Forgiving My Body — #BOAW2015

by Kassandra Lamb

This post is part of The Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest, sponsored by the marvelous August McLaughlin. After you read this, hop on over to her site for some other great BOAW2015 posts–some that are funny, some that are serious, some that are some of both. And there are prizes! Woot!!

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logo by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson

Why is it that we so often fail to appreciate what we have until we lose it?

Unlike way too many women in our society, I have always had a fairly decent body image. I know I’m no beauty but I haven’t broken a mirror yet.

The fact that I didn’t disliked my body was borderline miraculous since I didn’t like my inner self all that much during my high school and college years. But in my youth, I took my health and my natural slenderness for granted.

After a round of therapy in my early twenties, I learned to love myself. But I still tended to take my body for granted.

Me at 30, with my 3-year-old son.

Me at 30, with my 3-year-old son.

I was blessed with a high metabolic rate that gave me lots of energy and allowed me to eat just about anything without worrying too much about my weight. Occasionally, I’d get close to my “panic weight” and I would go on a moderate weight-loss diet for a week or two and get it back down.

In case you’re starting to hate me about now, read on…

At age thirty, I became a therapist and started counseling women who were struggling to feel good about themselves and their bodies. I finally realized–intellectually at least–how lucky I was to have both a high metabolism and a healthy attitude toward my body. But emotionally I still didn’t completely get it.

In my late thirties, I developed symptoms that pointed toward early menopause. My doctor ran some tests. It turned out that Graves disease (i.e. a hyperactive thyroid), not menopause, was causing my hot flashes, dizzy spells and muscle fatigue.

For the next three years, I struggled with this disease. Medications had little effect. My endocrinologist recommended having my thyroid removed. I resisted, not wanting to be dependent on synthetic hormones for the rest of my life.

I had more and more problems with muscle fatigue. I would start a project on the horse farm we owned at the time, and halfway through it I’d become so weak I could hardly walk. I was forced to give up the Aikido lessons I loved.

My now over-revved metabolism kept me awake at night, leaving me tired but jittery during the day. I described it at the time as my engine racing but I couldn’t get it to go into gear so I could actually accomplish anything.

For the first time in my life, I hated my body. It had betrayed me. I was still relatively young–just over forty–and yet most women in their fifties had more energy than I did.

Finally I gave in and agreed to the thyroidectomy. This is done via radioactive iodine that gradually destroys the thyroid. For the next six months, as my thyroid tissue diminished, I fluctuated between hypothyroidism (low hormone levels) and what my doctor defined as normal.

But it didn’t feel all that normal to me. Each time the hypothyroid symptoms would become noticeable (weight gain, fatigue, hair falling out), the doctor would increase the dose of my synthetic hormones.

Age 50, at my son's college graduation

Age 50, at my son’s college graduation.

But each time this happened, I gained a few more pounds before things stabilized again. By the time all was said and done, I was 45 pounds overweight. And my “new normal” was a lot less energetic than I was used to being.

Eventually, I came to three realizations. One, slender was a thing of the past. My goal weight is now 15 pounds higher than my “panic” weight was in my youth. Two, I had to adjust to my new energy level if I wanted to enjoy life again. And three, I had to forgive my body, and in order to do that I had to face the anger I felt toward it.

I knew as a therapist that you can’t just talk yourself out of feeling a certain way. Emotions must be acknowledged and vented, no matter how illogical they are, before they will dissipate. So I finally let myself fully admit how pissed I was at my body.

Finally, my anger ran its course and that cleared the way to adjustment. I faced the fact that the reserve tank of energy, that most people can tap into when needed, just wasn’t there for me anymore. I learned to pace myself–to allow recovery time in between demands on my energy.

I grew to be okay with my body again, not necessarily loving it, but not hating it either. For the better part of two decades, I assumed that was as good as it would get–a truce between me and my body.

Only recently have I realized that instead of taking my body for granted, I had started to ignore it, pretending that it wasn’t really “me.”

A year ago I decided that, for health reasons, I needed to lose some of the excess weight. (I had lost weight a few times before but it would gradually creep back up; my body is the poster child for set-point theory.) This time I needed to lose it gradually so my set point would adjust along the way. I doubled my exercise and moderately decreased my calorie intake.

