I have a hard time meditating. As I focus my breathing, I become aware of my body and just how BIG it is. It balloons to enormity, inflating with each breath. It’s a real, physical sensation that I feel – this sensation of being BIG. And it’s extremely uncomfortable.
So many guided meditations tell you to feel your breath in your belly… That’s the last place I want to feel anything! I would like to forget that my belly exists, thank you very much.
I’m quite certain other people notice it and make fun of me for it – the big belly of mine. So I spend a lot of my time sucking it in, controlling it, hiding it in baggy clothes…the very last thing I would ever want to do is practice feeling my breath in my belly.
There are some clothes I won’t wear because they accentuate my bulging stomach. I check myself in every reflective surface I pass (mirrors, car windows, turned off TVs…), checking to make sure my stomach isn’t protruding.
My stomach isn’t the only thing I obsess about. I could tell you about my thighs and my face and my short, fat fingers – the fingers that were never quite long enough to hit more than an octave on the piano.
The thing is, my mind is telling me a lie – and my mind is very good at lying to me. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is characterized by the following:
- You have an extreme preoccupation with perceived flaws in your appearance (these flaws cannot be seen to others, or these flaws appear minor to others)
- You have a strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
- You believe that others take notice of this defect in your appearance and mock you for it.
- You try very hard to fix or hide the defect/perceived flaw. It’s difficult to resist or control these fixing behaviors, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming, or skin picking.
- You try to hide the defect/perceived flaw with styling, makeup, or clothing.
- You constantly compare your appearance to the appearance of others.
- You obsessively seek reassurance about your appearance from others.
- You tend to be a perfectionist.
- You seek cosmetic procedures frequently with little satisfaction
- You avoid social situations
- You are so preoccupied with your appearance that it causes major distress or problems in your social life, work, or school
There’s a running theme throughout these symptoms – your mental belief that something is wrong with you, no matter what other people actually see. The things you do to sooth the pain of that belief become obsessive.
I’ve been feeling this BIG sensation a lot lately, especially when I try to go to sleep for the night. And after meals/snacks/water. I obsess about the creases in my skin – at the elbows and the wrists especially. The creases are meant to be there, but to me they look like fat rolls. I despise them.
I focus so much of my energy on being small. I’m constantly sucking in my stomach. I slouch. I sit with my knees and legs pulled up tight underneath me, taking up the smallest amount of space possible.
At its worst, my disorder becomes a wedge between myself and my body. I become completely disconnected from my physical form. It’s a thing that must be fed and watered and made to sleep, but it is not mine.
I drag it around with me like lead balloons. It’s there – I’m aware of its presence, its hunger and thirst – its insatiable needs. But I am disconnected from it.
That’s not the case right now. Right now, I’m uncomfortably connected to my body. Lately, I’ve really kicked up my exercise routine. I signed up to run a half marathon in October, so I’ve got to start training…well, I’ve got to start getting ready to train. I’m trying to run more in the gym. In between running days I’m cross-training on a stationary bike or an elliptical.
All this working out is making me very uncomfortable. First because it’s making me hungry and second because it’s putting me in touch with my physical form. I am hyper-aware of my body. And it’s BIG.
But this BIG sensation is a lie. I am no bigger or smaller than the exact physical weight and space my body possesses. Yet my mind somehow makes me believe (to the point of creating actual physical sensations) that I am at least five times the size I am.
It’s not that my clothes are fitting tighter – they’re not. It’s really difficult to describe… I just feel BIG. I look BIG. I spend a lot of time comparing myself to other people, trying to figure out if I’m their size or bigger or smaller.
It’s a wretched state of mind. And it’s all built on a lie – the lie my mind is telling me that something is wrong with me. That I’m not worth loving as I am.
It’s going to take more than positive body mantras to fight these lies – because, let’s face it, our society surrounds us with images of “perfect” bodies. Department stores are designed to highlight our flaws and increase our insecurities so we buy more. The media is full of conflicted messaging – “EAT THIS” but “LOOK LIKE THIS.”
If I can somehow switch the focus from what’s wrong with my body to what’s good about it, my attitude about it changes. The lies lose their power.
Fighting the negative voice in my head is difficult. I’m so used to the constant stream of criticism I hardly stop to think about thinking a different way. But therapy has taught me to pause and reflect.
When the voice says, “Suck it in! God, you’re so fat!” I can reply with, “I’ve had a long day, and I deserve to relax, just as I am.” At the gym, when the voice says, “They’re all looking at you. You’re making too much noise. You’re too fat to be running on the treadmill.” I can say to myself, “I have every right to be here. Running makes me feel good.”
Combating the negativity in my head takes energy and commitment. It’s a decision every day that I’m not going to let the lies run my life. It’s hard work. Changing thought patterns is a process that I haven’t quite got the hang of yet.
But one day I hope to be at peace with my body.