What you are about to read was an assignment given to me by my dietitian, who has been an integral and God-given guide in leading me back to health from a 13-year battle with anorexia. In an effort to connect with my body, and to begin healing my distorted view of my body image, this exercise proved to be as powerful as it was awkward. While I still severely dislike what I see in the mirror, this letter was a starting point for disarming the shame associated with what I see every morning when I step out of the shower, and reaffirming me as a vessel for a heavenly Spirit.
I wish this could be a love letter. It isn’t a hate letter to be sure, but it is more of an I’m-learning-to-like-you-as-I-understand-you-better letter.
I guess I never really understood you, how you work, why you function the way you do in all processes, and why your processes make me feel crummy. I don’t always feel crummy, but most of the time, at the very least, I feel uncomfortable in you.
Since entering rehabilitation, however, I am beginning to learn more about you, and as I do, I find myself appreciating you more. Let me just say, thank you for always trying to protect me. I think the biggest lesson I am learning is that you are always, and always have been, working hard to protect me. Even when I was abusing you, starving you and ignoring you, you were trying to keep me alive. I am sorry for taking you for granted.
I ask for your patience as I continue trying to understand you, because while I am beginning to feel genuine appreciation for you, I simultaneously feel irritation, confusion, and discomfort toward and inside you.
For example, Belly, I have a love-hate relationship with you. I love that inside my gut hosts the epicenter for my immunity. When you are feeling good and operating normally, you are working to protect me from illness. Also, I think it’s amazing how you stretched to accommodate my babies. While it was no picnic for me to carry around an extra human inside my body (twice), it’s pretty damn cool that you could house, feed, and grow my children . . . And shrink back down to a relatively normal size without too much evidence that I had babies. Pretty incredible. Props to you too, Uterus (I’ll get back to you in a minute).
Overall, dear Belly, I think you are pretty neat. What I struggle with, though, is that for some reason you often feel like a freshly pumped bike tire. It usually happens after I eat or drink anything. Now that I feed you regularly, I feel like a Huffy bike tire regularly. I understand that my brain is sort of broken and tends to distort reality; I probably don’t look as puffy as I feel. However I do feel like by the end of each day, after all the food and drink is in, my assessment of you is pretty accurate. It causes me angst to feel larger than I actually am. I want to understand why you puff up, and maybe if I understood better, I could have a bit more compassion and grace rather than shame when I wear a fitted shirt. Or pants.
Since we’re here, I may as well address my female reproductive team. First off, thank you for giving me children. Without the work of all the parts (ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus) there is no way I would have Sean and Haley today. I have friends who have had lots of trouble conceiving children, so I don’t take for granted what you have done for me.
Here’s the deal. You hurt and exacerbate the issue with my belly at least once a month, sometimes twice when we consider ovulation. Wouldn’t it be nice, now that the babies are born, if we could retire from the menstruation process. I know it’s a lot of work for you, and it’s no monthly vacation for me either. Once again, though, maybe if I could better understand why your process makes me feel so miserable, and why the protocol is necessary post-reproductive season, then maybe I could have more patience and understanding for you.
Body, there are parts of you that I really do try to take care of, but I feel like you don’t cooperate in return. Like my skin. I have come to accept that you don’t tan, and I have become less embarrassed by the permanent porcelain tint you have chosen for my legs (which, by the way, Legs, I like you). But I am constantly covered in rashes and bumps. Again, your blemishes, which randomly appear on my abdomen exacerbate my displeasure with Belly. What can I do to heal you and keep you rash free? And moist? You are always so dry. Do you need more water? I would love to show you confident and cool in shorts and swim suits, but it is tough when you are covered in itchy spots. People ask questions and I don’t know what to say.
As I just mentioned, I do like my legs and even my arms. You guys have good shape and the capacity for good strength. I love that I have all of you and you serve me well for walking, hugging, lifting, and holding. I am working to build the muscles and bone strength to keep you healthy and strong all the way through my senior years. Hands, I am so grateful for all you do in helping me with–everything. I don’t know what I would do with you. You are literally writing this letter!
Brain, I understand you the least, and I find myself frustrated with your thinking quite often. Why do you fight with my heart so much? What my heart knows to be true, you tend to negate and persuade me otherwise. You house the voices that try to convince me that I am invalid, unworthy, and ugly. Yet, you also feed my introspection, helping me process and express my truest thoughts that have nothing to do with those false voices. I know if I didn’t have you, my body would be lying in a hospital bed, completely dormant. You are a little bit broken, but I feel you yearning for healing and working to accept the new beliefs that debunk the lies you’ve been holding.
So you see, Body, I am trying to improve my attitude toward you. Everything you have and do has a function. As I figure out what is harming you, like I did with gluten and starvation, I desire to heal you–to engage in better behaviors and habits that will help you thrive. I want to love you. All parts of you. Even when I don’t feel good, I know that as I learn the whys and hows around how you work, loving you will become easier.
Last but not least, in fact, most importantly, you are a home for which the Holy Spirit dwells. This is a new perspective that I hadn’t considered in earnest until today. In honor of the the One who created me, this home called Body, I simply want to respect you with care, compassion, nutritional fuel, so the Spirit can work as it was designed. I pray as we continue to heal together, the image of the God shines through.
In growing understanding,