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Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis and Body Image Challenges
12/28/2017

I was born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I was a fat baby, however I question where all of the weight went as I quickly grew into a knobby, stringy child with more defined muscle than fat. I didn't really start observing (and silently judging) my body until I started high school, which happened to be located on the wealthier side of my city.

My arthritic pain over the years resulted in little exercise, so I was behind the curve when it came to the appealing muscle tone that every other girl seemed to have. I gained a fast metabolism from my father, however, so I maintained a pretty steady 106-112lb weight throughout high school and up to my 23rd birthday. I also piqued at a whopping 5'4" tall by freshmen year - seeing so many girls around me over 5'7" also added to the feeling of falling short (hah!).

 

I already knew that my JRA created a divide between me and the development of other girls, so I was easily aware of other physical differences: facial structure, makeup application, hair, eyes, knees, calves, strong backs, clothing... you know.

Of course, I'd already been spending years hating my body due to my JRA and its hindrances, so it was just as easy to hate myself for not matching these girls and their effortless beauty. I thought that I needed what those girls had to find a man that would love me for me and look past my disability.

Fortunately, I met my husband during my senior year of high school, and he fell in love with all of the things I thought made me less of a catch. Thanks to him,  I spent a good six years loving myself.

But now that I've reached 24 and am apparently filling out into my womanly body, I've become obsessed with comparison again. I've never known 120lbs and the difference it can make depending on where the extra weight goes. My face has widened and defined. My skin has loosened just slightly - I've become softer. The years of sitting are slightly visible in my posture. I never understood what "sexy" really meant or looked like before, and now I feel the pressure to define it given that I'm "in my prime" of youth.

I'm worried that I won't age as gracefully as other women. I'm worried that the pressure is on, and if I don't figure out my short-comings soon, it'll eventually be too late to perfect them (in a way that will make me love myself finally). Children are around the corner, along with an office career and a growing desire to start homemaking.

I love my mind - the me that's up here - but I hate the body it has to wear which happens to be the only physical thing others can see. It doesn't fit how I think it should be, and that really sucks sometimes.

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