That Pair Of Jeans

Caution: The subject of Eating Disorders and Body Image is raised in this post, so proceed with caution if that is a trigger for you.  I promise that there are purposely no numbers included.  No weights, no sizes.

That pair of jeans has been hanging in my wardrobe for a long time.  A very long time!  When I take them to the Red Cross shop next week, I am sure they will be sent to the ‘vintage’ section.  They are ‘hipsters‘ (before hipsters had their cool phase) and not ‘skinny‘ as we know ‘skinny jeans‘.  But they are ‘skinny‘ in all the wrong ways.

I am clearing out my wardrobe.  It’s something I occasionally do, but I’ve always resisted clearing out this particular pair.  You know how some items of clothing you just can’t bear to part with?  Well this pair have fit into that category, regardless of the fact that it is many years since they fit me.

I bought this pair of jeans from what was known as a ‘Labels‘ second hand shop.  They were meant to be the good quality clothes, and this particular shop was one of my favourites.  I didn’t know I had a brewing case of Anorexia Nervosa at the time I bought these jeans.  I just thought I was fit and slim.  Actually I was too fit (read over-exercising) and too slim (yes, there very definitely is such a thing).  It’s just that no doctor had yet the chance to raise the issue at that time.

As I lost more weight, I thought I was finally starting to look ok.  ‘Ok‘ is as far as I’d go because I still hated what I saw in the mirror.  Actually no matter how much weight I lost, and how loose the jeans became, I still couldn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I could slide the jeans off without undoing them, but I didn’t see a problem.  I didn’t appreciate it when a doctor finally raised the issue.

Eventually the jeans were too big, but I held onto them anyway.  But then in time, I started eating again, simply to keep the doctor quiet.  He had constantly been telling me I needed to put on weight.  He told me I looked terrible.  He saved my life.  Unfortunately friends continued to tell me that I looked great.  I can’t hold my friends responsible for my eating disorder, but they really didn’t help.

The jeans?  Well in time, and I’m talking a long time, the jeans finally became too small, and the doctor was pleased.  I, on the other hand, was not pleased and I had learned nothing of disordered eating and positive body image.  I admit that I’d only learnt to eat so that the doctor would drop the subject.

And that was a long time ago.  Since then I my diagnosis was changed to Eating Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (ED-NOS), which meant my weight was normal but I still had issues of disordered eating.  It’s still the same today, but no one (read no health professionals) talk about it now.  And the jeans have continued to hang in my wardrobe.

I couldn’t part with them.  The jeans nearly fit again when over-exercising (read too much running) featured in my life again.  I admit I was very happy.  You see, in spite of all the therapy I went through, there was a part of me (that I couldn’t express) who wanted to wear those jeans again.  And I certainly hadn’t learnt anything.

For some very warped reasoning, those jeans spelled ‘healthy’  in my mind.  And perhaps because once my weight was ‘normal‘ again (and even ‘over weight’ in time) no one was interested in helping me with my disorder. No one was interested in helping re-assign what ‘healthy‘ really meant. Unfortunately when the physical was dealt with, there was no interest in helping me with the emotional.  One thing I know now is that is completely the wrong way to treat an eating disorder, but I had to learn that for myself.

So those jeans continued to hang in the wardrobe.  I simply couldn’t consider discarding them.  Yes, a part of me knew I would never be that size again, and I never should be that size again, but another part silently couldn’t wish that size good-bye.

But it’s come time to shrink down my wardrobe.  Soon I will be shifting out of my home for five months while earthquake damage is repaired, and so the less I have in my wardrobe, the less I have to shift.

This time it came easy to give up that pair of jeans (and a whole lot of other clothes).  I doubt that my issues have necessarily become any healthier, but time really does heal.  And this time I can put them in the box to take to the shop.

I was never going to wear those jeans again, so it’s time to let go.

“Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life. And I am not perfect. But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one with my eating disorder. Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold. Heisman Trophy winners throw interceptions. Professional singers forget the words. And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern. But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing. The ice skater makes the next jump. The football player throws the next pass. The singer finishes the song. And I am going to eat breakfast.”

― Jenni Schaefer, Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too

Hope For Discarding The Imagined Ugliness

Image credit: FB-Observing the Sounds of the World

A few weeks back I wrote Imagined Ugliness as an introduction to my battle with body dysmorphia, an issue which means it is  difficult, if not impossible for me to see how I really look.  It was difficult to write and I was relieved to get to the end, but I did promise to pick up on it again…

The ‘Imagined Ugliness’ came from a title of an article I read about the subject, and it completely summed things up for me… except I don’t see it is imagined, I see it as very real.  After sharing this post, a (in-real-life) friend wrote to tell me she always thought I was ‘gorgeous’.  I’ve known her for a very long time, although we live in different parts of the country now so haven’t seen each other for some time.  After the shock died down ( I was gobsmacked that she would describe me that way), I quickly told myself that she was wrong, or she was just saying that to make me feel better, or… well anything other than that she might be telling the truth.  I still don’t know, although I know that I trust her opinion.  I also know she wouldn’t say something unless she really meant it.  That makes it hard because then perhaps I need to believe her?

