Before that point, I had inadvertently put my body through the ringer; from starting to drink alcohol and smoke pot at the age of 13, to the stress I carried around with me in my stomach and on my face, to the pounding it took when I over-worked it. It is no wonder it threw me to my knees; all other previous communications had gone unnoticed.
Before that, my body for the most part was a source of shame; something to be hidden or ignored. There were brief moments of love between us, when it would do amazing things without my having planned it, like some of the feats I was able to accomplish while playing baseball, or how uniquely strong my upper body seemed to be for its size, or how fast I could run. There were times that I can say that I was truly proud of what my body could do. Then again, it is easy to love anything for its great ability and beauty.
For my part, I was somewhat oblivious to the idea that my body would actually talk to me, and no one ever told me I would have a life-long relationship with it, maybe because they assumed I knew, it being obvious and all. No one ever told me to listen for signals or communication from my body. So I ignored it from right around the time puberty hit. Well, actually, I started to try to ignore it when I was 8 and my face started breaking out. By eleven I was in full-on lock down mode. Between my boobs growing, my period starting, and hair starting to grow in various embarrassing areas of my body, I was doing everything I could to pretend my body wasn't there. I was not very successful.
As for my body, it was doing everything it could, growing and developing naturally, sending me signals when I was sad, angry, anxious, happy, excited, etc., but generally speaking, after the age of 8, my body noticed that I was listening less and less, and in response, sent more and more desperate signals as time passed. None of them did I heed. I went on much as I had, doing more and more damage to my body, though my body desperately needed my love and attention.
At nineteen, my body doubled down and in a desperate attempt to get my attention, it sent me to the hospital for acute appendicitis. Still, I did not listen. Instead I just cut the damn thing out and kept on suppressing my emotions with alcohol, weed and brutal indifference. It wasn't until I moved to Portland, and after I found myself writhing on the ground, that I decided there might be something really wrong with me. I went to a local Naturopath who told me, after running several tests, that for all intents and purposes, my body was no longer digesting food. She told me I had three options: Eat clean for a period of time to see if that would clean out my system and kick-start my body back into action, take drugs to alleviate the pain and maybe enable me to eat again, or undergo surgery to remove some of my colon.
Being young and without health insurance, and being innately scared of Western medicine and doctors in general, I went for option one. Though I did not know it, this would be the start of a relationship that would teach me more about myself than anything I would do before or after. This was the relationship my body had been waiting for; the relationship, it turned out, that my body had been demanding. So I started eating Macrobioticly. No processed foods, no dairy, no meat except for seasoning, but plenty of sea vegetables, fermented foods, vegetables, beans, soy products, nuts, seeds, tea and water. Nothing else. It was quite rigorous, as I had to make all of it; pickling my own food, slow-cooking everything (raw food was not permitted), I spent hours a day cooking, and I could never really eat out. I did this for one year. During this year, I also learned how to read some the signals my body was sending. I even started examining my poop. This is not to say that I always listened to the signals, or did what they were instructing I do, but I did get very good at recognizing them.
It was as if I had a new friend and had to monitor her mood on a daily basis in order to know how to treat her. In the beginning, she was very demanding, kind of bitchy, and not at all trusting that I would make the right decisions for her. It was kind of funny because I realize now that it mirrored the same relationship that I had with my mother at the time; my body felt about me the same way I felt about my mom. After a few months of care and attention, however, she softened. She started to trust me again, and so she started sending me even more signals; all regarding my emotional health. I still have the journal I used to record everything that was going on with my body at that point. It is chock full of my different bodily processes and all the research I was doing to figure my body out. It is also chock full of the emotional ups and downs I was experiencing on a daily basis.
At that time I was also suffering from a broken heart. I had broken up with my first love two years earlier and was attempting to deal with the loss of it. My body was not in to heartbreak on any level, but in no way did it want me to keep pushing it down to try to avoid feeling it either. This is when all of my emotions started coming out. It felt like I was puking emotions for about three months. In hindsight, it was a good thing I was living in my brother's basement with few local friends to speak of; I was kind of a mess.
That was twenty-five years ago. For twenty five years, I have been practicing listening to my body. I say praciticing because I am still getting new messages every day, and I still don't always do what my body requests, but I am better, and what's more, I love my body; not because I think it looks good, but because it saved me. My body, through all of the shit I was piling on top of it on a daily basis, never gave up on me. It always believed I would eventually listen. My body has loved me, unconditionally, for as long as I have been alive. Yes, sometimes it has been tough love, but no matter what I put it through, it has always loved me, has always tried to teach me, to keep me awake to what I need, what I can use, and what I can let in.
My body has also been quite good and lettling me know what not to let in, including certain types of food, personal hygeine products, pharmaceuticals and people. I get signals about all of it. That is how I know that no diet on the market is right for me. That is how I know that products full of chemicals do not belong in or on my body. That is how I know that when I am told that I need something outside of myself to be happy that it is utter bullshit. My body knows me better, and I trust it. This trust is based on mutual love and admiration, and I know I am lucky to have it.
That is also why I would never advise anyone to do anything other than listen to their body. Your body knows better than doctors, better than actors hired to sell you products, better than your friends, relatives or partners. Your body knows. Learn its language. Become fluent. Develop the relationship with your body that it has always wanted. It is waiting for you to listen.