[Note: this is Day 2 of a 10-Day Self-Care Expedition in which I am examining my relationship with food and movement. You are welcome to join this expedition at any point through committing to your own self-care practice, commenting, and/or silently supporting.]
Today I want to begin to unravel this whole ‘me not trusting my body to know what it needs to feel nourished and strong’ thing.
Let’s start by taking a look at a story I carry.
A story that says my body has betrayed me. Time and time again.
For instance, when I was 22, out of nowhere I experienced being repeatedly stabbed in my chest. This stabbing resulted in an inability to breath and me collapsing for half an hour or more at a time in excruciating pain (and terror).
It turned out to be costochondritis but it took 6 long months to figure it out. During that time I was convinced I was on the edge of dying and lived in constant fear of the next attack.
Then, in my mid-20s, I was hiking down a mountain one lovely summer day when, just like that, BOTH of my legs collapsed out from under me.
With no warning signals (pain, tenderness, weakness), suddenly, both of my knees were incapable of supporting me. I went from being a very active hiker, biker, runner, backpacker, to being unable to walk even a block without being in excruciating pain… for 9 MONTHS.
I still don’t have an explanation for this one – other than perhaps it had something to do with hiking a bunch of steep, dusty, slippery trails resulting eventually in some misalignment??? I don’t know. Perhaps there is some grand cosmic lesson (or joke) here? Again, I don’t know.
What I do know is that it sucked to not be able to walk without pain, to not be able to do any of the activities I loved and that kept me sane.
While my knees still occasionally flare up, with enough time, they did eventually heal. And again, I don’t really know what led to their healing as nothing that I did to try to help them heal (physical therapy, bodywork, acupuncture, pilates…) seemed to really make a difference.
And, of course, there is the other constant in my life: headaches and migraines.
Although this pattern has and does continue to slowly shift, it is yet another example of my body seemingly attacking me and (often) being completely unwilling to respond to preventative or remedial measures.
Anyway, these are but a few examples.
There are many more that, over time, resulted in this slow separation from and distrust of my body.
Of course, I can’t entirely blame my body. I have also betrayed her time and time again.
I have refused to listen to the signs of an oncoming headache or to signals from my body telling me I was overdoing it, I was pushing too far.
Time and time again, I have remained quiet and just endured pain until whatever was causing the pain was over.
For years and years, I repressed and denied my emotions (which, as it turns out, was a huge part of the headache pattern).
And, like I mentioned yesterday, I’ve imposed various diets, restrictions, programs, etc on my body without her consent or permission.
There is this hardness present in me as I write all of this out.
This hardness that is masking a deep sadness. Grief, actually.
Grief for all the ways that I haven’t been a good friend and partner to my body.
Grief for all the times and ways that I’ve taken her for granted and then hated her and distanced myself from her when she was in pain and needing me the most.
Grief for all the pain and frustration and agony that we’ve put each other through.
For me, today, noticing and acknowledging the pain of these ‘betrayals’ is enough.
For you, today, while I don’t want to assume that you have a similar ‘betrayal’ story, is there any pain that needs to be acknowledged around the way you have cared (or not cared) for yourself or your body in the past?
And, more generally, what are you noticing on Day 2 of your expedition?
Emma McCreary says
So many reflections, it’s hard to summarize. I’ve been writing most of the day. My issues are mostly around being overweight as a teenager and gender socialization, hating my body and wanting it to be different, but having to cope with the pain I was in and eating sugar being the only way I could at the time. So much inner conflict. And then there is the issue of gender oppression, and this way that women’s bodies are constantly on display, evaluated, judged, etc. My relationship with “attractiveness” is very complex. Our culture is pretty clear about what you should look like, but in my family we were intellectuals and you were not supposed to care how you looked. So I cared in secret. I felt bad because of family dynamics, and ate sugar to cope, then I felt bad for being overweight, then I felt bad for caring that I was overweight. I say “bad”, but it is really shame. Hard stuff. Ugh.
Emma McCreary says
More: I wrote for hours about everything and I feel like I had a breakthrough. In my writing I finally got to this, which I posted on Facebook:
Please don’t say women are “insecure” about their bodies. That makes it an individual issue rather than what it truly is. We’re not insecure, we are very well trained females in America. Women hating their bodies is not insecurity, it’s oppression. There is a difference.
Then I was dancing around in my kitchen, which I do a lot, but I saw my reflection in the window and I felt different. I felt like I was actually cooking my dinner to feel good and be healthy and alive, not to lose weight to be acceptable and attractive for society. I went to the mirror and really looked at myself. Looked in my eyes. It was this moment of recognition, that there has been this split in me for a very long time. I did feel betrayed by my body when I realized I didn’t fit the acceptable mold, and I couldn’t get my body to do so. And even though I lost weight, I never really reconciled that split. This feels like a start. Thank you Larisa. 🙂
Larisa Noonan says
I feel so much beauty and self-compassion in these sharings. This piece about recognizing the split and beginning to find reconciliation really speaks to me. Thank you. <3<3<3
Oh boy, I’ve mistreated my body since about 18. Enough that the Chinese medicine woman said it could take a really long time to heal my liver. And now I’m entering menopause, which, so far, is like your body hating on you 24/7.
Larisa Noonan says
<3 <3 <3