I’ve been on and off prednisone for about two years now. It has taken me from feeling sexy and slim and hawt to feeling puffy and moon-faced and anything but hawt.
It has saved my life.
But, like many women before me, I have been struggling greatly with the puffy and, as my kids say, ‘squishy’ frame these steroids have given me.
In fact, struggling is probably the really polite way of saying I FUCKING HATE MY PUFFY FACE AND MY PUFFY BODY BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS STARING AT ME AND JUDGING ME AND IT MAKES ME FEEL UGLY.
I’m a smart, educated woman who knows better. I KNOW damn well that beauty is within and that we live in a society so obsessed with weight and glamor and looking good that it creeps into the back of my otherwise sane mind and pushes me to think insane thoughts.
While fighting Lupus I have turned down television gigs for fear my puffy face and body would detract from my political message.
While fighting Lupus I have turned down events (when healthy and able) because of my puffy face and body for fear those meeting me for the first time would think this is how I normally look and would judge me on my appearance.
…and I know better.
Today, actress and activist Ashley Judd destroyed the media for daring to speak about her recent puffy face…which turns out is puffy for reasons similar to mine- she was sick for more than a month and had to endure several rounds of steroids:
Consequently, I choose to address it because the conversation was pointedly nasty, gendered, and misogynistic and embodies what all girls and women in our culture, to a greater or lesser degree, endure every day, in ways both outrageous and subtle. The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.
She goes on to write about how the media went after her puffy look, and has gone after her ‘flawless’ look and then claimed she had work done. Judd, however, steals my heart and makes me sit up straight with this reminder:
When I have gained weight, going from my usual size two/four to a six/eight after a lazy six months of not exercising, and that weight gain shows in my face and arms, I am a “cow” and a “pig” and I “better watch out” because my husband “is looking for his second wife.” (Did you catch how this one engenders competition and fear between women? How it also suggests that my husband values me based only on my physical appearance? Classic sexism. We won’t even address how extraordinary it is that a size eight would be heckled as “fat.”)
Not only does the patriarchy (which she also discusses) teach us to only value our beauty, but in times where we dare step outside their idea of beauty, we are to fear that our husbands or partners will no longer love us. We are to fear they will leave us. We are to fear our friends will mock us. We are to fear the world will talk about us. We are to fear…we are to fear…we are to fear…
I have faced death in the face and won. I have nearly lost EVERYTHING and here I sit with a roof over my head, two amazing children, and a husband who has stood by my side and felt every IV, every test result, and every pound as the ‘puffy’ moved into our lives.
It’s time to take my life back. And to give back the lives of those around me who have done nothing but sacrificed so I can still be here. If that means there is more of me to love in an unconventional beauty way, then so be it. Because I’m done letting Lupus rule my life.
I am reclaiming my independence.
It never even occurred to me that this message of what is beautiful had been continuously bombarded into the depths of my brain over and over and over and over again that I have been mostly miserable with my chronic illness not because of the constant pain or the horrible surgeries or the possibility of death…but because I was made to believe I lost what was most valued in this culture.
What a horribly sad and pathetic culture to have done this to me since I was a small girl. What a horribly sad and pathetic woman I am to have believed it for too many years.
Yes, I take much of the blame. I am a strong woman. I am a feminist and would tell everyone I know who I truly find beautiful it is because of their heart and mind, never once thinking of their physical features. Yet when it comes to myself, it crept in slowly. So slowly I didn’t realize it had taken over my head until just recently.
I’m ashamed I let it get this far. I am ashamed I let the hump on my neck (a side effect of prednisone) stop me from wearing my hair up. I’m ashamed I avoided buying new clothes, staying in pj pants for doctor’s appointments, because I couldn’t handle going into a plus sized store.
But none of that matters any longer. I’m taking back the old, independent, strong woman who recently has only been alive inside my mind. She doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about her. She will go on CNN and with a puffy face to debate any issue and not think twice about the haters who have no substantial argument so they will prefer to make fun of her size.
And she will no longer refuse to avoid events or dinners or lunches or parties (when her doctor says she can go) because to hell what you all think of my puffy face and body. These steroids saved my life and mean I AM HERE to hold my husband’s hand and take my kids to school and LIVE.
We’ve lived in Los Angeles a long time now and I have never been one to be impressed by actors/celebrities. I’ve interviewed many and don’t get star struck and certainly could care less that they are worshiped around here.
However, I am officially impressed with Ashley Judd and wish to say a very heartfelt ‘thank you.’ As an actress she is certainly under more scrutiny than I could ever imagine, and she most certainly has to deal with people noticing if she leaves the house in her pj bottoms for a doctor’s appointment, puffy faced and not feeling well from whatever ailment has her on steroids.
But she is doing it, right along with me, and giving the middle finger to anyone who dares question her beauty or what they think is a lack there of.
She certainly has said ‘fuck fear’ simply by writing and encouraging all of us to have a conversation about this culture that has sick women actually worried more about how they look than if they are getting healthy.
Thank you, Ms. Judd, for reminding me that misogyny is everywhere and as you said “…It affects each and every one of us, in multiple and nefarious ways: our self-image, how we show up in our relationships and at work, our sense of our worth, value, and potential as human beings.”
This human being is officially encouraging others to join the conversation so we can change how it affects us, and more importantly, how it affects our daughters and sons. I do not want them to go through this, and at the very least, I want the culture to have improved and evolved by the time they do.
In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy and live and continue to get well. I’m going to radiate the beauty within so it’s contagious and hopefully my son, daughter, and husband feel it every moment of every day.