I realised too why it was so difficult for me to write that last post.  It’s because I don’t think I look like I should to have this issue.  Crazy isn’t it?  I don’t know what I look like but I’m already judging it as not appropriate somehow.  And what right have I to say anyone with BDD should look a certain way?  It’s a little like the eating disorder.  When I was Anorexic I couldn’t see it and so concluded that I didn’t look like someone who would have Anorexia.  I didn’t think I fitted the image.  Interestingly, I can see that I looked the part alright.  The odd photo tells me that loud and clear.  There is no ‘right’ way to look with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), and it’s challenging for me to realise that actually I don’t only judge myself but also others who struggle with this.  And that’s not something I want to do.

Today I got my haircut.  I have mentioned before that I hate doing this, and actually it is beyond me to understand how some people love it.  What it meant is nearly an hour of my image in the mirror right in front of me.    I couldn’t get away.  Plenty of time for self-examination and self-criticism.  In between answering dumb questions about how many children I might have and what I do for a living (that’s all part of why I hate the process) I actually came to a conclusion that actually I couldn’t possibly look the way I was seeing myself.  It was too distorted and… well I’ve never ever seen anyone else look that bad.   So maybe it’s not possible.  Maybe a part of my brain is lying to me.

Why am I posting all this?  It’s not just for the sake of stripping bare my soul to you.  It’s because I’ve realised that in a way I’m too comfortable with BDD.   The way I see and feel about my body has been this distorted since I started to hear that I was a ‘big girl’ back when I was about seven years old.  While it has caused some serious turmoil and distress over the years, I’ve got used to it.  I have just accepted it, assumed it would always be that way and adapted my life around it.

Today I can see that what I see in the reflection is distorted and I have been making my life accommodate that.  I’ve made a life where I hide from the world, keep myself separate from other people, and stay away from mirrors.  And avoid the hairdresser.

Now I am realising that it’s not what I want for my life anymore.  I want better.  Maybe I will never absolutely love how I look, but I at least want to know what is real.  The reason I am posting this is to in some way hold myself true to this.  Work to change.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  I’ve come far enough to realise that change is possible, and now it’s time to find a way to change this.

I feel quite hopeful.  I’ve got some work to do to turn around the distortion but I’m lucky enough to have good help to do this.  What also helps (interestingly) is that I no longer feel the need to hide.  That fear is being lifted somehow, although I’m sure that in the right location I would still be fearful.  Being stalked over such a long period taught me that hiding myself was perfectly natural.  Actually it made total sense because it kept me safe.  If other people could see the real me (even if not the distorted image I chose to see) it meant to stalkers could see me too.  That was the last thing I wanted if I was to feel in any way safe.

It’s a funny connection between the BDD and the stalking but it makes complete sense to me now (hopefully I’m making some sense in sharing about it here).  I was almost ashamed of who I was, ashamed of what I looked like, because it was that primarily the physical way of seeing me that the stalkers based their obsession on.  They really didn’t know the real me, how I think, what I feel, so it is logical to want to deny who I am physically.  I blamed me for their actions, even though I had done nothing wrong.

I’m tired of hiding me from both myself and those around me.  I’m actually realising that I’m tired of cutting myself off from life.  It goes beyond the physical and involves the emotional/mental side to me.  I’ve been doing it for so long now that it just seems natural, but it doesn’t enable me to be the person I can be, or experience the joy that I know in my heart actually does exist.  I know this isn’t an instant transition but I feel more hopeful that I have for as long as I can remember.  Somehow I am going to make this work.

I’ve posted this music to finish not because I need someone to sing it to me.  I really need to learn to be able to sing it to me myself.  This is a journey.

Reblogged: Depression and It’s Effects On Self-Esteem – The Naked Truth!

Cate Reddell:

My blogger friend Kevin has post an excellent piece relating to self-image, body shapes, physical features, weight and a whole lot of other useful insights which I guess you could say all relate to our mental health..

I am reblogging it because I personally found it so helpful, firstly for it’s honesty, but also because it gives a male perspective to all these issues. I think it is sad that the discussion about these issues tends to be directed at women only, whereas men also struggle too.

Originally posted on Voices of Glass:

I have entitled this post ‘Depression and It’s Effects On Self-Esteem – The Naked Truth!’ and the first naked truth is that I have been struggling over whether to do this post for some time now.

The fact of the matter is that in order to do both it and it’s motivation justice I have to put it all out there and that is an extremely painful and difficult thing for me to do. But I have promised myself that I would do it.

And I have promised this because the truth is that I really do feel it is the only way and that it is very important.  Especially since over the pat view weeks (both in conversations that I have had and also in blogs that I have read) I have witnessed a great deal of pain, hurt, embarrassment and even shame expressed by fellow mental health bloggers…

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