Body Image: The Self-Doubt I Battle Because Of Steroids
Last updated: August 2023
I had my kidney transplant and after a year, I started to see significant changes to my body. The hospital I went to for my yearly check up found that I had the BK virus, which is a virus that most people get in childhood.
Symptoms of the BK virus
Symptoms can feel like a common cold and once you get a BK virus infection, the virus stays in your system. But this is alright for most people as it is a latent virus. Unfortunately, the BK virus became active due to having a second kidney transplant and having a considerable amount of protein in my urine which caused a minor rejection of my transplant. So the doctors started me treating with medications, one of which was steroids.
I started at 25 mg daily every three weeks, and eventually I was able to wean down by 5 mg slowly at a time. I'm now at 10 mg, and struggling with side effects such as gaining a significant amount of weight, muscle twitches and cramps, sweating, irritable bowel syndrome, and other side effects.
Struggling with self-confidence
The one side effect I have been struggling with the most was the weight gain, as this was something I could physically see. As someone who has lived with chronic kidney failure since the age of 16, I have always struggled with my body image, but it was never as hard as it is now.
As an adult, the changes to my body are more brutal and tend to stick around longer. My clothing size one month will often be a bigger size than last month, and same thing with my shoe size. As a woman, it made me struggle with my self-confidence. It made me rethink attending social events, dating, or even taking pictures of myself. I felt different than my peers in that I can't just go to the gym and lose the weight I had gained.
Battling with my mental health, too
My personality changed along with my body as I wasn't as outgoing anymore, confident, or even spoke my mind as much. I was battling with my mental health, always trying to give myself a pep talk or even look in the mirror and tell myself that it's okay. These physical changes are better than dialysis.
I discussed options with my doctors, who told me it wasn't an option to come off the steroids and that I might be looking to be on it for the rest of my life. When I heard this, I understood I had to find other ways of dealing with my self doubt, mental health, and body image.
Keep moving forward
I started therapy with a specialist renal therapist and focused on my body image due to my health complications, what I can't control, what I can control, and how I should keep moving forward. I have methods I can use daily, allowing myself to learn, love, and get to know this new me but, most importantly, a healthy me.
I went out with people I trusted, who supported me and understood me. I took a different approach to dating - I told people about my illness, and I wasn't ashamed of the struggle I was dealing with. And as for taking pictures of myself, I'm still struggling with that one, but I understand its a process.
This or That
In addition to chronic kidney disease, do you also live with diabetes?
Is exercise an important part of your CKD management?