So I have been fairly open (if intermittently ) about my battle with Anxiety and OCD on the blog here.
One of the sub-categories, as such, of my struggle with mental illness is a hint of body dysmorphic disorder and an obsession with my appearance and weight. This has gotten a LOT better in the past year or so and I have found a healthy way to exercise and eat without obsessing over every detail.
As someone who suffered from both bulimia and the propensity to starve myself or come up with fad, controlled diets in my teens and twenties, my thirties have started off with a bang.
I believe, as does my amazing doctor, that no woman will ever truly be satisfied with their appearance. There will always be something I harp on. Or stress about. I am used to that and I think, for most, this is a “normal” part of life. The fact that I can pose for pictures and not throw up when I see myself on camera ( my camera phobia was always bad ) is just, well, amazing. I even do a fun little video series on my facebook now and then and can just press “publish” and go about my merry way without criticizing everything about myself. I share this information not to brag; but to revel in the fact that I have found balance and control and it is achievable (even though it took me, well, well over a decade and some professional help).
My blog post today is me (as promised ) being open as much as I can.
I try to do 4 days of intense physical activity a week ( hiking, the gym, running steps, etc., ). We OCD people love our routines and even though I am controlled now and in a much better mental state ( you can never completely cure mental disorders) , there are little moments that pop up: little nudges and imps that worm their way into my brain.
Today is a gym day for me. I brought my bag to work, I have my workout gear, I am ready to go after work; but today I am just not feeling great. Not ill—but not great. I feel sluggish, tired, thirsty and hungry.
This is the way my brain works at moments:
I think: I'm Hungry? You don’t deserve to be hungry. You even had a cookie at the meeting yesterday. You never eat treats at meetings. You slacker. You are slacking off. You are falling down. Look in the mirror. You can see it happening. All your hard work. You ruined it. ßI punish myself. I berate myself. I use food as a means to determine deservedness.
I think: I just don’t feel like going to the gym tonight. I don’t think I have the energy. It’s 36 degrees out with the humidex and I am just feeling weary and worn. I hiked at least 20 K on the weekend and I think I’ve been overdoing it. My body is tired. I don’t feel like going. Do I have to go? This is when my brain starts to register Rachel in gold-hued tones. I remember ( or seem to remember) weeks where I have been propelled into action even when I didn’t feel like going. I remember ( or seem to remember, honest I think I make this stuff up ) the times when I saw more muscle definition, when I wasn’t ever too tired for a weekly gym run, when I would push myself out. Then, again, I punish ß You are useless. Can’t you even get to the gym? Can’t you even make the effort? If you do this once, who is to stop you from doing it again and again until all you do is sit at home. You’re going to never fit into your clothes. You are going to look horrible in the pics at your friend’s wedding in the summer. You don’t deserve a night off.
I HATE WHEN MY MIND GETS THIS WAY and years of hard work and mental assistance have trained me to combat these moments by rationalization.
What is the worst that can happen? What, logically, is the ramification of a day missed at the gym by a very active person? Answer: nothing.
There are days that are better than others. Fortunately, the ratio of these is 7:1 as opposed to the 2:1 I used to suffer from.
I cannot speak for the male experience; but I kill myself over the way I look. How I think I look. How I think people want me to look. And I fail my own words. I’m a walking contradiction, folks. I even wrote this piece for Her Spacious Soul: knowing that I was addressing issues I struggle with but not owning up to the fact that I need first to fix myself .
This blog post isn't fishing for “but you’re so pretty.”
I don’t need people to tell me I'm pretty. I don’t need that type of validation. By societal standards, I know I am not unfortunate looking. What I need is to believe it myself. It won’t mean ANYTHING if I hear it from a reader or a colleague or a guy who wolf-whistles on the subway, I am determined---as I step forward and forward --- on this ever-challenging journey to get to the place where these moments, this degrading self-talk, this harmful and hopeless and insane way I view myself ---- is evened out.