When Your Body Betrays You

You are your most merciless critic.

Intellectually, we all understand this. “Would you treat your best friend the way you’re treating yourself right now?” Of course not. But also… fuck you.

Because I’m pretty sure my best friend would never treat ME this way, either.

It’s hard enough moving through the world when your body does what it’s supposed to. It’s another matter entirely when your body or your brain willfully betrays you. It’s hard to feel grace in a body that won’t cooperate. You’ve already tried “just being happy,” thanks.

The problem is, self-confidence is much more nuanced when it’s not just about feeling good about what you’re capable of. Because today, I may be capable of a marathon (and I say marathon, but what I really mean is Tuesday), and tomorrow, incapable of getting out of bed. How do you measure your worth in that?

And the answer is…. You don’t. 

Your value to the world doesn’t come in quantifiable, measured portions. You can’t write your worth in the number of Twitter followers you have (thank the gods), which means it also isn’t measured in your ability to keep your home to Martha Stewart standards, or how many Pinterest projects your children completed over the summer. 

“Okay, but Briar…. I look like everyone else. THEY expect me to maintain those standards.”

And there’s truth in this. I remember the first time my mother in law looked at me with open skepticism when I told her that I couldn’t move those thirty pound boxes of books, because I would throw out my back. And I remember how everyone else gave me a hard time for it, so I did the stupid thing, and did it anyway.

YOU know what’s coming next. I very predictably threw out my back, and had to spend well over a week in bed recovering. My husband was livid. Not with me, but with his family. Yeah, okay, he was a little pissed at me too, for not standing my ground about my limits. I’ve gotten better about this.

But it’s hard to love your body when it’s broken.

And today, you just don’t.

And you know what? That’s okay. Today, it’s okay to hate your body. 

Today, it’s okay to berate your hormones for running rampant in all the wrong ways, causing weight loss, weight gain, infertility, low libido, memory or hair loss. 

Today, it’s okay to curse your need for all those drugs in your medicine cabinet, without which you are a husk of a human being with questionable sanity.

Today, it’s okay to loathe a reproductive system apparently only occasionally capable (and perhaps not even that) of nurturing or sustaining the life that you ache for with every fiber of your being. 

Today, it’s okay to hate your body.

The reality of chronic illness or mental health challenges is that you will likely be living with this problem (or a whole host of new ones) for the rest of your life. This IS your reality. You can possibly, but not always, treat the problem. But will you get better? For some of us, that answer is always no.

And today, I hate my body for it.

So today, I have very deliberately wallowed. Today, I have not practiced self care. I have practiced self soothing. 

Today, I have eaten my feelings. With chocolate. And whipped cream. And hummus. But not together.

Today, I sat in the shower and cried. And then I crawled into bed, cuddled up with Bob the Bear, and took a nap. 

Today, I hate my body. Not for what it is, but for what it isn’t. So today, I grieve deliberately.

Because it’s okay to grieve for the body you will never have. It’s okay to mourn a life that is no longer possible, or never even existed. Because this IS a loss. You have lost, not someone else’s idea of perfection, but your own. Your life is not now, and possibly never will be the one you envisioned.

And today, you should grieve for that.

So that tomorrow, when you look in the mirror and do an inventory of what you do like about yourself, it will mean something.

Tomorrow, you will be able to recognize just how much this body serves you. This body carries you daily through your life, and it does it remarkably well, all things considered. This body was perhaps a home and a sanctuary to amazing children. These arms are capable of soothing away the hurt of the world, just by wrapping them around someone.

This body, for better or worse, is your place in the world.

And tomorrow, you can find the joy in that. Tomorrow, you can try again at experiencing weightlessness, or a perfect moment in time, or maybe even just a few fleeting moments of grace. 

But that’s tomorrow.