The Greatest Instrument You’ll Ever Own

“Enjoy your body
Use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own”

I sit here, at my work desk, listening to a song that I haven’t listened to in a very long time. A song that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years, Baz Luhrmann: Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen), the lyrics of which came from a 1997 column written by the journalist Mary Schmich.

I have had a life long love hate relationship with my body. Your body is one of these things you take for granted. We all do. It’s something you never really, truly appreciate until it’s not the same anymore. As with most girls, I wasn’t exactly a big fan of my body when I was in my teens. I have starved my body beyond any recognition. I have abused my body in more ways than I’m currently strong enough to admit. I have purposefully hurt myself. I would wake up in the morning and cry because of how I looked. Or how I perceived I looked. These negative thoughts came with me in to my early twenties.

It was only in my late twenties, when I was at healthy weight for the first time in my adult life when I really started to appreciate my body.  That I realised my body was, as the song suggests, the greatest instrument I’d ever own. It took me on long, hilly walks across the wild Scottish countryside. It took me around the country running. My legs travelling vast distances. My lungs and heart working overtime to keep me going. I’d never taken the time to thank my body for all that it allowed me to do, until it was too late.

Until my legs couldn’t move. Until I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other. Until even breathing took so much effort it would bring me to tears. When constant inactivity, coupled with the constant eating and the odd course of steroids would cause me to gain weight, I went back to hating my body. Self-care went from treating myself to a facial to remembering to brush my hair. I would bury my body under baggy clothes, so people couldn’t see me. I didn’t want people to look at me, trying to see the disfigured joints. Trying to see what was wrong with the girl who couldn’t lift her feet off the floor. The one who kept her head down and shuffled. Don’t look at me. Don’t look at this body.

My body had let me down. And only then, when I could no longer use it, did I realise how much I should have enjoyed my body when I had the chance. That I had been given a second chance of appreciating my body.

Now, I have a body that continues to react well to cosentx. A body that is about to take me to my 30th birthday.

I never, in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) imagined that at 30 years old, I would love my body. I never imagined that I would accept my little rolls of tummy fat. That I would wear a bikini and not give a damn how I looked. I never thought I would spend most of my days make up free. That I would no longer worry about what complete random strangers would think seeing me without a full face of make up. Even though they’d never see me again. That I would wear my glasses full time and not bother with contact lenses like I used to because I thought they made me look prettier. That I would actually LOVE myself with glasses. That the thought of wearing contact lenses would be horrifying. I never thought I would appreciate going for a short walk. That even that would be an accomplishment. That walking 100 meters would be great. Way to go body! You the best!

This creaky body has taken me around the world, to places I could only dream of visiting. It has taken me 13.1 miles around the Great North Run half marathon. It has taken me to weddings, to parties. It has taken me on road trips, on last minute trips abroad, without a care in the world. This creaky body has introduced me to me. This creaky body is about to take me on the greatest challenge I have ever tackled…..The London Marathon.

It took aggressive arthritis to teach me to love and appreciate my body. The irony.

I wish I could go back and tell my 14 year old self to love herself just the way she was. To tell her that at (almost) 30 years old, she would be not only content, but happy, with exactly how she is.

So remember, arthritis or chronic illness and all, your body really is the greatest instrument you’ll ever own. Thank if often for achieving the little things we take for granted. Don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t worry about other people. Celebrate every little achievement, no matter how small it may seem. You live your own life, and give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

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