Why We Should Remember to Treat Our Chronically Ill Bodies With Kindness
I was thinking yesterday, as I read through blogs of young women who had a chronic illness or watched their YouTube videos, of how much the body can both wreak havoc, yet always seek to get better. I read through women’s blogs on Lyme disease, chronic pain, and multiple other conditions. It made me realize that I’m not alone, and even though we have different conditions, many of our symptoms are shared to some degree or other.
It made me feel many things. I raised my hands in solidarity with these women, as I can relate to some of their struggles. I felt inspired and in awe of their valor and strength. And then, I thought about myself, and my own experiences as someone living with epilepsy.
I am a young woman with generalized epilepsy and was diagnosed when I was 12, a primordial age in the development of someone’s identity. I’ve had a very complex relationship with my condition. Mainly I have always tried to hide it, stuff it under the mattress, kick it to the side, and if it began to loom during conversation, I used to shove it aside. I used to hate it because it hurt me so much physically, emotionally, mentally.
And it still does. Seizures hurt, and you don’t really understand until you have one how it feels to wake up from one. The overall soreness, the terrible headache, nausea, chewed up, bleeding tongue, confusion, and humiliation as someone looks over you with pity and helps you get up. Not to mention the surprise bruises and cuts you get depending on where it happened. And the absolute anxiety and fear that another one is around the corner, but you won’t be notified as to when or where.
Yet my body always did its best to help me heal. It would initially urge me to sleep, and I would for about three to four hours in order to recover, experiencing the deepest, darkest sleep, no dreams allowed. It would sew up my cut up knees, my bruised and bleeding tongue. And it wasn’t only when I had seizures that it would help me heal.
Anytime I had a flu, a cut, or even fever. Anytime I overate and my body would digest the food as best as it could, releasing insulin and producing stomach acid, always trying to get me back in balance. My body always looked out for me, always wanted me to survive. And it still fights for me.
It was this realization that made me so emotional; got a few tears down my cheeks. It may not be so for some spoonies out there with conditions in which the body attacks itself, and I can’t foresee into my future and guarantee my body will never attack me. I don’t consider my seizures to be an attack of my body to myself, rather I consider them to be a symptom that something is off balance. What? Well, I wish I knew when I was 12 and never had to take medication. Maybe a food allergy, maybe a hormonal imbalance. Maybe I will never know for sure.
The point here and the realization I came to yesterday is: be kind to your body, and be kind to yourself. I have hated parts of myself. I have hated my belly, always wanting a perfect flat Victoria Secret stomach. I have hated my nose, claiming it is too large and pointy. My legs were too skinny for my liking and I seemed to (completely) lack a butt. My hair wasn’t full enough, I didn’t like my teeth or my wrists, or my skin…
The list was long! And I would restrict my eating to lose belly fat. And I would stare at myself carefully examining my features trying to figure out my best angle. And I would pluck, shave and wax away all my body hair, because body hair on a girl? Yuck! So unnatural, right?
I am by no means perfect now. I am continuously working on loving and taking better care of myself. But realizing how amazing my body really is, how much it battles for me, how it always looks out for me, healing my cuts, bruises, and aching body, how can I hurt it? How can I punish it or claim it is not perfect? I have a body, I am able to walk, talk, think, enjoy the sunshine and wind on my skin. I am able to taste delicious food, to exercise and see beauty in landscapes. I know it sounds a bit like rainbows and unicorns, but its a powerful realization to wake up to the fact that we are enough and perfect exactly as we are. Our bodies don’t need to be hated and punished, they need to be cared for and loved.
Be in awe of your body and all the functions it does for you! It digests your food and helps you get rid of waste. It allows you to sleep, to regenerate and recover into the next day. It heals you from cuts and bruises. It helps you breathe. It allows you to see and hear.
And even if your body doesn’t do some or any of the things I just listed, still be kind, still try to love it. It can be hard but it is one of the best and most rewarding things we can do. To just accept our bodies as they are, be kind to them, and love them.
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Thinkstock Image By: Ridofranz