I’m not a person who gets a gym high, I’m not quite fond of the treadmill (I feel like I’m running to nowhere), and I find hot yoga quite, well, hot. I don’t workout to customize my body with the perfect six-pack and toned limbs, although I know some people do. Good luck! I exercise because it clears my mind, it’s my me time, my time to breathe & focus, and it also helps me fall asleep.
As a trained ballerina from the time I was five I’ve been used to a routine. I’m used to working out around five times a week, switching up what I do between a dance class, yoga, pilates, boxing, and cardio. I’m used to an hour sweat session, not by any means to look a certain way, but to feel a certain way. To feel like my body has the strength to accomplish what I set my mind to.
Over the past couple of years it has been my goal to hold a plank for five minutes, my stretch teacher kind of inspired me by her crazy intense classes [no, seriously most of the people in her class are professional ballerinas!]. The first time I tried, I realized my body was more capable that what I gave it credit for, I held it for around two minutes. Since that point, I challenged myself to hold it for ten seconds longer than I had the workout before. Over and over and over again… some days were successful, others not so much, but the point is, I got there. I held it for five minutes, and, actually, easily.
You see, I built my system up to be able to endure the pain. In reality, I was building strength, not fighting pain. I taught myself that the struggle was psychological, that it was mind over matter. I got to the five minute mark, and I was so excited that I was able to do it myself. I was so happy to think that I can accomplish what I set my mind to do. So, that’s why it was so hard when it was taken away from me, just like that.
If you’ve been following my journey, you know that I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, if you haven’t, welcome! In October of 2016 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.
All of a sudden, my body wasn’t my own. I was constantly in pain, and fighting a chronic illness. My body was so busy dealing with microscopic, internal issues, that I couldn’t muster the strength to hold that plank, and I’m not talking about a five minute plank, I’m talking I couldn’t even get myself into that position. I still can’t get there yet, but I’m getting there, step-by-step.
All the years of building strength were taken from me, and for a while, I kind of felt like they were stolen. Our bodies are capable of such wonderfully amazing things, that it was a shock to me that it can shut down in the blink of an eye. But then again, it doesn’t really shut down, it slows down to treat something it sees as a threat… So here goes…
I’ve been on multiple rounds of antibiotics, homeopathic treatments, basically the whole works. I’m now on a three month course of intravenous antibiotics through a PICC line, and my body is exhausted, not because it is doing crazy things in exercise class, but because it’s doing the most extraordinary thing our bodies are capable of doing: healing itself.
I push my body to it’s limits, but unfortunately the limit right now is a walk around the block or a roll on the foam roller. Actually, the other day I worked up the courage to stand on a Bosu Ball (a plastic large ball cut in half to work on balance) and I was able to balance for a couple of minutes, it was a success! It was one of my happiest moments over the past six months.
And, I should be ecstatic, it should be wonderful, it’s a step in the right direction and at the point my body is now, I am working little step by little step, but I can’t say it’s not upsetting.
My body that used to get through a yoga class without pausing. My body that I trained to do oversplits and balance on relevé for minutes at a time. The body that used to slip into pointe shoes without toepads, survive a soul cycle class (that shit is hard! like, really hard) and get through four-hundred sit-ups, now can’t. Instead it’s filled with constant pain, swollen fingers and a weakness that I don’t recognize as my own. A body that can’t do what I tell it to do, even if it is mind over matter, because it has something more important to do (fight Lyme!) than to listen to me.
It’s exhausting to stretch my legs, where it used to be something I did when I woke up in the morning. Sometimes I feel like my body isn’t mine, like it’s working against me instead of with me. It’s disappointing to have something taken from you, that you thought was your accomplishment to keep. But I’m learning that my body is mine to keep and its mine to protect. It’s my responsibility to keep it physically and internally strong, and in order to have physical strength, the insides have to work properly. I know, crazy thought!!
It’s not the frustration of how I think I want to feel that has been taken from me, rather it’s the control. It the knowing that one of the things I am capable of accomplishing is my body’s strength. But day by day I’m learning that it can’t be physically strong if it isn’t internally strong, and it’s a hard lesson to learn. Of course it’s hard to learn that for a little while my body isn’t mine, it’s not my head’s to control, rather, quite literally, it is my hearts responsibility. My physical body is in charge now, instead of my head, isn’t that ironic?! What I do have control over, is how I can help it heal. I’m helping it by taking the pills I’m supposed to take, drinking the teas I’m supposed to make (even if they taste disgusting), taking the naps the doctor tells me to (well, to be completely honest, I’m not taking as many as I should, I hate sleeping!) and not pushing it. That’s the hardest for me. How does someone as type-A as me, get told to not push their boundaries?
I told you, I’m learning.
I remind myself again and again that my body is a vessel for my soul, for the goodness that it can produce, for the world of opportunities that it can encounter once it is strong again, and the people it can advocate for, fight for, and help. But, yes, that cliché is true: if you’re not taking care of yourself, you can’t possibly have the strength to take care of others. Sure, its disappointing and frustrating at times, but it’s also amazing. It’s amazing how it can stop doing what I want it to do, to do what it needs to do. It’s incredible to know that once I’m better, I can challenge myself to do it all over again. That if I did it once, I can do it again. And again… and again and again…
Day-by-day, step-by-step, I’m slowly healing. It’s going slowly, but I’m learning more patience than I ever have known before. I can’t wait for the day that I know awaits me in the sometime near future, where I can get back to my planks and my splits. For now, until then, I’ll be working my way there slowly, carefully, and patiently. For learning patience, I know, will make me a stronger human being and a more helpful person in turn. Going back to the basics, what we learn in kindergarten: learn one thing today, and build upon that knowledge tomorrow. Bosu Ball today, dance studio tomorrow. Ten seconds today… twenty seconds tomorrow…
Originally published at medium.com