It's all in the Core

Illness...such a broad term. It can mean so many things and can take on many different forms. It can constitute multiple experiences and sometimes it can be very hard to find the words to even explain what it is that one lives with. Each type of illness has its own pathway but many illnesses meet in a point of intersection--the person's core.

The core? What is the core? Physiologically speaking, the core is in the center of the person's body, around the abdomen and stomach. There are many exercise programs that focus on strengthening the core in order to provide stability to the rest of the body. The core can also be a metaphor for one's self-esteem, and in ancient eastern philosophy is the site of the solar plexus chakra, the place of power and inner strength. 

No matter what illness one lives with, at some point, the illness will interfere with one's core to some degree. Imagine living with chronic pain. One curls into a ball or fetal position frequently in effort to curtail the pain. The stomach and abdomen hidden from the world, closed off from possibilities, and physically weakened. Consider a person who takes so much medication that his/her stomach is in constant pain from the inability to digest such heavy substances. This person holds his/her belly and curses the knife-jabbing sensations s/he experiences. Other people may be so weak because of their illness or the treatment of their illness that exercise has become a vague memory.  Their stomach muscles may feel tired, fragile, or even non-existent.

One may wonder, "What's the big deal? It is just another body part." It can be easy to forget how intertwined bodily experiences are with sense of self. We are not separate body and mind but rather a whole person. It does not feel good to be hidden from the world; to be curled into a fetal position and in pain. This physically closed off posture may mirror an internal feeling of being distant from the external world; a metaphoric representation of feeling alone and perhaps misunderstood. It is a physical manifestation of self-protectiveness rather than fiery risk taking stance of confidence. One may want to open up (physically and psychologically) but fears the physical pain that s/he may experience in the stomach/abdomen, and/or the pain of being not understood or dismissed by others. It can at times feel safer to stay in bed with hand covering and hiding the stomach.

Self-protection is not necessarily a "bad" thing. With a comfortable balance there can be room for self-protection, and potential for openess, confidence, power, growth--a strong core. Nothing is black and white. One can learn to develop a keen awareness of self; an ability to know when it is safe to come out of the fetal position and take a small risk versus needing to stay tucken into oneself. This moment when it will feel possible to open up will be different for each individual. It is a process of learning to really know yourself well--it's all in the core. Listen to your gut. Take yourself seriously. Take your time to hear yourself and start off small. Good luck and be well.