How can we love and care for ourselves when we feel let down by our body? — by Petrea King
It’s easy to feel angry, disillusioned or lose confidence in our capacity to bounce back when our bodies have fundamentally changed and may never ‘go back’
to how they were before the surgery, the illness, the accident. We thought we knew our body; we thought we were healthy and knew what was going on.
Many people have commented that they felt they were living a healthy lifestyle and yet this disease diagnosis was living inside them. How long had it been
there and how could this be happening when the outside body was still the same?
As one program participant said, “I no longer feel the same about me. I feel as though I don’t even know myself anymore.”
Feeling at war with yourself
What I do know from my own experience is that for a long time I was very angry. I found that because my body had let me down I seemed to be at war with
myself, even my language became war-like because I was fighting myself.
I realised that I’d do things like walking too far, or standing too long, or if no one was around, I’d make myself go up the stairs two at a time.
Yet having had more than a dozen major surgeries to my legs where they cut my femurs and turned my lower legs out, cut my tibias and turned them in, then
did that all over again, then transplanted tendons, doing these things was actually a very cruel and dispassionate way of being in relationship to
I was behaving as though I wanted to teach my body a lesson it would never forget! The pain I felt lingered long after I had collapsed into a chair or
on to a bed and I really hadn’t taught my body anything at all.
I don’t know whether you find there are times when you push through even though your body has told you “enough”. This lacks compassion and of course, doesn’t
create an environment in which our body can heal.
We need to:
- Cultivate a sense of self-compassion
- Learn how to listen to our body
- Monitor our energy levels
- Not push ourselves when we’re in pain, if pain is an issue for us.
Acknowledge your energy levels
If your energy levels are low, look up the ‘Spoon Theory’ on Wikipedia. It describes perfectly this idea of limited energy, using “spoons” as
a unit of energy. It’s a fantastic way of explaining to people who find it difficult to understand chronic illnesses, especially when you look good
on the outside but you’re really not good inside.
We have a saying at Quest which has often allowed people the space to answer honestly. We say,
Do you feel as good as you look?
It’s a way of acknowledging that the packaging isn’t always in tune with the contents.
Dealing with disappointment
It’s fine to feel disappointment. Perhaps the rate of recovery is not as swift as we’d like or perhaps despite following all the advice, the chemotherapy
is still causing nausea, but we don’t want to live in that state all the time.
So, feel the disappointment when it comes up.
If you’ve been on a program at Quest for Life, you’d know that wonderful process of ‘the Mansion of Emotion’; “this is how it feels to be me feeling
disappointment. It’s ok to feel disappointed. This is how feeling disappointed feels for me”.
Yes, there it is, that feeling closing in, a sense of isolation, being alone, wondering if it’s ever going to get any better. And then be willing to let
it go and come back to the moment where you can cultivate that sense of compassion for the parts of your body that are not working so well and remembering
to send gratitude to the areas of your body that do work well.
Breath is life
I remember that when I was at my sickest, I’d shower myself then my mother would dry me and get me dressed and get me back to bed. There were days when
I just thought, ok, there’s a breath going in, there’s a breath going out. My whole world was reduced down to just breathing. I had no energy for anything
So sometimes we’re driven to the moment through our suffering where we realise we only have this one breath but if we can be fully present to this one
breath and feel grateful for it, it shifts our level of consciousness from one of feeling that the glass is half empty to one of feeling grateful for
the breath. Just to have the breath. Breath is life.
If you’re feeling angry, disillusioned or let down by your body, Quest for Life can help.
- Our 5-day residential Healing Your Life program provides you with a wealth
of practical skills and strategies for building self-esteem in a confidential and safe environment.
- Our 1-day Mindful Living workshops show you ways to regain control of your life and move towards peace
increases over time. On our programs, you’ll be nourished, educated and supported to create an environment for profound healing.