For my entire adult life, I have been trying to find a way to discover a healthy relationship with food, size, and exercise. I've known my background was disordered and that I simply didn't have motives that worked particularly well in any of those areas. When you've been an eating-disordered woman with periodic exercise disorders for an entire lifetime, it becomes hard to break those motivations.
And then I broke my leg last summer. I've never had a serious break in my body before and I've definitely never had what amounted to 6 months of casting and physical therapy to get me to a place where I was operating at 90% strength and 40% flexibility. Yes. 40%.
That doesn't seem like a big deal until you start thinking about the ramifications. Because I couldn't move my leg at full flexibility, I limped at all times (this is not entirely past-tense, I still limp). Limping causes permanent changes and damage to muscles and joints. It also means that I can't walk as far as I used to be able to, I still can't run, and at the end of a conference in Boston when I wanted to dance at the Big Gay Professionals Dance (yeah, really), I had to sit in a chair and watch. Because I couldn't.
Having a shitty relationship with your body definitely carries a whole new meaning when your body won't do what you want it to do or what you're used to it doing.
I realize this is obvious to those who have experienced a different kind of disability than I've lived with my entire life and for that, I apologize for my privilege in being surprised. But I was surprised. I still AM surprised.
Lately, I've been struggling with my own internalized ableism and the way that I react to the levels of invisible/visible disability I am living with. And I think that's good, although potentially very boring for my loved ones.
But I have found a plus to this whole ridiculous situation - I finally have a healthy motivation for exercise. Because when I use an eplitical machine at least 3 times a week? I walk better.
It's that simple. That immediate. When I go to the gym at my university and I spend at least 30 minutes on that machine and, ideally, some time lifting weights, I limp less (sometimes not at all), I stretch out my tendons so that I can walk farther without pain, and I walk more smoothly even when I am limping.
I've never had this. I've never had a tangible reason to exercise regularly that was immediate and completely disconnected from the size of my ass or the numbers on my jeans. And it's amazing. It's nice to plan activities out that are making my body better and know, really know, that it's not about all of the crap that sits in the background for me with exercise. I go. I walk better. I feel better.
It's amazing. This must be what it's like to do this without all the crap. And although it's not gone, it's not forefront anymore. I'm not saying I'm grateful for all of the accompanying pain, but there is one good side-effect to this experience of brokenness that I've been living with - I'm finally trying to come to a cease-fire with my body's war against itself.
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