Gaining weight and maintaining an appropriate body size and shape for my height has been the most difficult step in the recovery process. Being comfortable in my own skin is an arduous process. It’s one that I have to battle on a daily basis. Some days it’s a much easier fight than others. I wrote this essay a long while ago, so it’s not new or anything. I don’t always feel this way about my body now–and not to such extremes, but I do still struggle a great deal. I know a lot of people struggle with body image too. It’s up on The Mighty today, so I decided to share it with you all, as this step was helpful for me in LESSENING THE INTENSITY of the feeling of body hatred. It helped me create a distance between myself and my hallowed anorectic frame. Read, don’t read, comment, don’t comment, but whatever you do, love yourself and your body.
When you’re recovering from an anorexia relapse, there are both visual and spatial components involved in the weight restoration adjustment period. Experiencing, and dealing with, a new, larger body feels difficult and distressing. Through each recovery interval, I’ve struggled with the discomfort of both elements. Of the two, I find visual stimulus more triggering. Even as a starving “skeleton,” I would not, could not accept myself.
In my own estimation, I have never been thin, skinny, fit, toned, lean, “good enough” for my eyes.
For me, it’s less about comparing myself to others, a societal standard or media images, and more about self-flagellation.
Yes, every so often, while reviewing photographs, I’m able to recognize a more accurate judgment of my appearance; the rose-colored glasses slip down and my eyes get a reality-check, however brief.
But then. There are mirrors. Ubiquitous. Unavoidable.
And body-checking compulsions. Continuous. Uncontrollable.
The mirrors at the gym, at the stores, in reflective surfaces of windows, toasters, friggin’ serving spoons.
And I am triggered. I cannot, cannot close my eyes.
However… Just like I cannot control what people say or think about my cellulite or any other physical characteristic, I cannot demand that the outside world accommodate my neuroses. Eliminating all reflective surfaces is both impractical and impossible.
The other day, I was reminded of a former therapist’s unconventional suggestion for my dealing with weight restoration. Her idea was that I temporarily place either sheets or towels over all the mirrors at home, thusly eliminating the visual stimulus triggers within my immediate, personal environment.
At the time of her recommendation, I wasn’t all that interested in coping. I wasn’t interested in recovery or adjusting to my weight-restored body, because at least subconsciously, I thought I’d just get sick again.
When thinking of the strategy a few days ago, I considered it with much more enthusiasm. Interestingly, it reminded me of the Jewish mourning tradition, observing Shiva. “Sitting Shiva” is a term used to describe the practices and traditions to honor a loved one who has passed.
One action is to cover all the mirrors in the house which remain covered with the intention of evoking a period of self-reflection. Appearance is not a priority or concern at this time. I’m of neither Jewish heritage or faith, but my step-family is. Being part of a blended family means sharing traditions, such as religious holiday observances. Researching Sitting Shiva, I was interested to learn that step-relatives are permitted to participate in these practices.
Pulling away from my intimate relationship with disordered eating by restoring weight and taking psychiatric medicine feels tantamount to severing ties with a dear, albeit abusive, friend. Revisiting the concept of covered mirrors, I’m wondering if this strategy could simultaneously reduce “body-checking” compulsions while helping me mourn the behaviors and say goodbye to them. Ironically enough, a few weeks ago I accidentally broke the mirrored door on my bathroom vanity. I pulled it open to retrieve something, and, as I did, the hinge snapped away from the worn plastic. The mirror fell directly on the counter and shattered.
This was, of course, unintentional, but as I carried the mirror out to the curb, I couldn’t help but think, in regard to Sitting Shiva for my anorexic body, it’s a start.
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Hey! Like my writing? Do you wish you had access to all of my password protected posts and other content that isn’t available online? I have other work! I’ve published a few eBooks on Amazon! It’s nothing crazy; they are about 50-55 pages each and cost approximately $5 each depending on what country you are purchasing from. Each ebook consists of a collection of essays centered around eating disorders, mental illness, family dynamics, social anxiety, and other awkward shit that happens in my life. It’s relatable, honest and raw. Oh, and there are pictures in titles like Body Image Rehab & Weighting Room. You’ll probably like it. Or not. What the hell? It’s $5!
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