Tag Archives: body image

Photos

I hate them. I hate having to look at my body, I hate that they record me at this weight, I hate that other people will see and (I think) judge them. I hate the noise it creates in my head every time I see a picture of myself. I hate how every occasion is ruined by looking back at photos, zeroing in on my body and instantly wishing I was dead. I hate being torn by wanting to celebrate things, wanting to be with friends, wanting to document another day in the world verses knowing how utterly shit it makes me feel to look at them.

So often I offer to be the one taking the photo, as a way of being out of the picture. That works well, mostly. It has left gaping holes in my history, though. The last picture of myself that I can look at and appreciate is when I was about 8, just before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, playing in the surf at Byron Bay. Then- nothing. I have about 30 photos from the ages of 12-21. I hate them, although I also have the double shame of looking at them and knowing how much more I weigh now, and thinking, ‘If I was fat then….’.

All I see is fat, awkwardness, sadness, eyes that never look straight, too many chins, bulging breasts…it goes on. On and on and ON and I just want to rip them all to tiny pieces and retreat from the world and never leave the hosue ever again. Being in the world and knowing, even more acutely, that people are looking at me and seeing my weight, nothing else. It makes my skin crawl with…what? Shame, embarrassment, loathing? I don’t quite know what to call it but it makes me feel like killing myself. Photos reduce me to only my external body, to the thing I hate most about myself.

I am trying harder now to suck it up and be in pictures, even though it makes me feel so fucking horrible right now. I want to be able to show my children pictures of myself when I was young. Fuck, I want them to be free of this awful self loathing, no matter what their size or shape.  But it is so. fucking. hard. to be visible in this way.

I am crying now as I write this. I have just had a wonderful weekend away with friends. We went camping in a beautiful secluded spot on the coast. Swimming, walking, talking, card games, fires. I didn’t feel out of place, or like people resented me, or like I was taking up too much space- I was free of all that day-to-day, normal life shit. But then- the photos. The photos that other people took to make memories of a great weekend, I am now crying over, grabbing at my excess flesh, desperate to purge, wanting to cut. I HATE MYSELF. I hate the way I look, I hate the way my disgustingness is captured. I hate it.

What is the solution to this? I hate the photos of myself at 12, 50 kilos lighter than now. I hate the group photos that I have been coerced into, hiding at the back, desperate to disguise as much as possible of my body. I hate how every year I blow on candles and wish to magically become ‘thin’, whatever the fuck that is, and as if it were as simple as that, as I say ‘No, no, let me take the photo’. I hate the knowledge that I will keep being in photos- my upcoming graduation comes to mind- and keep having to be reminded of what I look like.

I know that this most recent photo will send me into a spiral of starving and binging, purging, binging again. I know that I will come up with meticulous diet and exercise plans, promise myself that I will stick to them, this time. All the while also knowing that it will never change, if I keep doing it this way. ‘Mad is he who repeats the same process while expecting a different outcome’.

There’s no neat ending to this post. What can I say to male myself feel better, with this most recent image burnt onto my brain, with the voice in my head loud and on repeat, you disgusting pice of shit. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Just. Keep. Going.

Yippee for me! I made it to Thursday!

That’s what life is like at the moment- getting through each day, and more importantly each night. Finding reasons to get up in the morning, and reasons not to give into the darkness and Negative Voice that sweeps over me at night. Trying with all my willpower and determination to ignore ED thoughts and  eat regularly.  Trying to believe the Wise Woman when she says, ‘you can do this, it’s bloody hard and it sucks but you can do it’.

It always seems impossible until it is done. Repeating this, over and over. Most likely this is not what Nelson Mandela meant his words to be used for- my daily battle with food and my body and not giving in to suicide. Those words were probably written and spoken for bigger causes. Too bad. I promise you social change is next on my to-do list, right after I convince myself to stay alive long enough to achieve it.

