Oh, Body of Mine, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!
My dear body,
You betrayed me. I did everything I knew to take care of you – daily yoga, green smoothies, good essential fats, acupuncture, you-name-it. It didn’t matter. You thwarted my efforts. You screamed. You demanded that you needed something different. You made it clear that I was obviously missing the mark.
Nobody could see it.
Nobody heard your cries.
Nobody knew that we were at war; battling each other. Nobody knew but me.
You were attacking yourself, yet if felt very much like you were violating me – ruthlessly, savagely assaulting our inner fabric in a true act against self. I’d heard of women in psychological combat with themselves or their bodies. This was different. The attack wasn’t in my mind, but it easily trickled there. In fact, the mind was probably where the seeds started. By this point, though, I recognized the inner terrain wasn’t safe, that there was a mine-field within my immune system, and the uprising was incessant and violent. Your attack was on a part of me. Your attack was on my thyroid.
You were calling my attention to your needs, and I scorned you for it. The swollen, painful breasts that hurt when Gilbert embraced me with his small arms and boney chest. The thickening around my middle so that my jeans hugged my thighs and wouldn’t button. I resented those signs and symptoms. It was confusing. I didn’t understand what you were doing. I certainly couldn’t control you, no matter how hard I tried.
I may have actually hated you then. And for that, I’m sorry. You’ve since taught me so much.
Looking back, there were hints of your wishes before I could possibly hear or apprehend them. The frail body of me as an intensely shy little girl, hiding behind her mother’s legs, fighting one childhood infection after another, with an army of antibiotics trying to combat them and an immune system that just couldn’t keep up.
The sullen body of a silent adolescent, questioning why her big sister got all the attention, retreating into the background with little voice and lots of cystic acne, the latter a now obvious sign of digestive and detoxification distress.
The more developed body of a young woman, working tirelessly behind-the-scenes, to produce the ideas and creations of others after partially giving up on her own.
You weren’t always unseen or unheard, though. In the embrace of our soul mate, you soared and rested and longed. You sensed pleasure and beauty and pride. You relaxed. I did too. We weren’t at odds. We were one.
You were lucky and you knew it. Without shouting or sometimes even speaking, you were seen and heard. You waltzed in tandem with another, who was also at one with himself. You danced, a fully expressed body. Treasured by him and me both.
These were sensations of belonging that you hadn’t yet experienced. Until then, I never thought you could or would. I had denied you that.
Those ideas of what I could or would have, what I was “allowed”, what was “asking for too much” plague me now, as they did then. I’m now more aware of how my thoughts of deservedness affect your ultimate expression of health. I’m aware that I need to listen and hear the nuances of your messages. I’m aware of how the belonging you found within another’s arms ultimately needs to be delivered from my own.
You taught me that, but not before there was more pain.
When the body of our beloved, the one who had seen and felt you so readily, was rendered to the realm of the spirit, you turned hot, red and angry. Your song was suppressed as his body was ravaged by the cancer that took his life. Our united cry to save him wasn’t loud enough to register. You were silenced, just as you had been when hiding behind your mother’s leg and your sister’s popularity. Not seen. Not heard. In my grief, I couldn’t hear you. Without him there to treasure you, you went uncherished.
If nobody could hear your cries, why should I? Your pain and loss were mine too, but it never occurred to me to be in it with you.
I was just as devastated as you were.
And yet my stalwart and constitutional strength carried me forward. If I couldn’t save Isamu, how could I venture to save others? How could I embrace what I learned and continue to make sense of the body in general to disrupt the patterns that compromise health?
I forged ahead. But you clearly could not. You wouldn’t. You didn’t.
The split between us returned. I embodied a sense of “post-traumatic growth”, transforming my pain into doing well, leaving you to bear the burdens of the stress we had together endured during our beloved’s illness and death. Abandoned by both him and me, you stamped your feet like a sullen child and sat in the corner, beating your head against the wall until the blood flowed.
Hot, red and angry are obvious signs of inflammation. Those swollen breasts and thighs should have been my first clue. But I didn’t know how to help you. You were confusing me.
Why weren’t you responding to my best efforts?
Why was all that I researched as “healthy” and “helpful” not helpful at all?
Why did you acknowledge something appreciatively one moment, like the high raw diet I adopted, leading me to believe that I had you all figured out, and then slip-slide back in the other direction?
Why were we all alone in this? Where was my health team? Who was there to lend guidance, address your symptoms more fully, walk me through the deeper understanding of how to care for you? How to understand you?
I’d swear I was ready. I guarantee I wanted to get a grip and was grasping to do so. There were times when it seemed so fruitless I was tempted to give up – eat whatever, do whatever, it didn’t seem to make a difference. Fuck it.
But I persisted. I knew there was something more you were trying to tell me, and so I forged ahead with my own research and trials.
I ran our labs and amassed stacks of books and articles. Do you remember the late nights pouring over my biology and physiology books (before I realized how those late nights were hurting you)? Speaking of fruitless, you must recall my nine-months of abstaining from fruit to try to restore your adrenal reserves. How about the high-dose nutrient protocols I fed you to try to address your weeping deficiencies, including the vitamin D levels that stayed in the toilet for far too long?
I can see now that I never really hated you. I hope you can see that. I was just trying to interpret how to help you, how we could once again be aligned in purpose and in pleasure. To forgive you I needed to stand in your shoes, see the world from your point-of-view, and not be so polarized. I’m sorry it took me so long to get here.
You know, through the years I’ve become quite familiar with the many faces of illness and disease. Witnessing the body of my husband and many others consumed by cancer or Lyme Disease, I’m humbled and can fathom the concept of wanting to depart a body suddenly inhabited by something other than yourself – overpowering and harmful cells or aberrant bacteria. But with you, with this autoimmunity that we face with Hashimoto’s, there is no foreigner. It’s you. Attacking yourself. Attacking me.
But then, are you attacking me or am I attacking you? Are you attacking yourself to get my attention? Am I attacking myself to teach myself a lesson? – a lesson about control I should already have learned?
It’s taken me time to understand you. Now, I’m learning to waltz again. I’m waltzing in your arms and you in mine, not in some other’s. I step on your toes sometimes, and you sometimes whirl me with too much vigor, but we find our rhythm again. And again. And again.
This, I’ve come to learn, is the nature of autoimmunity. This is the freedom I feel when the dance hits its stride and we’re one, with each other, with the music, and I feel like we’re flying.
I hear you now. I promise I do. I hear you saying loud and clear: “If you don’t pay attention I’ll destroy you.”
I hear you saying: “We need to do this together.”
Author: Andrea Nakayama
Bio: With a career born of a personal family health crisis and the loss of her young husband, functional nutritionist Andrea Nakayama has taken the idea of food as personalized medicine from a clinical practice to guiding thousands of international clients through online programs in her fast-growing, global nutrition enterprises, Replenish PDX and Holistic Nutrition Lab.