You are more than your bloat

I recently had to fill in a consultation on my GP's website due to having prolonged and irregular periods. My periods are problematic at the best of times and have been for a while. The longest I will be on my period for is three weeks, and the shortest is ten days (not fun). At times, it feels as though I spend more time on my period than off it, and then when I am off it, it's as though my body is preparing for it. I complain every day about either feeling bloated or having an achy stomach (it's only ever dull cramps), and for the past week or so, my boobs have been tender, sore, and swollen (apologies for TMI, and no, I am not pregnant).

I wasn't overly anxious about my periods hence taking almost six months to do anything about them - Yet as soon as I was on the phone with a doctor, I became more and more anxious just in case something was wrong and it was my fault for leaving it so long. After being put on hold, my stress and anxiety only got progressively worse - Something that only increased when I finally got through to another doctor who was using words like "concerning" and "examination"!

Fortunately, I've now had my appointment and have been prescribed antibiotics for a breast infection (It's about as fun as it sounds). I'm booked in for blood tests to check that everything is okay and rule out anything serious. The logical part of my brain knows that everything is more than likely to be okay and that I just need to go on a self-healing journey where I drink ginger tea and sync my cycle with the moon (I'm only half-joking). However, after a long evening to stew over the word, "concerned" - I allowed myself some time to have a little cry for crying is my forte, but also - Clinical lingo is scary.

It's made me realise that we're not aware of our vulnerability and fragility until we begin to question it. When it comes to worrying about our health, we understand that the mundane day-to-day things we fret about are seemingly insignificant. Thankfully, this has helped me to see just how much time I waste being frustrated with my body when it becomes bloated and how fearful I am of weight gain (even writing that down feels ridiculous but, it's true).

Physically, I treat my body with so much love and care but, mentally? That's where I falter. I've finally realised that I have some unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours. Now that I've understood how problematic they are - I can change them. Realising this and admitting it to myself makes me feel exposed and vulnerable; writing about it makes me feel even more exposed and vulnerable but, it's a conversation that I must have with myself. I'm thankful that worrying about my health has led me to this epiphany and has helped me to see that I don't always treat myself with love, kindness, and grace (but I want to).

I inspect myself daily - Turning left and right in the mirror, poking and prodding, breathing in and breathing out. I spend so much time checking if any part of my body has either shrunk or grown - If I'm satisfied with what I see, I will continue to twist and turn until I find a flaw that I can scrutinise, magnify and dislike. I don't understand why I'm so hateful towards myself - I would never dream of being so cruel to a stranger yet, it's somehow acceptable to subject myself to this daily harassment and verbal bullying.

When it comes to bloating, I can handle it for or a day or two. I will often make jokes about how full I am and feel liberated in a two-day self-love bliss, able to celebrate my body in its swollen form. However, when my bloating surpasses the two-day mark - I freak out. I begin to worry that it's no longer bloat and is actually - WEIGHT GAIN! Anyone would think the moon was about to crash onto the Earth with the way that I fret and stress over the possibility of gaining weight. Why is weight gain so scary?

Furthermore, it's literally illogical for me to suspect and worry that my stomach has tripled in weight across the span of three days yet, I will stubbornly sit with my worry, harbouring my resentment until my stomach returns to its unbloated state. Until that day arrives, I persist in my self-hatred rituals. The standing in front of a mirror, poking and prodding, the relentless analysing, wondering why it won't shrink. I don't know why I find it so uncomfortable to look at my bloated stomach or why I continue to self-sabotage and internalise my frustration, stress and, anxiety.

There's so much more value within me than in my stomach. There's worth in my happiness - Half of the time, I'm howling with laughter (I often feel like people can hear me from five miles away - "Oh that girl, at it again, does she not know it's 3 am?"). There's value in the knowledge that I acquire from the books I read and the articles I skim. It's in the strength I build in my workouts and across the turbulent times that I've survived. It's in my favourite foods and favourite cities. My worth is within all of these things, carefully sewn and stitched together to create me. That is where my real worth lays and, while my stomach is a part of my body, it's not the centre point for my worth.

So, I don't know who needs to hear this but, YOU ARE MORE THAN YOUR BLOAT, AND WE ALL BLOAT!!! Bloating is not the end of the world. It doesn't make you any less worthy of love or kindness or happiness. Being bloated doesn't mean you should subject yourself to cruel words and sadness because WE ALL BLOAT!

p.s. Writing this felt like therapy


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