Sunday, March 11, 2012

Body Image

I’m told that when my view of my Self gets to where it has always been meant to be that my body image will improve.  I’m not so sure I buy that though.  You see, I like my Self.  I might even venture to say that I love myself but that doesn’t mean that I like the body that houses this Self. I know that I’m not obese but I also know that I'm not thin.  I’m trying to find a place in my mind where this middle ground is okay.  I haven’t weighed this much in many, many years and it can be pretty difficult to tolerate.  I’ve known somewhere in myself that I would have to achieve this level of weight restoration to feel my best and be my strongest and really let joy and happiness flow through me with no restrictions but knowing that hasn’t made getting to this point easy and it rarely eases the discomfort in the moment when I notice my foreign-to-me reflection. 
At this point, how I feel about my body is purely based on the physical.  I vividly remember the days where my reflection was that of how I felt inside and that is no longer the case.
Anyone who has been treated for an eating disorder could probably write a book of techniques that professionals feed us to try and improve our body image as we weight restore and give up behaviours that manipulate our natural bodies however…
The fact is, I’ve gained more weight than a normal woman would during a pregnancy in the last 9 months.  I would venture to say that this would be a difficult experience for any person regardless of how beneficial  - essential – to my wellness it has been.  Put this experience on someone coming from my old distorted, anorexic mindset and we enter a whole new level of challenges.  This has been physical development from child to adult at lightening speed.
I am trying to seek out answers for myself through other people’s experience which is not all that common for me but this is one department in which I’m finding it difficult to break my own trail.  I like answers, I like to do things right, and I generally like to do them as quickly as possible and get onto the next task.  I’ve grown in my patience as it pertains to my emotional growth.  I understand the need for practice as it pertains to the skills and knowledge that I am developing and I am trying to apply this patience to this concept of reconciliation with my body.
“There comes a time when the pain of staying a bud was worse than that it took to blossom” (wording changed slightly).  I hold onto this because I know it has to be true.  It hurts so much more to try and contain myself through manipulation of my body and efforts to shrink myself into oblivion then it does to tolerate a bad body image day in a body that enables me to live the life I want.  There is far greater joy in my day despite any thoughts, feelings, and distortions around my body that I can actually fully experience in this body than in one whittled down to skin and bones.
The thing is that now, any given day where I am crawling out my skin does not come with thoughts that make hurting myself to fit into a skin that I might feel temporarily more comfortable in acceptable.  Absolutely not!  Even when I look in the mirror and see a lumpy, large, and awkward reflection, a difficult-to-look-at person, a face that only a mother could love, etc. I do not think to starve, to purge, to do anything that would compromise me or my practice of solidifying the new habits that honour my being.  Perhaps the thoughts might flit though my mind out of habit, but I give them no room to stay.  They are merely automatic and habitual and more often than not at this time, they do not even arise. 
I do sometimes feel like I exist in a foreign body and to me, I am doing just that.  I hardly remember how to Be in a life vehicle this size and in fact, I have never done it with health.  I am relearning things as simple as putting on clothes “normally” and finding things that fit properly however differently than I’d grown accustomed to.  I have physical sensations that I can’t remember having before and I move differently in this body I’ve grown into.
It’s funny as I type that, I have a little whisper in my head rephrasing that sentence into “…this monster I’ve become”.  It’s a curious experience to view that thought so objectively.  To notice it, give a crooked smile as it comes into my consciousness, and realize that it is a lie.  It is something that I believed previously with great conviction.  I was a monster at any size and to consider that I would have become the physical self I have would have been the psychological death of me not so long ago.
So where to from here?  This is another aspect of attaining wellness that I don’t know how to navigate alone.  I can’t find the solution in my head.  I. Don’t. Know.  I don’t know what would or how to comfort myself in this department.  I want to know How?  How do I get there?  How do I accept this?  How do I love this for all that it is?  Right now, I’m choosing to abandon How and just Do.  Maybe there isn’t a right way, maybe it just happens like so much of the rest of this process.  Maybe I will discover a way as I keep moving forward.  Maybe one day it won’t matter at all beyond what this body can enable me to do and experience. 
I am almost constantly trying to internalize the positive feedback that I get that really matters:  “You shine from the inside”; “You are so you and not compromising on that”; “Your smile starts in your eyes”; the laughs I can share with people when my mind is active and quick witted; etc.  I’m finding that reaching out to the solid people in my life for reassurance and creating an army-like attack on my doubts and fears is effective in beating down the internal demon that tries to get me.  This eases the power of the negative thoughts that I have about my body but does not necessarily change what I see or the discomfort that I feel.  However, it is helpful to me to focus on what matters most to the core of Julia and the physical is very low on my importance scale.
I know that denying any negative thought directed at my body the power to ruin my day is essential.  Keeping my life as full as possible in all departments that are only available to me as a whole person is also essential.  Because of this, most days, body image seems inconsequential but there are days where I find it very difficult to exist in this body and it feels bizarre and so not mine – but if the answer is starving myself into oblivion to feel comfortable in my skin and thus losing everything else I’ve worked towards, I would take a life sentence of poor body image!

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