How I Learnt To Fall In Love With My Chronically Ill Body

How I Learnt To Fall In Love With My Chronically Ill Body

I always hated what I saw in the mirror

Everyone has hang-ups about their body at some point and, like a lot of teenage girls, I was obsessed with everything that was wrong with mine. I never liked what I saw when I looked in the mirror and that feeling carried on well into my late twenties. My hair was never right, my stomach wasn’t flat enough and my nose was too bumpy. Then I became ill and everything changed.

My focus switched from what my body looked like to what was going on beneath my skin. I swore at my stomach when it gave up trying to digest food, I hated my legs for losing their ability to walk and I ceased all communication with my brain when it struggled to process simple tasks. When I became bedridden I spent two years ignoring my body because it had ruined my life. Eventually my body and I split up and we were no longer on speaking terms. I had no idea that this would have a serious effect on my physical health.

Therapy helped me understand the importance of a healthy mind/body relationship

As part of my treatment for my intestinal dysmotility my consultant suggested I work with his psychotherapist. Like most people with a chronic illness, my first reaction was that my therapist thought my illness was all in my head. I relaxed when I realised she was simply trying to rebuild the broken relationship I had with my body. She explained how interwoven the autonomic nervous system is with our emotional states and how our physical symptoms can be made worse when our mental wellbeing is not so well. I learnt that the hostile relationship I had was making my chronic illness worse as well as impacting my ability to cope with my condition. We worked together for a year helping me to fall back in love with my own body. It was couple’s therapy and it was tough! I told her how my body had let me down, how it had lied to me and how it abused me; in return, my body grumbled, ached and wept.

Eventually I started to notice changes. My pain levels began to drop a little because I was listening to my body and I was pacing better. I found I was benefiting more from physiotherapy because my legs and I were working as a team and when it came to needing a feeding tube I was able to nurse my body through the trauma. I healed quickly after surgery and was back on my feet in no time.

Finally I’m in love

Now when I look in the mirror I don’t always hate what I see. I may not like where my hair has fallen out or where my skin is covered in scars, but I’m proud of my flabby stomach. It means my body and I have worked hard at regaining weight. Thankfully I suit the elfin haircut and my wife prefers my fuller figure compared to my pre-tube malnourished look.

My body and I are always working on our relationship. We have romantic dates, pampering soaks in the tub and I buy my body gifts to show how much I appreciate it. Like any committed relationship it takes time, effort and we are working on this all of the time. Of course we fall out and argue like any couple but most of the time we are happy, content and well and truly in love.

Chronic illness isn't 'all in your head', but your mental wellbeing may effect the severity of your symptoms

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by Carrie Beckwith Fellows

Carrie Beckwith Fellows

About the author

Hi I'm Carrie, I live in rural Northumberland. I have complex health issues including severe intestinal dysmotility and bladder dysfunction caused by Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. You can follow my blog at www.ruralteacake.com.

Recent Comments

  • Caz

    What a wonderful post, very honest & inspiring. I like how you describe your relationship with your body as an ongoing work-in-progress, which I can certainly relate to (invisible illnesses and a stoma). You're a warrior and you'll keep getting better days, bit by bit. This also serves as a great reminder about the impact of your mental health and thoughts on our chronic/invisible illnesses, so learning to be kinder with ourselves is so important, albeit also very difficult. Thank you for sharing :)

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