I would be perfectly content without a body. It makes me uncomfortable to have a physical form. I could do without all of the sensations that crush my consciousness every moment of the day. Especially the sensation of touch because it only reminds me how very physical I am.
I could certainly do without all the constant care the body needs. The bathing, the feeding and watering, the brushing of the teeth and cleaning of the ears. I could do without the gurgling digestive system and the messy, smelly shitting and pissing.
Don’t even get me started on menstruation.
The point is I feel disconnected from my body. It’s a thing that doesn’t quite belong to me. A thing that must be cared for every day, like a needy pet. I feel trapped inside — stuck in mud so thick I can’t move or breathe.
I know this non-acceptance of my body is part of my eating disorder. Unfortunately, having the self knowledge and self awareness does not always help. Changing my attitude towards my body still takes work and time.
This body disconnect also stems from complex trauma that happened during my childhood and teenage years. Gretchen Schmelzer has a fantastic blog that explains complex trauma better than I ever could.
Basically, in response to repetitive abuse, I built permanent emotional and mental walls of defense that became a core part of my psyche. I believe part of this defense was a disconnect from my body, which, at the time, I saw as a thing of weakness and sin.
I am tired of being at war with my body, but I seem to have no control over the disconnect. There are exercises I am trying to do to promote peace between my mind and my body — to soothe the disconnected feeling that seems so strong right now.
- Mindfulness exercises
I’ve learned many mindfulness exercises in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) group. I don’t always practice them every day, but life is about learning and growing. I’m building these skills into my routine slowly.
- Notice sensations
I pause for a few minutes to just notice what I’m feeling, hearing, smelling, tasting, and seeing. Sometimes I’ll close my eyes and focus on only one of the senses. This exercise helps when I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed. It brings me back to a place of “now” and helps me refocus.
- Notice the breath
Have you ever just stopped to notice how you’re breathing? Not trying to control or change how the breath is moving in or out. Just noticing how it’s moving in your chest and stomach. Up and down. In and out. Moving the body as it enters and exits.
- Observe an object (or a body part)
When I’m feeling very disconnected from my body, I observe my hands. I study my fingers, noticing how they curve inward as they relax in my lap. I study the fingernails (trying hard not to judge) and the knuckles and the tendons…mindfully observing everything I can about ‘my’ hands.
- Eat/Drink mindfully
Too often I eat and drink without thinking. It’s a chore. Something to be gotten over with quickly. When I slow down to notice what I’m eating and drinking, to notice that I’m chewing, to notice that I’m swallowing, I become more connected to my body.
- Notice sensations
- Physical exercise
Exercising brings me back into my physical body. The hard work and sweat of running, rowing, weight lifting, or working on the elliptical forces me to accept my body’s limitations, and it forges a connection between my mind and my body that I can’t get any other way.
I must practice caution with exercise, however, because I can easily overdo it — over-taxing my body to the point of extreme exhaustion.
- Gentle self care
I tend to treat self care as a chore that must be quickly accomplished and checked off the To Do list. I don’t like taking care of my body because it forces me to recognize my body as a thing that must be cared for and loved — as a thing of worth and value.
So it’s important for me to slow down. Don’t just wash my hair but condition it too. Don’t just wash my skin but put lotion on after the shower to care for the dry patches. Pausing to notice what my body needs instead of rushing through the daily hygiene routine is important.
- You are looking at a miracle
I have a little picture frame with this phrase sitting on my bathroom counter. It reminds me to look in the mirror and recognize myself as a miracle. I am a work in progress. I am a living, breathing, changing human being. I am, like all of nature, a miracle of life. That is something to be celebrated, not doubted or feared.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point…the point where I can admit that I do struggle with complex trauma. That I do have abuse in my past. Admitting it brings me one step closer to being at peace with this…my…body.
I still see my body as a weak thing that needs to be whipped into shape. But I no longer see it as inherently sinful. I do see it as a vulnerability, but that is as much the fault of our society and culture as it is my own thinking.
I want to reach a point where I am at least friends with my body. If I cannot feel completely at home in it, I would like to at least feel comfortable enough for a long visit. I want to be able to look at my body in the mirror and smile because I see myself — flaws and all.