Loving Your Body When You’re Chronically Ill

Chronic Illness

For me, and for many people I know, loving my body and taking care of myself has always been a difficult thing. As humans, we are extremely complex and it takes a lot of hard work to nourish every part of ourselves.

In order to live healthy and balanced lives, we must take care of not only the physical aspects of our health, but also the emotional, and (I believe), the spiritual.

When one of these three is out of whack, it can often make balance and taking care of ourselves even harder. We tend to forget that each part matters just as much as the other. For me, physically speaking, my relationship with food has always been a problem, and so has nurturing my emotional well-being. Yet, because I was so involved in serving and being involved in a church community, I assumed it was all okay since I was taking care of my spiritual health and investing in my faith in God. I put all of my heart and focus there, completely disregarding other important parts of me that were getting neglected.

At most points in my life, I did not want to be told these things about balancing all parts of my health. I did not want to be encouraged to see a counselor for the very intense anxiety and depression I was experiencing. I was not willing to admit that those were real struggles of mine and that they were effecting me to the point of breaking. I also did not want to be told that the bad food I was eating could have long-lasting and detrimental effects on my health. There were so many foods I loved and I could not possibly fathom giving them up. Sooner or later though, you realize that you can only last for so long putting those important aspects aside. Life has a way of knocking you down and showing you just how much your views of health and well-being were very, very wrong. For me, this has looked like years of battling chronic illness— a.k.a. my emotional/physical/spiritual wake-up call.

This wake-up call does not feel like any part of me is waking up at all, rather the opposite. Living with a chronic illness is more like prison than anything else. There are no visible walls or bars keeping me from getting out into the world, no glass window separating me from outside visitors—rather, it is an invisible jail cell—one that no one else really sees. It embodies a loneliness and reclusiveness that is heavy and disorienting. There is no maximum or minimum amount of time for this prison sentence, either. No judge told me I have x amount of years until I’m out and free to be a normal human being in the world. It is scary and unpredictable, and maybe you feel it too. But it is not the end.

While we still have breath in our lungs, there is always room for learning to love who we are and to improve our lives.

I have been completely thrown down on my back and have experienced every type of symptom and pain I could possibly imagine. I have felt weak and unable to even get up and get dressed in the morning for months on end—so how do I even piece it all together and balance my health while this is the case?

One. Step. At. A. Time.

It’s cliche, but it’s true. Each of us have our own stories and all of them are extremely unique and special. Every baby step counts and is worth it, because we are worth it. No one can offer the world the specific gifts that you have, even when it feels like you have nothing to give. This is where it all begins—giving yourself grace in the journey, no matter how slow you feel you are going. The very act of recognizing how multifaceted you are in body, mind, and soul can be an overwhelming thing. But what it offers you is hope. There are depths to you that have yet to be discovered and gifts you have yet to give to the world. You are worth every small step it takes to just keep going.