My Body is NOT My Enemy

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Painting of a woman with eyes closed and hands over heart

“It is a radical act of love to befriend yourself.”
~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Words are powerful

I learned that as a little girl, the first time someone made me cry on the playground by saying they didn’t want to be my friend. I learned it again when I was a little older, fighting with my brother in the back seat of the car; I told him my parents didn’t love him as much as they loved me. My mother immediately stopped the car and told me in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t true, and I was never to say such a thing again. I also learned the power of positive words: accepting compliments without rejecting them (it took practice), and as a young woman in the midst of first love, experiencing the fear and the bliss of saying “I love you” for the very first time, and hearing those words in return.

I’m a writer and an avid reader. Words are my joy and my outlet. But some words I reject, specifically the ones the medical establishment assigns to autoimmune disease:

  • Your body is attacking you.
  • Your immune system is out of control.
  • Your body is broken.
  • Your body has betrayed you.
  • You will continue to get worse.

When I developed rheumatoid arthritis, my sister started doing some research, and she found a book called, “The Enemy Within.” It’s written by a woman with rheumatoid arthritis, who took the conventional medical path to treatment, and therefore embraces that perspective. There’s a lot of beauty in the book: her raw honesty about her experience, her encouragement of people to create a full life beyond the disease. But I can’t get past the title, and the antagonistic “us vs. our body” viewpoint that permeates the book.

I have a different perspective

  • My body wants to heal and is doing everything in its power to do so. Autoimmunity is a miscommunication within the body, not an intentional war within.
  • Symptoms are my body’s way of telling me something’s wrong and asking for help. I had many signals for many years, before rheumatoid arthritis hit. Like many people, I misinterpreted or ignored those signals.
  • My body does a million things right every day, which I take for granted. From a steady heartbeat and oxygen supply, to trillions of cells doing zillions of processes every second, sending signals bodywide that let me move my fingers to type these words, allowing me to speak, to sleep, to sing and to love, controlling all aspects of homeostasis from body temperature to cell regeneration, my body is amazing and is totally on my side.
  • My body needs my love, not my anger.
  • My body’s potential is infinite.
  • My body and I are one. There is no separation.

This isn’t a pollyana viewpoint

It’s hard having an autoimmune disease. Even though many of us speak of the gifts that come with life’s challenges, let’s be honest: we’d much rather be 100% healthy. Some days, you need to cry. Other times, you want to scream. Even though I have improved my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms dramatically, I have a very sensitive body that requires vigilance, and I miss feeling free.  But I don’t hate my body, I don’t blame my body. Every day, I re-commit to loving my body, and I believe that’s essential to healing. If your child is sick, do you get mad at them, or do you nurture them, and do everything in your power to help them be well? Don’t our bodies deserve that same unconditional love? Don’t we?

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Art Credit: A huge thank you to Rita Loyd for the artwork at the top of this post. She has a whole gallery of beautiful images at the aptly named She kindly gave me permission to include one for this article.

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36 comments on “My Body is NOT My Enemy”

  1. I love the words you chose. They are speaking life to the body instead of death. Miscommunication is a perfect way to put it. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  2. Hoi Eileen,
    Tears started flowing, just reading your view. I have been dealing with chronic fatigue for about 15 years. Had uterine cancer diagnosed 11 years ago, and had my uterus removed in 2014 because it had flared up again. Now I know that it also had done a lot of good in processing stress. (I do believe cancer is some kind of a solution for the body). I have been doing alternative therapy for over 20 years. And I had hoped that things were going to get better after my operation. But last summer I discovered some slight pain in my hands, thumb-joints, that did not go away. And have realized that it is probably something like reumatoid arthritis. So I have deepened my adventure and search in what food can heal me besides healing emotionally and mentally. I so like your view in that my body needs love more than anything. Fortunately I have discoverd a teacher that shows me how I can do that more and more (Matt Kahn).
    Just thank you for sharing all that you do. Now I will continue reading more on your website.
    A big hug from me, Anne in Soerendonk, the Netherlands

    1. Anne, thanks so much for sharing your story. Healing wishes coming your way, along with a big hug back from me!

  3. Beautifully written.
    After reading this, I can’t help but to think of Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water experiment.
    We can definitely cause ourselves harm (in more ways than one) when we verbally or mentally attack ourselves. Its so much better for our healing to focus on loving affirmations, and allow our bodies and minds to react in a positive manner.

  4. As always, you write with such directness and clarity! I feel as you do about my body and really appreciate your words of wisdom. I know they will be a healing balm to many people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, wise woman.

