Dear Stomach Hanging Over My Jeans: You Are Awesome
In 2009 my body was a bit of a mess. I’d had an acute attack of pancreatitis which had left me hospitalised and drained and hot on the heels of that came months of excruciating stomach pains that I couldn’t seem to get a diagnosis for.
Eventually, a series of tests revealed that I had open sores in my intestine – lots of them. I was told I had either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, my test results falling somewhere in the middle of the two.
I hadn’t had a period for a year and after having been laid so low with the pancreatitis I was over having health issues. I was mad at my body. Why couldn’t it just be healthy? Why couldn’t it just work properly?
After being prescribed medication to reduce the intestinal inflammation and manage the pain, in a relatively short amount of time I was no longer curled up in a ball on my bed.
But I still resented my body.
I resented the fact that I had to continue with medication and hospital check ups. I resented the fact that I was reliant on doctors and pills. I’d had enough of waiting rooms and intrusive procedures. I resented it all.
That resentment claimed a space in my body where it lay like a layer of toxic waste. I had a constant internal dialogue in my head that never seemed to let up:
Body: Please don’t hate me.
Me: I don’t hate you. I’m just disappointed in you.
Body: I’m trying. I’m doing my best.
Me: Do better. Be like the other bodies.
Body: I can’t. I’m not like them. I’m different.
Me: Well, I didn’t ask you to be. I want you to be normal.
Body: Please love me as I am. Please.
Me: Go away.
It didn’t matter who had the last word. There was no winner. It had been a conversation that had in fact begun many moons before. It was undoubtedly a prelude to the bulimia struggle that had haunted me intermittently for years.
Eventually I reached a point where I realised that not liking or accepting myself wasn’t ever going to work in my favour. Not only was it a constant source of inner conflict, it was also unbelievably draining.
Things changed for me when I decided to take the endless energy that I spent wanting my body to be different and instead channeled it into celebrating and cherishing its wonder.
Habits are formed when we repeat behaviour to the extent that it almost becomes involuntary. Changing my mental chatter to a new script took time and effort. But once I had altered the course of the conversation, I found that I was able to form new habits that set the stage for self acceptance.
Sometimes our past thoughts sneak up on us and catch us by surprise. They call us up and we forget to let them go straight to voicemail. Before we know it we’re listening to their trash talk all over again.
This happened to me recently when I was having some professional photos done, courtesy of my photographer husband. In one set I was spinning around as he captured some motion shots. However, the downloads revealed that he’d also captured my stomach in, what I at first considered to be, an unattractive angle.
The first thing I said was “Oh, can you crop that? I don’t want my stomach showing”. And then, immediately after, “Actually, no. Don’t”.
It was just a momentary lapse in my usually body positive mindset, but it caught me off guard. I had a few seconds of self loathing – it happens. But then I got myself back on track.
I reminded myself of the freedom I now have: The freedom to be myself and love myself. Why would I want to put myself back in chains?
I used to suck my stomach in. All the time. When I was walking down the street. When I was having my photo taken. When I was teaching yoga. Control was everything.
I’d weigh myself. Twice a day, every day. What are the scales saying today. Skylar? What kind of day will it be? Can we eat? Should we binge? What do we need to do to get to the magic number?
I will not let my past misery dictate my present happiness. My stomach may not be taut and toned but it’s mine and it works for me. I will not suck it in, nor will I airbrush it.
I’m done with hiding. I’m done with apologising. And I’m definitely done with hating on myself.
So in case I ever forget again, in case I need a reminder of how damn amazing my body is, I’m writing it a love letter.
A Shout Out to My Body
Thank you for showing up for me.
Thank you for all the functions you do for me, every second of every day.
Because of you I know what it is to see the morning light. I know what it is to taste the breeze and feel the warmth of a touch.
Thank you for all the messages you give me. For the times you tell me that I’m rushing too much. ‘Slow down‘, you remind me, ‘Don’t live so fast that you forget to savour the sweetness‘.
Thank you for your scars and lines and stretch marks. They are beautiful.
I’m sorry for the times I hurt you. When I told you that you weren’t good enough. When I asked you to be different.
After all, aren’t my oldest memory, my very first friend.
You are my longest love affair and my most constant companion.
I promise to be patient with you. To pay more attention. To listen.
On the days when all you can manage is a slow crawl, I won’t shout at you. I promise.
Body of mine, I love you exactly as you are.
I know it took a long time. I know you were lonely and hurting. I know you felt rejected.
But I’m here now. I’m finally home.