The other day I wrote a blog post about how I tend to think of
my body as something separate from myself, rather than part of me. I had a bit of an epiphany and now I think that the narrative I’ve been using to describe my body and my relationship with it has been harmful. You might want to read that before wading into this nonsense – it’s really a series of tweets, and it’s not very long. Basically, cancer has fucked me up in terms of how I think about myself and my body. I’m sure other illnesses can do the same, so if any of these even vaguely relates, keep reading.
Now that you’ve read the original post/tweets, let’s continue. I
think there are two things – there is being happy with my body in general (in terms of trust and forgiveness rather than looks), and there is being with my body again. Because I can make peace with it, but if I’m still thinking of it as a separate entity, then that is problematic. I mean, that’s not healthy, right? It’s sort of like depersonalisation or something.
But not quite, by the way. I did look up depersonalisation and dissociation a while ago because sometimes I felt weird. Dissociation is when you feel like you are physically outside your body, I think. Depersonalisation is “a state in which one’s thoughts and feelings seem unreal or not to belong to oneself”. It wasn’t quite like that. It was like I would be talking with someone about myself, but it didn’t feel like we were talking about me. For example, I was talking to a friend one day and he referred to something I had said to someone else the day before. And it was as if we were talking about a different person entirely. It just didn’t feel like I identified with the person he was talking about. It’s hard to explain, and it’s usually quite brief, and doesn’t happen often. It hasn’t happened for months, actually. And I never found a word that explained what it was. It’s just weird. I don’t know if that has anything to do with anything.
Body as identity
I was feeling low on confidence a few months ago. And I think
disconnecting (for want of a better word) from my body didn’t help with that. When I was younger, so much of my confidence was wrapped up in how I looked and dressed, and the fact that I made choices to suit me and didn’t care what anyone else thought about it. Symptom of being one of the only grebs (emos) in school. Anyway, greb or not, ill or not, our bodies are part of our identity, right? So disconnecting from my body is like disconnecting with part of my
identity. Or even, in my head, my body’s identity went from normal, to cancer, to cancer survivor, and it hasn’t gone back to normal for me. So, now that it doesn’t feel like the thing I loved and remember, I disconnected from it.
Remembering the good bits
I don’t hate all of my body. There are bits I love. Hands, hair, butt, boobs, legs when I remember them. And they are mine. They are not a separate entity. They are attached to me, part of me – a great part of me. And if anything was wrong with any of them, they would still be great – they’d just need fixing. If your cat is ill, you don’t stop loving it. You hopefully take it to the vet and get whatever it is sorted out. You don’t blame the cat’s body like it’s a separate entity, because that would be weird and rude. You wouldn’t do it to a person, either, obviously. Maybe blaming my body as a separate thing is easier than blaming myself. It’s a way of blaming myself but not. Blaming myself and then refusing to take the blame.
This all really feels like stuff I should have talked to my therapist about when I used to go to her. I wonder what she would have said. I think I’m pretty good at therapising (totally a word) myself, though.
Forgiving my body and reuniting with it
This is all very well to muse about, but if any of it is true, I need to do something about it. As I said in my previous blog post, I need to forgive my body, and reclaim ownership of it. Funnily enough, on the day I was thinking about this I received a newsletter from Jill Whalen about how to forgive someone. She said you just mentally wipe the slate clean. Unfortunately that feels hard to do when my stomach and back are hurting for an unknown reason and there may be something wrong with me but nobody seems to know why or what to do about it. (This also makes me think of how reading back “something is wrong with me” feels more threatening than “something is wrong with my body”. I don’t know if that’s another reason why I might disconnect or if the feeling weird about it is an effect of disconnecting.)
Reclaiming ownership, though – I can try to do that. I’m trying to change my mindset. If I catch myself thinking or saying something that I think I shouldn’t, I’m going to correct myself. No more chastising my body, calling it evil or acting like it’s out to get me or not on my side. I am my body. Maybe I need to practise mindfulness. That would probably help. Practising the feeling of being “in” my body more. Exercise more. Go for more walks. (Which I have already started doing – I went for a wander on my lunch break at work for the past two days and it was nice to just be a bit aimless and spend some time alone.) I am going to try. It might even improve things –
and that may end up being the weirdest thing of all.
As an aside, there is a lot for me to be grateful for. I was messaging two of my guy friends at the same time the other day – typing to one while the other was pinging away, and in that moment I just thought, how lucky am I? I mean, to have these two people I think the world of chatting to me, laughing with me, looking out for me, and to
do the same for them. It is a privilege.
That was a good moment. Of course, I am surrounded by wonderful people, at work and at home.
If any of this blog post made sense to you, sounded familiar, seemed completely wrong, or if you can shed some light on any of it, let me know. It would be nice to know if I make any sense or not, or if there is a word for all of this. I went to a therapist last year looking for answers, and maybe I’m still looking.