Food is a good example. Yesterday I had an awesome day, food-wise. My target at the moment is to eat at least one meal (of the 3-meals, 3-snacks ideal) at a regular time and in a regular portion size. Yesterday I hit breakfast, lunch AND dinner. I can’t believe I did that! And yet- I can believe it, because I went through every excruciating moment of doing it. And yes I know it’s self-obsessed, and yes I acknowledge in many other contexts and for most other people it’s nothing unusual, but for me it’s FUCKING HUGE. It’s a Big Deal. it’s something I need to record so that when I doubt myself (uh, like, always) the reminder is there.

Also, on a related note: proper thick non-diet yoghurt, with dry roasted almonds and canned peaches? For breakfast? It is yum. I had forgotten this.

The other activity that makes good use of Mandela’s words for me is stair climbing. I am going to Nepal soon. Very soon. Nepal is a steep and mountainous country. Melbourne is flat. Very flat. Thank goodness then, for my university and its’ 14-storey buildings, full of stairs to simulate mountains. How lucky for me! How unlucky for my aching calves! But I enjoy it, in the weird way that pain and feats of endurance can sometimes be enjoyable. The uni is mostly empty because of mid-year holidays. It’s just me and my backpack and my head. You can do it, keep going. Twenty more steps in this flight. Ten more flights. Two more sets. Then you’re done. You can do this. That’s me, the same authentic and real voice of me that gently reminds me that full-fat yoghurt is not poison. It’s nice to hear her voice again.

I used to be in a swimming squad, between the ages of about ten and fourteen. The coach told me once, ‘I always give you one more set in your program than I think you’re capable of. I always push you, just to see if you can rise to it’. I absolutely thrived on this concept at the time, mostly because I craved adult approval and praise. But I still find it a good motivator now. You never know what you’re capable of until you do it.

It always seems impossible until it is done.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Not An Option Today

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide talk. I’m not going to kill myself and I really hope you won’t either. Get help now and don’t read on if you think it may be harmful for you.

Long time no write, because I’m trying really hard to keep living from moment to moment, stay alive through the dark nights to get to the next day and do it all again. Because I write lists for myself that say things like ‘1. Get out of bed, 2. Take meds, 3. Try and do something physical’ and most days getting through those tasks takes nearly all of my energy and will. I got through my uni assignments and now I’m on holidays there’s a lot of unscheduled time and Neg Voice jumped straight in and yelled, JUST KILL YOURSELF, you fat ugly disgusting worthless piece of shit and it’s really easy to get sucked into and so so hard to climb out of.

I don’t want to die. I love my life, my course, my friends and family, the career I’m heading into, the thought of children in the future. I want to be here and make a difference in the world. BUT I struggle so much with living my life in my body. If it were ‘me’ in another body that I didn’t loathe so much, it would be different, I tell myself. Would it? Maybe, probably not. All I know that being in my skin is the hardest, most awful day-to-day struggle and the lure of not having to keep doing it is very strong. It’s brain versus body, emotional self verses physical self. I don’t think I can kill myself. There’s too big a part of me, real me, that is compassionate and aware of how much suffering I would cause, and how much loss. That part of stops me accessing a gun, or throwing myself in front of a train, or any of the other scenarios I entertain late at night. Dying intentionally is a very selfish act for a person who has built an identity on being considerate, helpful, mature, kind, empathetic. So, killing myself is not an option, I say in my head, over and over. Not today. Get through today and then we’ll deal with tomorrow.

Today I had a huge swim, because swimming has always calmed me down and getting physically tired helps manage the late night head noise. Swimming through the constant ‘you suck, you’re huge and gross, you look awful’ is really hard for the first few laps but the water helps so much. Plus, having to focus on not drowning is a good way to get out of my head. So it was overall a positive thing, everyone should try swimming, it’s awesome. But getting the bus home just after school peak hour was a bad move. Two girls got on and proceeded to bitch about their ‘friends’, their teachers, their parents and everything else that was bothering them. I put my music on and tried to blank them out.  One tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Excuse me’.

‘Yes?’, I said, turning around, taking my headphones out and putting my usual polite smile on.

