Befriending my body

There is an enzyme in your body called carbonic anhydrase. It is involved in the interconversion of carbon dioxide and water to bicarbonate and hydrogen ions. Most importantly, these reactions help maintain acid-base balance in your blood. You never think about your acid-base balance because your body just takes care of it, but when this balance gets too far off you’ll be pretty sick and it can be an emergency. Carbonic anhydrase also assists in getting the carbon dioxide that your cells produce out of your tissues and into your bloodstream to be transported to your lungs for exhalation.

It’s a really important enzyme. It’s also a really fast enzyme. One of the fastest. There are different forms of carbonic anhydrase, but it can work at a reaction rate of up to one million per second.

One million reactions per second. One million!! Per second!!

Does that not just boggle your mind? Seriously. I mean, hummingbirds beat their wings up to 80 times per second; I can watch them flying and yet even that is hard to wrap my head around, something happening 80 times in just one second. And carbonic anhydrase works 12 500 times faster than that!

There are a lot of really cool enzymes but carbonic anhydrase is probably my biggest enzyme crush. It was definitely my first enzyme crush anyway, and you never forget your first crush. By the way, enzyme crushes are totally a thing. Or maybe they aren’t…?

I can picture you all reading this right now with a look of confused concern on your face because you’re just now realizing how geeky I actually am. But I can’t be the only person with a favourite enzyme? If you have a favourite enzyme let me know in the comments.


When you’re sick for a really long time it’s really easy to feel like your body is working against you. As the years go on and more body systems start to fall apart, you feel like your body can’t do anything right. Your body is fighting you. Your body hates you.

“My body hates me.”

I’ve said that so many times, and in so many different forms.

I’ve been saying it for years.

I remember back in university, whenever I had to explain why I couldn’t order from a restaurant like everyone else or whenever someone asked me about all the little containers of food I always had with me, I would explain by saying, “my stomach just doesn’t know how to be a stomach.” When a doctor would ask me why I had gastroparesis I would say, “No, I’m not diabetic, my stomach just likes to make my life miserable.” When I would need to sit down part way through a conversation I would say, “sorry, my body hates standing up.” And whenever a nurse would comment about all of the things wrong with me for someone so young, I would answer with, “yeah, my body hates me.”

“My body hates me.”

My body versus me. Me versus it. I guess pitting myself against my body like that was a coping mechanism? A way to assure myself that it wasn’t my fault? I was not my body, I was just stuck with it. And if my body hated me then it made it okay for me to hate my body.

“My body hates me.”

Then earlier this year I found myself feeling like a victim. A victim of my life, I guess, but when you break it down I was really feeling victimized by my own body. Everything that sucked about my life sucked because of what being stuck in my broken body had done to my life. My body hated me and I was allowing myself to be a victim of that hatred.

Except I absolutely hate that kind of victim mentality. And I didn’t want to carry that around anymore.

So I started making a conscious effort to change the language I use when thinking and talking about my body. My body doesn’t hate me…my body is doing its best. My body isn’t fighting against me…my body is working hard for me. It’s not that my body can’t do anything right…my body needs help with some things. Or a lot of things, but needing help is okay.

My body doesn’t hate me.

For every one thing going wrong in my body, there are thousands of things going right, thousands of things that I never even think about precisely because they’re just working perfectly day in and day out, flying under my radar. Like acid-base balance. Of course there are the things that used to fly under my radar that I now have to think about. But even still, the functions going right far outnumber the functions going wrong.

My body doesn’t hate me.

And when it’s hard to really believe this, well that’s when I remember carbonic anhydrase. All of the carbonic anhydrases working away at a speed I can’t even wrap my head around.

And that’s also when I remember the sodium potassium pump. And the DNA and the RNA and…and…and…and all of the other incredibly cool things happening at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ and organ system level every single second of every single day. In my body. And in your body.

Even in my broken body, it’s all happening.

Because my body doesn’t hate me. And I am not my body’s victim.

I do live in this broken body, and I am stuck in it. I have to live in it, but also I get to live in it. And it works really hard for me. Besides, broken doesn’t mean destroyed.

We are doing our best, my body and I.

And all of the carbonic anhydrases. *swoon*


15 thoughts on “Befriending my body

  1. Catherine, I love this post (and am grateful to Isabel Jordan for pointing me in its direction!) I’ve given this ‘my body hates me’ theme lots of thought since becoming a heart patient with ongoing cardiac issues 10 years ago.

