It is so hard for me to trust my own body. Some people feel easy in their bodies. They assume their body will automatically do the things it needs to take care of itself. They know their hearts will speed up when they run and slow when they lie down. They believe their lungs can handle the exertion of being in motion, they have felt that their nerves can take the stress of a hard day, they are assured that their livers can sift through the toxins they encounter and will protect them. They live their lives without thinking much about their bodies and how they function. They assume it will all be fine. Their bodies will take care of themselves.
I do not feel this way about my body. I never have. I have always thought that there was something deeply wrong with my body. I have always had an idea in my head that I will die young, and strangely. That people will scratch their heads in surprise when they hear about it, and how it happened. I have always been convinced that I need to be careful with my body, more than other people. I can’t trust that I will not die at any moment. I feel that I must tiptoe around my body, that I should subject it to too much or it might just break down. It could all just collapse at any moment: I track my heart beat to make sure it stays steady. I listen to my own breathing all day to make sure it doesn’t stop. I have lived my life in this fear, outside of the natural flow others find in their bodies.
I look back to find the deep roots of this problem, emotional and physical, that is now manifested. My parents never trusted me growing up– no matter what I did to try to prove it. They always told me that trust is earned, but somehow I could never earn it. They didn’t trust my abilities, they didn’t trust my motivation, they didn’t trust my desires. Eventually, when faced with an impossible situation, there is nothing to do but internalize the very problem you are faced with. No matter what I did I would not be able to make my mother happy. If I was perfect, by her standards, she would be happy. But no body can ever be perfect. And eventually I turned this in on myself- finding all the imperfections in my own body.
I was betrayed by my own culture. My body was compromised from early on but no one intervened. My body cannot tolerate the expectations that are normal in this society: to eat foods that are toxic to us, to soak up the poisons in our shampoos and body washes, to live a life drenched in stress, to cope with the every day violence that is synonymous with womanhood. And no one helped me. My body was left to desperately survive on it’s own- so what could it do except internalize that is is inadequate? But it is not. It struggles like everyone else’s- the fact that it can put up with less of the stress that we are all under is a sign of it’s own strength, a sign of it’s own ability to sift right from wrong, to set clear boundaries with myself and my own culture and say NO, this is not how I was meant to live. Nobody knew how to help me until I was deep into autoimmune disease and I sought answers on my own.
What was my body supposed to learn from a world that didn’t help me as I struggled, except that I cannot trust myself, and there is no hope for me? The message was that I must suffer alone- I cannot trust my body to take of myself, and I cannot trust others to take care of my body.
So now these messages manifest in my disease. My body over reacts to everything. And I cannot trust it. It responds strangely and suddenly, without warning the inflammation starts and I feel like I am dying. Every fear I’ve ever had has been realized in this illness.
And yet, somehow, little by little, I am beginning to heal. I try to pull my illness out of me from the roots. Reaching down even farther, seeing if I can find those firm and stubborn seeds deeply imbedded in my cells, in my psyche, in my spirit. And the truth I know is that to heal I must open. I must allow. I must trust. I must forgive every betrayal of my own body.