Everybody has their demons…some people just hide them better than others. To the casual passerby, you may appear utterly carefree and well adjusted, while on the inside, an epic battle is waging on, that sometimes threatens to tear your heart, your soul, your sanity…or maybe just your afternoon…asunder. Society tells us to chin up and mosey along…don’t let it get you down…mind over matter…but what do you do when your mind is exactly what is the matter?
I like to joke. I’m snarky and ironic and oh-so tongue-in-cheek. I’m a proud mother and will gladly bore you with endless stories about my kids. I’m a happy wife, and can regale you with tales, both good and not so good about my spouse. I’m a runner, and will drone on and on about this race or that, until you have snuck out of the room, and I may not even notice. I can prattle on endlessly about my job, Doctor Who, the weather and the newest trends in hair care. All the while, a silent battle is waging on in my head.
I don’t suspect that this is all that different from anyone else. It’s not like I believe that you are sitting there, listening the whole time, without thoughts of something else running through your head. I know you are thinking about what you need from the grocery store. And that’s just fine. Or maybe you are fighting your own demon.
I have been wanting to talk about my demon here for some time…but I just couldn’t quite figure out how to introduce it. Maybe because I am afraid it would seem trivial…or self-serving. Or maybe because I am afraid that you will think it is something brought on by vanity. Maybe because by owning up to it, I would somehow seem…”less”. But then, I got to thinking, this is my space. This is my voice. If anyone is allowed to sing the blues here, and sing them off-key, it’s me. I’ve already relinquished the space in my head to this little monster for too many years, why let it win here too? So instead, today, I am calling it out…ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you to today’s sponsor, Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, this is everyone. Now, play nice.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental illness wherein the sufferer obsesses over a perceived defect, or collection of defects, to the point that it causes a great deal of distress and can inhibit occupational and social function. It doesn’t matter what the sufferer does to change or improve the perceived defect, to their perception, it never goes away. It’s like there is a tiny chorus of voices in your head, telling you lies, all of the time…sometimes they are relatively soft, and you can drown them out with common sense and logic. Others they bellow loudly, drowning out any other thought. On days when they are screaming, they may even spread out and tell you horrible, malicious things about other aspects of yourself…and it is next to impossible to not hear them. You find yourself looking around, wondering if everyone else knows what they are telling you…and if not, how long until they do.
In my particular case, it is weight. No matter what the numbers on the scale – which I don’t have…it’s much too dangerous and tempting to have one…I’d hang out by it, weighing myself nearly hourly if you let me… - say, no matter what the size on my clothing label reads, no matter what my husband, my friends, complete and utter strangers on the street may say to me…I always look the same to myself in the mirror. And the reflection? Is not a pretty one.
Everybody has “fat days.” I occasionally have “not fat days.” Every once in a blue moon, I will catch a glimpse of myself, from just the right angle, and think “hey, wait…that’s not so bad…” It’s fleeting though. The actual, honest truth of the matter is that I have no idea whatsoever what I look like to you. I cast about constantly, looking at other women, constantly wondering “Am I as big as her?” In some of my weaker moments, I drag my long suffering husband into my crazy and point out other people, asking him, “Am I that size?” I can only imagine that, on some primal level, this feels like a trap…”wait, you are *asking* me to check out other women and compare you? Duuude, no way am I falling for *that*!” Really though, I just want a sense of reality. I am trying to calibrate.
Not that attempting to level set against anyone else really works for long. Friends and acquaintances that I have mentally associated as being “thin” don’t remain so in my eyes, as I approach their size. Instead, I start asking the poor hubster…"Is it me, or has so and so gained A LOT of weight?” Maybe they have…but more often, they have not. It is just my voices telling me that, if I am smaller than they are, they must be practically pre-diabetic.
At my largest, about a year and a half ago, I was a size 12. From what I read, that is about the national average. Completely and utterly normal. Far from obese.
I knew I was bigger than I had ever been…and the labels on the clothing I was buying agreed with that assessment. The scale, not safely hidden away at that time, boldly confirmed my suspicions, proclaiming a number that made me want to cry.
At current, depending upon the brand, I wear anywhere from a 0 to a 4…and sometimes girl’s sizes…where I can wear as small as a 12 in some articles of clothing. I have no idea what I actually weigh. I won’t know until my annual physical, which is still several months off. I have my estimates, but I know that *knowing* would only lead to me needing to constantly monitor whether or not I was maintaining that number.
In the mirror, I am just…heavy. Lumpy. Kind of a big girl. Exactly as I have been for as long as I can remember. My stomach is too “squishy”. My thighs are too thick. My butt is too rounded and jiggly, and my hips too wide. You would think that, being an at least marginally intelligent human being, I would be capable of looking at the change in size and be able to intellectually make the distinction. But I can’t. You would guess that, putting on articles of clothing that were once snug, and having them literally fall off of me would trigger some sense of recognition. But it doesn’t. Instead, this is what the demon tells me:
Those pants stretched out.
They never fit as well as you remembered.
You’re not really a 4, this brand just runs big.
You’re not really a 2, this is just vanity sizing at its worst.
You’re not really a 0, this item must be irregular.
Yeah, it came from the girl’s department, but my how sad that there are girls *this* big...Childhood obesity really is an epidemic.
They have a field day, doing everything that they can, using my own imagination against me, to convince me that I am super-sized. On days that they manage to chisel away my outer layer of confidence, they then start in on a whole host of other traits, both physical and otherwise, and leave me wanting to hide in the back of my closet.
…it all just sounds so…terribly, terribly vain. A first world problem.
“Awwww…poor skinny bitch is afraid her size 4’s are too big…here, let me get you a sandwich.”
Or…”stop fishing for compliments.”
The fact is, I don’t want anyone to say anything about my size. Or theirs. It makes me horribly, terribly, wildly uncomfortable. My perception is so skewed that I haven’t the slightest idea what is real and what is not. And I hate that. It is exhausting. I try to take all of the wonderful things that friends, family and more than anyone else, the hubster say to me and internalize them. More often than not, I let him be the judge of what looks good and what does not, because I know that my own eyes just cannot be trusted. I force myself to look at myself in the mirror and try to find something positive to “say” about what I see. Sometimes, I am there for a very long time. ..but eventually, I find something. And I use that as my talisman for the day…and remind myself that the demon lies. I cling to that, all day long, and try to see what you see…tell myself over and over again that I’m not as bad as they would have me believe.
Maybe someday, I will even believe it.