Words by Brittany Forbes
I have mixed feelings about my body.
I have flaws and insecurities, sure. I have a bump in my nose that makes people ask if it's ever been broken, my curly hair is never defined and smooth like those shampoo commercials would make you believe, and I have stretch marks in places I didn't know could stretch (side note: EVERYTHING can stretch).
A long time ago, and probably not by choice, I decided to put any healing work and energy I could muster into making my mind and spirit healthier, deciding that these are the parts of me who really make me who I am. The physical body I present to the world was always an afterthought. I believed the package didn't matter. So for the most part and on most days, I always felt pretty okay with myself.
Until one day last year, during one long, hot summer, my mind failed me and that spirit I had tried so hard to build up grew weary. I went to a therapist.
I told her about the panic attacks I had been having, so it really threw me off when she said, "What does that panic feel like in your body?"
I was confused instantly. What does my body have to do with this?
She tried again. "When you talk about feeling anxious, how does that land in your body? Where do you feel it?" Uh, I feel it in my feelings.
She persisted. "No. Where in your body is there a reaction?"
I started crying. It hit me like a ton of bricks then and there that I was extremely disconnected from my body. I didn't know a thing about this major part of me. I had been ignoring myself for so long.
What I have come to learn about my body in the year since then, is that for most of my life I pretended I didn't have one.
Pain gets felt in your bones. Fear sits on your chest like a weight that makes its home there and for me, the only way to deal with that was to pretend it didn't exist. In order to avoid the pain, I had to avoid my body. If that's where the pain lived, if that's where I didn't feel safe, then I would compartmentalize. I would focus on my mind because it felt a lot easier to control my thoughts than to sit with the physical symptoms of my feelings.
Several times throughout my life, this sweet body of mine was violated.
That caused the divide between me and my body to deepen. Since I couldn't get rid of the pain, I wanted nothing to do with my body and therefore I wanted nothing to do with myself. It was a domino effect of dangerous proportions.
It's a heavy thing to hate yourself. To pretend your humanness doesn't exist. To constantly live in a fantasy land with your head above the clouds, willing yourself to be smaller, to be invisible, or to disappear altogether.
I've made it a goal over the past year to re-connect with myself. I want to learn my body and like my body and be present in my body. I want to own myself. Some days I ask my body out loud what it needs. I pay attention to the nervousness in my chest, the butterflies in my stomach, the beating of my heart.
And what I'm learning is that it all means something. The worry that spreads itself throughout my chest means that my body is remembering a feeling from a long time ago, something I can work to let go of now. The butterflies in my stomach tell me I am excited and filled with joy about something to come. The quickening of my heartbeat is a direct link to the times I am scared or overwhelmed with love.
It all means that I am alive and I am taking up my space in this world and while the look of my outer package still doesn't matter to me that much, acknowledging the space I am taking up and the new connection I have made with myself means everything.
It's been a blissful reckoning to come back down to earth and realize that my body is still here for me, waiting for me to acknowledge all that I am. My heart is still beating and my lungs are still filling and loving on myself has been my biggest adventure yet.
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About the Author:
Brittany writes in Canadian, loves in English, and dreams in French. She writes about travels and various other journeys over at Letters To Rayelle.