Today I was at the gym. My pain levels were high and my stamina was low. This equated to my only being able to do 15 minutes on the elliptical and then heading downstairs to sit in the steam room. To say I was extremely disappointment with my so-called workout would be a total understatement. What the heck is wrong with me? I remember a time when I could bike 30 miles, hike all day, bench press my body weight, play volleyball and softball, bowl in a league, and go out with my friends all the time. I even coached my daughter’s cheerleading and gymnastics teams. My entire life I had always been a slender, toned, fit, muscular, strong, and competitive athlete. And here I am today, only able to do a lousy 15 minutes on the elliptical. And never mind the added fact that my arthritic hands make lifting weights nearly impossible as well. Heck, I didn’t even burn off enough calories today to compensate for the cup of coffee I had this morning – laden with my favorite creamer. Plain and simple, today’s workout sucked!
I spent the entire rest of the afternoon berating myself in the most horrific ways. “I’m always going to be a lazy weak ass! I will never be strong again! I’m nothing but a big fat grotesque loser! I’m always going to be a huge flabby cow because I can’t even get myself to complete a “real” sweat-inducing stupid workout anymore!”
I would never talk to anybody else that way but I was definitely being mean and hateful toward myself. As I was lying in my bed on my heating pad attending my own private pity party, I started going through some old pictures on my phone. Suddenly I came across this beauty.
This was taken by my sister Sally back in 2010, on the day when I was finally moved to a regular room after a stay in Resurrection Hospital’s ICU. The five years leading up to this particular photo were spent with me being mostly bedridden and living with the help of my loving family. Years of panic attacks, fevers, sweats, rigors, muscle tremors and weakness, seizures, dementia episodes, PICC lines, IV’s, constant hospital admissions and periods where I completely lost the use of my legs had become my new reality. It all culminated with complete organ failure in October 2010. The doctors weren’t sure I was going to survive and my family was preparing to possibly have to say goodbye.
But obviously, God had other plans. I miraculously pulled through. In those first 72 hours in the ICU my 125 lb. frame quickly ballooned up to almost 200 pounds. All that excess fluid stretched my body in ways that were grossly indescribable. My flesh was pulled so taught that it was painful to the touch. I remember one of the days when the worst of it was finally behind me, attempting to rub lotion on my skin in hopes that it would somehow ease the discomfort. As I slowly and lovingly began to gently apply the thick cream, tears filled my eyes. Not because it hurt, but because I was so thankful to be alive! As I caressed each fold and crevice of these new rolls and bulges with the lotion I repeatedly told myself how thankful I was for each and every lump. How wonderful and amazing it was that this body still had the capacity to live after all it had endured. In that moment, I promised that I would ALWAYS love and nurture every last inch of my body. Always and forever. No matter what it looked like. No matter what it’s shape or size. I swore that, even if this newly developed weight never came off, I would always love it and care for it in the most kind and thoughtful ways. The tears streamed even harder coming to terms with the reality of what I had so narrowly escaped. I was so blessed to be alive! And yet, six and a half years later, it seems that I have somehow forgotten all those promises. The deep appreciation I once had for the very gift of my life seems to have dwindled as my wellness slowly increased. Once again I slowly became more demanding of myself and extremely angry at my few remaining limitations. I have returned to despising my inability to live up to the extremely unrealistic expectations I put on myself. So today, after remembering where I once was and that day in the hospital, I am choosing to renew that vow to myself.
Instead of berating myself for not being the athlete I was pre-illness, I will applaud myself for the effort made in just getting myself to the gym – even if all I do is sit in the sauna. I will cheer myself on if my third gym visit of the week is far less than I had envisioned or hoped – cuz heck… I made it there THREE times in one week! And guess what…my body is working. Functional. No wheelchair. No needed assistance. God has healed me to the point where I can function as well – if not better – than many healthy people I know. I am able to once again do many of the things I love. My limitations have also introduced to many new and wonderful things to love as well. In spite of living with a chronic illness, I have joy. I am happy. I am loved. I am valuable. I am worthwhile. When symptoms flare and my capacity to do things begin to diminish a bit, I will take it all in stride. I will no longer berate myself or feel less than simply because I may never be able to do everything I had done prior to becoming ill. I will continue to work on acceptance of who I am in the midst of my new normal. I will love myself exactly where I am. I will take a moment to go back in time and fully remember. Not to morbidly live in the past, but to recall just how bad it had once been. I will joyfully praise God for being with me through those trials and lifting me up and out of the darkness.
I will be filled with gratitude that I have enough stamina to do any exercise whatsoever. I will be thankful that my muscles are still working even if they can’t bench press my body weight anymore. I need to remember that the most important thing is that I still have a life – whatever that may look like on any given day. I need to let myself be used by God and trust in his plan for my life. I need to love myself in the same way God loves me. He loves me if I make it to the gym or not; whether I weigh 120 lbs. or 200 lbs.; whet
So on days when I am particularly hard on myself…I need to remember to love myself instead!