Body Image and CRPS

I’m not one to typically obsess over how I look.  I do wear a little understated makeup (mineral foundation, blush) and sometimes I curl my eyelashes because I hate mascara.  On rare occasion I’ll wear a bit of sheer lip gloss.  My head is shaven so doing my ‘do isn’t necessary.  And (I can hear my poor Mom gasping…) I sometimes go to bed wearing the clothes I want to have on for the next day to save energy after my shower.  I like to keep it as easy as possible, I like to be clean, and I like to wear stylish clothes, but beyond that I don’t care to bother.

That being said, I’m perplexed.  

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Since my left leg started changing colors much more drastically than normal, swelling more, and causing me more pain compared with my right leg, I’ve been quite conscious of its appearance.  When my leg takes on a blue/gray tone and the skin becomes tight and shiny, I feel that it belongs no more to me than to a cold cadaver in the hospital morgue, and I feel strongly repulsed by its attachment to the rest of my body and yet – it’s still there (and always has been, except for the bone grafts I “borrowed” from cadavers “Suzy” and “Sally” in 2001 and 2002 – thanks, ladies!).  

ImageThis repulsion isn’t exactly a new experience for me.  After my reconstructive surgeries in 2001 and 2002, I had a very difficult time adjusting to my “new legs”.  Though one might think I’d find legs that looked like this (pre-op) to be more repulsive, it was my new, more average-looking legs that gave me the heebie jeebies.  Yes, I too thought they mostly looked improved from an aesthetic perspective, but something just never seemed right – and they hurt – a lot!  Granted, my legs grew scary-looking dark black, thick hair after my surgeries for a while (which I now know is a sign of CRPS/RSD); my legs were both toilet-tissue tube thin; and what little muscle was left jiggled like jello so….guess I may have had a right to feel repulsed?  🙂  Roughly 2 years post-op I remember finally feeling like I could say, “Ok, I don’t like them, but these are now MY legs.”  

With this most recent flare-up of CRPS, however, I kind of feel like I am back at square one in terms of working out a cohabitation agreement with my legs, more specifically my left leg.  Several times a day I remove my Darco boot and sock to check.  “I could swear my leg is puffed up like an over-inflated football ready to explode, beaten black and blue with a bat, and on fire while drowning in a bucket of ice!” I say to myself as I remove a sock to reveal a leg that isn’t especially swollen, just blue/gray/mottled/red, and oddly shiny.  Half of me is very relieved to see my leg isn’t actually looking the way it feels while my other half looks at my leg in disbelief: “Leg, what are you doing??  You don’t look like you are on fire or going to explode, nor do you look bruised the way you feel!”  Perhaps therein lies my discontent? – this discrepancy between appearances and feelings.  

I then sometimes remove my right foot’s boot and sock to compare my two legs.  The right one has CRPS as well, but its preferential color of choice is ghostly white, like my left leg often was before my most recent flare.  Comparing the two leaves me with this eerie feeling that an alien has invaded my left leg and no amount of exorcism will convince this alien being to leave its host.  Rather, I’m only left with a hope and a prayer that the alien won’t find my right leg an equally attractive place to set up camp.  

Maybe after my nerve blocks, if they are successful, I will feel like my left leg belongs again.


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