I’ve had a year blessedly full of work, but that volume has caused me to let my own blog mostly lie fallow. To make up for this, I’m going to try for a post a day in December. About just about everything. Funny. Serious. Anything goes. Here is Day 5.
One of the reasons I love giving myself challenges like this is because it cleans out my terrifyingly large number of draft files.
This is another long one. It’s been in draft since July 2017. I think you’ll understand why.
I didn’t know I was an introvert until I read this, way back in 2009.
I didn’t know I had anxiety until I was talking to a friend concerned about her child, and realized that everything she was worried for in her child – was my normal state of being.
I didn’t know I had body dysmorphia until I read this.
(In most ways, I’m fiercely supportive of the mental health field. I believe strongly in the power and potential of some modalities of therapy – particularly CBT, NLP, family therapy, and EMDR. I am, however, dubious about the ease with which psychotropic medications are prescribed, and skeptical of our cultural tendency to medicalize behavior – which always exists on a spectrum – and label it as a disorder. My biases are based only on my own life, of course.)
But I have a hesitancy borne of the belief that naming conditions can sometimes take power away from a person and give it to their circumstances. Perhaps I feel that way because I’ve spent my career working with patients, and one of the first things you learn is that you never call someone “a diabetic” or “a Crohn’s patient.” They are a person with diabetes, or a person with Crohn’s. That might sound like a pedantic distinction, or cheesy. But it’s the difference between giving primacy to the condition or to the person. The person deserves the power – needs the power.
At the same time, having a name to label something can in itself give power to a person. I believe that’s why little kids like dinosaurs and big complicated trucks. It feels like an incantation to be able to use a long name. It feels like you can take control of something when you can name it.
And, in the case of health, often that power gives you sanity. You’re not crazy – there really is something happening to you. You’re not overreacting. There’s a real thing, and now that it has a name, it exists.
That article on dysmorphia hit me hard. Because it’s basically a list of things I’ve been doing, and trying to do, for years, without even really being fully aware of it.
I didn’t know it was body dysmorphia. I thought that was just people who, I don’t know, hallucinated. People who saw things that weren’t there. You know. Crazy people.
Not like me. I never hallucinated. I just knew that my body was hideous, unloveable, humiliating, embarrassing.
When I was eight, I noticed in a photo that I had cellulite, and I knew it was something to be ashamed of. I don’t remember anyone telling me. I just knew. I didn’t go to school or have friends, so I learned that the best way to learn things was to watch people very carefully and pick up on as much as I could that way. It’s still how I learn.
And if you pay attention, you learn how bad cellulite is. You see how embarrassed people are. You read in magazines about how terrible it is. You see that pictures of women’s legs without it are good, and ones with are very bad.
I began going to school the next year. I didn’t know how to play any kinds of games or sports, and I was painfully shy. I knew that my lack of understanding and coordination was embarrassing. But I could do school. I could learn fast, without even really trying. So I did. And I dodged sports every chance I could get.
When you obsess over something, descriptions don’t do justice to the way you get trapped in your own head. I can tell you how I have spent entire summers without putting on shorts once. I can tell you how I have canceled plans because I tried to find clothes in my closet that made me feel less ashamed and I couldn’t stop crying. I can show you things I wrote when I was at the lowest weight of my life, and still hated myself more than I’ve ever hated another person.
I don’t think I have the right words to make you feel how hard and heavy and consuming it is. And, frankly, I don’t want to find the right words. I don’t want you to feel that way.
In its own way, it’s as difficult an adversary as grief or pain, but it has the insidious feature of being unimportant. I am many things, after all, but I’m not stupid. I know this does not matter in the grand scheme of things. Even the not-so-grand scheme. It’s stupid and frivolous.
Unfortunately, that sterling logic doesn’t make you care less. It just means that you’re as upset as you were, but now, with an extra layer of shame for feeling so much about something so foolish.
Last summer my goal was to work out in shorts and a sports bra once. It made my skin crawl and my stomach go into knots.
This summer, my goal has been to wear shorts and a tank top every day. My arms haven’t made me as upset as my legs, but I’ve seen cellulite on them, too, as I’ve aged, and so I much prefer covering them up.
Silly, meaningless things. Not things that matter. That would be a very logical judgment to all this. I agree. I know. But it’s funny how knowing doesn’t always change feeling.