  5. YES! YES! YES! I wholeheartedly agree with you! Having a positive mindset is so important and it grieves me to hear people say things like “My body is betraying me” or “My body is my enemy.” We have to practice loving and cherishing ourselves, and that attitude will aid in our healing. Thank you.

  6. I LOVE this! I was diagnosed this summer with RA (after 2 years of not knowing what was wrong with me). I was just lamenting today that I am hearing so many people also with RA saying that it cannot be controlled without meds. I am trying to live with it with diet, exercise, sleep, vitamins, laughter, stress-reduction, and the support of my family/friends. It can be tough when so many stress how sick I will become and how hard it is to live with (their words; not mine). I am going to print this out and re-read it when I struggle. Thanks.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! It is very clear to understand. Previously, I’d get mad at my teeth for having yet more cavities, then I’d try to “be nice” and get so discouraged, and it would repeat. I think that realizing how amazing is your body is the step I was missing! Now I can try a different way.

  8. I love this post! I just discovered your blog last night. I can’t wait to read more. I am using meds right now, but also following a gluten free diet for more than nine years and a paleo diet for two years. Your blog reminds me that I have not yet found the missing link for my unique body. Always a journey!

    1. “Always a journey” is so true. Life takes us all in unexpected directions, to be sure. I visited your website today and love the Deepak quote! I’m so glad you said hello.

  9. Just now running across your blog and reading some past articles…

    This post is EXACTLY what I needed to read. I’ve found myself feeling so angry at my body because I feel like I can’t just be like everyone else and eat whatever the heck I want (which really isn’t exactly true for anyone anyway). To deviate at all from a perfect paleo diet (minus eggs, nuts, seeds and nightshades) means I get sick in some way or another. So, instead of finding some way to embrace this, I just feel angry. That anger has gotten me into trouble with eating stuff I really can’t eat and I’ve just stayed sick because of it. Essentially, I’m repeatedly getting mad at that innocent little sick child that just wants to feel better. Saying it like that is very powerful to me, as I couldn’t imagine ever being mad at my little girl just because she wasn’t feeling good.

    This post has given me a totally new way to think about things and I am going to read it everyday for a while to practice this message. Thank you for that.

    1. Casey, your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for writing. Stories like this are why I write this blog in the first place.

  10. Wonderfully written and I absolutely agree! It’s easy to give in to negative thoughts when your body begins to go wonky, but it’s important to stay positive, otherwise how else do you overcome it? I have so many allergies and recently discovered I have 2 bulging discs and early arthritis. My doctor initially told me there wasn’t much I could do about it. I mean really? I’m in my early 30s!! I won’t accept that and won’t accept negativity about it. Instead, I’m doing everything I can to turn it around (or at the very least slow it down). A body wants to heal itself and you need to nurture it to do so!

    1. Well said! Doctors can be amazingly helpful sometimes, and other times, we need to look elsewhere for healing. I have faith in you!

  11. I truly believe this kind of outlook helped me through a very long and painful miscarriage. It wasn’t till I was able to consistently be positive about my body’s ability to heal that my body was able to expel everything, even after a D&C. I try to maintain a positive attitude about my body and try my best to interpret the signals it gives me. It is a learning process for sure!!

  12. Hi Eileen, I am working my way through a free Internet course I self acceptance by sounds true. Check it out! I love your blog. It makes so much sense to be your own best friend rather than adding energy to the myth of separation…(me you, body spirit, me all of life….). Thanks for all the time, effort, and love you put into this blog!

    1. I’m glad my love shines through. I haven’t forgotten about teaching a GAPS class (someday!) Right now, each time I sit down to write, blog articles seem more fun than lesson planning. One doesn’t replace the other though, so I need to buckle down. Love to you, my friend.

  13. Wise, encouraging words. Where is this message coming from, that we — our bodies, our psyche, our very essence of being — are the problem? It’s convenient, since the actual causes for problems are not addressed, and if people take your words to heart and ease up on themselves, then perhaps there can be a positive change. Thank you for writing this.

  14. Lovely words, very well written.

    I particilarly love your point about caring for your body with the same compassion and love with which you would care for a child. I’ve never thought if it that way — but I will now.

  15. I loved this! I have chronic fatigue syndrome and adrenal fatigue and this spoke to me as well. It is exactly how I feel! Thank you for finding the perfect words to express! Thank you! Warmly, Rita Loyd

  16. This is so great…I, too, have been told for decades about the ‘enemy’ and the battle. Acceptance and love are so much more healing even though I am just at the very beginning of finding this out.
    Also, I love the art work…thanks again for sharing this post!

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