I'm not sure how to explain this: I’m sick. You probably wouldn’t notice from my appearance.
In fact, if you look at all my health indicators, cholesterol, thyroid, glucose, red blood cell count, B12, blah, blah, I appear to be wildly healthy. On my yoga mat I can still rock an awesome eka pada kundinyasana two (imagine sticking your leg over your arm and then lifting both legs and balancing on your hands… oh yeah.). But I’m sick. I’ve been sick for months.
One of the goals of the Health At Every Size movement is to get people to think about health as their primary goal, not weight. You eat your tasty greens and veggies, you give your body enjoyable movement, and you focus on being healthy and happy, not on losing weight.
Health is a worthy goal, and one I wholeheartedly believe in. I’ll take the equation “health = good” over the equation “thin = good” anytime.
But what happens when you’ve been doing everything “right”, and you get sick anyway? Does it naturally follow that if “health = good” then “sick = bad”? Am I only a good person if I’m healthy? Is it my fault that I’m sick?
We do ourselves a disservice if we turn health into a magical mantra to ward off evil sickness, as if we could somehow hold illness and death at bay by building a fortress of carrots mortared with flaxseed oil, kale chips, and sweat.
I hate to be the one to say it, but no matter how healthy we are, no matter how good our “numbers” are… we are all going to get sick. We are all going to die. Yup. No matter how well we take care of ourselves.
And guess what? It’s not your fault.
Our bodies are fragile and strong, vulnerable and vibrant, aging and youthful, all at the same time. If you get sick, it’s not because of your weight, or because you eat doughnuts, or because you skipped your workout, or because you don’t do enough pranayama (that’s breathing exercises for you non-yogis out there). You get sick because you have a body that is perfect and imperfect, a body that wants to heal and find balance, but sometimes gets overwhelmed by it all.
Your beautiful body doesn’t suddenly become bad when you get sick. Your sick body is worthy of love, too.
When your best friend gets sick, do you stop calling them? Do you bully and shame them because they can’t get out of bed? Nah. When your best friend gets sick, you send them flowers, bring them a casserole, make them tea, and even listen to them complain a bit. You encourage them and help them heal. Just like your best friend, your best friend body needs extra love when it’s sick. ‘Cause hate doesn’t heal. We know that.
I’m giving my body lots of extra love right now, taking care of it, feeding it and treating it right. And yet, part of me feels embarrassed about being sick. Much of my persona as a yoga instructor is tied up in having a healthy, vibrant body. Acknowledging that my body isn’t always healthy feels vulnerable and scary. It feel weird to call myself "sick." Sometimes I feel great, other times I feel terrible. Mostly I’m coping pretty well; aside from the illness, my body feels strong and capable.
Perhaps you’re hoping that at some point I’m going to reveal what’s “wrong” with me. (See, it’s even in the language… I’m sick, there’s something wrong with me, I’m bad.) I would love to tell you. If I knew.
I have Illnessa Mysteriousum. What, you’ve never heard of it? Apparently neither has anyone else! Here are (some of) my symptoms over the past year: loss of sense of smell, chronic sinus congestion, headache, asthma, coughing, hoarseness, fatigue. I’ve tried some eastern medicine and some western medicine. We’ve mostly ruled out allergies and are exploring the possibility that I picked up a lung-attacking parasite during my trip to the jungle last summer. That, or an autoimmune thing. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, I’m looking for the answers this amazing body deserves. You and me, body, we’re in this together.
Love You Body Blog part 59