Learning to Trust Your Body After Illness

body love Most of us go throughout our 20's feeling invisible, like nothing could or would happen to us. We rarely stop and think about our mortality or ask questions like," what if something were to  happen to me?" "What if I got sick?"

And honestly, we shouldn't. We should live in a constant state of being present, however, when something does happen, it can rock our world.

Personally I knew what my body was capable of. I was the picture of perfect health and fitness and the most severe illness I ever had was the flu. I had never broken a bone or had stitches and found myself proud of that.

Then, on December 27th, 2004 everything changed.

I was 24 years old and I was just told that I had a precancerous polyp in my colon and had to have surgery to remove it.

What? Surgery? A colon polyp? My mind was a jumbled mess of confusion. But I did EVERYTHING right AND I'm was only 24 years old. Wasn't colon cancer something old people got?

It shouldn't have come as such a huge shock being that my older brother was just over a year in remission for colon cancer, diagnosed at the age of 26 but it was happening to me and it was. A shock that is.

On January 14th, 2005 I checked into the hospital and had almost two feet of my colon removed. After a  setback from a major complication during surgery, another emergency surgery, a temporary ileostomy bag and nine emotionally trying days in the hospital, I was released and able to go home with the orders of gaining as much weight as possible so that I could have one more surgery to reverse the ileostomy bag and reconnect my large intestine to my small.

Grateful to be home, I went about the first couple weeks feeling relieved and just happy to be back at my parents house to recover. Then, what seemed out of nowhere I started to feel sad and a depression set in like I had never experienced before.

Everything that had happened over the course of the last month began crashing down on me. My body was different are now I barred a scar about 6 inches from my belly button to the top of my public bone, I had a bag connected to my stomach (that I had to go to the bathroom in) and I could barely walk a quarter of a mile without feeling tired.

I once felt so strong, so invisible and now I was left feeling like a stranger in my own body and with that came a lack of trust in its ability to heal and stay healthy. I lost all trust that it was able to do it's job. 

So, here I was, having to accept that I was a mortal being, something not too many 24 year old's have to think about. I had to adapt to a new way of existing in a tired, weak and broken body. I was forced to question my whole identity.

Maybe you are reading this and you can relate. Maybe you have had an experience where your body, once the picture of health and vitality, had been left broken and unable to work properly? Maybe you are going through that right now.

So what do you do now?

It took time to learn that I had to adjust to a new way of existing within my body. I had to love my new features like the 6 inch scar running down my belly and slowly gain my strength back. I rushed back to the gym only to find myself with a hernia and back in the hospital. Once my intestines were reconnected, my body had to learn how to work again which also left me heading to the emergency room on more than one occasion.

Looking back, if I could offer up any advice for someone being tested by their body I would say this:

// Be kind and patient and give yourself time to heal. Don't try to rush back into your old way of existing.

// Have gratitude for what you CAN do, like walk. Seriously. You may not have the strength you once had but if you can walk from here to there, that is something to be thankful for.

// Live as preventative as you can. Eat organic, whole foods that will speed up the healing process and give you more energy.

// Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs. Take naps when needed. Healing takes an incredible amount of energy. I slept a lot and very hard during my months of healing.

// Practice daily self-care, give yourself a lot of love. Take a bath, read a good book, make nutritious meals. Do what  you can to feel loved, nurtured and taken care of.

Whenever you are faced with illness or an injury you are also faced with change and change is hard to accept and deal with. It takes a lot of strength and courage, which I know you have.

It also takes persistence and resilience. You have to be able to accept what has happened and that somethings are completely out of our control, something that is hard for a lot of us. However, by doing so you are giving yourself room to find a new normal and possibly come back even stronger than you were before.

Life can throw some pretty interesting curve balls. Would I have ever guess that at 24 years old I'd be facing the possibility of colon cancer? No way! But I did, it's part of my story now and it was my choice how I used it in my life.

