Releasing Shame in the Journey to Love My Body - Nicole Griswold
“I see that you’re allergic to Codeine, Lexapro, and Ativan,” said the nurse in front of me. I cringe at the mention of the last two medications and I reposition myself on the sterile exam table. “Yes, that’s correct,” I reply.
Just when I think that my struggle with anorexia is behind me, I am reminded that my past is still a part of my story — my body’s story. I want to scream and request that they erase my entire medical history from the hospital’s portal, but instead I sit in silence as I’m dazed by flashbacks from my past.
Learning to take care of my only body
After struggling with an eating disorder for nearly half of my life, I spent a good chunk of my time in the offices of specialty doctors: gastroenterologists, cardiologists, and neurologists, just to name a few. I’d been hospitalized for imbalances and abnormal labs, and I have lived in treatment centers when I couldn’t find the strength to take care of myself. I had broken bones due to calcium depletion, peptic ulcers from repeated purging, and abnormal heart rates from starving myself. Yet here I am, sitting in the doctor’s office with a simple muscle strain. My blood pressure looks good, and my pulse is strong.
When asked if I am taking any medications or supplements, I provide a short list that includes things like vitamins and fish oil.
How in the world did I get to a point in my life that I willingly did things that were good for my body like taking fish oil, I wonder.
A journey to find my strength
My recovery was a long and narrow road. It was the kind of road that showed the destination on the horizon, only to have a U-Turn sign pop up and force me to backtrack. It was a recovery that called for bravery by eating cereal for dinner and brownies for breakfast, simply because that is what my body asked for. It was full of trusting others when they told me I wasn’t strong enough to exercise, and getting out of bed even when I wanted to escape my self-hatred that left me severely depressed.
After replenishing my body and finding solid recovery, I decided it was time to celebrate. Instead of using my body as my greatest enemy, I decided to use it for good. I joined a local crew team, and I hiked deep into the mountains. I took a solo backpacking trip through South East Asia, and I visited the ice caves of Iceland. I snuggled babies, and I ran on the beach with my dog. I filled by body with yummy vegetables not because I felt like I had to eat them, but because I missed enjoying them.
Even when I didn’t want to, I took care of my body by going to the doctor when a pesky little muscle strain didn’t get better. Instead of being overwhelmed by shame, worrying about what the doctor’s office may think about my old medication list and fractured medical history, I reminded myself that this is simply a part of my story.
I now relish in the fact that my body is strong and resilient, and that I am alive. I’m not shouting from the rooftops that I love my body
I still struggle with saying that I love my body, so instead I focus on the adventure and life it gives me. I celebrate that my body was strong enough to hike through Angkor Wat in the scorching heat, and that it carried me on a camel through the Sahara Desert. I love that I can jump off cliffs into tropical water the color of turquoise, and that I can enjoy spicy Thai food. I hope that one day my body can carry a child, and that it will transport me gracefully to old age.
Today I am grateful for my body. It may not be perfect, but it is me, and I am it. And together, we have become quite the team.
Nicole Griswold is part of the first Eating Recovery Center Recovery Ambassador Council and is passionate about sharing real stories of hope in recovery.