About 13 years ago I was involved in a near fatal car accident. And I was the one who almost died. We, my coworkers and I, were driving from snowboarding in Colorado back to Utah to continue working as wilderness guides. I was 23 years old and for the most part thought I was going to live forever and didn’t really consider the vulnerability of living in a human body. As we crested a hill on I-70 we hit an elk, the truck rolled, and I was ejected out of the passenger side window going 70 miles per hour. I emerged with a tore up knee, a fracture in my back, a wonky shoulder, and a shit ton of PTSD. Over the years I have worked with various forms of trauma modalities to resolve the majority of the PTSD from this event, but my knee and back still carry the legacy of that night.
When I was 12 years old my mother brought me to Weight Watchers. She was attempting to help me come to a place of peace with my body. At 12 I was already well along the way to experiencing the body shame associated with being raised as a female in this culture, and unnamed at that time, a gender identity that did not know how to exist in the body of a “woman.” I didn’t know how to articulate my feelings of being in a body that didn’t quite fit me, a body that was changing without my permission, but I could focus on trying to keep the boyish body of a prepubescent child by losing weight. The ability to articulate my experience was absolutely stunted, it took me many years to even begin a conversation about my body that was based on honesty rather than a panicked rush to lose weight by any means necessary in hopes of stemming the flow of shamed living in the body I had.
Our bodies bear the brunt of this often unforgiving life. As we go through traumatic experiences or try to control our bodies through diet and exercise our bodies will fight for survival. Our bodies will sweat to cool us down, shiver to warm us up, let us know when we need food and water; they will invoke fight/flight responses to keep us safe. As long as we are alive, for some reason, our bodies keep going, albeit not always without pain. For some people there are body experiences that dominate their lives, autoimmune diseases, disability, injury, and aging to name a few.
I could easily spend the rest of my life trying to improve my body, achieve the shape I want, or lessen the chronic pain in the false hope I will achieve a body that is untouched by life. Yet that will probably never happen for me. I may always have certain vulnerabilities that make my body look more female than I want, or be more injured than I want. I will age, become injured, get sick, and at some point die.
Yet, in the meantime, as I continue to take steps to improve the mobility, and health of my body I wonder about finding a middle road between body hatred and body love? Could this body of mine be what it is today without all the added shame and inverse pressure to love it. Maybe having a good enough body is all some of us will ever have. And maybe that is all we will need. My good friend is severely disabled, his speech, and movement is impeded drastically. An action that is done unconsciously by me, such as walking, is an all-encompassing action for him. And yet he will often respond to the question how is he doing with an enthusiastic “Pretty good!” I know he thinks he has a pretty good body, and he has worked hard to come into right relationship with his body’s limitations and abilities.
My invitation is for all of us to consider the middle of the road path of having a good enough body. One that has limitation and abilities on a spectrum that may change day to day, but is never static and fixed, always moving and shifting even in the subtlest ways.
Karolina Walsh Psychotherapy
Providing psychotherapy, counseling, and support for grief, addictions, trauma, PTSD, relationship issues, and GLBTQIA.
“Karolina walks her talk, her ability to meet another in their capacities is sensational because she has done her own work” -Diane Israel
"An effective therapist needs to do at least two things: be compassionate and provide constructive feedback that actually changes the way people experience the world. I see many therapists who can do one or the other. I routinely watch Karolina do both..." -Patrick Weeg