The plan is working. I’ve got ten pounds left to go. And I’m enjoying the increased energy (still not what it used to be) and I’m feeling healthier overall.

But recently I started to feel something else again. And this is the main reason I decided to write this post.

I’m starting to feel connected to my body again. It is part of “me” again. And I realized it always has been, whether I liked it or not. By ignoring it emotionally, I was deadening myself to part of myself.

I feel good about being in my body again. I feel lighter (emotionally as well as physically) and happier.

For many years as a counselor, I preached to my clients that one’s worth does not come from one’s packaging but from what is inside that package. I still believe that, but I’ve come to realize that our physical well-being is definitely tied to our emotional well-being.

It’s all “part of the package”–inside and out!

Have you ever felt betrayed by your body? Were you able to forgive it eventually?

(Don’t forget to check out the other BOAW2015 posts!)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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44 thoughts on “Forgiving My Body — #BOAW2015

  1. K.B. Owen

    Wow, Kass, what a wonderful post! I think this will resonate with a lot of people. It certainly did with me. Menopause was a big game-changer for me, and I’m still adjusting.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Thanks, Kathy! I’m glad you like it. I struggled with it a bit, because I didn’t want it to sound like it was about weight. It’s the energy drop that was the betrayal.

      And I hear ya about menopause. That wasn’t much fun either!

      Reply
  2. August McLaughlin

    Forgiving our bodies — what a beautiful and important notion! Thank you for sharing your personal experience and the lessons they’ve inspired. I love that you’re feeling reconnected with your body. There’s little more important when it comes to health than that, and too many of us lose it.

    Thanks for bringing your brilliance to the fest, Kassandra!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Aw, you’re so sweet, August! Thanks for doing the BOAW fest. I think it reaches and helps a lot of women!

      Reply
  3. Mina

    My father has Graves disease and I have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. I have struggled with weight and energy my whole life. Sometimes I can feel disgusted, sometimes I roll my eyes at what my body is doing. I am still working on getting “healthy” and your post has helped me see a way. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      You’re welcome, Mina! I’m so glad that this was helpful to you. It took me twenty years to get here. I’m hoping to save others some time and anguish.

      Reply
  4. KM Huber

    It is only in these last five years–I am now in my 60’s–that I appreciate my mind-body connection. In fact, I count on it as as I change my body chemistry. I have dealt with autoimmune issues for almost 40 years–lupus and Sjogren’s Syndrome mainly–so I understand chronic illness and the toll it can take. Like you, I began eating more healthily, and I also started to meditate some two-and-a-half years ago. This year, I added a very low impact yoga sequence but it is acupuncture that is helping me the most. Like you, I did not always appreciate my body but isn’t it amazing that the body is patient. Really enjoyed the post.
    Karen

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      So glad you enjoyed it, Karen! That is very true that our bodies are patient. But then again, they are stuck with us, so they don’t have much choice. 😉

      I’m not familiar with Sjogren’s Syndrome but I had a lupus scare in my early 30’s. My doctor and I, looking back, realized it was probably an early flare up of the Graves disease.

      You are a brave and strong lady to keep chugging along with such health problems. Bravo for continuing to search for the best ways to take are of yourself!

      Reply
  5. Jan Morrill

    Thank you for sharing your touching story of how you overcame being “pissed” at your body. I think we’ve all been there, and I, too, believe our physical well-being is tied to our emotional well-being.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      So true that we’ve all been there, one way or another, at some time in our lives. Thanks for stopping by, Jan!

      Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Thanks, Kate. I didn’t realize how emotional until I started writing it. But I’m happy to share my story if it helps others move through this process faster. Twenty years is a long time to ignore one’s body.

      Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Thanks, Jenny. Menopause definitely feels like your body is at war with you, and sometimes with itself. I am extremely glad to be “post-menopausal.”

      Reply
  6. Louise Behiel

    Kassandra, what a beautiful post. I too have had a lot of issues with my body. I went from hating it as a kid, to loving it as a young adult (assuming 30 is young) and then back to hating it as my weight went up and my energy went down, for no apparent reason. I don’t have anything wrong – it’s just my new normal. So for today, I accept and love this body as it is. It moves and works and smiles and chases grandchildren and slept on the recliner the other night because one girl wanted the sofa and the other wanted the chaise lounge. I get everything done I need to do and I can still support myself. So I’m blessed. Very very blessed. Thanks for the reminder and the opportunity to talk about this truth.

