I'm starting to see a correlation between cerebral palsy and body image. This correlation stems from being in contact with numerous people who live with cerebral palsy through social media. In this particular regard, I'm speaking about having a negative self-image.
You may look at the image of me above, and not think that I am "fat," but when I look at myself, that is what I see.
When I look at the sides of my stomach, I think, "Ugh gross," then I start thinking or obsessing over what I eat and upping the intensity of my daily workouts. Upping the intensity itself isn't necessarily a problem, but when you're in the middle of your workout and you can't stop dwelling on how disgusting you feel and look, it becomes on.
I posted that above photo on Instagram a few weeks ago, and a lot of people said that I looked great, and that we all had those feelings and that "it's just skin!" The comments were heartwarming and helped me to think more positively, at least for awhile. But then I would find myself in the downward spiral of self-destruction and sabotage.
My workouts have consisted of a lot of burpees—probably two-four hundred every single day—along with kettlebell and barbell lifting. I sweat a lot and recover well, but I am often hungry for the rest of the day even though I'm not afraid of eating my carbs and protein or enjoying one beer after work.
The engine is constantly stoked, and I'm constantly pushing my mind and body. But there is this area of my life that needs change. I've tried all the thought-stopping methods—all the positive affirmations—but still, nothing helps the crapshoot stop.
After CF today, I came home, ate, and then went to wash my stinky self. There I was, looking at my body with contempt. And then I thought, "This has to stop!" Truly the only thing that gets me through life is my faith. So after redirecting my thoughts back to it, I whispered to God:
"God, you don't want me to hate my body, I know that. Help me to see myself differently, as you do." At that moment, something clicked on inside of me. I'm not saying that you have to do as I do – that is something that you have to decide and work through for yourself.
What I am saying, though, is that this destructive thinking has to stop, or at least be put in its rightful place. A vast majority of therapists would say that working out is killing me, and steer me away from it as they would most addictions. But I don't think that that is the end all be all solution.
Yes, some things might need to change, or pause. But this is less a physical issue, and more a mental, emotional and spiritual issue. And until those issues heal, nothing we change the way we long for.
So, we have to understand that this is going to be a long journey, with plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns. We have to accept where we are at. I know that this is something that's easy to hear. No matter what though, we can't give up.
One of the biggest challenges—regardless of mobility—is learning to take care of ourselves from a place of love. And instead of thinking "I have to" thinking "I want to."
So, join me in changing your forward-thinking: Think less on your image and think more about prolonged health, mobility, strength, and focus so that we can be the strongest version of ourselves, not so much for ourselves but for others.
The internal healing is more tangible than we believe and much closer than we think. But much like medicine, it takes time for the benefits to show. Through discipline and diligence though, change will come.
Image credit: Brandon Ryan