I don’t want to talk about photography today. I want to talk about something real, and painful. Lets talk about my body. I’m not entirely sure why I tossed the other blog post I had planned for today. It was all about my business and me as a professional, you know the normal stuff. It could be that I am in pain today and since it is at the forefront of my mind, I thought it would be more apropos. I also think this will save me from thinking that I need to explain why I look the way I do. Isn't that stupid? I can't just be okay with "I look like this, and its not where I want to be, but I am working on it." I always feel the need to explain my appearance, but what I am really saying is that its not my fault.
Most of my clients, friends, and family know my story but for those who haven’t flipped through my pages, there would be pain and addictive medication on every other page. That’s right, when the news talks about people that are dependent on opioids and at risk for addiction, that was me two years ago. Those people are real and they hide it very well. We make up excuses not to go to concerts because we can’t stand for very long, we pass on wine because “we don’t like the taste of it any more” when in reality if we were to have a glass or two, you would feel like your eyeballs were detached and couldn’t feel your hands and feet.
I have always had a bad back from an old barrel racing injury, when my horse Captain ditched me during warm ups before a race. Truthfully the spine damage and cracked tailbone weren’t the most painful part, that came when my coach made me re-watch the film pointing out every time I could have saved myself. Thanks Carl. WAIT no, the most painful part was starting fifth grade sitting on an inflatable donut cushion that made fart noises every time I sat in my chair. I managed the pain pretty well until I also got a dual impact head injury and tore a ligament between my spine and hip during track practice in college. My whole world, much like my body, came crashing down. I had to miss 36 days of school and do nothing but sit in a dark room and worry about how far I was falling behind. All things considered that was probably an amazing break for my back, but in true Meredith fashion I ruined every bit of progress I could have made by jumping back into lifting and practice as soon as I was cleared. At that point my back was at the worst it had ever been. I couldn’t walk, I couldn't pick things up, I couldn’t sit down without feeling like the cores of my bones were on fire. I had to get epidural steroid injections in my back but thanks to the wonderfully incompetent folks at the pain management clinic I received the injections nearly three inches above my actual injury, making everything worse.
I walked (well shuffled in let’s be honest) into the neurosurgery unit at KU ready to sign up for surgery and living off of hydrocodone, oxy, tramadol, and gabapentin (a nerve blocker, from what I understand, for people with chronic pain). The neurosurgeon informed us that we had been mistreating the injury for nearly eight months. My mom cried. My dad hit some stuff. Me? I just reached for my next round of painkillers. At this point I had to change my major, quit track, start therapy for depression, and worse than possibly EVERYTHING else, I had gained nearly 80 pounds. Yup, you read it right, that’s the equivalent of like three toddlers, or two toddlers that like snacks. My body was destroyed; I was living in my own personal hell. I LOVE working out, I have always been active. Before the injury, I came into college strong and running on average 15 miles a week. After the injury, I couldn’t get out of the bed in my dorm room to use the bathroom. I moved home and began new treatments and decided I wasn’t going to live my life frantically searching for little orange pill bottles. I quit cold turkey. When I say cold turkey, I mean three weeks past thanksgiving, cold turkey. I spent the next week in class sweating and itching at my skin. I vomited and couldn’t sleep.
It is hard for me to say addiction because it makes me think of junkies sitting in ally ways begging for a hit, and I wasn’t that. I got dressed every morning, I had my homework done, and I graduated early. I just did it all with pills tucked in my jean pockets wrapped in napkins. So whatever you want to call it, feel free, I just know that I needed them if I wanted to get out of bed and go to class. I needed them if I didn’t want to spend hours trying to make my legs work or timing how long I could sit before I lost the feeling in my legs. The good news is I got better. I haven’t had a prescription for anything harder than Ibuprofen in almost a year. I can have wine again (and lets be honest that’s the biggest blessing) and I have lost almost 20 pounds. The biggest challenge now is learning to love my body again, when for two years I was at war with it. In the darkest days I would cry thinking my body had let me down. Everything I loved had been pried from my bleeding fingers, my happiness, my confidence, and more than a few of my favorite pairs of jeans. Like my first post this one doesn’t have a happy and clear conclusion. Going through that has changed who I am forever and I haven’t been able to recover completely. When the pain gets really bad I take a harder prescription, mainly so I can sleep, but I don’t have stock piles of the pills everywhere I go so that I’m never far from relief. Now instead of viewing my body as a selfish taker, I now see it as an abused and beaten friend that needs time and love to heal. If you and your body are fighting opposites sides of a war, take a step back. Loving your body is a cliché term these days but I only started getting better when I quit hating my body and honestly felt compassion for it. I literally said that to myself one day, “I feel bad for my body.” I’m sure that’s not how the medical or mental health community would prefer someone get over this type of thing but its what came to me and I knew it was an honest and true feeling. I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about photography, but this journey I have been on is honestly why I don’t like photoshopping a whole lot. When I take in any part of a body I feel terrible for it. Like its trying so hard to keep you up and going, happy and healthy, and here I am changing how it looks. Like saying “You’re doing so great, performing amazing things, but if this could just go away it would be a lot better.” I can’t say that to my body anymore and I sure as hell don’t want to say it to yours. You deserve a break, and you body deserves one too. Put down your weapons and call a truce. Fight on the same side, your body will thank you.