‘If I was as fat as you I would kill myself’, she said, and her friend and her both burst into laughter.

I turned bright red, as you do when somebody publicly humiliates you and tells you to top yourself as though it’s funny. How does she know that I think that all day, every day? was my first thought. ‘She’s just saying what everybody’s thinking. You don’t deserve to live, you hideous lard-arse’ screamed the Negative Voice. Say something back, you idiot! was my next coherent thought.

‘Sorry, killing myself is not an option today, too busy’ I said. There are better lines, but hey, I was under pressure. I turned around, put the headphones back in and tried really fucking hard not to cry.

That’s what it’s like, every day. It’s dealing with my own head as well as what other people see and what they do. It’s trying to summon up the courage to get out of bed and engage with the world. It’s wondering if I have a flashing sign attached to me, ‘I hate my body, really hate it, and I kind of want to kill myself but I’m trying really hard not to’. It’s feeling every millimetre of flesh squirm with shame whenever I’m out in public and visible. It’s  keeping busy enough so that the Negative Voice doesn’t overwhelm me. It’s trying to hold on and to remember that killing myself is NOT. AN. OPTION.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Touching Earth Lightly

TRIGGER WARNING: For writing about to a previous suicide attempt and to current suicidal feelings. If you need immediate assistance call 000 (Emergency)  or Lifeline 13 11 14.  For other resources: Get Help Now.
Listening
           
To myself, and
 
To my surroundings
To the song that rises from this moment
          in which I am contained-
 
These dances rise up inside of me
          and spin out beneath me,
And it’s as if I stand back, inside myself
          and observe…
 
Available to constant flow and change,
I can balance
                  at the edge of the unknown
                                                        and experience fearlessness.
Eva Karczag

The words above were first shared with me by a dear friend and mentor, D. I met D when she became a co-facilitator of a queer youth performance group I was in. She appears quiet, but when she speaks all the wisdom and passion within her comes out in carefully chosen words and questions. She holds her own space, she is grounded, and that (I think) is what allows her to share herself with others in such an open and caring way- she knows, really knows, her own boundaries.

 

D saved my life in 2009. I had taken an overdose with full intention of ending my life. I remember cleaning out my life for weeks because I didn’t want people to be left with an image of me as messy or chaotic. I didn’t want to be exposed in death, when I had worked so hard in life to appear normal, happy, contained. I remember giving away bags of clothes and books to op-shops. Shredding years of academic and personal written work. I remember pressing ‘OK’ when Microsoft asked, ‘Are you sure you want to permanently delete these files?’.

 

I remember planning ahead for a time where I wouldn’t be found for at least a day. I remember stockpiling some drugs and buying others. I remember lining up pills in batches next to bottles of pure spirits. But I don’t recall the sensation of actually swallowing them. Who is that person?, I wondered as I floated above her. It can’t be me. I don’t drink alcohol. It’s bad for my epilepsy. 

 

I remember calling D and saying, ‘I tried to kill myself’. I remember regretting the words the instant they were out of my mouth. At the same time, relief. This isn’t up to me anymore. I might keep floating like I am now or I might sink like I intended, but I don’t have to make any more decisions about it. Then I don’t remember anything else until I woke up a week or so later in St.V’s.

 

I’ve been thinking-  about D., about that time, about Eva Karczag’s words – a lot lately. Thinking about what it means to be grounded, to be ‘aware of myself, my surroundings and…this moment in which I am contained’. Realising that- still! still, after all this time- groundedness for me means heaviness, disgust, shame at being seen. It means a constant battle with my body, second to second. Trying to get things done, to live and listen and speak, all of it feels equally heavy, exhausting, impossible.

 

What is the fucking POINT?, my head asks loudly, repeatedly. I will always be stuck in this body, always. Being present means being in this thing, this lump of adipose tissue, this holder of food and fat and trauma and memories. It means looking in the mirror each day and being overwhelmed, in less than a second, with thoughts of wanting to be dead, gone. It means lying in darkness and crying with shame into fear into exhaustion about having to face it again tomorrow.

