Body Forgiveness. Ever heard of it? Probably not, because I think I literally just made it up. I mean, it’s pretty self-explanatory right? I don’t know about you, but after living with chronic pain for over a decade I was pretty fed up with my body.
I felt betrayed. I felt loss. I felt like I was prevented from doing the things that I love. Even things that should be good for my body, like exercise, often felt bad. I mean what’s up with that?
But I have learned that resenting your body does not help you heal. I mean, duh. Any negative energy you feel towards yourself, your body, or your health is only going to feed into the self-limiting belief that you are broken and cannot be fixed. I don’t know about you, but I never want to believe that again.
So, I’ve started to forgive my body. You know why?
Because it hurts too dang much not to.
But let’s back track a bit.
Here’s what I thought was going to happen in my life: I thought I was going to go to college and be a soccer star. I thought I would end my sports career fulfilled and ready for the next chapter. I thought wrong.
Actually, If I’m honest (and why not be?) I didn’t really think I was going to go to college and be a soccer star.
I hoped I would be.
I had spent my whole final summer before college rehabbing and training in the wake of my second (Third? Fourth? Twenty-seventh?) knee injury.
I was stressed out that I wouldn’t be able to get back in shape by the time the season started. I was slow. I was having more and more anxiety about the huge changes that college would bring.
Would I be able to crack it at the college level? I mean who was I to be recruited for this top-ranked team? There must have been some kind of mistake. Will they find out I’m a fraud? What will they think when they find out I’m in a losing battle with knee pain and getting slower by the day?
My mindset was wrecked. My body was faltering. And then it all crashed down.
I sprained my ankle on the second day of preseason, before starting my freshman year. Off to a rough start.
After the ankle sprain, I worked my way back onto the field. My knees hurt daily. After practice, I’d hobble to the training room as fast as I could to numb the pain in my knees. It felt like someone was burning the back of my kneecaps with a lighter.
Next up, I strained my quad. I had done that a bunch of times before. But man did that hurt. And man did that slow me down even more.
I got my first two knee surgeries. They didn’t really help. I got back on the field after walking a mile down the street to go to PT twice per week.
I tore my calf muscle. I got another two knee surgeries. I gained weight. I was filled with guilt and self-loathing that I could no longer keep up. I quit the team.
Is your head spinning yet? Mine sure was.
I entered my junior year with a bad case of lost identity. If I wasn’t a soccer player, then who was I? I Googled “how to find a hobby” frequently. Athletics were all I ever knew.
When i thought things couldn’t feel worse, I began to get shooting pain around my tailbone. But I stopped playing soccer! I pleaded with my body. What more do you want from me?
Little did I know at that time, but I was entering the start of what would be a decade long struggle with widespread and often uncontrolled chronic pain.
I hated my body for what it was putting me through. And it hated me right back.
Gaining respect, love, and forgiveness for my body was not an easy thing. But I began to take ownership for the role I had played in my struggles.
Yes, I was pushed by coaches to be the best player, but I pushed myself harder than anyone. I never stopped to enjoy or even acknowledge my successes. I just felt like, okay, you did your job. Now do it even better.
True, college was stressful. I was suddenly catapulted out on my own with a level of freewill that was totally foreign to me. I wasn’t Valedictorian anymore—there were many others who were smarter and getting better grades. I wasn’t the leading goal scorer anymore—I was the has-been high school athlete who never registered a collegiate point.
But no one judged me for that. No one cared. Except for me. I cared. A lot.
I was: the perfect student-athlete.
Then I was just: student.
Then I was just: in pain.
During my (long) journey toward the much healthier, happier me that I am today, I have worked hard to temper my perfectionism. It’s an ongoing struggle.
But I have learned that my body never betrayed me. I betrayed it.
I went back into the game when I was clearly injured. I ignored and lied about concussion symptoms. I played through enormous amounts of pain. I forged ahead when my lungs began to constrict because my body was so exhausted mentally and physically. My body screamed: help me! And I ignored it time and time again.
I really shouldn’t be forgiving my body, it should be forgiving me.
And luckily it is. I now sleep comfortably through the night. My daily “chronic” pain now never exceeds a “mild” level. I have gotten back to some athletic adventures. I run. I try new things like indoor rock climbing. I do a yearly canoe race with my awesome Dad.
I live my gosh dang life.
It has not been an easy journey, but I want you to know that it is possible. Take a look in the mirror—like your soul’s mirror.
Really think about the impact that your beliefs and the decisions you make have had on your body. Acknowledge that the way you talk to yourself has an impact on the way you feel.