September is my month of talking about Bodily Healing. This is part of my Year of Healing, in which I tackle different topics of healing each month. During September, I will touch on physical and sexual healing, accepting ourselves no matter who we are. I began by writing a post last week on my personal story on body image, health, and everything it’s connected to. Today I follow up with a part two to that blog post, where I share a poem and more on my healing journey.
A Love Poem (About Body Image/Self Image)
We grew up together,
You and I,
Through a trillion cells
Loved and lovely childhood
Blooming together into
Awkward ugly ducklinghood
Then radiant swan
Blind to our inherent glory
Found in the etchings
of our DNA
Yet I separated myself from you
You were you in glorious birthright
And I shrunk at the sight
Seeing only imperfections
I wanted to unbind
To sever our alliance
And so I hated you
I beat you, starved you, destroyed you
But I wasn’t rid of you,
You and I
And as you began crying out in pain,
I began crying out, too
Day in, day out
An unendurable life
Because life would always
Link the two of us
Fatefully bound in matrimony
It was a holy marriage
A divine binding together
Sacredness could not be hated
You and I must be loved
I listened, I headed your pain
And suddenly the pain
We lived in closer bonds,
You and I,
And love came into the temple
And we danced and moved
With an intimate connection
Until death do us part
For you, my body,
Are the sanctuary of my being
In Part One of this series, I talked about how I hated my body, got diagnosed with Lyme Disease, and struggled with body image and accepting myself for many years.
It wasn’t until after college, after I’d gotten a real job and moved to Colorado, that I began truly reconciling myself to my body. After my dear friend died in an abusive cult, I began realizing that unhealthiness in body, mind, and spirit could truly destroy people. My Kindred Spirit’s death triggered a deep realization in me that healing needed to come for me, too, because I saw a lot of my deep self hatred reflected in the cult and their treatment of themselves and each other.
My first step in the right direction (among many other things) was taking up ballet. I’ve already written in length about my story with dance both here and here, so I’m not going to write in length about it. It was hard–I’m honestly not a natural ballerina by ANY stretch of the imagination–but it was so rewarding all at the same time.
Dance was part of the puzzle pieces that lead me towards the healing. For the first time in life, I began thinking about my body—not just as an object of desire, not as a sick nuisance, not as an ashamed female, but as a body that could move and express and be something beyond my narrow-minded background.
Rumi says it best:
“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”
But due to health issues and financial reasons, after about 2 years, I couldn’t continue dance. My health tanked again–exasperated, I believe, by the deep emotional and spiritual trauma of having to process and grieve my friend’s death in the cult. As my body slowly fell apart, it became clear to me that I would not be able to continue working full time. My health slowly plummeted, and I began planning my exit from my dream job (a.k.a. working in publishing).
As my health got worse, so did my mental state. I began having having panic attacks at night, along with an increasing feeling of depression and despair. The more and more tired I got as I forced myself to work 40 hours a week and plaster a grin on my face while feeling like dying inside, the more my brain began freaking out (see how it’s all connected?). In fact, 3 months before I quit my full time job in 2015, I went through a very deep period of depression that was so bad my mother insisted I take depression meds. (For thoughts on depression, check out my writing in March about the topic).
And it was around this time that I found yoga.
Yoga has not been a journey I’ve ever written about on this blog, really. At first, I was just so sick and tired and wordless about most of my health woes over the last two years because, well–I was so sick and tired and wordless.
But I began taking yoga from a friend who had opened up a small studio, and I remember the deep effects of even the first couple practices. Suddenly, all that dance preparation made sense. I felt like my body had finally found it’s natural movement–one of the things it had been created to do.
Along with the beauty of expression I found in yoga, I also found the focus on the mental component and meditation extremely beneficial. At 27 years old at the time, I had never even once thought to stop and truly listen to my body or focus my mind so extensively. My body had nothing of value to offer, after all! I had nothing to offer. But with yoga and meditation, I found that my body was constantly talking, that my mind was always playing tricks on me, and that I had to really star thinking about all tension that existed within. That there was pain there, and that until I heeded the pain, I couldn’t move forward with my fight against chronic illness.
You see, the body holds trauma inside it. Trauma and the body are intricately linked, and if you don’t listen and take heed to the messages in your body, you will never heal. As I began taking the time to really sit, meditate, do yoga, and listen to my body on the mat, I began to make deep revelations about how much I had always hated myself, about past pain, about my battle with Lyme–about how it was all connected! Because guess what? Up until that moment, I had no idea really! I talked extensively about my body during the last post–but I had never really thought about it much until after yoga. I had never known my body could have a story. That it actually held trauma and pain and emotional baggage probably more deeply than my mind, and that all of that trauma and pain had caused my immune system to shut down to the point of malfunction with Lyme Disease.
Working on my mat through yoga was like working through the grief of heartbreak over the years, of losing my Kindred Spirit all over again, of all the questions I had been asking. Moving through yoga was like facing the self hatred and anger I’d always held about my sick, Lyme Disease-ridden corpse. And yes, in some ways I viewed my body as a corpse. But yoga and meditation were profound ways of facing myself, of facing the trauma, of releasing it, and of finding a way to breathe life into my body once more.
With yoga and meditation–and 2 long years of learning to truly listen to my body and understand how to take care of it–my Lyme Disease began to calm down. I began to learn how to deal with stress better, how to eat well and live healthily for my body, and how to navigate a life that is far from perfect but still beautiful–MY LIFE, MY BODY. And I learned to embrace my body as the temple that it is: a temple for divinity and the Spirit of God that should be treated with care and respect. It is a body broken in many ways, but it is still sacred ground.
In short, I no longer hate my body. I love my body. I’ve learned to accept myself, flaws and illness and all. I began to see that who I am as a woman is beautiful and divine and full of strength and wisdom. That I can be okay with just being me–even when no man sees me and loves me. And while I’m not perfect by any means in the journey towards self love and acceptance, the journey has progressed in many beautiful ways.
What are ways you could start listening to your body in deeper ways?
What is holding you back from taking steps toward better heath both physically and mentally?
Photos by Free Spirit Colorado