By Melody Rae
I stood there completely naked, staring back at the reflection of my post-partum body. As I sighed out I said those three little words I will never forget. “I hate you.” It was the first time I had ever said it aloud and I wasn’t just talking to my reflection. I was talking directly to my body.
I can’t express now how much I wish I could go back and hug myself. Hug my body. It didn’t deserve the words and animosity I was giving it then. It wasn’t the first time I had disliked my body, been frustrated with its capability and limitations due to my chronic illness, or punished it with diets and exercise. Never had I stood in such defeat and vocally abused it though. To me, one of the most amazing things I realize now, is that even though my body felt every word, it was still trying to protect me.
My fiancé quickly came up behind me and hugged me to him. He told me all the right things as we looked on in the mirror. He thought I was beautiful and he loved my body, scars and all. He asked me what was the matter and all I could say was what I saw. My breasts hung low and my nipples now faced the ground. I had a fat roll in my back, stretch marks, cellulite, scars galore, and large love handles. He sweetly tried to coax me back to him stating those were all his favorite parts to hold on to. All I could do was repeat it. “I hate it. I hate it so much and no amount of working out will ever give me my body back.”
The truth is, nothing he could have said would have helped me then. I was in a prison mostly of my own making but had convinced myself that my body had been to blame. I couldn’t understand how he wasn’t as disgusted and horrified as I was. It was so strange for me to end up there because only a year and a half before I was constantly learning and advocating for women to love their bodies, no matter the shape or size through my boudoir and beauty photography.
Believe it or not, as painful as the experience still is to remember today I am truly grateful for it. It was a pivotal moment in my journey and I would later find out that I was knee deep in what they call a “Double depression” which led to a complete unraveling of myself. For a time I was one serious mess but I would go on to discover that there’s beauty even in the breakdown.
Then something changed. Actually, a great many of things changed but I still remember the day, the exact moment and place I came across a quote by Nayyurah Waheed that read, “and I said to my body, softly. ‘I want to be your friend.’ It took a long breath and replied, ‘I have been waiting my whole life for this’.”
I remember my body taking a deep breath and the feeling of longing that if I could just say that too. Suddenly the thought struck me, “wait, couldn’t I?” What was stopping me?” I wondered. It didn’t seem to be stopping anyone else I truly cared about from loving or wanting to be around me. What would be the worst that could happen?
Oh yes, I have seen trolls both on and off line, people both male and female, cast their nasty cruel judgments and comparisons onto other women’s bodies. And like me, I had seen them do it to themselves too. It occurred to me that even though I had a pretty rocking bod in my teens I hadn’t enjoyed it or truly loved it much then either. I thought extreme self-care meant eating right, bathing and keeping up a basic appearance. Part of me wondered if I would look back in another 10 or 20 years and feel that I had somehow missed out on the state of my body that I am now. I’m sure I could have googled searched and found a program or one, two, three steps you can take to developing self-acceptance for my body but instead that evening I sat down, searched deep inside of myself and wrote a very long letter directly to my body.
I won’t share that here as it was a deeply personal but when I was finished I was utterly amazed at how much my body has done to support and protect me. How very much it had given me all the years of my life including the divine ability to create and carry my two sons. I could then see how every wound and scar I carried, both internal and external, every stretch mark and curve I once despised secretly told the story of me through my body. It was as if I could see my body through new eyes and I decided then, that I wanted to have a beautiful, bodacious, love affair with my body.
Never in a million years did I imagine that my body could answer me back. I had been up late typing up notes and ideas for content when I came across the letter in my journal months later. For some odd reason my document kept very large spaces between each line that I typed. As I reread the words I typed line by line I could feel the sensations it triggered in different places within my body so I decided to try and let my body answer me back and this is essentially what it said:
If there is one thing that you need to know, it’s that out of everyone in the whole world, I’m proud to be your body and share this journey with you. Those early years when we were first discovering the world together was so exciting! All the new tastes and smells, sights and sounds. We did have a few bumps and accidents along the way but that’s just the way we learned and grew together.
I’m saddened also about what we had to go through at such a young age. I tried so very hard to express to you but it was a confusing time trying to understand why our basic needs for stability, physical love, and attention couldn’t be met by the one person we needed the most. But you were never alone. Not really.
Please know that I did my very best to protect you the only way I knew how when you could no longer keep us safe. I will remind you forever that it wasn’t our fault. Neither one of us and we didn’t deserve that. I don’t blame you either for our accident that caused our chronic illness. I’m relieved to hear you don’t blame me. I’m just trying to do my very best for you because I love you. I want to support you and to experience all of our dreams together. It does help me when you care and nourish me too.
But it all happened and I can’t express enough how thrilled I am that we are finally becoming reacquainted with each other. I understand that it can be difficult opening up again in feeling and processing the painful emotions, but I can take it and so can you. We don’t have to keep carrying it all anymore and as our thresh hold expands, there will be space for more of the pleasurable things too!
We are stronger when we’re aligned together. I will always support, protect, and hold this space for you to drop down into until our very last breath.
I understand having an actual conversation with one’s body might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It might even cause me to appear to be a little crazy and I can claim that to be somewhat true (in the best of ways). But I know I feel so much lighter and more comfortable in my own skin. In my own body. And as much as I love beautifying, pampering, and focusing on our best features, this is the reason I will always want to help others to see the beauty not in spite of, but because of their flaws and the sacredness in their scars.