I spent the first 25 years of my life plugging my ears and singing “LA LA LA LA” whenever my body had something to say. I had no interest in hearing its thoughts. Partially because its thoughts were occasionally, “Hey, you’re gay!” That was terrifying, because where I grew up, gay was pretty much the worst thing in the world to be.
So I stuffed all that down and in general spent a whole lot of energy being who I was supposed to be. But Supposed-to-Be is a place that others construct for you, so living there often means there’s a disconnect between Inside You and Outside You, and that can cause problems. That tension has to come out somewhere. For teenaged me, it escaped in panic attacks.
My body was trying so hard to draw my attention to the fact that I was living in Supposed-to-Be, but I just didn’t want to hear it. Stepping outside of Supposed-to-Be is maybe the scariest thing in the world when you’re young, when you don’t have a good sense yet of who you are so you’re relying on other people to tell you your worth.
I was scared. I was scared because deep down, I knew I didn’t belong and I knew I was gay and I knew that there would be consequences for growing into my true self. But I think maybe I wasn’t hiding it so well sometimes. People asked me occasionally if I was gay. And here’s one of the ways I began to consciously recognize that I was: when I said no, it felt like a lie.
My gut is the best Truth-o-meter in my life. It usually tells me when other people are lying, and it fairly well shouts when I am. And when I answered “No,” my gut’s reaction was not ambiguous at all.
But still, I kept ignoring my body. It would be years before I finally fully came out to myself, before I accepted and claimed my sexuality and decided that whatever the consequences were, they would be preferable to continuing to shut down that part of my life.
I spent so long attacking myself, telling my body it was wrong, that parts of its identity were unacceptable and needed to be destroyed. So when I was diagnosed with autoimmune disease, the irony was evident.
Of course my immune defenses set out to attack my body. My mind’s defenses had been doing that for years. My immune system just followed suit.
Part of my healing journey, then, has to be to stop attacking myself. Even after coming out, I spent a lot of time in Supposed-to-be. But I just can’t live there anymore. I can’t keep attacking myself for not living up to other people’s standards. (Or what I imagine to be other people’s standards. I’m starting to suspect I constructed most of them myself.) My body has lost all subtlety in communication. It’s attacking itself just like I taught it to. And I need to learn to listen as it begs me to be gentler with myself, love the person God created me as.
It’s slow-going work. But I’m trying—trying to pay attention, to listen to my body, to give myself permission to just be who I am, to just do what I do, to say “enough” and walk away instead of demanding always “more.” It’s slow-going work, but it’s rewarding. I’m learning to let my body and my gut guide me, rather than just doing whatever I think I’m “supposed” to do, rather than trying to prove I’m worthy to everyone.
Supposed-to-Be is a pit stop on the way to becoming who we truly are. We were never meant to live there. So sure, most of us stop in there for a while. But eventually, our Inside You nudges us and says “Hey there, this place has some good snacks, and there are people who are telling you to stay, but this isn’t who you are. Let’s move on.” And these days, I’m trying to listen.