With my second slipped disc about 6 months back, it’s been exceedingly hard to find any sort of balance and stability within my body. It’s horrible enough to deal with the increased pain and coming to terms with a new injury, let alone the consequences it has on your lifestyle once again.
In the last 6 months, I’ve piled on 3 kgs and the injury has made it impossible for me to do anything in order to even lose the extra weight. It’s not as if I can eat any lesser because I’ve been on stronger medications, which, can cause adverse gastrointestinal reactions if I didn’t eat enough or took extra of it. Besides, it’s also normal for your body to need more energy as you deal with greater number of instable joints and extreme fatigue that comes along with it. I’m not saying you eat all kinds of junk food – for most days of the year, I am very cautious about the kind of nutrition I provide to my body. A change in your diet doesn’t fix EDS/HMS, but it doesn’t hurt to choose better options for your body, like going for anti-inflammatory ingredients.
As expected, I also haven’t been regular with my weekly sessions of Pilates and nor have I been able to walk as much as I was able to just before my back got injured again. Of course, it is annoying. Sometimes you want to yell because you’re frustrated and life is unfair and you just want to head out for a run to clear your mind. Ya right.
It affects you. It makes you feel trapped in your body.
If you’re dealing with a chronic illness, you’d understand how common weight fluctuations can be, and I bet you’d also understand how difficult it is to come to terms with it. Especially if it’s weight gain. But what can you do about it? In theory, people would give you a long list of things you “could” do but you and I both know, it doesn’t work. It’s not as if you don’t know what’s needed to lose that weight, it’s the practical bit that you can’t quite do. Even if you wanted to. Oh, you could go on a crazy diet if you really wanted to – but what are you putting at stake? Your health.
Nope. Not at all.
Each time you look at yourself in the mirror, you’re reminded of how your body has changed or is changing. The increasing softness around your form, the extra jiggle and wiggle, some pointy parts of your joints sticking out… the visible cellulite..the lack of muscles even after doing what you can (because your body builds muscles three times slower than those around you with healthy collagen)…. It’s hard enough to see yourself like that at the age of 25 and even more so to grasp the fact that you can’t do much about it. You’re no longer the you who could just “dance it off” or “gym it out”, you know? You’re not like those around you, or like the hot Instagrammers who are able to do a lot more with their bodies. It’s only normal (sometimes) to feel like crap when you see where you are, but it’s not helpful (or healthy) to continue feeling like crap for too long.
At some point you have to remind yourself that you can’t compare yourself and your experience with anyone. Comparison does no good to anyone anyway. Those who are able to do what they want have the privilege to do it and they need to be ever so grateful for it. You’re causing yourself so much extra suffering if you’re comparing yourself to people who are not born in a body like yours. It’s useless and takes away all your time and energy – something you could better utilize by practicing self-care and self-love; which will ultimately help you achieve some amount of acceptance and balance.
After years of struggling with self-acceptance due to EDS/HMS, and resisting the drastic change my life was beginning to go through, I am finally heading towards some amount of mind-body balance. To be honest, I don’t think it ends here. It becomes a huge part of our journey. Something you work on daily, pretty much. It’s A HECK lot of conscious work and effort but with enough patience and continue practice, I do believe that at some point I will be able to accept the whole of me, and the whole of my experience a lot more than I do today. This is not to say that there won’t be days I’d be frustrated or depressed with life – of course, not! But hopefully I’m able to get out of it more easily.
“Dear Body” Message Writing Exercise
How do I continue strengthening the relationship between my mind and body ?
I do the “Dear Body” message writing exercise.
I came up with this exercise for myself, hoping that at some point, I’d share it with those who are fighting their body (like I was) instead of fighting their illness.
We need to become best friends with our body, work together with it in order to deal with the limitations presented by the illness. I keep reminding myself, it is completely okay to own the illness, but it is not okay to let the illness own me.
How do I do it?
Every couple of days, I sit with my a journal (I have a journal specifically for this) and coloured pens, and take time just to write little messages to my body, from myself. I write positive and reassuring messages – ones that are truly motivating, something I’d say to my best friend/loved one if he or she was in pain. I am extremely loving and kind towards my body because I know it needs me at this point. I remind my body and give it that confidence that I have its back (yep, even with two slipped disc and a dislocated tailbone, I believe I have my body’s back – if it all makes sense). Yes, I do. I remind myself the same.
The point behind doing this exercise is to build that trusting relationship between yourself and your physical body; meaning, between your complicated mind and your complex body. If you’re able to create even a little bit of that trust, you’d see that your body respond to the positive, affirming messages that you send to it. Often times, our body just wants to be heard and by writing these messages, we’re letting it know that it can depend on us. We are choosing to honour our body and act in its best interest. We choose to respect its needs, and in return, it learns to communicate with us better. You become more attuned to your own, fundamental needs.
I’ve been doing this exercise for a while now and I probably won’t stop for the rest of my life. It’s not something I do only when things get real bad. I do it every couple of days no matter how good or bad the day has been. On bad days, I thank my body for the good days in the past and motivate it. On good days, I thank it for holding up and simply just being. I enjoy writing to my body; I really do. Sometimes I draw in my journal, if that’s how the pain wants to express itself in that very moment. This exercise has helped me become more compassionate with myself – something I seriously lacked at a few years back. Needs of those around me were more important to me than my own and obviously, that attitude didn’t work in my favour at all.
I personally find that writing or journaling is extremely healing. I love the idea of being able to flip through, to see the progress I’ve made, the ups and downs and to observe my thought patterns. It helps me understand myself at a much deeper level and I love that. Writing helps to ground your thoughts and emotions – I see it as a way to get things out of my system. It’s wonderful. You could choose to just repeat positive affirmations to yourself, which sure is effective, but from my personal experience, the ritual you create around writing a letter or message to your body is amazingly powerful – even more so than just repeating affirmations.
Today, as I deal with increased pain and the excess weight, I still continue to write to my body. I know it’s needed – to remind myself that it’ll al be okay. That I’ve done this before and I can do this again. That the weight gain is only natural at the moment and I can still be in control. It’s become one of my favourite writing rituals.
Here’s one of the messages I wrote to my body:
For all that you’ve been through,
And all that you deal with every single day,
I just want you to know –
I’m still proud of you.
Just about a week ago my back was giving me trouble and I was feeling horribly restricted by the pain and didn’t know what to do. My physiotherapist had helped to tape my back up, hoping it would give me some relief. Taping usually provides me with some amount of support and I think it’s fantastic, but at times – nothing helps. We know that. It was that day when I gathered all my energy (and courage!) and clicked a photo of myself. I looked through my “Dear Body” journal and found a message that seemed appropriate for the photo. Of course, I was a little hesitant to post the photo along with it but I realized that’s exactly the feeling I must overcome. I know it was important for me to get this out because sometimes I feel like I am held hostage in my body, by my body… and I know I’m not alone. I’m well aware that there are many others out there who feel the same.
No body knows the pain you’re going through – so their judgement doesn’t matter for anything. This is your journey.
With a lot of guts, I finally decided to write this post, along with this photo that I took. It was necessary. I want those of you who are suffering to know that you are not alone. I am here with you. Though our experience may not be the same, we recognize each other’s suffering – and that’s the best part. This is the truth – I have to work towards self-acceptance too, and it’s NOT easy at all. But I believe it is very much possible to build a healthy relationship with the new you and that definitely requires time.
This is me. This is who I am today. And that’s okay. I accept myself the way I am. By letting go of the need to be perfect, I am choosing to not make my experience any more difficult than it already is.
Honestly, there is no perfect. There is only close – to – perfect acceptance of what is.