My Body is My Best Friend: Body Image and Chronic Pain

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I love my body. Even though society and the media would tell me I’m fat, my waistline is too thick or my breasts are too small, I love it. I love its curves and scars. I love the way it moves and dances. I love the way it stretched to make room for my daughter as she grew inside me. I love the way my arms can envelop someone in a hug and the way my eyes won’t let anyone cry alone. I’ve been told my smiles are so big they hide my eyes, and they can light up a room. 

Fibro flare picture 600 by 503

I used to think my body and I were one and the same, but lately I’ve started to think differently. My body and I are best friends, and right now we’re in a somewhat complicated relationship. For years now, I’ve been in constant, sometimes debilitating pain and fatigue. I’ve seen many specialists to remedy this. One doctor told me I was tired and in pain because I had a young child and I was overweight. My therapist told me I was tired and in pain because I was depressed and working a stressful job. My chiropractor thought it was an issue of posture. The naturopath told me it was adrenal fatigue and vitamin deficiency.  

All of them prescribed something: diet, exercise, therapy, supplements, and on and on. Some of their suggestions worked for a while, but then I would crash into another cycle of pain and fatigue. When previously I had hiked on the Appalachian Trail for a week and danced on the beach in Honduras after a day of building a house in the middle of a banana plantation, now I was tired and in pain all the time. I was so exhausted I laid in bed for the good part of a weekend just so I could go to work the next week. That’s when I started feeling like I couldn’t trust my body.

It was bad when I lived around the block from my parents, surrounded by a strong support system. But we moved across the country. On top of that, I left my job to stay home with my daughter the year before she started kindergarten. With the distractions and demands of working full time gone, my body demanded even more attention. I began to need a midday nap and felt like I was wading through  sand just walking around the block. Going to the grocery store felt like running a marathon. I had the pervasive sense that I couldn’t rely on my body to do the things I needed and wanted to do. I started to hate my body; not for how it looked, but for how it let me down over and over again.

I didn’t like this feeling, so I renewed my search for answers. Finally, I got the diagnosis of fibromyalgia in May 2015. My granny suffered from it for most of her adult life, but I didn’t really understand what it was. Apparently many women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia in their twenties and thirties.

Finding a word for what was going on with me brought a sense of relief. I finally understood why my best friend wasn’t reliable, and started learning how to treat my body with the loving kindness that I would extend to any other friend. I learned to take care of her by resting when I need it, and to pace myself so I wouldn’t wear her out. I still sometimes feel like my body is holding me back, but I’m learning to appreciate the lessons she’s teaching me about self-care, patience, and love. I’m making my relationship with my body less complicated each day by learning how to listen to her before she is screaming and crying in fibromyalgia pain. I’m learning to accept her limitations and celebrate her abilities. She is a great best friend, and one day soon, we’ll be indistinguishable from each other once again, just like true besties should be.

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Aside from being a writer, Kendra is a Birth Trauma Doula at KarysMa Birth, where she helps moms find their joy after birth trauma. A former middle school English and theatre teacher, she has an insatiable love for learning and a flair for the dramatic. Among the best moments of her life, she counts marrying her husband Steve during a dream rainbow wedding, planning a princess picnic on the beach with her eight year old daughter Karys, giving birth to her one year old daughter Saryn in the middle of a blizzard, and sitting on stage with Glennon Doyle. A Navy brat for the first 13 years of her life, Kendra settled in Virginia for eighteen years before she was finally ready to move again, relocating to Portland in 2014. You can find her work on Portland Moms Blog, The La Leche League Blog, and The Not Your Average Mom Project, as well as the hard drive of her computer.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for sharing a piece of your story! I am always fascinated to learn of another’s experience, particularly one that is somewhat familiar to me (I know of fibro), but not intimately familiar. I do hope that you’ve found a health and wellness routine that has worked for you. And I could anticipate a piece about all the unsolicited advice you have likely gotten from otherwise well-meaning people 😉

  2. Thanks Kendra for your transparency and sharing your truths! You are one of my absolute favorite woman o. The planet! And yes… I am on my honeymoon in Paris!
    I love you!

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