Unconditional Body Beautiful #3 - Legs


If I ever needed any proof at all that time flies, the time between these monthly assignments is evidence as it only seems like a breath since the last post.

This month it's all about the legs. I have had thin unshapely untoned legs, fat toned legs and every possible permutation in between. One thing my legs have always done for me is carried me where I wanted to go. I grew up in a car-less one parent family and if I wanted to go anywhere - school, youth club or to see my friends, I walked, no matter how far. From 11 years old I walked at least 3 miles a day outside of my school activities. By the time I was 18 I was walking at least 5 miles a day Monday to Friday. When I was 21 I spent 2 weeks in Greece walking up to 10 miles a day and swimming too, and I came home with the most lovely tanned and toned legs I've ever had.

My legs carried me on 12 hour days cleaning aircraft, running up and down stairs carrying heavy gear on and off planes, and walking miles to and from work on top of that. When I wasn't at work I was usually visiting friends or heading into London to walk all bloody day, nourished of course with the occasional rejuvenating stop at a pub. ;) From ages 19-35 I did jobs where I was on my feet all day. (I only had one office job in my life, from age 16-18.) When I met James when I was 28, we had no car, in fact we had no car for our first 7 years together, so everywhere we went we walked. We walked to town, we walked on holidays, we walked everywhere we wanted to go. By my mid 30s it would be a fair estimate to say I was walking 25-35 miles a week to get to work, and for leisure.

Tomb of the Kings, Cyprus 2007

My legs were always FREEDOM. Sometimes they were fat - my body waxed and waned - and they were smooth and I was troubled little by cellulite as I was so active. I always had chub rub even at my adult smallest size, (a 12-14) as that's the way my pelvis is formed and nothing is ever going to change that.

Despite always being active, my legs weren't always cooperative. When I was a child my knees would sometimes give way suddenly, as if someone had kicked me hard from behind. I think it was put down to growing pains, and I shrugged it off. It certainly didn't stop me doing anything, as I had no choice but to plough on. After my childhood fall down a concrete flight of steps and a very hard landing I developed problems with sprains in my wrists and ankles, but especially my ankles. I counted to 30 ankle sprains part way through the year at the age of about 11 and then gave up counting. We were a dirt poor family with no money for public transport, so doctor visits were saved for absolute emergencies, and it has never been investigated to this day, although I suspect I have joint hypermobility, which can come on after your body has been through trauma. (Being in a fat body my whole life and the subsequent lack of respect I've received from the medical profession has made me severely doctor phobic.) These frequent sprains followed me through my teens, 20s and 30s. I have shares in support bandages! Things on that front have only got better because I walk less distance and less often now.

When I was 21 (months after the holiday to Greece, thankfully) I was in an accident at work whilst cleaning a plane. I have talked about it at length before but essentially I fell hard onto a 6 inch metal bolt which was sticking out of the floor and it went into my kneecap, causing me some of the worst physical pain I've ever had.

It was a horrible time in my life - the NHS lost my records which affected my ongoing care (the NHS really let me down full stop at the time, giving me the shittest 'care' possible) and I had no choice but to go back to a hectic physical job with a disabling injury. Quite simply I needed the money to survive and I wasn't expecting anyone else to support me. I turned to drink and drugs to numb my pain - literally. For the next couple of years I was only really sober when I was asleep, but managed to keep onto my job all that time. I was a functioning near-alcoholic. Booze was everywhere, discarded by passengers and supplemented with liquid lunches in the airport bar and again after work until closing time. (Things were quite lax then, I doubt drinking in uniform would be allowed now.)

I was in severe pain for that whole time, and to this day I sometimes still limp. My left leg (the one affected) is almost an inch shorter than the right, which causes me hip and back problems, which causes my knee to give way even more and put paid to me ever comfortably wearing heels again. It clicks constantly and is often painful, but during the long rehabilitation and onwards I walked on it still. I didn't have the option of giving up, ever. (Some of you by now might understand why my body finally threw a shit fit, bringing on Fibromyalgia & CFS. Quite simply between falling down a flight of concrete steps and sustaining a back injury as a child, being run over by a Ford Transit van as a teenager ending up with head injuries and nerve damage, and this accident to cap it all off I sometimes wonder how I'm still bloody alive!)

Cyprus 2007

With all this to deal with my legs were just there I guess. I never really thought that much about them (or their appearance) as they were good, functional legs that took me everywhere I needed to go, even if I was in pain. Only since Fibro & CFS and the piling on of weight from my quite sedentary lifestyle (compared to what I was used to) have they become a life force of their own, joining up to an arse with its own field of gravity! I have some seriously sizeable thighs and sometimes it's a struggle to love them, as it is to love the new, bigger me sometimes. I was about a size 24 before chronic illness, but a very fit and toned 24 because of all the walking I did. I've gone up 2 sizes and lost some tone, although surprisingly there is still muscle to be found. Thank you body for holding onto some of my strength. :)

Fibromyalgia also brings a series of weird rashes to the body, and my shins are red, mottled and hold onto bruises for months/years. There are whole patches with broken blood vessels at the surface, which from a distance look like dirty marks or bruises. My skin there is also really dry, and when I shave my legs they bleed in several different places as the razor knocks off tiny callouses which have formed all over my legs. Sexy, eh?!

I can't walk anywhere near as far as I used to because the pain of Fibromyalgia is like all my bones and joints are on fire, and that's without the crippling cramps I get after walking (especially if I'm out in the cold too, that makes me cramp up on its own.) It is what it is, but I still have two legs which work in some kind of fashion, and I'm very grateful for that. I might not always like the look of my legs, but they can take me to some places and to experience some things still, and that to many would be a dream. So I can't do what I did before, but I can still do something. That has to be enough.

Thanks for reading,
Leah xoxo

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