 

Eva Karczag wrote those words as a way of expressing the importance of being in your body when doing improvised dance work. D. shared them with me and the youth theatre group to explain how capturing this essence when performing, moving moment to moment, being aware of self and of others, would help us improve our acting. I read those words, daily, and mostly I despair but sometimes I hope. I hope of finding a way to live with the lightness that I have only ever experienced when I was attempting to die.

 

I hope to be able to be grounded in my body, present in my mind, and attuned to my surroundings. I hope of one day touching earth lightly.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Fat Freak In The Circus, Again.

I did my first acrobalance class of the year tonight. So far I’ve only been doing New Women classes. I’m happy to report that the atmosphere and ‘vibe’ of the classes doesn’t differ too much- lots of games, lots of laughs, ‘just give it a go and don’t worry if you fall’ kinda feeling. This is a great reflection on the trainer, who is really committed to making the class work for everyone, no matter what their body or their skill level. She is very funny but kept us all focused.

But I still feel pretty awful. I don’t know any of these women. I don’t judge their bodies or laugh at them if they can’t do a skill. But what do they think of YOU? screams the Negative Voice. I bet they think you’re disgusting. You’re the fattest person in the class. You’re clumsy and you stink and you should just give it up now. You can come back when you’re thin. 

I want to fight back but I don’t feel strong enough today. I didn’t eat all day. I thought that would shut up the Neg Voice but it just made me hungry and jittery after the food of the weekend, my body confused as to why it wasn’t being fed again.  I did two hours of stretching and running around and using my stomach muscles to hold other people up in the air. I walked quickly through the freezing air because Footscray at night creeps me out. I’m sore and exhausted but she won’t shut up.

I’m never enough.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Beautiful You #10: Positive Memories

That’s a photo of me, when I was 9. I was happy. This means: I was happy and peaceful in my body in the past. Logical continuation: I can feel that way in the future. YAY

Whoops, I fell off the blogging and Beautiful You track for a bit there. Back again! This practice asks tricky questions: What do you appreciate most about yourself? What are you most confident about? What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it? If so, who was there and how did they react? So, maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding blogging for a while!

What do you appreciate most about yourself? 

Urgh. Initial thought: NOTHING. I find it really hard to think of positives about me. Negatives? How long have ya got? I could go on all day. BUT that wasn’t the question, was it? Luckily I have some good external appraisals to draw on, and if I can let myself believe them, even just for a second, it’s a good start.

In November 2010, I did a week-long training course about facilitating ‘social circus’ workshops  (click the link for info). It was a great week of learning- not just skills/ activities, but learning about how I work alone and with others. At the end, we each got a sheet of paper where all the other participants had written a line or two about us, what they thought we did well etc. The most common words on mine were ‘I appreciate your openness, honesty and willingness to share’ and ‘You communicate really well’ and ‘You have great ideas’. As somebody who spent most of childhood/ adolescence scared and very ‘closed’, and is now finally coming into my true (open) self in my 20s, it was really great to have external validation that it’s OK to be honest and ‘out there’.

What are you most confident about? 

Note to ED/ Negative Voice, currently raging in my head: there is a difference between feeling confident and being ‘up yourself’. Even for me. Yes, really. We clear? Good.

I write and speak well- I’m a good communicator. Again, it often takes external validation for me to believe this, but the evidence is there: published work, awards, scholarships, jobs. When I speak, people generally listen and engage. When I write grant or scholarship applications, I’m usually successful. When I facilitate anti-homophobia workshops in schools, young people speak openly and appreciate having a space to do it in.

Side note: once you’ve spent time openly talking about sex and gender with 15 year olds- who can spot bullshit a mile away, and will let you know it- every other public speaking engagement is dead easy.

I’m passionate, I’ll speak up and I’ll fight for change. This causes my Negative Voice the most grief and it’s true that there’s still an undercurrent of ‘shut up, don’t make a fuss, be a good girl’ running through my head. Well, too bad. Spent way too long giving  into that shit and guess where it got me? Into bulimia and constant thoughts of suicide. It’s much healthier- and usually more fun/ productive/ satisfying- to let those natural leadership and advocacy tendencies run free.   