And you have the choice too. Where will you go? How will you deal with what is happening within your body right now? Most importantly, how will you learn to trust your body again?

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Lots of love

How to fall in love with your body and be happy right now

lovebody For years I believed that being a size two would make me happy. I thought that once I achieved this magic number all my problems would go away and I would find my happily ever after. So, I ate a very strict diet, often jumping from one to the next. No carbs ,no fat, low fat, high protein and I complement that with hours of running on a treadmill or double up on spin classes and lifting weights.

Eventually I did reach that "perfect" number but what came with it wasn't happiness but a deeper disdain for myself and a huge amount of pressure to maintain that magic number.

It took me years to realize that life is about so much more then wasting it consumed on something so superficial as what I looked like on the outside. True, I want to feel my best and at the time being single, wanted to attract a mate, but the amount of time and energy I put into obtaining what I thought would get me it was ridiculous.

We've all heard by now that true happiness comes from deep inside. It isn't something you can buy but rather, something that you find when you finally stop and really live in the present moment.

Easier said then done, right? Well, not really. It's actually quite easy to find that happiness button within. Anytime you feel real joy, you are immersed in happiness. Take a moment to stop and bring awareness to what it is you are doing.

In the meantime, here are three ways I've learned to love my body and be happy right now. Try them on for size, see how they feel and how much happiness you experience in your body.

1. Move in a way that resonates within you

I would dread going to the gym because deep down inside I knew I was wasting valuable time on something rather unimportant. Not that moving your body isn't important, there is great value in exercising, sweating and challenging your muscles , but the amount of time I was doing so was.

It was about the time that I discovered yoga in 2009 I realized that they're were other ways to move my body that made me feel happier and healthy and I gave up the expectations I had placed on myself to be a gym rat. I began moving my body on the mat, played around with Pilates and Barre classes and found deeper connection to myself and what made me feel good in my body.

I run if I feel like running and for a much shorter amount of time and on days that I just want to walk, I do so, soaking up the beauty around me.

When you really ask yourself how you want to move your body and do it, you are giving yourself permission to trust that you have your own best interests at heart.

2. Say no to things that do not scream YES!

I know it's easy to feel like we HAVE to do certain things but the truth is, we really don't. Often when we commit to something that doesn't feel good within our body it has a funny way of presenting itself to us later, like when we double dip our hand into that bag of chocolate chip cookies when we've already had several.

When we say no to the things that don't feel right within us like a project or maybe a friendship that has run it's course, we are putting our needs first, once again, nurturing and loving ourselves.

It's amazing how when we start to say yes to the things that make us feel alive, we actually start to feel just that, ALIVE.

3. Think like a Kid and play

Hands down my favorite piece of advice. I love watching my little nephew play with his toy trains. He has a deep passion for Thomas and his choo choo chugging gang. He gets so much joy out of moving those engines along his wooden train track and can spend hours doing so, fully immersed in his imaginative world.

This got me thinking, when was the last time I really just lost myself in something? Why, as adults, do we feel like we need to put those things aside for ones that hold more responsibility? At the very least, why don't carve out the time to play, even just a little?

A few years back I discovered my love of getting my hands dirty in the world of DIY. I painted the walls of our house, put old wood planks on a wall in my husbands office, bought old furniture and made it new and completely lost myself (in the good way) doing so. I wasn't stressed about when I was going to fit in a workout and I definitely wasn't judging the size of my thighs or what I ate. I was so happy creating and tapping into a part of me I had long ago buried that all that other stuff just didn't matter.

Ask yourself this; what is something you loved doing as a child but no longer let yourself do? Then just do it. Carve out the time and give yourself permission to play.

Loving your body and finding happiness really aren't hard. However, giving ourselves permission to do so can be. What will it take for you to give yourself permission?

Like what you read here? Then you will love my debut 10 day program, Release + Remove + Rebuild -- A Permission Slip to Build Your Best Life. Give yourself permission to start loving your body and  your life and finding true, unwavering happiness everyday.

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