Working in the health care profession, I always understood health to be associated with everything to do with medicine, the physical body, mental health, being sick or unwell and conversely being fit, active and ‘healthy’ as deemed so by society’s standards. I have now come to realise that living a healthy life is so much more than what I once thought – in fact, health is more than just the mental, emotional and physical parts that make us up. This ‘more’ that I refer to as living health from within is the contributing part that makes us feel complete or whole, it is the very essence or core of who we are and can be best described as our ‘being’.
In healthcare, when we treat the body without this important understanding we don’t truly reach the root cause of an illness or injury and often treat a body part, as just that, a part of us – but not the whole, and definitely void of our being.
Let’s look at chronic back pain for example. This is something that I have personally experienced throughout my own life. It began for me as a teenager around the age of 15, where an X-ray provided the information that I was already showing early signs of physical degeneration. As a young woman I experienced lower back pain and sciatica so regularly that it became my normal and was suffered, trailing an array of contributing factors – that yoga session at school I didn’t like, the unsupportive footwear, the extremely painful falls I had on hard snow or concrete while proving to others that I was fun and tough too and of course beginning my career as a nurse where care was something you gave abundantly to other people, but rarely to, and often at the expense of, yourself.
There were many explanations for my chronic back pain and the consequent nerve pain (sciatica) I endured for many years, but none of them ever explained the truth of what was really going on. I wasn’t getting to the root cause or being treated as a (human body and being) ‘whole’.
These days, and fortunately for me, my body speaks very loudly bringing me to a complete stop whenever I need the wake-up call that something I am doing is not right for me. Looking back, my body has always provided this communication very clearly, but I can now honestly say that I choose to stop and listen.
Not that long ago I had an injury while performing CPR training for my studies. I recall physically going through the motions of the activity itself but I was not what I would call ‘feeling like myself’ that day and I compromised my posture and the overall sense of care I otherwise have for myself, to perform what I thought I just needed to get done – to tick the box and get my certificate.
Leading up to this incident lies the clues to what was actually going on, for when I am holding back who I am I often find myself doing a number of things:
Holding back from saying what I feel to other people
Doing something because everyone else is
Putting my roles as mother, partner or nurse ahead of my relationship with myself and my needs as a woman first
Wearing clothes to hide my curves or cover-up my figure
Taking on too much or not saying no when it’s needed
Choosing to be ‘nice’ or stay quiet if I don’t want another to have a reaction
Thinking I am, in any way, shape or form, not good enough
Striving to complete tasks but overriding if I feel tired or need a walk
Caring for others ahead of, or instead, of myself
Rushing to get from a to b to… exhausted
Sitting, driving or studying too long without a break
Not appreciating how wonderful I am and the dedication I bring to my workplace, my family, studies or projects and all of my life
When I was 5-years old I was confident, funny and extremely expressive when it came to sharing what I thought or felt, but as I grew into a young woman I gave up this natural wisdom and authority, overriding it to fit in or be liked by others. With this I also gave up living a truly healthy life to conform to the pressures that I felt from outside of me. This pressure came from our society, the media, school, family and relationships. It was directed towards me from all directions with a very clear message that said ‘you can’t be like that’ – that is, don’t be so expressive, sensitive, so delicate, wise, all-knowing and so full of joy because this brings up too much for others who are also choosing to hold back their true selves and to live that way.
Choosing to shut down this innate part of me has been more painful than any fall or injury could ever be. At least with an injury you can take medications or seek medical treatment to relieve the pain, but a fall from who you truly are, to live anything less than your divine essence and qualities, is a deep sadness that can only ever be healed through a ‘whole being’ approach, coupled with self-care, honesty and a willingness to deeply heal and let yourself just be who you are once again.
I have sought and received exceptional medical care for the treatment of my lower back condition but until I uncovered the root cause of my sadness and the reasons I held back, my chronic back pain continued to return and worsen; I was just finding new solutions to manage it and make it my normal every day.
Building my authority and sense of true-self again has taken time and will continue as my life experiences provide the education and the opportunities to deepen my knowing of who I am and to bring this out in all aspects of life. I now have a sense of what backing myself is really about, supporting me to feel much more solid and stand tall in my own body, to not compromise as a woman and to live thetruly healthy life that I already knew as a child.
To live health from within feels like I am listening to the wisdom of my body and allowing it to lead the way; supporting myself to be who I truly am and bringing this to the world. It’s standing tall whilst deeply nurturing my being and making this my way forward.
Living health from within has come from my acceptance of life and physicality and how I have complemented this with my understanding of who I am in essence, including the unique qualities that I bring and what makes me feel complete within.
Written by Cherise Holt, Australia