I'm been procrastinating on making this long promised body image entry. I keep waiting for the 'right' time and as I let the days go by so much changes inside of me that I know I need to just sit down and get my current thoughts out there. (This is a way to communicate with the masses as well as document for myself for future reflection on this journey)
I've thought about many aspects of body image. I've tried many ways of comforting myself through this time of major change and I've seen myself go through various phases.
There are two remarkable changes that I am expereincing right now. The first is often waking up with a severe dislike for my body but not being able to pick exactly what I don't like about it or determine how I might change it if given the option. The second is that looking back on photos from the past, I see my thinness - my down right emaciation in some cases.
So the first change is relaly quite a delight. I still have maybe 5/7 days/week that I wake up very uncomfortable in my body but like I said, not knowing what I would change if I could that would really make me feel better. I recently had a friend refer to herself as feeling as 'big as a room'. You might laugh at that but it makes so much sense to me. There are times when I really feel that I fill the room too! The thing is, the person I'm growing into really does fill up a room. In some cases, it's a peaceful presence that is just notable; at other times, I may not be being noticed by anyone else but my emotions are so strong that I really so think I can't contain myself in my physical surroundings. This latter feeling is the one that often morphs into a feeling of 'fatness'. It is an undescribable feeling of being big. I wasn't able to identify this and seperate if from myself until very recently. It has never made sense to me why in one moment I can be okay with my body and the next look completely obese and feel very uncomfortable. It almost always, when I let myself be aware, comes down to an emotional change.
That said, there are days when anyone, who has or hasn't had an ED, feels gross and out of sorts. Those days are possibly the hardest because there really isn't an explanation for why I see myself the way I do. I know logically that nothing is remarkably different from the day before but at the same time it is. I think that is just a part of being human (not only female in my opinon) and a times when all one can do is wait it through and really know that it will get better.
I am also very aware of even slight fluid shifts. I am able to identify it as fluid and yes, acknowledge that I really do look different and bigger but that I am not, by any means, 'getting fat'. There are days where I really do retain a lot of fluid and I think back to my statements of "I never want to refeed again" because edema was probably the cause of my worst distress. It is still distressing but I can manage and I know that it will pass. I really can tell the difference between fluid accumulation and weight gain - many people experience peripheral edema in their lives but people recovering from anorexia often experience abdominal/trunk edema that is very anxiety provoking. There are days where I really feel like the michelin man with the amount of fluid I'm holding on to and I do still catch myself thinking that it's real weight and will never come off...but it does. It all passes.
I have always been fairly aware of the fact that I was technically not 'fat' because of my rational knowledge. However, until now, I have just known it but now I really know it. There is a difference. Obviously, any person with anorexia, when faced with facts regarding body weight:height:age, skin folds, etc. 'knows' they are not fat but that rational knowledge doesn't trump the emotional feeling of being fat. How frustrating to be on the outside when the skeleton in front of you is crying about her muffin top...and on the other hand, how very frustrating to be that skeleton and now understand why you see what you do and why it is so very real. There is no solution until the emotional mind actually heals. Yes, there is acceptance and tolerance and maitenance of weight and body shape but a real conviction and deep understanding that one really is okay in the body they are meant to have only comes with time (yet another opinon as it pertains to my experience).
I'm not there. I still feel at times that this BMI or weight is unbearable but those are fleeting moments. At most times, I feel authentic. I know I could maintain a lower weight and still technically be healthy enough. But why be 'healthy enough' when I can really honour my body, really be me, embody how big my self is and my chronological age? I knew coming into this journey that it was all or nothing: eradicate the eating disorder or die. Perhaps that sounds drastic but this really was my last go at any attempt at wellness and now that I know that it's possible, I"m not stopping at 'good enough'. I am not aiming for perfection but I will be whole. The negativity that has controlled me for so long has no power over me anymore. It is not gone, the thoughts still come up from time to time and I know that they are lies and they are not welcome in my head but they are habit.
I think the hardest part of all this for me is really adjusting to my body in space and how it does things. When I was very thin, I would feel that I might not fit through a door way because I felt so big but then, if trapped in a physically small place, I knew that I could bend and fold in bizarre ways to get out of the predicament (say, a table near a corner of a room that I had to get out from behind). Also, there was always space for me. If a car was full of people, putting me on top or squished anywhere wasn't an issue. On a crowded couch, I could find a few square inches and perch. Now, well...now it's really life as an adult. I just don't fit sometimes and hey, that's okay! There are other things such as having my legs touch again when I'm walking, or not having concave underarms (I notice this when I put on deoderant), and even my gait has changed. These are very unfamiliar sensations. They are not exaggerrated, they are real but all they require is a growing accustomed to. It is not wrong to have this body, it just is who I am.
Finally, lookng back at old photos, I recognize my thinness. In fact, I am startled by it. I see photos from times when I was more weight restored that I used to hate with a vengeance and I see myself with real eyes. The eyes that others must see me with. What I see most is the sadness behind the eyes of that normal looking person and I think that's what scared me the most about those photos. I looked fine but I really wasn't. Then, I can look at photos from even higher weights when I did feel happy and good about myself and my life and I think I look beautiful. Really. Because I felt the happiness inside. I have never felt it regularly as strongly as I do these days but sometimes I feel like I might burst with joy and more often than not, I am peaceful inside and I know these strong feelings show and may impact a person's perception of me more than my physical appearance.
So, slowly, the distortions are leaving me. I keep plodding along, practicing acceptance until I feel love for myself and always, always being patient.