Becoming a Better Me, II

Chapter 1: Body

We live in a society that claims to not judge books by their cover, yet when we find out the inner workings of an object, person, place, or thing and discover it to be different than what is being portrayed on the outside, our mouths drop in astonishment. It’s easy to do. Most of our life we think we are able to understand an object’s secrets simply through observation. Our eyes have somehow become our unspoken superpower. With our eyes we see, analyze, deduce, propose, believe and deny.

When children visit me at the museum, we start the process of understanding art through observation. We don’t listen, taste, smell, or touch the art (although some just can’t resist). So many times, our eyes can reveal a truth, that it is only natural that we rely on that sense with confidence and are shocked when our superpower is mistaken or when it doesn’t tell the full story.

At 21, I was a skinny young woman who was blessed with high metabolism. I ate anything and everything with no physical repercussions. Trips to Mexico were filled with carnitas, chicharron, pastor, quesadillas, tripa… the list goes on and on. Off campus meals were hamburger laden and meals at home were butter soaked. No matter what I put in my body, I looked, to the public eye, like a healthy and fortunate woman.

When I was 21, I visited the doctor’s office to make sure I hadn’t contracted any STD throughout my college and study abroad experiences. I anxiously awaited my results, lighting a candle and hoping for a clean record. When the doctor started talking about my results, he looked at me and said with concern, “Ashley, you are STD free but your cholesterol is off the charts.” I was shocked. I though cholesterol was a problem for overweight individuals. I thought, “but I am skinny, I am active!”

I never did anything between then and now to fix my health problem by myself. My doctor put me on Lipitor but that only lasted a week. I hated being young and taking the same pill as my unhealthy and overweight dad. I fooled myself every time I looked in the mirror. I saw a healthy looking body and decided that the test was flawed, medication unnecessary and that I would just grow out of it.

A few weeks ago, I visited a doctor for the first time since I was 21 for a physical check up knowing very well what to expect. At 29, my cholesterol levels were still very high, I had too much iron in my blood, and way too many platelets. The news this time hit me harder. This time was different. Although I still appear to be “healthy” and thin, I had not been feeling healthy. I didn’t sleep well, I have bouts of random anxiety and depression, emotional swings, painful menstruation, small patches of acne on my cheeks and general body tension especially in my shoulders.

The other difference this go around is that I decided to visit a doctor who put food and health first instead of instantly prescribing medications. We talked about my physical health, stress, emotions, and pain. He asked thoughtful questions and I opened up. I opened up so much that it became painfully clear how I was making myself sick and sad with food, alcohol and a lack of exercise. He placed a plan in front of me to make a path to wellness in six weeks. Although I usually don’t go for these life-plans, I was desperate and I needed to be accountable.

Something happens in the mid-twenties where we are so focused on experiencing life’s external pleasures, that we find ways to block ourselves from recognizing our internal needs. When those needs come to surface in our twenties, we shy away from them drowning them in alcohol or chalking them up to be a moment of delirium.

Upon reaching 29, I had started to look into the mirror and see beyond the visible surface. I saw in my eyes a need to be caring toward myself. I recognized the look of sadness that has hidden itself behind my smile.

In the doctor’s office, I thought about my image in the mirror, my true reflection of a face and body that had endured years of being ignored and abused. I used my super power vision to truly see and with that, I said yes to becoming well.