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.
The clothes are flying out of the closet, tears are pouring out of my eyes, foul language is spewing out of my mouth. The self-disgust is so palpable, it’s oozing out of my pores. One more week until I visit my brother, and I have not lost enough weight to fit into my “nice” clothes. But wait, think about the fact that my idea of “clothes fitting” may be different than yours. Oh yes, my clothes fit just fine, but oh shit now you can see the outline of the belt loop on my jeans. I can feel the sleeve of my shirt on my skin. These are really horrific things to me, honestly. Do you know how difficult it is for me to say this? Do you understand what it’s like to have people say to you “There’s nothing wrong with your body.” when you know damn well it’s the most disgusting thing on the planet?
There are so many examples of strong, confident women all over the internet who have no fucks to give about what you think about their bodies. Instead of being inspired by these women, my brain uses them to remind me of yet another failure of mine – my inability to love myself. Now, not only do I abhor the way I look, I have disdain for that attitude and my inability to change. I’m angry that I don’t do enough to lose weight, and I’m angry that I can’t just let it go. The most shameful thing about this is that the definition of “fat” which I apply to myself is not even close to what I see in the body positivity world.
That’s the same shame that said to me “At least you have no broken bones.” when my husband abused me.
That’s the same shame that says to me “At least you don’t have cancer (or anything else ‘worse’).” when my bipolar disorder flares up.
Every time I start to open up to the possibility of letting go of my impossible standards, I become certain that once I do that I am admitting defeat.
Life was not meant to be lived like this, I’m certain. Food should not be something I judge, weigh, and measure before I’ll be able to eat it. Simple enjoyment should be at the top of the list of considerations. Actually, the only consideration should be if something would pose an immediate and serious danger if it were to be consumed.
This is ridiculous. I have allowed this pile of pants to taunt me and delineate my self-worth. Several months ago, I had to pull out a few pairs of jeans from storage. They remain on this chair because they are, solely for me, not an acceptable size. I cannot allow them to occupy the space reserved for the correct size of pants. The pants residing in my drawer are the ones I am sure that if I could just [fill in the blank] I would be able to wear. The pants on the chair are evidence of binge eating during depression, the only form of self-harm left to me.
Being somewhat intelligent, I realize that this type of thinking is not how I should base my value. I have read all the body positive information on which I can lay my eyes. I do not use this same measurement on others, it is strictly personal. Whatever size you are is not an accurate measure of what kind of human you are, it’s only applicable to me.
Because my BMI is 20 lbs higher than “healthy,” I have tried to convince myself that the only reason I want to lose weight (this time, anyway) is because I want to be healthy. Placing blame on outside influences seems like a cop-out. As far as I’m concerned how I was raised, why I was loved, or how the media portrays the “perfect” woman, should not enter into the equation. But when I see how my own self-image has affected my daughters, I can’t help but wonder if how I view myself is somewhat based on the example of my anorexic mother. Yesterday, in my psychiatrist’s office, I said “I’m beginning to think my depression is not a medication issue, but a result of self-loathing.” But then I laughed, like it was a joke, and I took the prescription for an increase in my antidepressant to the pharmacy.
When I wipe the steam off of the mirror after I take my shower, it’s with the hope that what will be revealed will not be the same thing I saw the day before. This kind of thinking is ludicrous. I don’t understand why I can’t change how I feel about myself. I don’t understand why I can’t see the beautiful, kind, loving, caring, smart person that others try to convince me exists. I don’t understand why I can’t get those stupid pants to stop yelling at me.
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.
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