    Reply
  7. Kassandra Lamb Post author

    “It moves and works and smiles and chases grandchildren…” I love it, Louise!!

    My body does all those things too, so yes, we are both truly blessed! 😀

    Reply
  8. Vinnie Hansen

    Wonderful post, Kass! You astound me with your energy, so I never would have guessed any of this. My early menopause turned out to be early menopause. I remember my gynecologist, a woman, telling me, “You’re too young to have menopause.” She was wrong. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Mental energy still abounds, Vinnie, but physical, not so much. But I get everything essential done these days, mainly by pacing myself.

      I thought at the time that I would have preferred it was early menopause, because after all that hoopla with my thyroid, I still had to deal with menopause a decade later.

      Reply
  9. Alica Mckenna-Johnson

    Wonderful post! Finding out I was allergic to gluten, then eggs, and now fish has definitely felt like betrayal from time to time. I also get depressed if I don;t take good care of myself and then I crave foods I know will make me feel bad.
    I’m so glad you’re reconnecting with your body!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Thanks, Alica!

      Why is it that when we know we shouldn’t have something,we want it even more?!? And especially when we’re feeling low. I wish I had a good answer to that question. 😛

      Reply
  10. Amy Kennedy

    Wow. I agree with others, this will/does resonate with sooo many people. I can remember saying after I had my youngest at 40, that my body had betrayed me–I didn’t bounce back, and I felt betrayed! You could write a book on this! Thank you so much Kassandra.

    Reply
  11. Kassandra Lamb Post author

    You are very welcome, Amy! I guess it’s human nature to take our bodies somewhat for granted, until some health challenge reminds us we are not invincible. That feeling of betrayal can be pretty intense; it feels like a part of you has turned on you and become the enemy.

    Reply
  12. Susie Lindau

    My body has been to hell and back, but I’ve always felt connected. I’m a navel gazer anyway! 🙂 I’m glad you have developed a better relationship. I’ve always felt I needed to respect it no matter what shape it was in since it’s the only one I’ll get! Ha! Great post Kass!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      You know, Susie, I totally get that. I can see how cancer could feel more like a common enemy that you and your body have to rally against. That’s a very healthy attitude, especially since fighting cancer is partly psychological.

      And I gotta tell you that I am so relieved and thrilled that you have fought the battle so well, my friend! Here’s to many more years of you and your body being in sync!!

      Reply
  13. Audrey Kalman

    Thank you for sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a public way. The self/body connection is one that fascinates me as I, took have recently felt betrayed by my physical self (for the same tired reason so many of the women here mentioned!). The times when I feel like giving my physiology the boot are the times I really should be bathing my self–my whole self–in compassion and forgiveness. It ain’t easy!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      You know, Audrey, I think our youth-oriented culture is part of the problem. We’re led to believe that our bodies will always be young and vibrant. And when they’re not, we feel betrayed. Our society worships youth and denies the reality of aging and the many disorders that can undermine our physical health.

      Don’t get me started on the reaction of doctors to hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

      No it isn’t easy, for sure. But yes, we need to be kind and compassionate with ourselves and our bodies.

      Reply
  14. Eli@coachdaddy

    I’ve felt a gradual betrayal by my body as I’ve aged. It started when I realized I could still do a lot of things I did in my youth – I just needed a lot more recovery time. Then, it progressed to not being able to do some of those things at all.

    But there’s two elevators, one going up, one down, that hold our youth and experience. Where are they on the same floor? That’s the best place, because it’s knowing what I’m capable (and not capable) of and being OK with it.

    Loved your post and the story of how you reconnected with your body. This is true beauty.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Thanks, Eli. I love the image of the two elevators going up and down. Despite all the physical limitations that come with age, I wouldn’t trade in any of my experiences and the wisdom gained from them.

