The Unusual New Year's Resolution I Am Making for My Health

winter landscape with a sunset
winter landscape with a sunset

I have never really been one to make resolutions come the new year and actually stick to them for long. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I even attempted such a task. I am more about setting intentions and writing down what I need to do to reach my goals every so often, where I can see them visually one step at a time. There are more basic resolutions I know I have to do more of already, such as taking action to get myself into the indoor pool to swim now that it is below zero here in the midwest. Who wants to swim and get wet when it’s cold out? Sigh. The struggle is real. It has to be done though.

Now there are more deeper “resolutions’’ however that aren’t as easy to accomplish. Ones that your inner being really has to work at on a spiritual, emotional and mental level. I am setting out on new terrain this coming year and it may sound a bit unusual or make some fellow spoonies cringe at the thought of doing it themselves, but I think it can help my self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love and acceptance of my body in the here and now.

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Each month of the coming year I plan on taking a photograph in outfits that expose areas of my body that have been damaged from my condition. Parts of me I hide and don’t feel comfortable exposing all too often, especially in social settings. Those who know me well know I tend to “cover up” my flaws with sweaters that hide my hands, elbow or knee – areas rheumatoid arthritis decided to target. I also wear wrist, thumb and finger splints when I drive but immediately take them off once I’ve reached my destination or cover it up with my sweater, jacket, coat or gloves. I do this because I hate when people stare and question.

Shopping for clothes becomes an all-out research project too. Which dress will cover this area of my body at the wedding I’m attending? Which shawl or purse can hide the fact my elbow doesn’t extend straight? If I’m out at a social gathering and a cute guy is talking to me, no way will I dare show off parts of me that would probably send him running the other way. After all, would a guy my age really want to be with someone who has my physical baggage?

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These are some of the thoughts that have crossed my mind on my darkest days over the years. I know better than to stay here within these thoughts but I am human and sometimes I get the best of me. I know I am worthy of love and whatever guy goes off running isn’t mature enough or worth it anyways. I know what clothes I wear isn’t the end of the world either, as long as I’m present for the special events in my life and living in the moment, that’s all that matters.

I just want freedom. Freedom to wear what I truly want, move my body freely and be comfortable in my own skin. Why should I have to conform to certain constraints because of my condition? It sucks. Trust me, I have too many black stretch and yoga pants to hand out to each of my neighbors at a garage sale if needed. I love my yoga pants though, always did even before illness. It’s more of the fact that I just want to feel like every other young woman my age does and I’ve struggled with this.

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To some people it’s easy to say just flaunt what you got. I wish I could that easily. It saddens me to look in the mirror and see what my illness has done to my once physically abled body. Sometimes I can’t even look at the mirror or pictures taken of me because it hurts deep within my soul. It’s hard because I didn’t grow up knowing illness for my body, this wasn’t something that was always a part of me, to say I know no other way to be or live. I’m all for working on improving my confidence by placing attention on the things I like about myself and dressing comfortably to accommodate to my condition. These two things are what I have focused too much on that I have neglected other parts of me that are screaming to be seen too.

Those of us with chronic illness see things from a different perspective, at least I do, which is what led me to think of my unusual resolution. I feel embarrassed and ashamed of the changes in my body. Maybe I am still in the grief and denial stages, but I know I’ve grown too much to be there. With illness I don’t think we ever really necessarily leave these stages, it’s more of an ebb and flow, like the ocean. The waves come and go, taking whatever we experienced back out to be replenished and renewed. The trauma, pain and grief still is burrowed inside us. Just like our first broken heart, when they say the first cut is the deepest, is true. Our life experiences leave imprints on us; we just become numb to the fact after years of accommodating to life.

When I was diagnosed they told me rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, with periods of ups and downs. Remission where no disease activity is present is also possible they said. One thing they didn’t mention is a cure. A cure to stop the progression and put my body miraculously back into the exact untouched state it was before Hurricane Rheumatoid Arthritis decided to hit my body of land.

The joint damage is there in some areas and although it can be fixed by surgery, that in and of itself creates a scar. So I have battle wounds on all fronts here that I am setting out to heal. It’s about working on my confidence and loving the body I got instead. We all have flaws we don’t like about ourselves, some more superficial than others, but it’s learning to accept what we can’t change. If we can change it, we have to accept that it won’t be an overnight miracle, but who knows? Anything is possible, right? I am learning to love myself in the process of change and hopefully I can come out more confident this new year and each future one to come.

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Photo via sborisov on Getty Images

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