Episode 02: Your Body Isn’t The Enemy

Episode 2 cover art

Your Body Isn't The Enemy

Getting You and Your Body on the Same Team

  • Do you feel like your body is a prison, and you are trapped inside?
  • Do you say things like, “Can’t I just get a new body?”
  • What if you and your body were actually on the same team, working together to break free of the fibromyalgia prison of pain?

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You’re listening to the Fibromyalgia Podcast with Tami Stackelhouse, Episode 2.

Welcome to the Fibromyalgia Podcast!

I’m your Coach, Tami Stackelhouse. Today, we’re going to be talking about why your body isn’t actually the enemy.

[01:00] First, I want to start by sharing a little story with you. Back when I was a kid, I was always the one who was sick; I was one of those kids who always had something going on. In fact, in my family, we used to always joke around how my parents would take me to the doctor for maintenance—I was like that old car that kind of kept falling apart!—and we would take my sister to the doctor for repair. She was a tomboy and she was always getting into trouble somewhere.

I just always had these ongoing maintenance kind of issues. My digestion never worked great. I had my tonsils out and tubes put in my ears when I was a kid. I mean, there’s just been stuff my whole life—and fibromyalgia is just part of those things.

I remember back when I was in high school. It was the summer after my senior year, and I distinctly remember I was house sitting. I was just frustrated one night, and I remember praying, “Oh God, if I was a car, I would have qualified for the lemon law by now, and, surely, can’t we do something about this? Can’t I get a new body?” I just always felt like, “Why did You give me this defective body?”

[02:26] Maybe some of you can relate to that. You’re kind of feeling stuck in a body that doesn’t do the things you want it to do. It doesn’t feel the way you want it to feel. It’s frustrating! And you may even feel like you’re locked in a prison and that prison is your body.

[02:48] But here’s the thing: I really do believe that our bodies were made to heal themselves. I mean, it’s amazing! If you cut yourself, that cut heals. If you break a bone, the bone heals. And, unless there’s something really wrong, your body is made to heal itself. I don’t think that’s any different when it comes to fibromyalgia. It’s just that we don’t know as much about fibromyalgia — and we’re not always sure exactly what we need to do in order to help our bodies heal — but I do believe that is still the case: that our bodies were made to heal. So, what is it that we can do to help our bodies heal?

"Our bodies were made to heal themselves." Tami Stackelhouse

[03:25] The thing is, without your body there is no you, right? Depending on your religious beliefs, your spiritual beliefs, maybe you believe that we’re spirit. At the same time… 

When you are married, you use your lips to kiss, right? You hug each other and use your arms to hold each other. When you call and talk to somebody on the phone, it’s your voice they hear. Our physical presence is very much who we are, and this idea that our bodies are something completely separate—that there is me over here and my body over there, and I am me, but my body is this defective thing I am stuck inside—is really just not that helpful. Or really, honestly, all that healthy. 

I believe that you and your body are actually on the same side.

[04:29] One day, after I had been married for about six months, or so—that was about when I started getting close to a diagnosis for fibromyalgia; I think I had been married a little over six months when I finally got my diagnosis—I remember one day just complaining to my husband, my brand-new husband, about my body. About hurting all the time, being tired, being fat, and being ugly. All the things, we girls often say, right? But it felt like the truth.

My body couldn’t do what other people’s bodies did. My fibromyalgia really was an obstacle back then. I will never forget what he said to me. He looked at me and he said, “I want you to know: every time you say things like that, you are actually putting ME down.” He said, “I chose you. I think you’re beautiful. Every time you say things like that, you’re basically calling me a liar.”

Well, that was kind of like a slap in the face—the good kind of slap in the face—where it is sort of a wake up. Oh my gosh! I had no idea that every time I said stuff like that, it made him feel bad because I was basically saying, “Hey, why did you choose me? You know, you’re crazy.”

[05:49] So, I started  looking at life a little differently. I started thinking, “Okay. What if I could look at myself through my husband’s eyes? What if I could see myself as this beautiful, amazing person that he sees? How would I treat myself differently?”

I realized that I was basically treating my body as if it was a stubborn donkey. Or as if it was the printer in the office that wasn’t working right. You know? I mean, I would yell at it. I would call it bad names. I would—you know, like the printer—smack it upside the head and maybe see if that will work.

[06:34] I basically was abusing my body. We never really look at it that way, but let me give you an example, here. Let’s say that because I didn’t really respect my body, and I thought it was the enemy… Let’s say I wasn’t really paying attention to what I ate very much. Let’s say that I stayed up super late. Or, you know, just never got enough sleep.

