I have an autoimmune disease. My adrenals are shot. My Vit. D levels are in the basement and way below the bare minimum required to support good health. There are about a lot more tests I need to have done to get a bigger and more accurate picture of what is going on with my messed up, screwed up, crazy body. It’s going to cost a lot of money but it has to be done at this point. Over the years I’ve spent a lot of money on this ol’ fleshly house without many solutions or answers to show for the sundry problems my body has presented me with. Do I sound frustrated? That is probably because I am sometimes. Tonight happens to be one of those times and you my unsuspecting blog reader shall subsequently have to endure some verbal spewing on the subject.
Most women struggle with body image. Body self esteem. Accepting the understanding that they are inherently valuable and beautiful just because they are women and as such something special and to be treasured. We all have our memories and those pivotal moments in our childhood or youth when we first became self conscious. First felt inferior. First became aware of the sinister reality that the world was geared to respond well to beauty and and not so much to plainness or even flat out homeliness. Then there is the other side of the coin. The side where there is a realization of a certain amount of beauty, a certain awareness that one or two or five aspects of your looks are pretty exceptional attributes. Especially for those raised with the concepts of modesty, decency and a fear factor when it came to creating problems or temptations with men there can be a whole host of insecurities and fears tied up in those ideals. For these women instead of asking “Do I look good in this?” or “Does this make my already pronounced rear look even bigger??” their self doubt questions are more along the lines of “Does this draw too much attention to my already attention getting bust?” “Does this reach long enough? Are people going to think I’m being indecent because of this?” It is as though womankind, regardless of which end of the spectrum they are coming from or even if they are some jumbled up mess of both ends is destined to be over aware and struggle to have an emotionally healthy and positive view of themselves.
Image aside there are certain undefined, unspoken expectations most women have of their bodies. Some are rather futile feeling hopes (accompanied with the knowledge that there are those women in the world that are blessed with this as a reality) that a monthly visitor won’t include any pain, discomfort or bloating. We expect our bodies to have the capacity to support reproduction. We expect our bodies, when treated with respect and care to function in daily life without excess pain or discomfort. We expect to be able to set reasonable weight and fitness goals, work hard and attain them.
Or maybe that was just me that had those expectations.
In hindsight my poor ol’ bod wasn’t treated very well. My life has had a lot of stress. I internalize most negative emotions and tend to have delayed emotional processing of bad or stressful situations. Until the past couple of years my diet has been pretty horrible. Although a life long fan of sleep in my late teens and early twenties I often went a couple of days at a time with no sleep at all until crashing to sleep sometimes 24 hours straight in a sleep-catch-up marathon. There were months long periods where I averaged about 3 hours of sleep per night. I discovered caffeine and coffee became my weapon of choice. Back then I didn’t know a good brew of smooth coffee even existed and drank some of the most bitter, burnt and acidic gallons of coffee you can imagine as a means to the end of requiring less sleep. (The above routine is, for those of you who don’t know it, the prescribed method for rapidly burning out even a healthy adrenal system. Not good. Pass the word along. )
Despite the physical appearance of being a very healthy child I had some semi chronic health issues that required the use of pharmaceuticals all through my life. First two years of life were punctuated by antibiotics and surgeries for tubes due to chronic ear infections. Later came the asthma and lung complications that at least once or twice a winter resulted in me being on steroids or antibiotics or both a couple of times per winter. The inhalers and allergy medications were also par for the course. In my early teens after months of the rather dangerous problem of randomly losing consciousness at various times I was finally given the hard earned (after dozens of tests by various medical experts) title of having Neurally Mediated Syncopy. Which was simply a fancy way of saying my brain randomly decided to tell my heart to stop supplying blood to the brain. Rather suicidal of my brain but it wouldn’t listen to reason. =P This resulted in being put on yet another slew of pharmaceuticals designed to help me manage the array of symptoms that went with this syndrome. Fast forward a few years after that and add a year of chemical birth control in early marriage to the mix. Just reading through the list of documented/potential side effects of all the medications I’ve been on in my life is enough to make my eyes cross and vow to never swallow another pill ever again.
All that to say. My body has not had good nutritional support and it’s actually had a lot of help in the opposite direction, actual support in developing some of it’s chronic issues. As a result my body has not cooperated with those undefined reproductive expectations. I have had numerous miscarriages. That we have a daughter with us here on earth is nothing short of a miracle and was called such by my Dr. at the time. My body does not perform well on a daily basis. There is fatigue, at times debilitating, extreme, mind numbing fatigue. Muscle and joint aches. Lethargy so thick you can cut it with a knife. Muscle weakness. I remember being so surprised to learn that running, as in, just running across the yard to pick up a ball was not uncomfortable or painful for most people. Running at all for me has = pain and discomfort even in my childhood. I just thought everybody had that and that most were better at pushing through discomfort than I was. In my adulthood I read about physically active people having to develop mental discipline and push through the pain and discomfort. Of throwing up after a good workout. At various points in time I decided to suck it up, and do what I needed to do to attain physical fitness. I pushed myself hard and was usually rewarded by heat exhaustion, asthma attack/coughing fit or losing consciousness. Needless to say I did not try this all too often and have led, by and large a sedentary life.
