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this fairweather body of mine

Right now, I'm on my period. I'm starving but I don't feel like eating anything. I needed to take painkillers so I spent twenty minutes choosing jollof rice from an array of options like moi-moi, okro, peppered turkey, sweet potato fries, and chicken nuggets. I didn't have to cook as these options were stacked neatly in my fridge but I just wanted to throw up looking at the bowls. I'm sleepy but can't sleep, there is a dull ache in my breasts and a much sharper one in my lower belly. I no longer use menstrual pads and I was telling S that period pants have made me pay attention to my own blood as I have never done before. I recently washed one by hand and I couldn't help but be frightened of just how much blood I was losing every month! How can this be normal?

I have been thinking about bodies a lot.

It was incredibly difficult to write during the summer and I didn't know why. After a few days off my meds, because I picked up my prescription late, it felt like a fog lifted. So a few weeks ago, I convinced my psychiatrist to hold off on my antidepressants. I felt very justified, see! these things are not good for me. I can't see the positive effects anyway. How can one pill change my life?

Oh boy.

I still can't tell whether antidepressants are affecting my actual emotions, but I now see all the ways these tiny yellow pills give me a better quality of life. 2020 was a shit year for me, and I already have eating issues, so it wasn't a surprise that the nurse was appalled that I weighed a mere 39kg when I moved here. I also don't sleep well for many reasons; I'm more productive at night, and I would rather avoid having bad dreams of snakes and Lighthouse, I just can't fucking sleep. For the first time in a long while, I had an early schedule, and it was messing up my day. I was always tired. I was drinking a glass of whiskey every night, and would sometimes pair that with a THC/CBD gummy to get through the night.

In five months, my appetite improved and I gained 5kg. This has never happened to me. I was also sleeping. It helped that I paired the meds with better sleeping habits, but this was the first time these habits actually worked. I was less tired because I was eating and sleeping better. Sounds like such a small thing, but it is a thing that has eluded me all my life. I was looking forward to doing things, going out, pushing boundaries here and there.

I have spent about five weeks off my meds and while I'm writing (I think), my body has been protesting. First, I have been nauseous the whole time and I have taken Dramamine every single day. I'm back to eating like a bird and not sleeping (bad dreams are back, yay!) so my energy level is in the pits. It is hard not to be miserable.

Antidepressants 1 — 0 Ayotola. I have booked an appointment.

I am really frustrated with all the ways my body seems to be giving up on me. I sometimes feel like my own body stands in my own way. I have scoliosis so photography did a number on my back. My car became this place of decompression for me because I would get back from a shoot plus traffic and would be in so much pain that I couldn't dare the two-minute walk from the driver's seat to my room. A few months ago, I started having frequent nose bleeds and we still don't know why. I also need extensive testing to confirm yet another condition, but my insurance won't cover it, so I'm here just living with the symptoms until I can have surgery. Thankfully, it is not life-threatening.

I struggled with acne, not as a teenager, but well into my twenties. It was maddening and I was using/doing everything. Now that I think of it, my desperation made it worse. Maybe for some people, this is not so bad. Other people have it worse, right? But I'm not going to invalidate my own bodily experiences or play a game of it-could-have-been-worse. I wish these photos were the worst of it, but I will spare you (and me because I don't want them on the internet):

Yesterday, while teaching E how to use a camera, I took selfies and was amazed at how far my skin has come. Maybe abroad weather has something to do with it, maybe it's the access to (affordable) products, or maybe understanding hormonal acne helped, but learning my body and practicing an intentional consistent routine for the last nine months definitely has everything to do with it:

I know that learning to be kind to my body is going to be a lifelong journey. I try, but I fall short. I have not done right by it in many ways and this machine keeps functioning against all odds. As a teenager, I would lose weight every period cycle because I wouldn't eat for five-six days, need injections to sleep, and constantly pass out unprovoked. Now, I can manage with Ibuprofen and a hot water bottle. I wore back braces for about two years and needed physical therapy to cope with the pain. I now have many good days where my spine lets me be. I can't believe that I'm dancing Salsa/Bachata well and consistently.

Last night, I was thinking about the radical honesty that is missing in our standards and conversations about bodies, especially women's bodies. On r/AskWomen, women who work with other people's bodies for a living shared how their experiences have changed their perception of bodies, and how this has changed their relationship with their own bodies. The answers were eye-opening, affirming, and refreshing. Let's be honest, bodies are weird. They have shapes and sizes. Things ooze from them. They have smells. They need care and maintenance. They have their own rituals and take up time and good money.

I could make a list of everything that is wrong with this fairweather body of mine, but I would also easily draw up a list of everything that is still good to match.


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