This article first appeared on Postmodern Woman and is reprinted with permission
Content Warning: For Discussion of Sexual Assault
This past year has been so exhausting. Not because I was working hard (though I have been), not because I’m still in mourning (which I am), and not because I desperately miss my family and friends (which I do). No, the reason is much more insidious than that. My body is giving me hell right now. I am utterly exhausted, ravenously hungry, and in agonizing pain every day. Thankfully, the pain medicine keeps it down to a level where at least my brain can sort-of-kind-of function.
Another oddly beneficial occurrence is my burst of creativity. These times where I am limited physically, mentally, and emotionally have often led to wonderfully creative bouts in which I complete my stories. It’s always fantastic. Though, this price has become far too high. Between visits for my continuous granuloma mastitis (breast abscess), PCOS, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia I pretty much live at the hospital now. I just can’t live like this any longer. I’ve discussed it with my characters and we’ve come to an understanding.
One of the things I’ve really been thinking about recently is my view of myself. Plenty of people think I’m younger than I am. They assume I’m the epitome of health. They rarely accept the possibility that my past could be as dark as it is, that I could have experienced so much more than they realize, and that health is an illusion for me in all its forms. Yeah, I know better. I know who I really am and what I’ve gone through.
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There may have been a day…wait, no. From the very beginning of my life, I was unhealthy. My mother was stressed during her pregnancy with me. I was born two weeks late. I had a period as a baby (not a real period-I just bled because of an overload of hormones received from her). My skin is uber sensitive; I can’t wear most perfumes, I break out if I wear cheap jewelry (which is a nice way to tell if it’s genuine, at least), and winter brings about annoying outbreaks of eczema. I have allergies out the wazoo when near anything with fur, leaves, and dust (but thankfully I can still devour some shellfish like there’s no tomorrow). My eyesight sucks ass. I have sensitive teeth and my mouth isn’t big enough for my tongue (there are permanent marks in the side of my tongue from my teeth). All of this in addition to my abscess, PCOS, and endometriosis (kind of the whole damn reason I need surgery in the first place, in case you missed it).
The first time I was molested and abused, I was very young. It never seemed to stop. I hadn’t managed one 365-day period without a repeat incident. Literally, not a single year until two years ago! That’s pretty fucked up. I still deal with anxiety. It used to be much worse, but I guess practice makes perfect; I’m able to work through it fairly quickly now. I spent many years in a deep depression (to the point where I attempted suicide) both due to my life circumstances and the effects of my random-ass hormone levels (thanks, PCOS!).
With all of that shit, how could I ever possibly be considered healthy? For me, the entire notion of health is alien. What can it possibly mean for me to be free of any ailments, to have a past that can be shared in polite company, to have nothing to worry about? No, I was not and never will be healthy. But I’ll tell you what I am and can be.
I am whole and not broken. I am strong and not defeated. I am full of love and life and curiosity. I am full of possibilities and wonder and splendor. I am queer and intelligent and perceptive. I am empathetic and compassionate and understanding. I know the difference between my pain and my personality. I am improving every day, learning and growing and sharing. I am full of hope, hope! I had never hoped for anything before. I’m not religious and I find no need for a god, but I am spiritual and I do believe in the energy and intent of everything in this universe. I am a survivor, a warrior, a conqueror.
I can be whatever I want to be. I can finally be fully myself instead of being buried under the pain or hiding behind my fear. I can be the person I always wished would save me, would love me, would care for me. I can be the best of myself. I can turn on the light.
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I recently underwent surgery for the 7th (I’m starting to lose count) time in my life for a condition most people aren’t too familiar with. There were around five or so inches of a gaping hole in my breast that took a month to heal fully. For the first time in my life, I’d have rather gone back to having smaller breasts. They had to cut all the way down to the muscle.
It hurt like a bitch.
But I know I’ll be okay. I heal like a vampire.
And though the 7 scars (months’ worth of new cuts) will be here for maybe a year or so, they’ll fade rather quickly. Just like my C-section scar. It was completely invisible after 2 years. Only my memory lets me know where it once was. The 2 scars from the laparoscopies I’ve had make a cute little-inverted cross in my belly button. You’d never realize they’re scars unless you asked. And if you peer incredibly close at the tip of my left index finger you’ll notice it’s very slightly misshapen with a very faint line (only visible in certain lighting) the only sign that it was nearly severed years ago.
Of all the scars that have ever been on my body, only my tiger stripes remain. The only visible cue that I carried a child within once upon a time. Yet as time goes on they’re still fading. If they heal like the rest of me does, one day they may disappear completely.
The only constant in my life is the agonizing pain. Pain from incurable conditions. Pain from the memories. Pain from healing scars.
My body and my mind have traversed hells’ unimaginable. Everyone’s heard of cancer. Many people have broken bones. Athletes have pushed themselves beyond their limits. Wheelchairs are easy to see.
But when you have hidden illnesses and traumatic memories, who can see them? When you heal like a vampire and the scars left from cutting done either by yourself or a surgeon disappear as if they never existed how do you keep track? When the mind remembers and the skin forgets, how do you account for it?
PCOS, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and now this damned abscess are all very difficult to see. For most of them I must be cut open or peered inside of with the magic of sound waves. The inside of my body has been open to the outside world in the most terrible of ways, ranging from rape to injury to necessary surgery. So many hands, penises, and tools have reached into my most private of parts, pretty much all of them related to my sex. Sometimes I jokingly say I’m allergic to being female.
And yet, I delight in the way my body moves when I dance. It gets carried away and spins in arcs and circles. To feel the wind and particles in the air wrapping around and darting to and fro with my body is tops. The feel of soft, flowing skirts gliding around my legs as my hips twirl awakens me.
I love my body. I marvel at my scars, even if all I have left is the memory. The speed at which my body heals amazes me. It is the physical counterpart to the speed with which my soul has healed. I may get taken down a lot, and by so many different things, but I’ve never stayed down for long. I bounce back. I am resilience incarnate, literally and spiritually. I started smoking a few cigarettes a day at age 19. I stopped at 23 when I found out I was pregnant. Started up again at 24 after my baby was born and I’d breastfed. About 2 months ago I grew tired of the taste and haven’t smoked again since. No muss, no fuss. It was simply time to move on and heal.
My body and mind remember all this even when my skin forgets that I am a warrior. A survivor. That I am so, so alive.
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Michón has been writing since the 7th grade. This happened after reading many, many books and deciding that a lot of them could go very differently. Favorite authors include Robert Heinlein, Anne Rice, Hermann Hesse, Ayn Rand, and William Sleator. Many of Michón’s books involve fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, philosophy, and a good dose of humor. The Allison Dutch series is the first of many books that will be published. Michón enjoys anime, dancing, movies, music, and all sorts of art. Michón usually writes to highlight the unseen in the world, explore a minority point of view, to understand a philosophical problem, and to heal the past. The stories tend to cover dark topics, yet there is ultimately a message of hope, truth, and love overcoming the obstacles. These are stories of growth and learning, usually the hard way.
[Feature Image: photo of a woman with light brown skin and big curly red hair. She is wearing a purple sweater and has one hand on her chest.]