Warning: Naughty language ahead.
The body is a terrific machine.
It is constantly changing, adapting, accommodating, evolving. But sometimes it really gets shit wrong. My pizza-party-for-one shouldn’t have to result in not fitting into my damn jeans, should it?
Couldn’t the body just adapt to the fact that I love carbs and give me a higher metabolism or something?
If the body is so wise, what’s the deal with shit like anxiety, depression, addiction, obesity?
My body has somehow misinterpreted that just because I had a particularly traumatic experience in the summer months, decades ago, that the feeling of warm summer air against my skin and the smell of ripe peaches is a red alert to danger.
One lovely summer afternoon I’m filling my basket at the grocery store and the next thing ya know I’m knee deep in a panic attack and running out of the store like I just robbed the place. This is great, my body’s afraid of the friggin’ grocery store and it’s not like I need to, ya know, ever get any household necessities or anything.
As a social worker, I see this happening to people dealing with addiction. Their body gets the message, often through a combination of genetics and environmental factors, that “this substance fills the void.” The body adapts by constantly alerting the person to keep filling the void with this magical puzzle piece.
I get that part. But the body keeps pressing the button despite the fact that drugs are literally killing the person. Why can’t the body just turn it off when the drugs start screwing up a person’s life?
Instead, the person, who already had a void, now on top of that has this chronic disease of addiction that they will battling for the rest of their life.
The body really gets it wrong sometimes.
Or does it?
I started thinking about depression. A common theme among people suffering from depression is that they are particularly hard on themselves. They say things to themselves that they wouldn’t dream of saying to a friend:
You’re a bad partner, a bad person.
You’re not good enough.
With these messages, how can the body be anything but depressed?
Sure, depression makes the situation worse but it also can be the catalyst that brings pertinent issues to light. Maybe the body isn’t really getting the messages wrong. And maybe it’s sending some messages back.
Maybe my fat ass and too-tight jeans is my body’s message to me that “we’re using food in an unhealthy way.”
Regarding addiction, maybe the body’s message is, “There is a void. We don’t know how to cope with it. We need help.”
Maybe my summer time panic attacks are my body’s message to me that,
“We still don’t feel safe. If we really are safe—show me, tell me, over and over. Breathe slowly and deeply so I know that it’s okay to turn the adrenaline off. Tell me that just because something bad happened doesn’t mean that we always have to have our guard up. Tell me that it wasn’t our fault.”
The body’s message to us is,
“I am always listening. Just tell me what you want me to do. Reinforce the message over and over in different ways so that I’m perfectly clear about exactly what you want. Show me with the choices you make, the food you eat, the way you breathe, the thoughts you think and, sometimes, with the medications you take. Sometimes a message gets so ingrained that you need every available tool to dig it out.”
I guess my body’s been doing a pretty great job listening—Ive just been giving it the wrong messages.
Today the message to my body, including my fat ass, is this,
Thanks for listening. I’ll start listening, too.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: rob_rob2001 via Flickr