The body snatcher
Ankylosing spondylitis, especially on flare days, stops your body from feeling like your body. It makes you feel like it is controlling you, rather than the other way around. Conditions causing long-term back pain, like AS, can start to chip away at your self-image and where you see your place in the world.1
Psychologists call it “separating body from self.”1 The rest of us call it body acceptance issues – when AS stops us from being happy in our own bodies. Bodies we don’t really recognize, want to recognize, like or feel connected with.
Snatch back your body!
Body acceptance issues aren’t unusual for those living with chronic pain and illness. What matters most, is there are ways to reclaim your body; to stay feeling positive and in control even when AS tries to make you think otherwise.
Here are eight pieces of This AS Life advice: tips to help you stay feeling comfortable with your body, plus a few examples of how people in different situations won their body acceptance battles.
1. Let AS in, but don’t let it win
Accepting your condition is key when it comes to accepting your body. It doesn’t mean rolling over and letting AS win – just the opposite. It means accepting your body as it is today, right now, and then working from there. It means acknowledging AS is part of your life, but it is not who you are.
2. Change your world to suit you
Don’t firefight: actively build your AS into your routine. From how the kitchen cupboards are laid out, to how and when you exercise, to how to make your resting place feel more like a place of sanctuary. Incorporate lots of small changes that together help you get the upper hand on AS, as well as make a big overall positive difference to your life.
3. Negotiate, but on your terms
The spoon theory sums up how limiting life with chronic illness can be. But it can also be empowering – it lets you make choices about how you use your spoon quota for that day (and whether to borrow from tomorrow’s). You can set realistic goals: congratulating yourself on what you’ve accomplished today, not beating yourself up about what you haven’t.
4. Use social media as a crutch, not a stick
Social media can be your best friend and your worst enemy too. Use it to have positive interactions with people who will do you good. Don’t use it, as some do, to compare your life with those of otherwise healthy people. Here’s a secret: everyone’s life looks amazing on Facebook, but they all have bad days too. They just don’t usually post about them.
5. Get pro-active
Investigate ways to intervene in your own life, changing it in a way you find enriching. Food, fitness, your daily routine, your support network: tinker, try different things – anything that makes you, not AS, feel more in control.
6. Plan your flare days
Sounds crazy, right? Flares are often very unpredictable. Put aside something for when you do have a flare – a DVD to watch, an album to listen to or even a future plan for something fun, for when you’re back on your feet. You can’t control when flares happen, but you can control what you do when they show up.
7. Give yourself a pep talk
It might sound silly, but positive self-talk can work wonders. For athletes, practicing positive self-talk actually improves sporting performance. Many say it also has benefits when it comes to chronic pain; so get in the habit of giving yourself a regular pep talk to help you feel better about your body.
8. Find your ‘inner calm’
Of all the tips, this one is probably the hardest – and the most individual. Accepting your body is all about mind over matter. Your mind is a muscle – and like any muscle, it needs training. Find out what calms you and helps put life (and AS) in perspective. It doesn’t have to be meditation or yoga (although they’re both great!). It could be writing a list of 10 things that are good about your life right now, playing a favorite song, sex, even doing the dishes! Whatever enhances your calm, do it. There are loads of This AS Life articles and apps that might help point you in the right direction too.
When you proactively take care of yourself, you will feel more in control of your body, and as a result will be less likely to distance yourself from it. By embracing and accepting your body as it is, you’ll have more reasons to love yourself and may, as a result, find you have more better days.
This article was written by Kira Lynne, a regular contributor at ThisASLife.com. A social site helping the whole AS community to: Learn. Share. Inspire. Discuss.
1.Osborne M, Smith JA. Scand J Caring Sci 2006; 20: 216–222.