By: Jana Greene
So, here’s the backstory: I have chronic pain and illness on a multitude of health fronts. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome results from a genetic anomaly that affects the collagen my body makes and stores. It’s basically like every cell in my body is held together with bubble gum instead of gorilla glue. I have autoimmune issues, which results in pretty much ALWAYS being sick. I pick up every bug and and – in turn – a secondary infection usually follows. But wait! There’s MORE … which I will spare you in this post, on account of it’s a long ass list and the purpose of me writing this is simply to flip the script on how I typically handle living every day with sickness and pain.
Because you see, I am hard on myself. You are probably harder on yourself than YOU should be, too. Over the past 10 years of never-ending health drama, I have come to hate my own body.
I blame it for keeping me from doing things.
I am constantly resentful of it that it HURTS all the time.
I chastise it for holding me back.
This morning, as I write this, I am sick again. I must have picked up some new, exotic virus in Charlotte last week, when we evacuated due to Hurricane Dorian. I envision my crappy immune system seizing upon the opportunity to allow me to catch something exciting and new, instead of just “local crud.” “Hey, look!” It said. “She hasn’t had THIS bug before! Let’s stand down and not do a damn thing while she suffers!”
So, as a result, I have been sick as a dog for five days, and have not left my bed. There were times in my life where the “luxury” of lying in bed and “relaxing” for five days sounded like a DREAM. But I can assure you, it is it’s own special hell. Times like these, I ESPECIALLY hate my own body.
My constant thoughts can be summed up in this one analogy: “I hate driving this clunker.” My body is like an old car that is falling apart on piece at a time, and all the while, I’m supposed to keep up on the Autobahn with everyone else. When I am trying to do normal things, the brakes fail and I dislocate a joint. When I push through pain to go to the grocery store, OOPS, there goes the bumper! As I maneuver my clunker about on the daily, I wonder if people who can lift heavy grocery bags without subluxation really appreciate what they can do.
Chronic illness is fertile ground for depression to sprout and spread like kudzu. Anxiety is a natural by-product of that depression.
This morning – on day five of this particular virus – I got up to use the bathroom and my hip tried it’s level best to slip out of the socket, which is about as much fun as it sounds. I turned my head this morning to talk to my husband, and because my lymph nodes are like golf balls, it hurt like hell. This kind of stuff WEARS on a person. No wonder I hate my own body!
So far, hating my own self has not proven effective in dealing with this life. I know in my innermost being that our bodies are just our “earth suits;” they house our spirits and good or bad, they are not the most important component of who we are. What if instead of spending so much time resenting the body that houses my illnesses, I treated it like I would any other sick or injured person’s body?
I would NEVER talk down to another human being the way I do to myself. I would never say things like…
You never do anything right.
Why are you so defective?
Why can’t you just be normal like everyone else?
Why can’t you do the simplest things without pain?
You are a piece of crap. A genetic nightmare.
You will never get better, so why do you even try?
So this morning, I had a jolting thoughts, and they were so poignant, I almost cried….
My body is hella strong to keep on keepin’ on!
My lymph nodes are so swollen. Oh my God, they must be working SO HARD to get me well!
My joints slipped out of place again. Holy shit! They work so hard with the materials they have been given. Amazing!
I’m so exhausted, because my immune system is trying with all it’s might to FIGHT. How strong it is to keep fighting!
I hurt so much, but it’s because my earth suit refuses to GIVE UP!
We all love the idea of affirmations, but we rarely employ them, I think. We hold Oprah and Brene Brown in high esteem because they are not afraid to pep talk themselves and not dwell in suffering. I’m going to try to work on this, because the status quo is not working for me. Resenting my own body – or illnesses, or pain – is simply stoking the fire of depression and anxiety.
So today, I can tell you that I am wicked STRONG.
I am sick, but it is not what defines me.
I’m in pain, but I overcome every single day.
When I need rest, it’s to help this “clunker” get back on the road again.
DAMN, girl! You are a survivor!
I’ll be kinder to myself if YOU will. I think we chronic illness sufferers deserve at least as much grace as we give others.
Let’s make a conscious effort to appreciate how very hard our bodies work to get through what normies do in the course of every day.
Let’s do that cornball thing where we stand in front of the actual mirror and give our bodies an “atta girl!” and a “thank you!” every day.
Our souls can only benefit from it!
Because we are FIGHTERS, through and through.