Stretch Marks & Self Love

On Sunday, I will take my last dose of prednisone.

Let me just say that again.

On Sunday, a month shy of two years from when I started taking it, I will take my last dose of the steroid that has been equal parts miracle and disaster.

Over the last two years, I’ve suffered almost all of the possible temporary side effects — the mood swings, the weight gain, the acne, the “moon face,” the hunger, the joint pain, the exhaustion, the insomnia, the unexplained crying. I’ve lost my temper, been hurt suddenly with no reason, couldn’t get out of bed because my body didn’t feel like my own, and had to apologize for crying because sometimes it was the only thing that made sense. Those are things I can say sorry for. Those are things that happened and I don’t have to see again.

But there are other things that I can’t apologize for.

Even if I have no pictures of my puffy face or 50 pound weight gain, even if I want to forget I was ever on this drug, my body won’t let me forget. There are ugly red marks across my stomach, which at first I joked made it look like I’d been attacked by a bear. These are worse than your standard stretch marks… These are large, ugly, bright red marks that look like someone tried to claw their way into my body. And they don’t fade easily, not even after you’ve dropped 25 pounds.

For women who have had children, stretch marks might be a reminder that, for awhile, your body was not your own.

For me, my steroid related stretch marks are a reminder that I had no control over my body for two years.

I can’t apologize to myself every time I take my shirt off. It doesn’t make sense to say sorry to anyone else for being sick without cause, being on drugs to make me better, to whimper an apology because my body is a little damaged. It’s not the ideal, sure. But what body is?

In 2014, my therapist told me to stop trying to control everything and accept that I can’t change everything right now. To cope, I had to focus on what little things I could change — cleaning my apartment, spending time with people I love, going on walks when my body felt up to it — and just let the getting better happen, even if it meant that my body would change. In essence, Stephanie, go through puberty again. Once you’re on the other side, you’ll know more about the body you’re left with.

So here I am.

And here is this body.

It has ugly marks on it.

So what?

If I make a list of “The Worst Things Steroids Did To Me,” it looks like this:

  1. Stretch marks
  2. Joint pain, especially in my knees
  3. I keep having to reintroduce myself with “No, we met last year, my face just looked really puffy…”

I’ll take those problems over a stroke.

(If you could all say a silent prayer that I never end up on steroids again, that would be fantastic)

I didn’t reach this place of acceptance on my own. I had to read a lot of blogs, listen to some books, and exercise a lot of self love. I feel a lot of pressure to lose weight, to get back to who I was (which wasn’t all that small to begin with), but it’s all pressure I’m putting on myself. No one else cares if I lose another 25 pounds. No one else cares if I fit in a size X pants.

No one cares.

And if they do care, that says more about them.

Aside from my carotid artery problem, I’m alarmingly healthy. I have good blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar. You name it and it’s okay. (Apparently my iron could be higher, but I think that’s why I started eating hamburger.)

So why not accept my body as it is? Why not wake up loving myself and enjoying the fact that I’m actually alive to see today? Why not enjoy the fact that my face looks like my face again? Why not enjoy a selfie every once in awhile? Why. The. Fuck. Not?

Why not love myself?

[If you can answer that for me, I’ll pretend to hear you out, but really I’ll be giving 0 fucks about your opinion]