Let’s say that while I was working on a project, instead of stopping and taking breaks—and getting up and stretching and moving around, and drinking water, and all of the things—let’s say I just pushed through to get it done. Those are things I think all of us have done, but let me rephrase that in a different way…

[07:25] Let’s pretend that your body was actually another person. Let’s just pretend for a minute—just to give a different perspective—that you and your body were two different people. What we basically just did there was: 

We fed that other person poison by eating things we knew would make us sick. We did a lot of sleep deprivation, which actually is a form of torture, right? We were running a slave camp by pushing through the projects and never giving anybody a break or have lunch. If you were at a job that did that to you, you would be screaming and yelling… and quitting! You would be saying, “There is something illegal going on here!” Yet, we do things like that to ourselves all the time.

[08:25] What if you could change your perspective? What if you could change your relationship with your body? 

I know this isn’t easy, because you are in a body that hurts. You are in a body that maybe isn’t able to do the things that you wish it could do. But what if it was also a victim? What if it was also on the same side as you? Let’s say both of you were prisoners of fibromyalgia.

What if you could work together to get out of that prison? What if, by treating your body with respect, by giving it the sleep it needs, by feeding it healthy foods, by giving it the rest breaks it needs… What if that could actually help you feel better? Wouldn’t that be worth considering?  Wouldn’t that be worth doing?

[09:21] I know this is a hard shift, especially for those of you who maybe have super severe symptoms, because you do hurt all the time, and it feels like your body is attacking you, especially if you have autoimmune. That’s literally what an autoimmune condition is, it’s your body attacking itself. I have an autoimmune thyroid condition. I have Hashimoto’s, and that’s literally what that is. My body thinks my thyroid is evil and it’s trying to kill it.

But there are things I can do to make that less the case. For instance, avoiding gluten is one of those things that I can do to make sure that my body doesn’t see my thyroid as evil.

[10:03] What if there were simple things, like that, that you could do to help shift your relationship with your body? You and your body are on the same team. You are both trying to live the best life possible with fibromyalgia. Your body wants to heal, if you simply give her the tools that she needs to be able to do that.

You and your body are on the same team. You are both trying to live the best life possible with fibromyalgia." Tami Stackelhouse

Those tools—of course, we’ll talk about this in future episodes, when we get to talk about nutrition and things like that—but those tools are things like: the right kind of protein, the right vitamins, and minerals. Those tools are things like rest, and not using all of your energy.

Because, believe it or not, it takes energy to heal. If you are using every single scrap of your energy getting through the day, then you’ve got no energy left over for your body to heal. We have to make sure that our bodies have those basic, raw materials to be able to heal.

"It takes energy to heal. Don't use up all of your energy getting through the day; save some for your body to use in healing." Tami Stackelhouse

[11:02] What are some of the things you can do to start shifting that attitude that you might have towards your body? 

First and foremost, I would recommend that if you have to have somebody or something to blame, that you would blame fibromyalgia. I believe that ultimately even fibromyalgia isn’t necessarily the enemy! But, again, that’s a topic for another conversation, and that is definitely a little farther down the road, if you are just getting started. For now, if you have to, blame fibromyalgia, but don’t blame your body. Your body is just trying to do her best. She is just trying to support you, be there for you, be you. Consider fibromyalgia the enemy if you have to have one.

[11:58] The other thing is to think about is this: What would we do if we were literally on the same team? What if we were both locked away in a prison together, me and my body? What could we do to work together to find a way out?

You might also—if you have someone, like I have my husband—you might also really tune in to the things that they are saying. Just entertain for a moment: What if I really am that person that they see? What if I really am as beautiful as they think? What if I am really as funny as they think? What if I really am as valuable to them as they say that I am?

[12:42] Now, I know this isn’t the case for every single person on the planet. It can be tough sometimes. You might have people in your life that don’t treat you in that way, but try to cultivate that experience for yourself. Try to find people who love you in that way and support you in that way. Or think about yourself from the perspective of someone that you love.

If you had a child, how would you treat them? How would you talk to them? Would you call them names? Would you say, “You’re so stupid. Why did you do that?”, like we often say to ourselves. Or would you say, “Man! That fibro fog can really be a pain. It’s just the way it is sometimes!”, and give yourself a little bit of grace. 

Try to treat yourself the way you treat someone that you love. Someone that you care about. Someone that you are responsible for taking care of. Someone that you are responsible for making sure that they have good food and good sleep and a healthy, non-abusive environment.

"Treat yourself the way you treat someone that you love. Someone that you care about. Someone that you are responsible for taking care of." Tami Stackelhouse

Start listening in to the way you talk to yourself. Do you call yourself names? Do you give yourself grace? Do you forgive yourself when you make a mistake? Are you super hard on yourself?

