About six weeks ago I had abdominal surgery. I have always been fairly healthy up until this point (if we aren’t counting the fifteen long years I battled against anorexia and bulimia) and so having to undergo major surgery was both a brand-new experience and understandably a source of anxiety for me.
My mother, on the other hand, being a veteran of five abdominal surgeries, and my experienced and enthusiastic Patch Adams-esque surgeon who was a veteran of several thousand more, wasted no time speeding through the pre-operative prep and the “virgin stomach” jokes … until I felt like I was a paying extra on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
It probably is worth mentioning that I haven’t been much of a Grey’s fan thus far this season.
However, I have yet to experience a more healing, transformative lesson in mentoring than the one my own abdomen has taught me in the last several weeks.
For starters, during the operation they filled my abdomen full of gas so they could see everything and move their instruments around easily. So in coming to I woke up into what my former eating disordered mind might have considered to be the wrong kind of “extreme makeover” – I had literally increased several sizes from the waist down in just a couple of hours!
But far from panicking, I simply examined my body in awe. I politely asked for some larger pants than those I’d brought with me. And I proceeded to treat my body with the kind of TLC any surgery patient’s body is entitled to after being nearly cut in two.
I also watched in wonderment as my body fought like a dog to heal – as day-by-day, week-by-week, I went from not being able to sit up to being able to stand up and even walk a step or two. After two weeks of being led around the block with a parent on either side holding each of my hands, one day I was able to make my way down the street on my own.
A few weeks later, I was able to swing my legs over the chair without lifting them in my arms to do so. Then I was able to bend. To breathe into my lower lungs. To pour my own tea from the stove-top teapot. To laugh.
I have never, ever in my life experienced such profound respect as I now feel for my own abdomen and for my body – and such awe at how it steadfastly, courageously, and determinedly fought for its life (and mine!) both throughout the last several weeks and all during my eating disordered years.
I guess I am just writing this post because while I would not wish abdominal surgery on any of you, what I DO wish for each of you is to feel that tremendous awe and respect, care and love that I now feel for my body post-surgery.
Even after a decade of being in strong recovery from anorexia and bulimia, nothing in my life before the experience of having major surgery has enabled me to access the level of partnership, trust, and affection I now feel for the skin I live in.
In this way, I now count my own abdomen – my whole body in fact – as one of my most profound and powerful mentors.
I wish the same – and even more – for you.
Today’s Takeaway: Today, spend a few moments journaling about all the things your body does for you. Think about how uncomplainingly it supports you no matter how you may think of or speak to it. Ponder how, when you want to move your arms or legs, it moves them for you, without even asking why. Consider how you might say “thank you” to your legs, arms, abdomen, back, heart, for all they do to support you. Cultivate gratitude for your body on your path to body love and an eating disorder-free life.
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Last reviewed: 10 Oct 2010