance by the general populace, employer's in particular. No one seems to get that a young, slim, cheerful woman is actually hurting and tired EVERY DAY and is simply practiced at hiding that fact. The first time I let slip the facade of "everything is normal," I get incredulity that I can't work through "a little pain." Here's the thing: MY "normal" is like you having the flu, so if I say I'M IN FUCKING PAIN, you would probably go to the hospital.

Which is why I've been very forthright with my current employer and co-workers about my health challenges. I'm now working at a bingo hall, and I've freely discussed my leg cramps, anxiety, and dietary concerns in conversation. I'm not going to hide the fact that I'm not the average healthy young woman any more. This way, if I sit down in the middle of a shift because my legs are killing me,  everyone knows "Her legs must really hurt, she hardly ever sits down."

We can't all fight all discrimination all the time. There are precious few people who are capable of such, and I'm not one of them. But I CAN fight the discrimination that applies to me, on a case-by-case, day-by-day basis, so yeah, stuff sizism, stuff healthism, stuff ageism, STUFF NORMALISM.

I am me.