It is a common truism these days that your body is wise. Trust your body. It knows what to do. I have heard that a lot over the past few months. Hell, I’ve said it a lot myself. And I do believe it to be true. Your body is a miraculous organ that often knows how to heal itself. I’ve experienced it myself when I’ve seen how cut apart organs have rejoined themselves, skin problems have subsided, internal pain has faded. I have learned that my body does often know how to heal itself, but there’s the rub….that word often is not the same as always.
I’m not a child. I understand that illness and injury happens to all of us. No body is immune from physical challenges. With the help of modern medicine when needed, the body does usually adapt. Usually, you can trust it to do so. But not always. And that brings up my latest question: Once your body has failed you in some serious way, such as the occurrence of cancer or some other debilitating and persistent disease, how can you believe that it won’t fail you again and again? How can you trust?
Some people live in constant fear of their bodies failing. Some never learn to trust themselves and their ability to heal. Until now, I have consciously tried not to live with that constant fear. I have always believed that things would sort themselves out, if not on their own, then with professional help which, luckily for me and my privilege, has been readily available. Now that I am thinking and writing about this, I can see that my current experience with cancer has once again proven my belief that all will be well. The cancer was found, miraculously. It was removed, albeit under radical circumstances, but still, it was. I am slowly recovering from surgery, step by step, and as I have recovered, my body has been quietly repairing itself to allow me to take the next steps on this road. I have experienced many reasons to trust my body’s so-called wisdom.
And yet, I know I don’t. I don’t know if I will ever completely trust my body again. It has always been strong and capable of fighting injury and disease, but now I’m not so sure if that strength and capability is so trust-worthy. Something went wrong with my body which caused some cells to grow uncontrollably. That growth could have killed me. It didn’t this time. But how can I trust that it won’t in the future?
A friend of mine who has met these challenges herself wrote
… you’ll live with that condition of slightly greater fragility, just as anyone old enough to have lived through a financial crash lives contentedly but a little differently.
I am sure she is right. But how do I do that? I am reminded of two things. One, was a friend of mine from college who struggled with an annoying lack of organizational skills. He was told that if he acted organized, then eventually he would become organized. Another was my experience of parenting teenagers. I had to learn that sometimes you have to trust them even when they aren’t trustworthy. Only then can they eventually earn your trust. Both ideas turned out to be true. My friend became organized. My children became some of my most trusted companions. All I can do now, I think, while I am still in the midst of a difficult and rocky time, is to remember those lessons and live by them. Although I might not really trust my body now, if I act as if I do, I can fool myself into eventually believing it. And if I can trust my body now, at it’s least trustworthy time, it will eventually prove to me that one way or another, that trust is justified.
You can also turn that distrust into a weapon. Because of it, you will be more sensitive to your body’s disloyalty in the future and intervene early to diagnose and combat disease. It’s not a bad thing to (pardon the pun) distrust but verify.
It’s an odd one, Sue, your body is you and yet you are in some real way slightly separate from your body. Somebody once told me to trust your body because it will automatically try to do the best that it can for you. In the same way that if you overbalance, your body will automatically try to keep you upright, not want to let you fall, so it will try to heal and mend for you.
Of course (she said) sometimes it simply can’t, but that is not because it isn’t trying or doesn’t want to. So the advice was to understand that you should trust your body, not that it will always be infallible, but that it is always trying its best and it is in partnership with you.