The Advice My Body Gave Me After My Divorce

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By Elizabeth Villa

When my marriage ended, the physical world around me changed completely. I moved out of my home leaving my bed, my furniture and my Vitamix. I moved out of my neighborhood, leaving my favorite coffee shop, walking routes and familiar faces. All that was left of my physical world was me, myself, in all of my broken-hearted and badass glory.

Because of this, in the past two years my body and I have gotten pretty close. She’s been in the trenches with me as I grieved the life I had and as I started over again. Knowing her has taught me a whole hell of a lot about myself – about the care I deserve, my place in the world and the life I want.

SHE DROPPED SOME HINTS

As I look back on the season before my marriage ended, I can see the many, many messages my body sent me about how I was doing and how my life was affecting my health. Now, it makes me LOL to think about the revelations I had then that are so obvious to me today. Like the time I signed up for a half marathon but in training runs couldn’t run for more than a mile without keeling over in exhaustion. I was so annoyed with how my body was letting me down. When I complained to a friend, she pointed out that my relational stress was probably taking a toll on my body and that maybe my body just needed a chance to rest. Message (reluctantly) received.

That was the first message my body sent me that I listened to. I dropped out of that race and focused on a season of rest. Doing so created a little bit of harmony in a mostly chaotic season. I wanted more of that. I needed more of that so I kept listening and doing my best to respond.

HERE’S WHAT SHE SAID

“No, you’re not okay.”

A month after my marriage ended, I was running on adrenaline and optimism. I convinced myself that I was totally okay and I was thoroughly enjoying the delusion. That delusion came to an abrupt halt one day while getting a haircut. As she washed my hair, my hairstylist asked me if I was OK. You see, she’d never seen someone lose so much hair while she was washing it. (Hair loss is a sign of adrenal fatigue which is a result of seasons of sustained stress.) My emotional state was taking a physical toll and it was impossible to ignore regardless of how much I was enjoying my own delusion.

“You can’t actually do it all.”

Here’s some advice: Don’t start a company while ending a marriage. Here’s some more advice: Don’t start a company while starting a life. I did it and I lived to tell the tale, but it required that I simplify everything else in my life to only the necessities. I went to bed early. I said “no” to a lot of social requests. I took it easy on the exercise. It’s what my body needed to be able to keep me going.

“You’re still here.”

At a moment when I was feeling especially lost in my new life, I made a list of the things I knew to be true about myself. On my list were simple things like how I loved walking and taking public transportation and how I always chose the seat in the sun. One of the facts on that list was simply that I was still here and that my body was taking up space on this planet that I couldn’t ignore. In that moment my body became a physical reminder of my own visibility in the world which continues to inspire confidence when I need it.  

“It’s time to take care.”

At the beginning of this year after moving to a new apartment there were a few weeks where all my body wanted to do was sleep. After multiple years in fight-or-flight survival mode, I had finally reached a place of stability and my body was settling in to take some much needed rest. I think the message my body was sending was really, “You can only live off of popcorn and tortilla chips for so long.” So we rested and when I was ready I thought about what it meant to replenish. When I was ready my first step was going to acupuncture and cupping to address that pesky adrenal fatigue among other things.

“Take what’s yours, girl.”

Throughout my life I’ve been told directly and indirectly what my body is for. She’s for looking good, for protecting, for pleasing, for achieving, the list goes on. Being alone with my body and intent on listening to her created space to set those expectations aside and ask, “What do I want to do with my body? What do I need my body to do for me? How do I want to treat my body?” That connection has become a form of empowerment that flows out of the physical and into every other part of my life.

“Don’t you ignore me.”

Becoming in tune with what my body needs makes it harder for me to ignore those needs. That’s awareness for you and we can love it or hate it. I do both. I love the health that listening to my body creates in my life and I hate the accountability that requires me to do the hard work when all I want to do is hide from it. The good news is that the most important advice my body has given me is that when it comes to caring for her, there’s no such thing as perfect. All I have to do is show up for her and listen. Plus, I know that when I’m in a season of ignoring her, she’ll find a way to remind me that she’s there and that she’s working hard. We’re in this thing together.

YOU’RE NOT ALONE

I know a lot of people–younger, older, single, remarried–who have gone through a divorce. While we have one big thing in common, our experience of that one thing looks really different. If you’re going through a season of grief or extreme stress and are feeling it physically, you’re not alone. Divorce can affect your mental and physical health from trouble sleeping to digestive problems to weakened immune system. Because I’m not you and I’m not your doctor, my advice for you is simple: listen, do your best to take care, advocate for the help you need. Remember: this season is shitty, it’s going to pass and you’re doing your best.