Ashley Judd, THANK YOU

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…

fuck 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.

…fuck fear.

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.

 

Just like the day we got married(

photo by Megan Hook Photography

 

Comments

  1. Love it. Love you.

  2. Erin, you are awesome, and this is too. A hug and a high five from Ohio.

  3. A round of applause – for Ashley but even more so for you. You should feel proud of yourself. Acceptance of yourself as a chronic disease patient is sooo hard. Trying to feel hopeful for the future and living your life in the moment takes a level of higher thinking beyond comprehension until you’ve been there. High five, sisterfriend!

  4. Deb Dobson says:

    You and Ashley Judd are the role models that I hope every young girl aspires too. I know this….not so young girl, does. Thank you to both of you for a great post.

  5. As someone who’s been puffy her whole life, I too am appalled at how it’s come to what it has. I’m so proud of you and if you want to step in that plus-size store? I’ll hold your hand and walk right in there with you. Because every girl should feel good about herself. Fuck what the others say.

  6. I’m glad you’re feeling empowered, but quite a bit disheartened that a woman of your intelligence and feminist passion seemed to need a post from an actress, Ashley Judd, in order to take your life “back”. In any event, I hope your path continues to be bright.

  7. I love you, honey.
    You are a courageous, beautiful, golden hearted girl/woman/mother/wife/friend.
    xoxo

  8. Jane I’ve written this post before- you can see it over and over again in the archives, spurned on by different things at different times. Of course thy are not all exactly the same…some are about taking my life back by remembering to get outside and see the sky. Or stopping in the middle of the road and doing a uturn and forcing the kids out of the car and down a long, sandly path where I decided I NEEDED to see the ocean. And it served as a reminder that sometimes you need to take your illness by the horns and take control. It’s a tug of war, and different things inspire me at different times…today is was an actress. Tomorrow it might be the moon, the ocean, or Burt Reynolds… who the hell knows ;)

  9. RiceWenchie aka Tamara says:

    You are one of my inspirations, Erin. You have touched my life in ways you will probably never know.

  10. Wow, I am having an I hate prednisone day today and I was just thinking time to make a video on coping with the drug when Des told me about your post. I have just come back from the Drs to be told another time- it’s the prednisone!!!
    It’s great you are stepping back into your light and what I believe is so true you have written here ” I’m going to radiate the beauty within so it’s contagious…” that for me has been a large part of the journey- one of self-love.

    I know how you feel Erin the drug that saves your life……. and then the side effects are another thing. Yes the moon face swollen tummy- who would have thought bring back the wrinkles.

    i haven’t only had 9 months on the drug- now coming down as i have now got osteoporosis just when you are ready to step up, the universe drops another gift!

    keep being inspiring- do you get tired of being told how brave/courageous your are?

  11. YES! You’re an amazing, strong, BEAUTIFUL woman, and screw any hater who judges. TAKE THE POWER BACK!

  12. Xiaolinmama says:

    You are my hero. That is all.

  13. Good for you Erin. So many of us strong women have been dealing with side effects of steroid weight since childhood (as I wave to myself). Watching your body change before your eyes in a matter if days/week is surreal. I am proud that you are embracing the simplicity of life, you are alive. Just living and walking. Sometimes that is JUST enough for a great day!
    Your post today really made me think about the picture that my husband wanted to so proudly post on fb of the 16 inch plus trout that I caught yesterday that I MADE him crop most of me out of bc I felt like I looked too ‘bumpy’. I caught a fucking amazing fish and was smiling so beautifully.
    After 4 knee surgeries by 10th grade (20+ rounds of heavy steroids), major hip surgery recently, and needing the other done and a pretty crappy connective tissue disorder that lost me 2 1/2 inches in height that still requires weight changing drugs. Your posts have hit home. Recently, after putting it off for tooooo long I have bought some new clothes that I feel hot in. Got a new hair cut. And feel sexy again. I have always been confident. But, sometimes reading about anothers similar struggle with weight gain bc of medical issues can be extremely helpful.
    Thank you for your honesty. We celebrated our Anniversary tonight and I wore flofishnets, spiked black heels, a knee length skirt and a filmy almost see thru blouse. My husband smiled the entire meal. I felt great, looked great, wasn’t perfect, giggled, laughed and saw a new color in my husbands eyes tonight.
    Wear something that makes you feel wonderful. Even if it is a $100 blouse. We are always us on the inside. But, are even more beautiful when we are ‘just’ us; size 2 or 20.
    Your husbanda sounds phenomenal and most likely just wants you too be ‘you’a again while you were are feeling healthy no matter who you think you see in the mirror. Feel sexy again and take your husbands love and rock it out.
    Hugs and lots of smiles to you!

  14. Sorry for the couple of typos. Typing on my phone.

  15. Lucretia says:

    I was madly in love with AJ’s post today… and you’ve given me another to cherish.

    I think so many of us wish we had some sort of pin or badge that said “no, I’m not lazy – I fight with every second of every day and all I have to show (you) for it is this figure.” But it helps when you know that there are others who *do* get that.

    But it’s something that bears constant repeating, I guess. Because I know tomorrow those ‘voices of the patriarchy’ will be back whispering in my head those horrible messages.

    You’re beautiful Erin.

