Odd? The woman with RA and fibromyalgia, wheelchair user since the age of 16, the one who lives with high levels of chronic pain and disability? Yes. That woman. Me. I consider my body my best friend.
I didn’t used to see it this way. For years – decades, even – I hated my body. For all the reasons listed above, for betraying me, for the weakness, the pain, and for all the things I couldn’t do because of it. I hated the way I looked, hated the deformities caused by my RA, hated how my exterior didn’t match my interior idea of what I looked like and how I moved. Hated it so much that I cut myself completely off from it, described myself as a brain in a jar. I was my personality and only that — my body was not part of who I was.
And then the big flare hit and the Biologics gave me back my life. It made me see the world in a different light. Living inside a miracle every day has a way of expanding your horizons, challenging your preconceptions.
There was a lot of work around gratitude, finding peace and true happiness in a small life, not knowing then that it would continue to grow. Somewhere within that journey, I began to see my body as my partner in it all. Began to realize just how much my body did for me, carrying me through every day with some pretty significant challenges. Began to see that the enemy was whatever triggered my immune system to attack itself, not the body that couldn’t stand up to war. If an autoimmune disease is so mysterious that the medical profession still does not know what it is, still cannot cure it, why would I expect anyone, including my body, to be able to withstand the assault?
That’s when I started listening to my body, to what it had to say. I have memories of opening up and hearing it crying the way I wanted to cry. Hearing it tell me that it was trying, was doing its best. And that’s when I realized that hating my body, blaming it and accusing it of betrayal, meant hating myself. That’s when I realized that my body and I are partners in this life, that we support each other, that there is no separation between me and it. We are a whole, a unit and together, we get up every morning and we get through the day. Some days are good and some days are less good, but when I go to bed, I try to remember gratitude towards this, my best friend.
A best friend supports you, helps you through the hard times, celebrates with you in the good times, smacks you upside the head when you’re doing something stupid, and makes this life possible. Every day, my body supports me to do what I want to do. It enables me to do the work I love, to be there for my family and friends, to take care of Lucy the Wondercat, and to love my favorite man in the world.
On the hard days, my body gets me through, complains with me, sometimes cries with me, but regardless of what has been thrown our way, it sees me through to the other side. There are times when I should be in a lot of pain because I do too much, but it somehow takes it on, absorbs it, and allows me to be free to do what needs to be done. Afterwards, it smacks me, sometimes hard, to remind me that ignoring its needs was unwise.
In the bad times, we persevere together, feeling the strength that comes with getting through something hard. And in the good times, we celebrate together, feeling the freedom and joy that comes from well-managed pain and a sunny day.
I couldn’t do this without my body. Without my best friend. And for the first time in my life, I try to be a friend to it, as well.
Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author ofYour Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.