“The Body Never Lies.” Martha Graham
Posted on KaleandKombucha.com
I am the youngest of six. The caboose. I was born into the role of observing and watching. It is uncomfortable for me to be in the spotlight; I prefer to hang in the back and absorb the environment. But here goes-
I guess I’d describe myself as a reformed slacker in many ways. Until the summer going into my junior year of high school I was known simply as an athlete. But something clicked that summer and I became instantly entrenched in the type A drive that is often a source of undoing, as it provides camouflage for more deeply rooted issues and neuroses. That drive certainly provided me an important engine to move me forward in my life. I am grateful for that. But it was also a slow burning engine that I had little control to turn off. I ran too much. I worked hard to the point of self-criticism. I kept the hours needed in order to complete college, masters, and doctoral training with high earnings. But I had a sense that I was draining my energy more quickly than I was able to replace it. I drove myself hard. And as predicted, my body eventually began to express the consequences of my choices. So in many ways, it is because of my inadequacies that I began the journey to better understand myself, my body and the environment in which I exist.
For me, it started with a level of PMS (as age 25) that I was unwilling to allow to become “normal.” I began to try and engage my doctors in a discussion about my symptoms and what I was greeted with time and again was the option to begin birth control pills. I pressed for more options, but it seemed so final. This was my only “real” option. And by the way, these doctors were earnest, smart, and infinitely patient with me as I pressed them for more and more solutions. They were kind and listened to my growing list of physical symptoms. I appreciated their kindness, but I was frustrated by what I perceived as a lack of options. I didn’t want to go on birth control medication. I hadn’t been on it thus far and I was a bit suspicious, albeit without any scientific understanding at the time. I was just neurotic. Blame it on the type A transformation. I had and still have no judgment on women who choose the pill as a piece of their overall wellness program. I think the most important thing is that we have that choice, as women, around how we want to author our reproductive wellness. It just didn’t work for me. So I turned that same sense of relentless drive and curiosity on to better understanding my own body.
What was it telling me about my whole and balanced sense of wellness? I had to learn a new language in order to understand it. Prior to this, I was the kind of person who believed that uncomfortable sensations (physically) were simply an obstacle to over come, to push through, to run more miles, get better grades, achieve more.
In order to do so, I often had to silence what my body was telling me. I would numb it or blatantly ignore it. And when I pushed past the “pain” I would feel triumphant. I felt invigorated. Powerful. And I felt others saw me this way too. I liked that association. I became wedded to the feeling of being “strong” or willful. I was afraid to let that identity go. I had no compass to guide me on how to rebuild this scaffolding. But I felt compelled to try.
The deal I was proposing to myself was so entirely and radically different, I was totally lost on how to even start. I was going to start to listen to my body. Engage it in a dialogue and actually respect what it tells me.
We are tired. Then rest.
We are hurt. Then ask for help.
We feel afraid. Then connect.
We are energetic. Then move.
And so on.
I began to use my body as a science experiment. An N of one. I explored various models of healthy eating. Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, etc. etc. etc. I tried to truly assess how is my body responding to this style of nourishment? Every day, I bump up against my ego or my pride or other countless obstacles in my pursuit to be truly “honest” with myself. But I am trying. I am learning how to be friends with my body, how to respect it. Honor it as an equal in this journey of life. I try to approach it with gratitude for all it does. Regarding food, I like what Michael Pollan says, “ Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s basically where I would fall in terms of dietary leanings.
Eventually, as I matured, I was able to find and create partnerships with some of my doctors that helped me understand my hormones, my adrenals, and how food, and very select (and few) supplements might help support my efforts. I felt good. And I felt as though I had successfully listened to what my body was trying to communicate. All those years, I was so busy trying to overcome what my body was expressing (and often how it was looking), primarily as a means to self-inflation. Meanwhile, if I had just engaged my body in a dialogue, I would have felt better and experienced real sense of personal empowerment. Go figure.
As I learned more, I got more curious and began to read, study, and collaborate with other like-minded doctors seeking wellness-based medicine. Eventually I began to share and encourage my own patients to seek out choices/options in their wellness. I am not committed to a certain way for people to author the journey. Just that they feel they have adequate access to options, collaborators, and information. In the end, so long as your decision comes from a place of choice I think you are better off no matter the outcome.
The process for me, I hope, will continue for as long as my contract is renewed. I hope I can continue to develop a more and more authentic, and integrated relationship with my own being. I also hope to pass it on and to be a source of support and a fellow explorer with others. I have found the journey is indeed much more meaningful when done in partnership.