Friday, 10 May 2013

Body hate and me. Triggers for talk of body issues, eating disorders and brief mention of abuse.

I spent ages trying to come up with a clever title for this post, at the time of writing it is still without a title. I think I've been doing OK with this so far. I've posted more than one thing which is a good start. Well done me. Anyone at all has read something I've written and I'm not freaking out too badly. This is good.

So then, what do I want to talk about now? Well, I want to talk about hating my body. I want to talk about why I hate it, the ways that hatred manifests and how I am hoping to stop hating it sometime soon. With luck, someone out there will find this useful or interesting or something.

So then, why do I hate my body? Let me tell you the whys! There are many of them. Firstly, as previously mentioned I was abused growing up. It's kind of hard to love the thing which was the focus of abuse. Secondly, I have the misfortune to live in a society that places a disproportionate amount of value on how a female looks. Which is kind of pressuring. Not only that, it's a society which has ideals I can never match up to. Even with my head start (gained by being pale skinned, light eyed and thin) doesn't make it easy to achieve beauty within such narrow definitions. Thirdly, my body is a bit broken which makes it often an uncomfortable or painful vehicle to transport myself in. Finally, my body does things I don't want it to. It has internal workings that lead to lots of strange things happening inside me and then unpleasant things leaving me.

Essentially, my body is this thing which never seems to be the right shape or size, often hurts me, keeps doing things I don't want it to and it can be harmed and touched by other people. Really, the only good thing I can say my poor old body is that's it's still here, going strong despite everything I (and other people) have done to it over the years. In many ways it's actually kind of marvellous. On days I feel suicide, the survivability of my body is not a point in it's favour. Have I mentioned how much I hate being mentally ill?

So then how does my hatred manifest itself? Well, there's my distorted view of my body. I'm literally incapable of seeing it in anything but a negative light. All I can see are flaws and imperfections and the hilarious thing is I have no idea if the things I see are real or not. Like, I know the facial scar I have is real but to me it seems huge and other people hardly notice it. But the other stuff? Am I exaggerating, is it as bad as I think it is, is it even there? No idea. All I know is that when I see myself everything looks wrong, from my proportions to the length of my neck, the symmetry of my face and the size of my eyes. All wrong. All of it. In my head I like some weird deformed insect lady. Not pleasant.

Then there's my issues with eating, which are three fold. Hurrah! Firstly, trying to get rid of the 'thinner is better' message is really difficult. I know I wasn't actually happier when I was underweight but my brain just goes 'Oh well, better to be miserable and thin than miserable and fat.' Which is ridiculous and not a sentiment I am happy with at all. Being an advocate of fat acceptance and health at every size, it's hugely upsetting that I apparently can't help subscribing to this view on some level.

Then there's my digestive issues. OK, so these were probably triggered or caused by my eating disorders but they're certainly another reason I dislike eating. Food makes me ill. Honestly, it does. I've tried various techniques and diets but I've not been able to identify anything in particular which makes them worse. So, I avoid the usual suspects (dairy, gluten) take my medication and hope one day I can eat something without experiencing pain and nausea for hours afterwards.

Then there's the last eating based issue. Remember that bizarre hatred of bodily functions? Well, if you eat that food needs the be digested, and then it has to leave your body. It's a process accompanied by odd bubbling sensations and gurgles and ugh. Even thinking about the fact that digestion is happening is making me feel sick so I'm going to stop and move on.

Self injury is another way my body hate shows up. Now, there are various reasons I have engaged in self harming behaviour and I'm sure at some point I'll write a post all about it. However, one of the reasons is body hate. I have tried to cut the fat bits off. I have od'd on laxatives and slimming tablets. I've sat and punched myself in the mouth until my lips swelled because I think my lips are too thin. I've taken a cheese grater to my thighs in an attempt to 'scrape off' my stretch marks. The really weird thing here is that I KNOW I can't cut the fat out or get rid of stretch marks like that, but there are times when that knowledge apparently hides and I just have to do something.

Then there is the anxiety. Now I'll be honest here, I don't know how much of my anxiety is caused by my body hate and how much of my body hate is caused by my anxiety. I do know that they definitely interact in a way which escalates both. This is not fun to deal with. I've already written about how I can become so anxious about my looks I refuse to leave the house. There is a huge fear that other people will see me the way I see myself, and judge me accordingly. And that they will use my disgusting body as an excuse to hurt me.

On some level, because my body disgusts me so much I sort of think it deserves to be punished. I've certainly punished myself for having such a disgusting body. It makes it really hard to accept that someone else can like it (and me). I spend a lot my day trying to convince myself that people aren't simply pretending to like me as some kind of cruel trick. It makes interacting with people, especially my nearest and dearest really hard.

So, moving on to the moving on part. I don't want to keep hating my body. It's pretty rubbish. I'd like to learn to tolerate it, maybe even love it. Which is hard, because right now for the first time in my life I am over weight. Not by more than a few pounds but that doesn't matter, given that for me gaining weight feels like failing, being over weight is a huge deal.

So, I am refusing to go on a diet. Seriously. It's taken me three years to get to the point where I can eat every day, so the last thing I want to do now is start restricting what I can eat. What I am going to do is try and create a new relationship with food. I'm going to experiment with it, try new things and cook from scratch. I actually enjoy cooking, even if I don't enjoy eating. So that's the plan. And since I'm going to be doing this, I am going to be using recipes which are well balanced and healthy. It may sound weird, but I think 'operation expand my diet' is going to be a lot better for me than any attempts to restrict portion size or narrow down what I'll eat.

Then, I have already started trying to incorporate exercise back into my life. Only, I don't want to do what I did in the past which is take it to extremes. I am doing it slowly and with a focus on health and strength rather than weight loss. I'd love to do it with a personal trainer, one who understands poor body image and eating disorders. Such a thing costs money however and that I have none of. I have banned myself from running and swimming involves being seen in a swimming costume, which I can't face right now. Instead I am focussing on stretching and core strength exercises, with some (but not much) weight training. We'll see how that goes.

Finally, I am doing a lot of reading of feminist blogs and news articles. Sounds odd perhaps, but steeping myself in a culture that recognises qualities which aren't beauty based, which includes pictures of beautiful women of various shapes and sizes and gives me tools with which to fight back against the 'thin good/fat bad' messages endemic in society (and apparently in my head) is probably the single most useful thing I have ever done.

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