To sum up this long, sad tale of depressing self pity…I haven’t just had insecurities about my looks. About my chubbiness, or weight that was always higher than that of my peers. About my nose that was too big and my bushy eye brows that looked like they were constantly brooding and trying to hatch a plot to take over the rest of my face. About my clumsiness and lack of coordination. About my super squinty eyes that are puffy 99% of the time. I have been disappointed in every other functionality of my body as well. Those hips that I always comforted myself as being good for child-bearing turned out to be a big chubby dud. That regular as clock-work indicators of my genetically pre-disposed rabbit like fertility was nothing but a false assurance. In almost every way imaginable I have felt like a failure as a woman. I have experienced deep seated self frustration and self hate. Asked all the deeply emotional and illogical questions of God. Looked at the image in the mirror with loathing. I have wondered and questioned if only I had done or had not done xyz would some of our children be alive.
And I have been frustrated. Managing and owning a health supplement company and the roller coaster educational ride that has completely redefined my world. My body is now getting the nutritional support it needed for so long. Many of the underlying issues that are causing my body the plethora of miserable symptoms are being addressed via supplements and alternative resources. But, although there is always hope, in some ways it feels like very little that might possibly be too late. Autoimmune diseases cannot be cured. One cannot deactivate a gene that has been activated. However, it can be neutralized and I know of quite a few people with various autoimmune diseases who have lived symptom free for years. The body is constantly seeking to normalize and optimize it’s performance so the key to that thing we call a magic cure is to find what tools the body needs to obtain optimal functionality with your particular body and make sure that there are lot’s and lot’s of those raw materials around for the body to use. First to heal, repair, do damage control, build up some reserves and then get to work actually making you FEEL better. All of this is very good news on the physical side of things. I do have hope that one day my body won’t feel the need to stockpile weight like it’s going out of style and that I will actually regain a waistline again.
And yet, I still feel frustrated. Still sometimes feel betrayed. But you know what? Those are just feelings. And feelings I CAN deal with. Right here and right now. I don’t have to wait for my body to normalize to healthy and fully functional first. I don’t have to wait for those workouts to start paying off. This can be combated with truth in the here and now.
The truth is I am blessed.
I have two feet that carry me where I need to go.
I have the ability to play with my precious little girl and take her for walks.
I am able to jump up and down, to bumble through dance steps with my man and to sing at the top of my lungs.
I am able to cook, draw, play the piano, write and anything else I want to do in the creative realm.
I am able to eat healthy and delicious foods.
I can smile with the confidence and radiance that only a woman who knows she is loved unconditionally by her man can have.
I can hold, cuddle, kiss and care for the Doodlebug.
I can have joy. I can have peace. I can be content. I can trust. I can believe.
That I am beautiful. From the inside out. I am who I am supposed to be. The past is the past and I cannot undo what is done. Our babies cannot be brought back. I believe somehow, somewhere it is all for our good and theirs although I cannot understand the why or how behind that concept.
Contentment is something I used to think was a gift. That some people were born having and others were not. I believe now it’s a skill. As much of a mental and emotional discipline as it is anything else. This is a skill I am committing to actively learning and practicing. Contentment. It is an amazing thing to obtain. I theorize that the feeling a person get’s at the end of a marathon…After all the hours of training, blood, sweat and tears. The mental discipline and the day in and day out follow through required to condition their bodies…That feeling at the end though has got to be similar to a person who has conquered the emotional marathon that is contentment.
I challenge every woman who has made it this far into reading this (and by the way you totally deserve an endurance metal just for that!) to seek truth. Specific, exact, freedom based truth for every fear, insecurity, self doubt and disappointment that you have about yourself. Whether it be personality, body, looks or whatever. Specific truth for specific emotional bonds that we find ourselves in can be earth shatteringly freeing. Once a truth is found that combats a particular problem or self-struggle please take the time to write it down.
Make a list. Memorize the list. Speak truth to yourselve when you are going through one of those life workouts that tend to obliterate any vestige of emotional contentment that you have been able to summon. Practice the mental skill of speaking truth to yourself and then believing it and then acting upon it emotionally. Find an accountability partner, someone who will speak truth to you when you are too tired, weary or bleary to see anything but mountains of negativity. Learn to love the person God has created you to be. Skinny or chubby, long or short, average or exceptional…Learn the “good” side to whatever coin you have been given and find contentment there. Contentment does not come from obtaining some particle of perfection, contentment comes when we accept and find joy and happiness in the imperfections. When we can recognize the good and the beauty that is more clearly shown and reflected back in our woefully imperfect selves and lives.
I wish you grace, peace and freedom! =) And a Good-Night, Good-Afternoon or Good-Morning!
I love that you keep referring to your body not working properly, and not that *you* yourself are somehow broken. I feel like I had a light-bulb moment a couple weeks ago, that *my body* and *myself* were not the same thing. (Maybe it’s stemming from seeing my grandmother’s body lying in her casket a few weeks ago, and explaining to my nieces that it wasn’t really “her”, exactly…) It has been freeing to think that the real me, the spirit/soul/self that makes me individual, *is* indeed whole, functional, beautiful, and actively being redeemed and restored, even though this vessel I currently occupy is sometimes woefully uncooperative. 😛 I’m trying to remember to describe ailments as something my body is doing (“my body sure feels achy tonight”) instead of making it synonymous with the real me (“I’m so achy”). Learning to separate the two has really helped me combat the mental/emotional weariness that so often comes with an inconvenient body!
Oh, and I HEAR YOU on the monthly visitor stuff. Is it too much to ask that it just come and go without a whimper, and quietly go about its reproductive business in the meantime? Just today in a fit of crampiness I moaned to Hubs that I wanted to yank out my ovaries, they’re not even working properly so what difference would it make?! 😛