Bodies are incredible. They withstand all sorts of bullshit (some more than others), run in complicated and ingenious ways, and carry our consciousness from one place to another. In a lot of ways, even when I dislike how my body looks, I can sincerely appreciate all the things it does for me.
Or at least, most of the things. I naturally experience a lot of frustration with my brain, which seems to sit in my skull for the sole purpose of tormenting me. I therefore medicate my brain, and those meds have side-effects. Sometimes these side-effects are physically uncomfortable, like when I tried an antipsychotic which gave me severely restless legs. Sometimes, though, (like when I tried a different antipsychotic), these side-effects can be upsetting because they’re gross (like when I lactated all over my clothes).
There’s nothing inherently gross about lactation, obviously. It’s how most mammals have survived this long, and it can be a beautiful, meaningful way for a parent to interact with their child. However, if you are for example an insane twenty-something-year-old with a lot of baggage about kids and pregnancy, lactating is of little use, and instead is just a secretion that you have to work out how to manage, particularly because it’s a secretion which can begin to smell unappealing quite quickly (and of course, with my luck, this happened at the height of summer). Grossness is a very relative concept, but I have yet to find a human who thinks spoiled breast milk isn’t gross.
A “gross” symptom or side-effect might be gross to you, or the problem may be that other people will perceive it as gross. If it’s gross to you, like my lactating onto my clothes was to me, you live in discomfort, anxious that the gross thing will reoccur or worsen. It somewhat helps, in these situations, to hear from other people who have also dealt with this. I think the concept of grossness – or, maybe more accurately, the stigma and shame piled high around typical bodily functions – thrives on going mostly undiscussed, which is why I’m here to tell you about my leaky boobs.
I’m not stopping there, though. That’s an extremely straightforward physiological event – eat meds, lactation activates. Another, more complicated thing I suffer with is: my meds cause me hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating. I’m embarrassed when I noticeably sweat onto any surface, and generally tend to feel like a dick for being a walking, dripping biohazard, even though realistically my sweat shouldn’t harbour any weird pathogens. More than that, though, I then have to deal with a symptom other people would consider gross, but which I mostly consider fucking painful: sweat rashes.
This is going to maybe sound gross to y’all, but especially if I sleep or nap, I will wake up with a stinging either where my thigh meets my pubic area or underneath a boob (or both). If I just gently touch these areas, it seems as though my sweat has disintegrated the skin entirely, and said skin forms a sweaty sludge which I have to very gently wash away from the intact skin. These sweat rashes are made worse by my collagen-deficient skin being very prone to breaking (or seemingly just… melting away), which is not my fault, and by the fact that I only manage two showers a week at a maximum, which kinda is my fault. Showers are an incredible challenge for my autism, so I usually slather the cracked skin in Sudocrem and hope for the best.
The location of these sweat rashes is all the more cringe-inducing because I’m a sex blogger and a slut, and the presence of cracked, raw and melting skin makes me fear that interacting with my vulva or tits will be unpleasant. The irony is that I tend to shower more often when I’m more sexually active, so if I could get over myself and my melty skin enough to engage in some sex or kink with my long-term partners, at least, I could end up ameliorating the issue purely by accident. My Logic Brain seems to know that my partners will not be repulsed by my few patches of broken skin, but societal shame about sweating and not washing enough holds me back from feeling sexy, which in turn holds me back from engaging in play.
Another thing isn’t so much my body as it is my brain, but it manifests on my body – picking. Ripping skin from the soles of my feet, plucking and plucking at my mons pubis and chewing the inside of my mouth are only three ways that I seem to be constantly trying to whittle down my body, and they all leave red marks, broken skin, swelling and a general feeling of unsexiness. But, again, discussion of these things helps to take the stigma out of them, especially reasoned discussion with risk awareness in mind. People’s skin sheds naturally as they traverse the world, so to me skin-picking seems like less of biohazard than sneezing in a public space. (Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong – I am not a scientist of any kind.) Biting my mouth literally only affects me, so I think the main “gross”/unappealing factor of that one is that it induces a kind of sympathy pain reaction. (People might also be grossed out by me swallowing my own skin, but we eat the skins of mammals all the time.) Either way, here’s how it looks:
Regardless of why these things are seen as gross, the irony here is that feeling embarrassed, ashamed, guilty and anxious about your skin-picking is only going to prompt more picking, quickly turning into a vicious cycle.
There are other symptoms which I don’t experience, or only experience rarely, that are considered to be gross. I do struggle on the odd occasion with hyperfixating to the point that it affects my continence (specifically, my ability to notice I need to pee and get to the bathroom in time), but I don’t have a lot of experience with digestive symptoms – some people do, though, and are sharing their experiences in a neutral and shame-free way, which is exactly what’s needed to start shedding the shame and stigma attached to one’s body acting outside of one’s control. From there, we can focus more on making life with these symptoms comfortable and dignified.