  16. I’ve always thought you were beautiful, inside and out. To me, your ‘puffy’ face is a face full of love. Because damn it, you’re fighting to stay with the people who love you. You know you’re my hero.
    As for sexist ideas of beauty, it’s an uphill battle every day to remember that I’m beautiful. I don’t see it under the mess I’ve become since I became sick. But my friends and family do and will keep reminding me. Who need to be a size six when you only wear jeans and tshirts anyway?

  17. I am so glad this conversation, this battle cry, is coming out from a backhall way whisper to a full bodied yell. Your posts, no matter what you are talking about, always delight me with the love so radiant within them.

    Wishing you the ability to carry this confidence with you always.

  18. You have always been beautiful puff or no.

  19. ERIN–THIS BLOG POST IS WHY YOU ARE AND WILL REMAIN THE REIGNING QUEEN!!!!!!

  20. Cynthia Samuels says:

    It’s all been said here already but, having watched you go from undisgnosed misery and pain to this – also painful – battle, I’m just plain proud to know you!

  21. Brava – this is a magnificent post. Fantastic – Thank you!

  22. Elana Centor says:

    Welcome Back Strong Smart Beautiful Lady

  23. Awesome, awesome, awesome post.

  24. I applaud both of you: Ashley for addressing the ridiculous comments and you for just keeping on, for finding within in you the strength and wisdom and truth that you are you and lupus can suck it. You have a voice that deserves to be heard. I’m glad you’ve recaptured it.

  25. Hellz yeah! You rock, Queen Erin! :D

  26. Fuck it all! Go girl! You’re beautiful inside and out

  27. Amazing, amazing! I just kept nodding my head as I read Ms. Judd’s note and I’ve done the same with yours. We are so brainwashed about beauty, it’s sad. Thank you for your beautiful post!

  28. Bravo and amen.
    I read enjoyed reading AJ’s post yesterday, and it is such a joy to see your post today.
    Blessings to you and your family.

  29. I love you Erin. Pure and simple. There are no words to fully capture just how very amazing, and BEAUTIFUL, I think (and have always thought) you are!

  30. Erin, thank you for making me cry this morning. I have more or less quietly watched from the sidelines, fearing that I had no words that could possibly help you these last couple years. My greatest fear of all was that you would give up. In this post I see the Erin I met in 2008 — strong, determined, bright as a thousand-watt bulb. I swell with joy and pride.

  31. Here ye, here ye!

  32. I freaking love you.

  33. Fuck fear. I love you.

    Julie

  34. YES!

    YES YES YES YES YES YES

    You get your ass back out there, Erin!

  35. Oh the endless battle with self image! UGH! BRAVO for taking your stand and voicing your message! And Ashley Judd is one helluva broad! Cheers to you both!

  36. You are awesomeness itself! And so is Ashley Judd. You make beautiful just by being you.

  37. My husband, father and sister have all been on prednisone for serious illnesses. I honestly never thought about what other people were thinking about their appearance – I am just grateful that they are alive and well. Now, every time I see their “puffy faces” I am going to tell them how beautiful they are to me for the fact that they are still well and still in my life. Thank you for this beautiful post. Only a truly beautiful person could write this.

  38. Beautifully written. And so is the photo of you and your husband!

  39. You just made me cry. THANK YOU.

  40. Thank you for this!

    I had touched upon this lightly (maybe a bit too lightly) with my post the other day.

    Your post is much appreciated and beautifully written (:^)

  41. Holy moly. So many quotable pieces. Thank you for writing this (from a girl with a puffy acne face due to PCOS). Just amazing.

  42. Good for Ashley, good for you, good for ALL of us!

  43. Well said and a Big Hug to you both!

  44. Here Here! Well done my dear:-)
    Last year Ashley Judd sky rocketed to the top of my *LIKE* list after I read her memoir. She is a beautiful, caring and remarkable woman. Thank you for grabbing her message by the *balls* to keep it rolling!

  45. Peggy Dolane says:

    Nice to see that others are being inspired by Ashley Judd. Men even. Here’s a post from a wonderful man I met on twitter. Thought you and your audience would appreciate it!

    http://www.burgessct.com/2012/04/misogyny/#comment-1349

    A tidbit to whet your appetite:
    “We find our state’s lawmakers crafting legislature which penalizes women on their personal choices. We have the media seizing on how one body type is better or more desirable than another body type, that any body fat apparently is too much body fat – as they speculate and denigrate via their judgments cast from their throne high above the rest of us mere mortals. And then the arrival of the frightening application “Girls Around Me” designed to highlight the specific location and photo of women in proximity to the device running the application.”

  46. Thanks, brave women. This subject goes beyond medicine to aging and unusual birth bodies. My legs are short enough that the nurses were openly commenting when I delivered my first baby.

    My four-point action comment is too long for here, so I’m going to put Ready, Aim, Fire, Salute on my blog. HEN BACKTALK, and I’d be delighted if anyone reads and responds.

    Margaret Fleming

  47. As one who has Lupus also, I understand the prednisone part that it plays. Beauty is truly within.

  48. Good for you Erin!! Go kick some booty- and have fun!!

  49. Thank you for those amazing true words! You are more beautiful than you will ever know. You just said what so many of us feel every day.

  50. Thank you. I will save this to read again. I have a disease called polymyositis and have been on prednisone at massive doses for over a year now. I don’t even know who I am when I look in the mirror. I know beauty is within, I do. I just want “me” back. Since that isn’t going to happen anytime soon (the polymyositis is still out of control), I want to feel like you do in this post. Thank you for writing it. I hope someday I can feel it.

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