I'm starting to recover a bit -- but just a bit -- from a recent round of "I hate my body." I thought I'd reached a sort of detente with it, but instead of Nixon and Breshnev, it's more like India and Pakistan.
Often this happens after an exhaustive day shopping and not finding clothes that fit my 5' way-too- many-pounds frame. But this recent resumption in our longstanding warfare started up as I left the urologist's office a few weeks ago.
My pee had been sans UTI for two visits in a row, and the urologist figured that no further visits were needed for the time being. If I get another UTI, I should head back in for him to do a biopsy, but in the meantime there wasn't much else for him to do. He didn't want to do another DMSO wash and lord knows, I certainly didn't want him to try that again either. I asked him about another drug I'd read about -- Elmiron -- that is used to treat Interstitial Cystitis, and he said that it was "a bunch of hooey." Upon clarifying that I should come in directly to him if I have another UTI (which, I know is just a matter of time), he patted his chart and stood up to go on to his next patient. "Good girl. Nice seeing you again, kiddo." And he was gone.
But, I'm still in pain. At times a lot of pain. I can't bend over for very long. Can't do any yoga. It hurts if I walk very much. My bladder is racked with spasms whenever I pee. And there's nothing he can do.
During the cab ride home, all I could think of was why won't my body do what it's supposed to? Why, why, why?! Why wouldn't it respond to the DMSO wash like it's supposed to? Why can't my immune system kick into gear and show leukocytes in my urine when I have an infection like it's supposed to?
You know. I mean, I just want to be a good girl. Want my doctors to be able to treat me. To get better. Want them to like me. Want me to like me.
Those seem like reasonable requests, right?
So why the hell does my body insist on being so damn rebellious? So complicated? So intent on making my life as miserable as possible?
The next few days following that appointment were spent in teary depression raging at my body. All my suppressed fury and bile coming out in a torrid of black thoughts, even as I kept telling myself that I shouldn't hate my body. That it's made in the image of God, yada yada yada.
Finally I remembered that I should practice the mindfulness techniques I've learned, and as I sat and observed my feelings without judging them, I considered just how much I hate my body. That it's fat and heavy and burdensome and requires the most draconian of diets (below a 1000 calories a day) to lose weight. That it is constantly abuzz with all kinds of irrelevant sensations -- muscle twitches, electrical shocks, dizziness, tinnitus. That it won't mount the immune response it's supposed to. That it's been stealing my life away -- my career, my social life, my independence.
I also thought about how my acupuncturist once told me that my body is a very accurate barometer of what's healthy for it. I mean, I'm so sensitive to aspartame that even sugar-less gum can give me diarrhea if I chew more than a stick or two (and a Diet Coke is just painful to think about). But it occurred to me that instead of listening to that barometer, I'm an absentee tyrant. I live in my brain rather than my flesh as much as possible and when the cacophony of stuff going on in my body gets so loud I have to return, I'm a cruel master berating my body for making me have to come back.
But then again, why the hell would I want to stay in this body? It fucking hurts all the time. Why wouldn't I try to escape anyway I could?
So, the last few weeks I've pulled out the big guns, mindfulness-wise. I've been using a body scan meditation CD from Jon Kabat-Zinn each day. Spending forty-five minutes focusing on my body, starting with the toes of my left foot and ending with the top of my head. Trying not to be such a tyrant as I float from one part to the next.
And perhaps it's contributed to the extra energy I've had this last week, though I strongly suspect the primary reason has been that I just finished several courses of antibiotics. I went through this same exact thing at the same exact time last year -- multiple UTIs followed by multiple weeks on antibiotics and then a healthy winter/early spring before I messed it up by taking coursework. At least I won't going back to school now anytime soon.
Of course, so much of my problem has been that I don't fit into traditional constructs about the body, whether that be about beauty or medicine. And as an academic accustomed to studying constructs and how they are used to privilege some and marginalize others, I know that bringing to light their histories -- or genealogies as Foucault might say -- can be the first step in undermining their power. So, I've decided to embark upon a project doing just that.
I want to start doing a genealogy about my own idea of my body. Some memoir writing that I can then weave in amidst a reading of Foucault, as well as other views of the body like those of Chinese or Ayurevedic medicine.
It sounds like a fairly ambitious project, but I'm going to start small. Begin by blogging about it at least once a week. And my reading of Foucalt will start small as well. A couple of paragraphs a couple of times a week. Enough to keep my brain working, but not so much that I'll be too tired.
And just maybe I'll find a way to reach detente for real. I mean, after the earthquake even India and Pakistan have found ways to cooperate. Maybe having to give up academia has been my earthquake and in the silence since the shaking has stopped, I'll take advantage of the opportunities my suffering has brought me.