How to Love Your Body with a Chronic Illness
Written By: Tatiana Skomski
Before I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis I felt like my body and I were at war with each other. For years I never knew what was wrong with me and I became so frustrated with my body. I just wanted to eat without being in pain! Is that so much to ask for?! I vividly remember times where before eating I would think to myself, “PLEASE let this go well. Please don’t make me feel sick.” And that is just no way to live.
After I was diagnosed I went through a long period of denial. I started to feel so much better and as a result, I felt like I didn’t have a disease. I thought “oh it’s fine, I'm better now.” I felt like my disease was something I could just ignore moving forward since it wasn’t at the forefront of my thoughts every day. The result of me being in denial of my disease was a feeling of complete disconnect from my body. I didn’t know my body anymore. I went from feeling horrible all the time to feeling great but now labeled with a chronic illness. With this disconnect came a feeling of hatred for what my body had done to me. I felt like it was my body’s fault for being sick and in no way did I love my body for that.
I think all of us that live with a chronic illness go through a time of feeling trapped in our own bodies. We feel like our bodies are against us or out to get us. It took me a long time to realize that’s not the case. And trust me, I still have my bad days where I really do feel like my body is against me. But I’ve gotten to a place where I truly love my body, chronic illness and all. I’ve embraced it as a part of me and I want to help you do the same. I think it’s possible to not only come to terms with your illness but welcome it into your life with open arms.
List out 10 things you love about your physical body
Hopefully, you’re still reading this. I know how hard this can be. I remember when I first thought about doing this I wanted to puke. It was actually EXTREMELY hard for me to come up with 10 things I loved about my physical body. Like painfully hard. But once I sat down and actually did it, I felt so much more at peace. Focusing on the good instead of the bad was critical for me in actually loving myself. And this is something I constantly check in on and revisit. If those feelings of negative self-talk start to bubble up, I do this exercise and it really helps me reshape my thoughts.
Think about a few positive outcomes from your diagnosis
Similar to the above exercise, thinking about the positive outcomes from my diagnosis really helped me embrace it and feel connected to it. For me, some of those positive outcomes have been, finding a medication that has put me into remission, finding a deeper purpose in my career path, and meeting some of the most amazing badass women I’ve ever known that have the same disease as me. Without knowing that I have Ulcerative Colitis I wouldn’t have any of these things. And I always come back to this when I am feeling down about my diagnosis.
Allow yourself to feel your feelings - positive or negative
Something that I found when I was first coming to terms with my diagnosis was I would often try and force myself out of any negative feelings I would have towards it. I felt like I should be positive all the time. But realistically I’m not always going to feel positive about having a chronic illness. Sometimes it just sucks and it's okay to embrace that feeling. Allowing yourself to feel all of your emotions (good or bad) is such an important part of healing and loving your body. Letting go of expectations of how I SHOULD feel actually allowed more positivity in the long term because if negativity comes up, I know it will eventually pass. On the other side of a bad day is a new good day.
Surround yourself with community
One of the things I said was a positive outcome of my diagnosis was finding a community of other women my age that have the same or similar diseases to mine. This has probably been one of the most valuable things throughout my entire Ulcerative Colitis journey. Let's face it. Living with a chronic illness is HARD. As much positivity I can find in it, there are still hard days and so many unknowns. Without a community to lean on, I wouldn't be able to get through those days. Both online and in real life, my communities are often what keep me going and help me know that no matter what happens, I will never ever be alone.
Loving ourselves (chronic illness or not) is hard. It’s a journey that is ever-changing and evolving and something that we must constantly check in on. I know for me, its something I’m always working on. Hopefully, this is a good start to learning to love your body with a chronic illness. And as always, I’m here for you. If this is something you need help or support with please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram @simplybalancedwithtati.