[14:19] I had a friend once who, for Lent, gave up being critical of others. I thought that was really awesome! Like, not complaining about people cutting you off in traffic. Not complaining about people in general. So, I asked her, “Are you including yourself in that?”, and it totally stopped her in her tracks.

I would challenge you with that exact same thing. How are you talking to yourself? How are you treating yourself? Are you treating yourself with kindness and respect? Are you being overly critical? Are you giving yourself the same grace you would give someone else?

If you had a fibro friend who had to cancel on you at the last minute, I bet that you would be totally understanding and say, “I totally get how fibromyalgia can be. It totally sucks that you can’t make it, but I understand.” Or,  would you say, “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe you did that. You promised me that you would be here!” We tend to talk to ourselves in that second way rather than the first. Don’t we?

[15:31] Again, I know I’ve said this about fifteen times in this one episode, but give yourself some grace. Show yourself some kindness. Be the person who looks out for you the most. Be the person who nurtures yourself. If you find this super, super challenging, either just because of your own nature, or maybe you didn’t grow up in an encouraging and supportive environment… Maybe the words you did hear from your husband or your parents were negative and that’s the voice you have in your head.

"Show yourself some kindness. Be the person who looks out for you the most. Be the person who nurtures yourself." Tami Stackelhouse

Then, sometimes, it can be super helpful to have someone to help you through that. We all need someone in our lives, like my husband was for me, that gives us that compassionate voice and gives us that grace. That models it for us—to us—so that we can then do that for ourselves.

[16:25] This could look like a lot of different things: It could be going to a counselor. It could be talking to somebody at church—either a peer counselor, or a spiritual adviser, priest or pastor. It could be a friend. If you have a particular friend who you know is always encouraging, try to spend more time around them.

It can also look like hiring a coach. That is one of the things we do! In coaching, I see my primary job as being one hundred percent on my client’s side, no matter what. Sometimes, that means supporting her in her decisions—and sometimes that means challenging her decisions—because I am always looking out for her best interests, even if she’s not.

Look for someone who can help you with this, if you find this particularly challenging. Shifting our mindsets around things like this is definitely not easy, but it really is the foundation for everything else that happens. We will talk about this more when we get to the episode fully devoted to self-care and what that looks like.

[17:35] The things that we do in self-care, grow out of this attitude that I’m talking about here in this episode. If you don’t have this attitude: that me and my body are on the same team, we’re working together to try to overcome fibromyalgia and live an awesome life. If you don’t have that collaborative relationship with your body, then anything you do self-care-wise will be forced and difficult. But, if you do have this collaborative relationship with your body, where you are looking out for your body’s best interest, then self-care is easy.

"if you don't have a collaborative relationship with your body, any self-care you do will be forced and difficult." Tami Stackelhouse

Self-care could look like a lot of different things. Self-care sometimes looks like binging on Netflix late at night, believe it or not. But it also looks like going to bed early. It’s really just about tuning in to your body and seeing what you need at that particular moment—and not feeling sorry about it! Which, again, is a whole other challenge that we will talk about in future episodes.

[18:42] For now, my action steps for you, as your coach, are: 

  1. Start being aware of how you are talking to yourself and how you are treating yourself—and just the way you interact with your body.  
  2. Start surrounding yourself with people who treat you in that same loving, caring, manner. If you don’t have people in your life like that, I would encourage you to find them. Whether it’s things like listening to my podcast—and hearing my voice in your head, telling you that your body is not the enemy and to give yourself grace—or talking with someone at church… or talking with another friend… or finding a coach, or a compassionate doctor, counselor, whomever it is.

[19:32] Those are your action steps for today. There are a couple of blog articles I have written about this topic. I also talk about it a lot in my books, because this is very foundational for everything else that is going to happen. If you don’t see your body as being on the same team as you, and it being able to heal, then everything else that you do is going to be so much harder.

In the show notes for today—because I know how fibro fog can be—in the show notes for today, I’m going to link to some of those blog posts. There will also be some of those links where you can grab my book for free, if you don’t have a copy. I encourage you to start reading and digesting that and getting that not just in your head, but also down in your heart, so that you can start treating yourself with the compassion you deserve.

Alright! Thanks so much for joining me here today.

[20:33] Next episode, Episode 3, we are going to be talking about my story. I have invited my friend, Lee Heyward, to come and do that particular interview, rather than just me telling you. Part of the reason I did that is because she knows me now, but she doesn’t really know my story. I think she’s going to ask some questions that you guys are wondering about, that most likely I really don’t think about because it’s my story and I lived it.

I hope you will join us in the next episode to hear a little bit more about where I came from, how I got here, and what my mission in life is. Hopefully, that will give you some encouragement for your own journey!

Join us here next time, and remember go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com to get all those show notes and resources and all of the goodies that you need.

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