Listening to the Yellow Lights of the Body as a Path to Body Acceptance
Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of a collaborative media series organized and curated by NEDA and the Yoga & Body Image Coalition for Body Acceptance Week.
The body talks, then screams, then causes a nuclear meltdown.
At least this has been my personal experience as I’ve been navigating a decade-long recovery journey from an invisible disability.
I call the talking and screaming the yellow lights of the body: the warning signs, the “Hey, listen to me! Pay attention to me!” messages. You know, when the body is starting to scream: Stop, take care of me. Stop now or pain will worsen, clarity will decline, anxiety will ramp up, and maybe I’ll start the nuclear meltdown just so you’ll pay attention?
For so long, I ignored my yellow lights, punishing this body for its changes, its natural adaptations to my injuries. But my reality was: I had this injury with catastrophic consequences. Then I didn’t get better. And I was undiagnosed and I didn’t know why. So the natural place to put the blame was on my body.
So at many times in the past decade, I would have done anything to simply step out of this body and into another, more functioning body. If I had written a letter to my body back then, it would sound something like this fast, furious, punishing anger:
Be different. Be stronger. Be better. Comply. Heal. Stop. What’s wrong with you? I’m not listening. I’m moving on without you, I have things to do.
I don’t want you. Go away. I want to give you up. I want someone else’s body. I don’t want you. I DON’T WANT YOU.
Ugh. – Angie
It causes me great pain to even write that, to know that I was hurting myself and causing myself more suffering by relating to my body in such a harsh way.
But this was the phase where I was undiagnosed and did not listen to the yellow lights, where I blew past them, because I didn’t know how to listen. I didn’t understand what was wrong and I was desperately trying to cling to my pre-injury body.
How can you listen to the yellow light warning signs your body is sending you when you don’t know what’s wrong and want to disown that body?
THE PATH TOWARDS BODY ACCEPTANCE
But the thing is, there are consequences to not listening: more pain and suffering. Disowning and disliking my body prevented me from having mental and emotional freedom and it certainly slowed my healing because not responding to my body’s yellow light messages for care meant either pushing it too far or injuring it more.
I also have found that when I don’t listen to the yellow light warning signs from my body, the intensity of body punishment thoughts increase. And I’ve learned this isn’t a place I want to be.
I choose something different. I choose to shift, to see that my body is still alive, after all this, working for me. It is a magnificent machine and it is here for me.
And the doorway in to body acceptance IS listening to the yellow lights messages. And when I do everything is easier, my entire life improves when I actually listen to them. My body and I, we have harmony together when I listen. We often can stay at the talking stage. Less time when my body has to scream or start the nuclear meltdown so I’ll pay attention is a much more peaceful place to be. It’s a place where I know we’re in this together.
And listening to the yellow lights actually guided me towards a life-saving diagnosis, which helped me soften towards my body. I was living with moderate-to-severe brain injury and cervical spinal cord injury, undiagnosed.
So there’s a new voice in my head about my body now. A gentler voice. It’s not perfect and it’s been hard work to get here, but most of the time I am acutely aware of how hard my body is working for me. How it’s showing up day after day, even as I continue to heal. It’s always sending me those yellow light messages about how to take care of it. And those yellow light warnings are my friends, a way to love myself and my life. Everything gets worse if I don’t listen.
So I try to listen: What is my body asking of me?
Right now it is crying out to be loved, for me to show it softness, so today I offer it this love letter of a much different tone than before – a letter of love, and of apology:
We’ve been through a lot, haven’t we?
You’re still here, and I’m so thankful. Thank you for holding on through the darkness. Thank you for fighting, fighting, fighting. Thank you for breathing and being and allowing me to be in the world. Thank you for working with my soul to help me find the answer. Thank you for not giving up on me, even when I didn’t want you. I’m sorry for the times I wanted you to go away. I’m sorry for punishing you, hating you, disrespecting you, degrading you.
I’m sorry I ever had one bad thought about you. I’m sorry I didn’t see the truth for so long. I know now – you’re amazing and strong and you’re there for me. You’re with me.
We’re in this together and we’ll do this together. I’m so grateful to have the best partner on this journey with so much more goodness ahead of us.
I bow to the power of your wisdom that is beyond comprehension and I will listen to your yellow lights, I promise.
What is your body asking of you now? That’s the next right thing.
And if you get yellow light warning signs for care from your body along the way, please try to stop and listen. Your body and soul may just thank you.