From self-abuse – to self-care
From self-abuse – to self-care
Self-care for me came from recognising the extent of my own self-abuse, accepting it as abuse and then learning to truly nurture and love myself – to love every atom of my body and being.
The trouble is we are in far more self-abuse than most of us realise or would like to admit because abuse has become so normalised by ourselves, media and society as a whole. It is positively encouraged by many big industries such as the food and beverage, alcohol, wine & spirit, pharmaceutical, training, cosmetic surgery and the fashion and cosmetic industries.
I work as a personal trainer and throughout most of my own life I have looked after my body in the way that society and media promote as being healthy: working out hard, pushing my limits of strength, stamina and flexibility, running, weight training and practicing yoga. In addition I would eat and drink what I thought was a sensible balanced diet, based on the food pyramid….
I would eat 3-5 meals per day, which would include lots of fruit and vegetables, salads, bread (mostly wholegrain), potatoes, rice or pasta with every meal. I would consume dairy products on a regular, if not daily basis. My protein consisted of fish and mostly poultry, with small amounts of red meat, eggs and pulses. I ate very small amounts of fats, butter, spreads, oils and generally during the weekend I would have treats such as salty snacks and sweets. I didn’t drink much coffee or tea. I would drink mainly water or fruit juices, as well as the odd cold beer when the desire arose, though I did have a long period believing that 1-2 glasses of red wine each evening would ‘do me good’.
Looking back I knew that the wine was in no way beneficial to my body or wellbeing. Knowing that I had taken onboard far too many calories and toxins, I would more often than not go to the gym the following day or go for a long run in the forest to sweat off the overindulgences from the night before. In this way I thought I was really self-caring and looking after my body.
Through treating my body this way there have been many occasions where my body has suffered: damaged knees and shoulders, inflamed elbows, sprained ankles and torn calf muscles, as well as numerous other bumps and bruises – when all along I thought I was at the peak of health, looking after my body and self-caring.
It came to a point that I began asking questions about how my body was responding to being treated in this way.
- Why did I get heartburn when I drank coffee or wine?
- Why did I have so many aches, pains and inflammations/irritations in my muscles and joints?
- Why did I train so hard to maintain a slim muscular body?
- Why did certain foods make me feel bloated?
- Why did other foods make my sinuses feel blocked?
- What was actually going on in my head? Why did I sleep so badly?
- Why did I feel so empty?
- Why did I get stressed?
- Why did I get irritable?
- Why was I living my life looking outside of myself for all the answers?
Everything I had been doing which I thought was self-caring, was in fact, me abusing my own body to live up to an illusion, an image of healthy living that is accepted in society. It was as if I had awakened from a deep sleep.
Slowly the answers to what life was all about and how I was not really caring for my body or myself became more and more apparent.
I realised alcohol was in no way good for my body, I had actually used it to take me away from feeling life, feeling truth, avoiding dealing with my past hurts. Without alcohol I feel more connected with myself, and physically there is almost no heartburn. I have dealt with many of my past hurts and I no longer feel any emptiness; joy and harmony are its replacements. I drink only water and the occasional mint tea and it tastes amazing. I start the day with plenty of fluids; keeping myself hydrated throughout the day helps me stay alert and energetic without the aid of coffee or any other stimulants.
As for food, it is a constant process of discovery. The more I listen to and become attuned to my own body the more I can feel the effects of the food I consume. It’s not just the type of food but also where the food is from, how it has been treated, how it is prepared, and how I eat it… everything matters. I realised quite quickly that the source of my blocked sinuses, which caused me great difficulty breathing through my nose, particularly at night, was dairy products. Having given up dairy products I now sleep really well and I can more readily breathe through my nose, even at night. Part of my self-care regime is to constantly refine and update my diet; I have also discovered ill effects of both sugar and gluten, which I have now removed from my diet. I also eat a lot less salt than previously.
As with all the different physical exercise I do, the primary focus is on being present in my own body as I perform the exercise. Whether I do body weight exercises, stretching or a light workout at the gym, the focus is not on building muscles or pushing my body hard anymore, it is about connecting to my own body.
The more I deepen my self-care, build my presence and awareness of my own body and what goes on around me, the more I feel connected to God and the universe. For me this is part of self-care.
Running has been replaced by walking. On different occasions I will do different kinds of walking depending on what I feel my body needs. It may be a slow gentle walk with a focus on feeling my own spaciousness or a quicker more cardiovascular walk; it may be a short 15-minute walk or it could be a long wander along the river that could take a few hours. Every walk is working on being in connection with myself and every time I realise my mind has gone elsewhere, I return to myself and connect back to my body.
All these self-caring choices have taken place during the last four years. I have not once dieted but I have felt huge changes in my body, feeling much healthier and lighter – about 10kg less in weight. I feel more open and joyful, there is a spaciousness and harmony in my body and I am able to connect much more easily with myself and other people.