stranger in my home

woman in mirror
János Vaszary via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a stranger living in my bathroom. She’s there when I get out of the shower every morning. Her furtive glances catch my eye, but I quickly look away. I don’t like the array of emotions I see play across her face. This is not a woman I know, not the woman I expect to see.

She’s disappointed with the body she sees. She doesn’t mind the gray hair, the sunspots on the once pretty face, the softening of the jawline. But that body, how did that happen?

I try so hard not to look directly in her tear-filled eyes, for I will feel helpless. I see sadness, heartache, loneliness. But it’s not what you think, because I’m certain there are people who love her.  But I am not one of them. I have no idea how to give her the acceptance and love she needs to heal.

Cognitive Retraining and Body Image

I have a serious body image problem, but my therapist hasn’t put the Body Dismorphic Disorder label on it. I suppose Bipolar I Disorder w/PTSD is enough disorders. Apparently the way I see my body and my eating habits are the absolute opposite of reality, so she taught me how to do cognitive retraining.

The Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders defines it thus:

Cognitive retraining is a therapeutic strategy that seeks to improve or restore a person’s skills in the areas of paying attention, remembering, organizing, reasoning and understanding, problem-solving, decision making, and higher level cognitive abilities. These skills are all interrelated. Cognitive retraining is one aspect of cognitive rehabilitation, a comprehensive approach to restoring such skills after brain injury or other disability.

In addition to being used after a brain injury, it is also very useful in retraining thought patterns such as negative thinking. In one column I am to write all the things I think about my body and my eating habits, and in the second I am to write the opposite of what I wrote originally (which is a very simplified way of doing this).

This is an example of what I am to do every time I have one of these negative thoughts:

I am a big fat pig – I have a beautiful body

My blood pressure would be lower if I were thin- I have a very reasonable blood pressure for my age

I eat too much when I feel full – I feel full because I ate enough

I should never eat sweets or too many carbs – If I eat a small amount when I have a craving I wont binge later

These are just a few examples that are a result of a lifetime of training by an anorexic mother and an abusive ex-husband.

This is a very difficult exercise for me, but hopefully with enough repetition I’ll get it through my thick skull that I don’t look anything like I think I do, and my eating habits are just fine.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid beholder a black eye. ~ Miss Piggy