If you live with diabetes, can you still love your body? Or do you resent it for betraying you or fear it’s breaking down? Do you ignore your body except for your lab numbers, or do you give it loving attention?
In our society, you aren’t supposed to pay attention to your body, except to how it looks. We take the inner workings of our bodies for granted. A chronic illness like diabetes comes along and can damage our relationship with our bodies.
A body that is not loved and not attended to is much more likely to break down. On the site Tiny Buddha, a woman named Tahlee Rouillon told of her struggles to love her chronically ill body.
“Up until fairly recently,” she wrote, “I often felt betrayed by my body. It was always breaking down, leaving me frustrated and bitter… I’ve had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, an inflamed gall bladder…chronic migraines, chronic hives, chronic fatigue syndrome.”
Only after years of suffering did she understand that she had to help her body out, not treat it like a used car she was running into the ground. She learned some rules: do what you can and don’t do what you can’t. Prioritize your health when you budget time and money. Do things that bring pleasure, and don’t do things just because you “should.”
In other words, she had to treat her body as if it belonged to someone she loved. This is not always an easy lesson to learn. As I wrote in a blog enry called “You Are Loved,” many of us have learned early that we are unlovable. We have also learned that our bodies are sinful, weak, or deficient. Overweight people get those messages all the time. Disabled people do, too, as do followers of some religions and people who compare themselves with media images of perfection.
With diabetes or other chronic illness, we may give those messages to ourselves. We screwed up and made ourselves sick, or we have a deficient body that is not worthy of love or attention. I know I have felt that way about my multiple sclerosis–crippled body at times.
But if you don’t love your body, why should it struggle through pain and harmful environments to keep you going? I wouldn’t. An unwell body can cause anxiety and grief, so it’s easier to ignore it. If you make the effort to love your body, though, you may start to feel better. Your glucose control may improve, too.
Some ways to have a better relationship with your body:
• Don’t blame it for diabetes: We live in an unhealthy environment, we have the genes we have and the life we were born into. Our bodies are doing the best they can in tough circumstances.
• Pay attention to it: Notice how it feels as often as you can during the day. Focus on your breathing; relax your muscles. Relaxation tapes are good for that. If something hurts, try to stop doing it or do it differently. Whatever you’re doing, check in with your body every few minutes.
• Meditate: Ten to thirty minutes a day of focusing time may bring you lots of ideas and energy for helping your body.
• Eat what makes you feel good, not what gives you a temporary high: Sugary foods may make you happy for a few minutes, but they will not feel good to your body, and if you check in with your body, you might not eat them.
• Give your body some pleasure — especially touch: Hugs, massage, sex, and petting animals are good ways to tell your body, “I love you.”
• Take medications and/or herbs for your diabetes, but take care of your body, too. Brush and floss your teeth, get enough rest, do some stretching and moving exercise.
• Carry snacks and water with you on long days. You’re not a camel crossing the desert.
• Don’t let other people’s wants take priority over your body’s needs. Remember, you can’t help anyone else if your body is falling apart. Treat your body at least as well as you would a beloved child.
You can see more body-loving ideas here.
Remember, your body is what makes it possible for you to experience life. When this one’s done, it may be a long time before you get another one. Love your body fiercely, like a mother tiger loves her cubs. Be good to it.
My most recent blog entry, “Addicted to Sad,” shows that sadness, anxiety, and anger are addictions that many of us do to ourselves and that can be changed. If you’re unhappier than you want to be, visit The Inn by the Healing Path to read it.