My Body Is Rebelling

I ignore my body.

This can be attributed in part to my nature as an introvert.  I spend a lot of my time alone, thinking and reading, journaling and praying.  I live in my head. I process internally.

In my 28 years, I have at various times deprived my body of food, sleep, human touch, rest, and exercise. I have pressed my body into service to accommodate my intellectual pursuits.  While I lived in my head, my body suffered and struggled and learned to carry on.

Now, my body is rebelling.

I’ve begun to feel like an old person with a worn-out, falling-apart body that won’t listen to me at all when I tell it to stop being silly and behave like it should.  After years of being ignored, my body has gotten fed up.  As I continued to ignore it, my body increased its volume until its (her?) cries have become deafening.

Here’s what my body is yelling:

  • I’m tired from the many, many years you would not let me sleep until I felt rested!
  • My shoulder hurts from that car accident we had in 8th grade that you never finished doing the physical therapy exercises for!
  • My back hurts from the scoliosis you never stopped to notice until it got so bad we ended up with a slipped disc and sciatica!
  • I’m tired from the many, many years you would not let me sleep until I felt rested!
  • Various portions of my digestive system hurt from all the times you forget to eat or don’t put the energy into preparing a properly balanced meal!
  • My wrists hurt from that pinched nerve we get in the neck every time you try to carry emotional burdens that aren’t yours to bear!
  • My jaw hurts from all that teeth-grinding you do at night when you stay up worrying and over-analyzing instead of letting me rest!
  • My eyes hurt in bright light from all the times you were too busy to stop and buy sunglasses to provide adequate protection!
  • I’m tired from the many, many years you would not let me sleep until I felt rested!

My body is angry at me, and it is rebelling.  It won’t let me get out of bed and do the things I want to do anymore.  My body is finally making itself heard, and it’s yelling so loudly that I can’t help but be the one to submit this time.

Over the last few months, I have begun to learn to listen to my body.  I sleep when I am tired.  I eat when I am hungry, and when I can’t tell if I’m hungry or not, I try to eat anyway.  I wear sunglasses pretty much all the time, even when I drive at night.  I wear a mouth guard to keep myself from grinding my teeth even though it makes me look ridiculous and hard to understand when I talk.  I stay in bed and rest instead of “being productive.” I do my prescribed stretches and ball exercises to help loosen up my back. I lie down or stand instead of sitting to ease the pressure on my sciatic nerve.

These may seem like little things, small changes that don’t matter much.  But the change isn’t small at all.  It’s huge. I have lived so much of my life in opposition to my body, or at least out of touch with it.  I have lived like a docetist or gnostic–more concerned with the life of the mind than the life of the body.  I have lived my life disconnected from myself, and that is not what Jesus had in mind when he came into the world to complete our joy and bring us the fullness of life.  I have talked about the incarnation of Jesus, but I haven’t lived like I value my body as much as I value my mind.

So I’m making a change.  I still have a long way to go, but slowly I am learning to pay attention to my body and adjust my lifestyle to fit its needs.

To give me a place to start, I’ve been reading Prayer and Our Bodies by Flora Slosson Wuellner.  This week, I’ll give you a little taste of what she has to say about the connection between our spiritual selves and our physical selves.

For today, I’ll leave you with some of Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.  (2Cor 5:4)

What has your body been telling you lately? Share your answer in a comment below to join the conversation.

About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on February 13, 2012, in Incarnation of Christ, Physicality and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. When I hit 30, my body basically started hating me. I gained a lot of weight, even though I was taking phentermine (I do not anymore). At 32, I found out in the same week that I was pregnant, I also have Hashimoto’s Disease (an autoimmune thyroid disease) which was the reason for my weight gain. Now I’m 34 and have become gluten and dairy intolerant. I don’t eat spicy, fatty, or fried foods and mainly eat seafood and chicken, and yet I still suffer from stomach or intestinal pains.
    My body is saying a lot, but I don’t even think it knows what’s wrong.

  2. A line I often use, and fervently believe, is ‘Sometimes the most Christian thing you can do is take a nap.’

  3. A line I enjoy using, and truly believe is “Sometimes the most Christian thing you can do is take a nap.”

  4. I read your post from Valentines day and then followed the link here. Before it could load, I said to myself, “my body is rebelling” and was greeted with the same phrase. I have had a cold all week but am now drinking some good hot tea. Very convicting post. A lot of times I just keep pushing, but that doesn’t turn out well in the end.

    • Thanks for reading, Laurel. I hope you found some encouragement that sometimes it’s okay to stop pushing and give your body a chance to recover. Colds are no fun, but getting to drink hot tea (my favorite!) is a nice treat. Get well soon. =)

  5. This is excellent, loved reading, thank you! I used to be so mystified at the whole “listening to your body” thing, like it was on a level un-accessible to me. But I understand now the wisdom of it, or listening to small cues of discomfort, hunger, and pain, and what it means for the inner life as much as the body.

    • Hi Stephanie, thanks so much for stopping by. I checked out your blog and really liked what you (and your pastor) had to say about spiritual and physical health. Sounds like we’ve had a similar journey. Great minds, eh?

  6. Fascinating post, Laura. I’ve been trying to take better care of myself in the last few years too, and it has really helped me sleep better when I sleep and learn to listen to what it’s saying. We’ve had insane stresses on us, which I realized I needed to counteract or I’d die young. I hope that the improved diet and exercise, sleep and vitamins that I have added into my life will help get me through the current stressful time!

    • Its’ funny how much the little, obvious things like sleeping and eating well impact our overall well being. Thanks for vising my blog and sharing your thoughts. I hope you find a continued time for rest and self-care in the midst of your stressful season.

  7. I can really relate. Part of this for me was realizing that my body is not invincible. That I will die some day. Our bodies do wear out. I need to take care of it. That was a tough pill to swallow!

    I went to physical therapy, manual therapy they called it, and they explained how our bodies give us so many clues about what’s going on in our minds. That has been revolutionary for me. I’m so glad you’re listening!

    • Isn’t it amazing how it takes something extreme like going to physical therapy to make us aware of what our bodies have been telling us for weeks or months, even years? Here’s to us all becoming better listeners!

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