    Blaming a wonky heart for screwing up the only job it had to do was also mentioned by the late physician/author Dr. Sherwin Nuland, who described the kind of heart attack I survived in his compelling book “How We Die” (sounds grim, I know, but it’s really fascinating!):

    “So commonly do coronary arteries betray the heart whose muscle they are meant to sustain that their treachery is the cause of at least half of North American deaths… ”

    No wonder heart patients have trouble making peace with an organ described with words like “betray” and “treachery”!

    After initially blaming and resenting my heart for letting me down, and ultimately to avoid, as you say, becoming ‘a victim of hatred’ of one’s own body, I am now far more interested in expressing gratitude by thanking my brave little heart for helping me survive what many do not.

    Thank you for this important reminder…

    • Thanks for commenting, Carolyn. You’ve obviously been through a LOT but I’m so glad to hear you are now in a place where you can be grateful instead of resentful. At least most of the time anyway, as none of us are all one thing all the time. All the best to you!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. This week has been hard for me with my health struggles and coming to terms with limitations. This idea of feeling separate from my body is one I have said for several years, especially when it comes to food. I have said, I like [insert food], but my body doesn’t like it. Or I like to run, but my body doesn’t like too. My body breaks down way more than I would like, but I like your point that our bodies work really hard to kee8p us alive and functioning.

    • I’m sorry it’s been a hard week, Julie. It’s so hard when our bodies get in the way of what our heads want, isn’t it? Remembering all the things going right doesn’t change the things going wrong, but it maybe just helps accept the things going wrong a bit more. I hope this coming week proves to be easier for you!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. This week has been hard for me with my health struggles and coming to terms with limitations. This idea of feeling separate from my body is one I have said for several years, especially when it comes to food. I have said, I like [insert food], but my body doesn’t like it. Or I like to run, but my body doesn’t like too. My body breaks down way more than I would like, but I like your point that our bodies work really hard to keep us alive and functioning.

  4. ive often looked at grandparents photos and blame them for the unfavourable genes Ive inherited from them Blaming being a childish way of saying No fault of mine referring to spilled milk or a disfunctioning body You made me aware of how very awesome our bodies are with the hard work they do (as were my ancestors bodies) So I felicitate my genes carbonic anhydrase and all Whatever Keeping positive

  5. Ha! I had no idea what carbonic anhydrase did! I have antibodies to one of them (I think one that impacts tear ducts), and now I’m a little more sad about that, sigh. 😉

    But this is SO BIG and important – not being our body’s enemy. I used to call my body FAILBODY. Until one day prob 7-8 years ago my friend who was working on her Masters of counselling in somatic therapy called me out on it. It is such a hard habit to break, seeing ourselves as separate from our bodies, and seeing our body as our nemesis that’s ruining our lives.

    But gosh is it a nicer way to live, thinking of it as part of a little team “us”, working so hard despite being sick and having struggles. Keeping us alive (some of us with a lot of help!) despite some of these chemicals not doing what they should. It’s the real miracle – that bodies, especially sick ones, can keep ticking like they do. I’m glad you’re finding a way to become allies instead of enemies too. ❤

    ps. I’ll second everything you said about everyone’s pain being valid. A+ life truths!

  6. I love your thought process here and I’m going to try to take that into my life where my body isn’t broken but my mind is in relation to my body.
    Keep your chin up and keep crocheting. Only 48 sleeps until I get to see the cute little bottees you sent to Kaitlin for me.

  7. Catherine. I think we all feel that our bodies have failed us when things go wrong, especially when it is not caused by some invading germ or virus. But as you said, there are so many chemical reactions that happen instantaneously without our knowledge that we take for granted. I said to someone the other day, there are some days recently when I feel no pain in standing up or walking and that is such a rare event that I marvel at this old body of mine doing its thing.

    You are such an inspiration to the rest of us, who have so little to deal with. I don’t complain about my arthritis or my fibromyalgia because it is such a little thing compared to what you and others deal with every day. If you can go through life sending positive messages to everyone, what right have I to feel the least anger or frustration!

    I hope and pray that you can get through life day after day with as little pain or emergencies, so you can feel the joy of living as much as you can. I look forward to your posts, since they give me the strength to ignore all of my body’s failures and to try to bring happiness to as many people as I can.

    Thank you so much.

    • Thank you Barry, but remember that nothing anyone else goes through invalidates what YOU are going through. You ARE allowed and to complain about your arthritis and fibromyalgia. Obviously perspective is important and not getting lost to our ailments, whatever they may be, is important mostly for our own mental health and quality of life. But you can appreciate your body for what it does right and still be frustrated by the pain you live with.

      Just remember your experiences and feelings are valid, irrespective of anyone else’s.

      • Yes, but your revelations are so helpful to remind me to appreciate what I do have. Thank you for taking the time to think about others when you have so much to deal with every day.

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