As I was thinking about submitting something to the Tibetan Feminist Collective, so many things sped through my mind, and my frivolous head decided on a story that I have written before. I submitted it, but I felt unsettled. I slept through two nights and woke up to write this story. This time my personal story.
Last night, I took off my oversized (m) tee and was in my black camisole. It was hanging on my upper body and had lots of spaces to be filled. This was one of the first times I looked closely at my body where there were no eyes “inspecting” it. It was just my bare eyes and the eyes in the mirror, reflecting back at me. I smiled at it and the face in the mirror brightened up.
I have always been a skinny girl. Always been the one who sat on the legs when the auto rickshaw was too crowded, or the taxi was out of place for one extra person. I never felt ashamed or was shamed. When a friend complained that my bones were drilling into their lap because I did not have meat on my behind, I laughed because I thought it was funny.
But things changed.
I started becoming sick for a different reason and losing weight was part of being sick. I was 94 pounds and soon went down to 74 pounds. My skin was hanging off my bones, literally, and there was no difference between my thighs and calves. My body essentially looked like an unlit matchstick. And I am not exaggerating.
This time around, being called thin was hurtful. The people around me seem to have forgotten that this body of mine today is not a personal choice, nor has anything to do with genetics. It was from being bedridden for four agonizing months. My therapist tells me that, people who have used the word thin, wants to convey their sympathy. But having to use my ears to communicate with people in the hospital, had made my hearing really sensitive, and I, can’t help but catch the judgement and horror mashed into the word thin, when spoken by many.
The word ‘thin’ today rings differently in my ears now. It means I am not progressing with my recovery.
My personal thoughts are no longer cheerful. I was in rehab for three months, and after one month into it, I have learnt to walk without touching my shoulders to my knees. I was hunched at one point. I was using a walker and was finally able to go to the bathroom without assistance. I was feeling victorious.I was feeling positive. I had to relearn standing without assistance, move my legs without bending my knees, hold my head still, use my finger, use my left hand, dressing, and all that makes one adult. So, being able to walk without hunching was a milestone for me.
I didn’t had neither the leisure nor the energy to look at myself in a mirror. And when I did after a while, I patted myself silently for not giving up. I was making progress with my therapies.
Two months into it, and someone told me I looked like a child. The person then headed out and, I guess, had other important things on their mind. But left me with the thought.
I walked into my bathroom, closed the door behind me, and rolled out the full-bodied mirror. The pink, extra small- sized tee was hanging on my body. The cotton pant looked vacant. I lifted my shirt and saw the skeletal me. It was a scary sight. At that moment, I wished I was 94 pounds all over again. And to the 74 pound new me, 94 pound me was healthy.
The past me with 94 pounds was not unhealthy and was never triggered by comments like:
“I am so jealous of your body”
“I am sure you can eat a lot and whatever you want”
I am not saying that you can or should say these things to other people. I am just voicing the point that every kind and type of body has a different story to tell. And do not overlook the fact that I have not used the word affected, but rather, triggered. When one is affected, the person is touched and influenced by an external factor, but when one is triggered, a chain of memories are woken up and causes them to function in a certain way.
I know that my story may not mean anything to you. I only ask that you be careful with your words when you meet someone like me. You might mean well or even nothing at all; but the other person may feel uncomfortable and ashamed, or even worse.
I know that my friends mean well and nothing evil, but because my body is unwell and has been through so much, not feeling ashamed about how I look feels like a part of the recovery without a doubt.
*Pseudonym requested by the author, who wished to publish anonymously. To see more of her work, please see the author’s personal blog here.