Tuesday, March 1, 2011

body image part 2.5: a little more survival

in my last post on body image, i wanted to convey the importance of survival techniques for those days, weeks (sometimes months) during which body image is so unbearable, it cannot be combatted, only escaped with mindless activities like marathons of grey's anatomy.

in the beginning of recovery, body image is just too bad to try and fix, and the only way its going to get better is the hard way:

continuing to stay in recovery.

i realize that this is terribly frustrating, that there should be some sort of answer that cures these images that haunt us from our mirrors (from our minds, actually), but the answers, i'm afraid, are completely indirect, and completely slow.

what i'm trying to say is that our body image (or at least the amount of importance we place upon it) is a direct result of our self worth and security. we are for less likely hate our bodies when we love who we are, and its much easier to love who we are when we discover the natures and tendencies and temperaments we were created to embody, rather than pouring our lives' efforts into molding ourselves into an idea of perfection that wasn't even ours in the first place.

i always say that my illness was self-perpetuating, because the less i ate, the more malnourished i became, and the more malnourished i became, the less of a personality and a heart i was left with. i wanted to want to connect with other people, but i simply couldn't. i wanted to care about school, but i was completely incapable of focus. i wanted not to dread walking to class, but i was just too tired to feel otherwise.

i remember a true turning point in terms of my decision to stay in recovery. it was my first monday back in class after leaving treatment.

i was in cognitive psychology, and we were learning about mnemonic devices for short term memory. to demonstrate, my professor read us a list of random, objective terms and told us to try and remember them according to one of the devices we were studying. he made us wait for 60 seconds after he read them and then he told us to write down as many as we could remember and count them.

i remembered all but two of them, the most of anyone in the class. i called people i loved and told them and i continued to marvel at my newfound ability to focus. i literally started making hundreds on tests, and each time i looked in the mirror and found myself tempted to restrict my food to fix the flaws that stared back at me, i reminded myself of what health made me capable, and i ate.

i had similar experiences with friends and with people. (i know that i've mentioned this a million times, but to me, it just never gets old.) i suddenly found myself able to talk and to laugh and to pay attention and be ME. once i tasted what true connection with people really felt like, i found myself afraid to restrict, for fear that i would once again lose myself in malnutrition.

and so, no matter how huge or horrible the person in the mirror looked, i continuously reminded myself of the things i'd "gained" (yes- humor is one of them) in recovery- things that weren't worth letting go of in return for my disorder. no matter how much better my disorder would have made me feel.

to sum up all i'm trying to say- for fellow strugglers and for women in general- i'll leave everyone with this:

give yourself a chance today.
you're worth turning away from the mirror
and loving your own quirks,
your own talents,
your own likes and dislikes and personality.

those things are who you are.

without them, you're just a body,
and what does just a body mean anyway?


  1. This is beautifully written- what an inspiration you are! Thanks for sharing your story, I always look forward to reading your writing- you are so talented!