How to Love Your Body After It’s Betrayed You

My approach to my health has now moved from focusing solely on my gut and digestive issues to a holistic attitude encompassing my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual self. And in this shift in perspective, I’ve had to take a step back and forgive this body of mine that has betrayed me and learn to slowly love it again. I’ve written about a complex relationship I have developed with food, and in that the complicated image of self and identity formation as my physical body has gone through rapid changes and adjustments. I’ve been let down by this body of mine time and time again it’s hard to maintain a positive sentiment towards it….But it’s the only one I’ve got and I love it more than ever now.

To begin, let’s talk about the recovery process and how hard your body fights to not only keep you alive, but functioning? My body fought so hard against itself that when an entire major organ was removed, it said, “no worries, I’ve got this,” and that small intestine went to work to pick up the slack. How magnificent is mother nature that my body can operate at (pretty much) the same level as a “normal” person, without an large intestine or rectum? In fact, while having an ostomy, how phenomenal is that a piece of an organ was LITERALLY sticking outside of my body…and you’d never know? Mad respect for this body of mine for not only managing to cope, but also keeping my heart and soul thriving in positivity while navigating these new processes.

It can also be especially challenging to look in the mirror and appreciate what you see when your body undergoes such drastic changes. I really struggled waking up and not recognizing myself when my face was puffy and my hair was thin, and I had a bag on my stomach. How do you value the strength of your body and mind when you feel ugly? How do you welcome these changes with grace and gratitude when you’re angry and embarrassed? How do you wear them confidently with pride and adoration when it’s unfamiliar and difficult to comprehend?

Well for starters, you remember that everyBODY has some sort of baggage.

And then you shift. You shift that perception to cherish, honour and love the resilience that body has. The hands that endured countless IV needles, the skin that dried out, the eyes that poured tears, the legs that shrunk in size, the mouth full of canker sores, and the lungs that kept the heart pumping.

Slowly, the hair grew back, the muscles strengthened, the hemoglobin increased, the skin filled with colour, the cheeks resumed memorable form and the immune system calmed down. And slowly I was able to put this body to work, in a way that unified my physicality, mindfulness and overall wellbeing to a place of balance and stability. And now we’re pushing it.

It’s been almost 2 years (WOW) since my JPouch surgery and let’s just take a moment to congratulate this body of mine for also potty training at 26 years old, because that also is not an easy task. I’ve put my body through a vigorous chore of digesting food, retaining water and controlling the urgency of bowel movements almost to a full function, and although for most people that’s an easy job, for me that’s a mission….mission (almost) accomplished.

This past year I decided to marvel in what my body could accomplish now that for so many years I couldn’t dream of. I made a choice that after years of lost control (literally couldn’t control my bowel movements) I was going to take back control of the things I could. And although that means a lot of different things for me (stay tuned for 2018 Year in Review post) for the sake of this article, it meant being active again. I will never publish a #fitfam Insta post, because that’s not the mind frame. My job this year was to honour what my body could do, by nourishing and strengthening it. And soon I was able to cherish the hands that lifted dumbbells, the skin that formed calluses, the eyes that dripped sweat, the legs that  grew in size, the mouth full of water, and the lungs that kept the heart pumping.

When your body betrays you, your mind also changes and that too is worth honouring. I’ve developed that self-love, but also a love for others. A mind that is empathetic, a heart that is compassionate and a soul that is kind. Isn’t that worth honouring too?

Looking in the mirror I no longer see a sick person, an identity I have attributed to myself for years.  I lost so much confidence because of this disloyal body of mine. But in reality it didn’t betray me. It fought for me and went to war against the only thing worthy enough to have that fight…me. And now those battle scars I wear with absolute honour. 7 abdominal scars that tell a story of durability and toughness. Isn’t that something to wear with confidence?

If you have IBD (or any chronic illness for that matter), trust me, I get how infuriating it can be when your body lets you down over and over. I get what it’s like to develop distrust for your body when it betrays you and goes rogue. I understand the disappointment when it feels like your body is failing and abandoning you. I hear you. But in those moments of deflation, why not let others around you help carry that baggage? Because soon enough you’ll be able to carry it using your own hands…calluses and all.