      Reply
  15. Kourtney Heintz

    I have felt betrayed by my body too. I herniated a disk at 22 and that led to a decade of crippling back pain, the inability to sit, and two spine surgeries. Every time I’d recover, something would cause it to reherniate. It was very frustrating and hard to deal with. Especially when I was young and no one else I knw was dealing with these kinds of issues. It was very isolating. I was lucky and had a disk replacement that finally worked. For the longest time, I was angry at my body for failing me. For being weak. For not letting me live a normal life.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Oh my, Kourtney. What a horrible way to spend your young adulthood. I can only imagine how frustrated you were, and angry with your body. Thank God you finally had a replacement that worked!!

      Hope you are making up for lost time with a lot of living the good life!

      Reply
  16. David N. Walker

    We men don’t go through the same changes you women do – notably starting and stopping menstruation – but we do have our own changes to deal with. By the time men reach my age – 72 – most have watched the decline in their bodies, sometimes in highly embarrassing ways. Your theme applies to us, too. We have to forgive our bodies. Too bad we can’t forget what we used to be, but that might be sad, too.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Yes, that would be sad, I think, David. Memories are one of the nicest things about being old.

      But yeah, it’s tough sometimes (and embarrassing 😉 ) to recall the things we could once do that we can’t do now. *sigh* Certainly the theme of having to forgive our bodies for the changes they go through is not limited to one gender or the other. Thanks for adding that perspective!!

      Reply
  17. Rayne

    What a beautiful voice you have in regards to life’s inevitable imperfect surprises. “I preached to my clients that one’s worth does not come from one’s packaging but from what is inside that package.”…I am in the business of making people LOOK better and FEEL better about themselves. I always say the best light shines from the inside out…way to shine!

    Reply
  18. Karen McFarland

    Kassandra, it’s hard enough to keep up with all the changes our bodies go through during our life. But throw in a few health issues into the mix and it can virtually destroy our mind and body image, our self-esteem. A change in hormones, weight gain, etc, you name it, does it ever end? I think your attitude is so encouraging. I’ve dealt with CFS for most of my adult life, which is longer than I’d like to admit. lol. What I’ve learned is the necessity to accept my limitations. Yes, there are times that I can push myself. Then there are times when if I do too much, I’m slapped down into a horizontal position. Yes, it is a challenge to stay vertical these days. I’m glad you figured out what works for you my friend. Thanks for sharing your story! ((Hugs)) 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Karen, I thought of you several times as I was writing this post. I knew you would be able to relate. I’m glad you too have learned that acceptance of limitations lesson. It’s a hard one! Hugs back at ya, gal!

      Reply
  19. Patricia Sands

    Reading your post and the fantastic comment thread that follows made me happy I was a bit of a latecomer! I’m catching up on BOAW posts this weekend because I don’t want to miss one. August’s brainchild is such an amazing cornucopia of shared experiences and opinions! Your post speaks to all of us who either deal with similar “issues” or have family members or friends who do. The thoughts you express and your process of coming to terms with forgiving your body are poignant and real. I agree there is a book here or at least … for starters … an excellent magazine article! Thank you for digging deep and sharing this with us.

    Reply
  20. Kassandra Lamb

    You are very welcome, Patricia. I may write more on this on the blog in the future.

    I too am playing catch-up this weekend with the BOAW posts, and loving every one of them!

    Reply
  21. Lynn Kelley

    I can understand why you felt the way you did, Kassandra. And when we’re not feeling our best, it’s kind of hard to be happy with our body image, even if we look great. In our own eyes, I don’t think we really see that. Sounds like such a rough journey that darn thyroid put you through. I’m glad you forgave your body and are now doing so much better! Yay for you. I think most women can relate to your feelings during those rough years.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Lynn. I know a lot of women whose bodies have put them through worse than this, but I hoped the insights I achieved (finally) might be helpful to others.

      Reply
  22. Kitt Crescendo

    Kassandra, you’re so brave to put your thoughts and fears out there to share and give others both strength and hope. What a beautiful post. Thanks so much for sharing yourself with us!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb

      Thank you, Kitt. It didn’t feel all that brave to talk about this. I guess because I was actually celebrating the resolution of something that I hadn’t even realized was still an issue. (That’s how successfully I’d been ignoring my body emotionally.)

      I figured this topic might resonate with some people, but I didn’t realize just how much it would! Our relationships with our bodies, not unlike all relationships, are complicated.

      Reply

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