Twenty One Years, some odd number of days and hours.
Over Four Years of Therapy.
Over 10 journals, dozens of poems, and countless conversations.
After all this hard work, I came to believe that, finally, I had mostly concurred this. I had conquered the side effects of abuse. After all, my therapist told me that I no longer display the characteristics of a trauma survivor. Amazing!! Now, even the professionals cannot tell unless I tell them. Feels pretty good to know I have beaten this thing as much as possible.
Then, today, comes a realization, disguised in the guise of a cold in the doctors office. I receive the same messages from my doctor and my naturopath: I need to learn to take care of myself, and put my ambition aside for my health. Tears roll down my face when I am asked the difficult question: Do I want to get better or do I want to get by? And truthfully, I could not say that I truly, soulfully, believed that I deserved to be healthy and deserved the hard work it takes to treat your body like a temple. I was asked do you pay attention to your body, ask your body what it needs?
After all this training being a social worker, I forgot, that trauma impacts the relationship with your body. I have been doing all this work on managing my mind, my emotions and building my self esteem, that I ignored the fact that I am completely disconnected from my body. The only time we connect is when I look at myself in the mirror or dance (which is a rarity these days). Even still, I have not learned to be in tune with my body or appreciate it. But most importantly, I have never felt that my body deserves good treatment. Logically, I am aware it does, but in my soul, there is an empty place where my self-worth should be.
Self Esteem: As per Dr. Higgins, it is “what we think, feel and believe about ourselves”. My interpretation is that it is a confidence that develops in a person based on others perceptions of them, based on accomplishments, and based on social approval. Self-Esteem changes, it is relative, it is based on concrete evidence, and very much derived from our self-talk which is highly influenced by our environment.
Self Worth: As per Dr. Higgins, it is knowing that “I am greater than all of those things” [i.e. our thoughts/feelings/beliefs about ourselves]. In my opinion, self-worth is permanent, it is constant, it is abstract, it is derived from an internal faith/belief that requires no proof. Self worth is the core of how we view ourselves. It determines how we then interact with the world.
Now what does this have to do with my doctors appointment today? I don’t truly believe that my body deserves to be treated well. I understand that I deserve to be treated well and that includes not being physically exploited. However, I regularly struggle with developing positive healthy habits that require me to take care of myself and prevent health problems. Even when I remember, I choose not to help myself, making excuses of laziness to disguise the disgust I feel about my body. Finally, I have to accept the hard truth: I have not fully developed or found a way to nurture a healthy self-worth.
However, I have a fantastic self-esteem!!! I have enough evidence of this in my life. I routinely receive validation from friends, relatives, co-workers, and clients about all of my positive qualities (insert bragging here ____ ) 😛 And now I understand another layer of why I have always prioritized my ambitions over my health. No, I do not solely want to make the world a better place. I also want to ‘get by’ with my health and body. I want to use it as a vessel to get me to my destination but I do not want to have a relationship with my body. Hmm, jee does this sound like self-abuse?!? If I have had to pick between my health and my ambition, to date, I have ALWAYS picked my ambition. Hmmm, does maintaining my self-esteem and keeping a steady flow of validation coming in to fill that empty space where self-worth should be, have anything to do with this obsession with ambition?
I don’t have all the answers, but I have realized that you can read things in text books and completely disassociate from it, if you are not ready to admit that it may also apply to you, not just your clients. I guess I fell prey to cognitive dissonance. Now, I will be on a journey of accepting that my doubts for years that I did not have enough self worth are no longer doubts. Now, I will be searching for ways to rebuild my self-worth, my internal unconditional belief that every part of my body deserves love and it is not disgusting, or a vessel, or a tool. Logically, I can hear this, now lets see how long it takes for me to believe this and say this without being squeamish.
Wish me luck!