Surfacing After Silence

Life. After.

The “B” Word


 

photo by Svitlana Matviyenko

photo by Svitlana Matviyenko

 

 

That’s right.  Body Image.  (Which, for the purposes of the catchy title, is being grouped as one word.)  I’m going to tackle the big bad topic of Body Image.

I’m recovered.  Fully recovered.  I’ve stated that.  I truly believe it.  There are no behaviors, no symptoms, nothing that could make someone raise her hand and go, “Hey, everybody!  Look over here.  We have someone with an eating disorder!  Let’s all stare!”  

That being said, my body image is not completely healed.  When I look in the mirror, I do not see what you see when you look at me.  When I look at my clothes, they still seem too small for me, even though I know they fit.  When I look at a sheet full of body outlines and am given the task of circling which one is closest to my outline, I fail miserably.  At first, I was a little bit angry about this.  I mean, I’m recovered, so why don’t I see reality when I look in the mirror?  Why do I still see someone bigger than I am? 

I say I am recovered, but I don’t believe that this means I have reached a static place in my growth as a human.  We all, eating disorder history or not, have our own mental road blocks to work through.  We can try going around them, but we will always come right back to them.  When I say I am recovered, I say that the eating disorder is no longer my identity and that I no longer have any desire to use those symptoms as a means of escape and I am willing to do whatever it take to stay physically as well and mentally healthy.  

One of the last things for me will be this body image thing.  I mean, for twelve years after turning eighteen, I still had the body of a teenager.  And then by the time I was 30, I was finally at a healthy, adult weight with healthy adult curves on my frame.  I am happy I am at this weight if I look at things logically–this weight allows me to be healthy and fit and active and alive.  But it is still a difficult thing to accept emotionally.  This is still a very new body I carry around with me on a daily basis.  It goes beyond having to buy new clothes.  It’s a feeling of how I move about the world and the space I take up in it.  For someone who tried so hard to take up as little space as possible, allowing myself to be a woman–curves and flesh included–has been a terrifying journey.  It has made me vulnerable, and there are days when I pull on the extra-large hoodie sweatshirt and retreat into that form of safety.  And then there are days when I am confident and, dare I say it, want to dress up and have someone say, “You look great in that outfit!”  

Healing in terms of body image is an ongoing process for me.  It means continually making myself vulnerable.  But what I have learned is that while being vulnerable can leave you open to pain, it also leaves you open to joy.

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July 19, 2009 - Posted by | Body Image, Eating Disorders | , , , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. “I say I am recovered, but I don’t believe that this means I have reached a static place in my growth as a human.”

    I like the way you put this. So many people claim you never fully recover because you are always growing and learning. But that’s just living life!

    Comment by Millie | July 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. This is still the hardest thing for me, too. You are one of the few people who fully understands what a huge accomplishment it is that while on vacation I went into a store and voluntarily tried on jeans… and without a number on the tag to go by, I’d never have the first clue what might fit and what would be ridiculously big or small.

    I’ve just begun to accept the fact that it never really does go away… I must accept coexistence if I am to maintain control.

    Comment by Kel | July 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. I know my body image is still completely distorted and I’m still trying to get used to a healthy body.
    And some days it does bother me, but I think the major difference throughout recovery is that at some point (i have no idea when), I stopped letting my body image issues take over my behaviors. If it’s a bad day then I might wear baggy clothes, but I won’t restrict or over-exercise. I might still be hiding in a way, but it isn’t self-destructive anymore.
    So it does seem that body image and eating disorders can be seperated. It’s one thing to have a thought but it’s a completely different thing to let it drive you to a behavior.

    Comment by Andi | July 24, 2009 | Reply

  4. I have not had an eating disorder like you did, but I think body image is something most everyone struggles with. Especially as we age. I won’t deny that your struggle with it would be much worse than mine, but I do think some of that anxiety is “normal” or “natural.” This is not AT ALL to discredit anything you’re saying or diminish it.

    Comment by Jenn | July 29, 2009 | Reply


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