I’m confident in my academic abilities. I’m a nerd. Out and proud. Sometimes it can be difficult to see where ‘academic enjoyment’ ends and ‘obsessive, perfectionistic personality’ kicks in but that’s just something to live with. I was pretty bored at high school, but too shy to be public about it. Now I’m in a uni course that I absolutely LOVE, there’s no pressure to be ‘cool’ and I can pursue High Distinctions (mostly) without worrying what everyone else thinks of me. Sometimes I even get paid for it (in scholarships and grants)! It’s blissful.

What is the first positive memory you have of yourself? Was anyone there to witness it?

My positive childhood memories are mostly physical ones- swimming, running, circus tricks. Having a mastery of my body, doing skills over and over until I nailed them, feeling like I was flying, free. I don’t remember how it felt beyond ‘good’ but I remember vividly when it stopped feeling natural and easy- when I was about 10 or 11. Puberty beginning, my body changing, getting heavier. People commenting on my shape. Sexual comments way before I was ready for them. It was a massive kick in the guts: you’re not good enough anymore. You take up too much space. Too big, too much. And so I fell back onto things that others praised me for: being quiet, being ‘good’, putting up with abuse and not telling anybody the secrets of home, doing well academically. Trying as hard as possible to fade into the background.

It’s taken me much longer than usual to write this post, but I’m glad to have done it. Sometimes I have to write things out before I realise them, or believe them. Yes, there are positive things about me. Yes, I am confident. Yes, there was a time when my body felt good, and I’m slowly rediscovering that. Suck it up, Negative Voice. This is my truth and I like it.

I highly recommend other people having a go at these questions. I know you are reading, lurkers- I see you in the stats! So write it out. Draw it. Dance it. Own it. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. YOU ARE WORTH IT!

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

Leave a comment

Filed under Beautiful You

Beautiful You #8: Self Appreciation Jar

So, today’s practice is all about taking notice of the things you say to yourself. It follows on very nicely from yesterday’s discussion on the Negative Voice and my renewed efforts to try and practice ‘comment moderation’ on all the Negative Voice thoughts that swirl around my brain most days. Rosie’s suggestion is to put coins in a jar every time you catch yourself entertaining these self-deprecating thoughts.

My immediate reaction to this was, ‘But I’m really poor right now! I can’t waste money every time I bag myself- I’ll be on the street by the end of the week!’. Which reminded me of the image above (which is reminiscent of famous UK artist Banksy, but is actually credited to the Australian street artist Meek). Which, in turn, reminded me that there is a lot of bigger shit going on in the world- homelessness, poverty, structural inequality- that is more pressing than my own ‘stuff’, but if I don’t deal with my own demons, I’ll never have the headspace to work on the world’s bigger problems either.

Deep thinking, non? It was the kind of day that lent itself to such thoughts. A typical Melbourne summer stinker which I spent mostly waiting- for doctors, for blood tests, for trams. Lotsa thinking time. And then this HUGE fucking storm, complete with lightening and power cuts, swept over the city and drenched everything with some much-appriciated rain. I lay on my bed in the dark and watched and listened and only noticed afterwards that it was the most peaceful I’d felt all day.

So! With that in mind, I will continue using my non-cash-requiring techniques from yesterday’s post to try and deal with the Negative Voice. I’m also going to start noting (or trying to note- might be more scribbling on arms going on) anything nice/ good/ less-awful that I think about myself. Today, for example, it took 35 minutes and several needles for the pathology nurse to get enough blood out of my veins for testing. I hate blood tests, not for a fear of needles but because I hate having to expose my arms, which the Negative Voice informs me are flabby and fat and gross. Today I closed my eyes, chatted with the nurse and silently told Neg to fuck off. It worked. Huzzah.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  

1 Comment

Filed under Beautiful You