**CW for struggling with internalized fatphobia in the post below**
It’s a strange feeling, this week. Having hope, after having four years of virtually none. I hope you found a way to celebrate, if you wanted to this weekend. And I hope you remember that we still have so much work to do; at least now, it feels more possible than it did before.
Anyway, this post isn’t about the election or the results, but another personal post (getting tired of those, yet)? It helps me to write these things out, and I know I won’t do that unless I do it on the blog, so here we go again!
I met with my therapist on Friday, booking that appointments weeks ago, because I knew I’d need to talk to someone during election week (go, past me!). However, what I hadn’t been expecting was to have a breakdown talking about my experience with Halloween. You see, we went over to a friend’s house for Halloween (stayed out in the front yard, social distanced, masked), as has been our tradition each year, on Oct. 31st. It was a gorgeous day out and I had on a t-shirt and leggings, bringing a sweatshirt with me to wear later, once it got dark and chilly. Yet, I ended up putting on that sweatshirt within ten minutes of arriving, because I was so ashamed that I’d gained weight and I didn’t want them to notice. All my brain could conceive was that, the moment we’d left, they’d turn to one another and say, “Wow, Nicole’s really let herself go, hasn’t she? What a failure. How disgusting.”
Now, I know 100% that these friends would never do this and they care about me regardless of my size (and, if either of you are reading this, please know that was just my disorder talking; not what I truly believe of either of you <3). However, as my therapist reminded me on Friday, while I bawled my eyes out in front of her on Zoom, the part of my brain that gives attention to my eating disorder doesn’t care what I know to be false or true. It doesn’t care that, even if I step back and logically say aloud, “They don’t care about your appearance. Your friendship isn’t based off that. Your worth isn’t based off that,” it still drowns it out with evil precision. Thankfully, once I put on the sweatshirt and “covered up,” I was able to enjoy the rest of the evening without being so focused on my size or their perception of it, but it shouldn’t have taken that. I should have been comfortable wearing whatever I wanted and not having those dark thoughts in the first place.
Talking it over with my therapist helped me realize I few things I hadn’t been considering:
My perfectionism and black and white thinking are showing
As I’ve discussed before, I suffer from black and white thinking: or, if it’s not one way, it’s has to be this other way, no shades of gray possible or any sort of balance in the middle. So, it’s no wonder that my brain will start to twist and assume others will view me in the same harsh impossibility, in the black and white dynamic of fat = bad and worth = diminished that I grew up believing (thanks, society!). Pair this with my perfectionist tendencies and we realized that I consider my weight and my appearance as a “mark” against me as a human. Despite having a good career, passionate hobbies, a caring family, an incredible partner, my health, etc, I can’t get over my own appearance. It’s such a failure that it erases everything else, which brings me to the second point:
My weight or changing in my body do not erase my accomplishments
My therapist then challenged me to list my accomplishments or what I was proud of that didn’t have to do with my weight or my appearance. I struggled to list anything (mostly because I was a bit emotional), but she began to list them for me, just from what she’s learned about me in the few months we’ve worked together: writing eight books; working a full-time job as an academic advisor and a part-time job as an editor; traveling; reading books; paying my bills on time; staying responsible and wearing a mask and staying home during the pandemic; voting; taking care of my dog; a healthy relationship with my partner.
She stared at me and asked how on earth all of that could be erase because I gained weight this past year, especially since I’m dealing with a pretty serious back injury. Even if it was a lot of weight. She reminded me that my weight and appearance don’t determine my worth and that my accomplishments deserve to be celebrated and for me to be proud of them.
The pandemic adds unconscious pressure
After all that, we finally ended with how this is the longest I’ve ever been isolated before. I’ve seen my family a handful of times throughout the past eight months, done virtual hangouts with friends and coworkers, but this is the longest I’ve ever gone in my life of not seeing people in person. We talked about how it’s honestly not surprising that I felt self-conscious, regardless of how my body looks.
Finally, we ended with me trying to come up with one thing I liked about my body. I struggled, but I finally landed on my tattoos. Even though now I have arm fat, I still never look at my sleeve with disgust. I still love it and I love seeing it in Zoom calls or showing it off in public. She encouraged me to continue to find outfits and things that show it off, so I can build upon that confidence, start recognizing my achievements and practicing positive self talk and encouraging movement to help battle depression, while also working on mentally reaching body neutrality.
My body is just a body. I don’t have to love it and I don’t have to hate it. I can just recognize that it lets me live, helps me get from Point A to Point B, has protected me against a pandemic and is generally very healthy.
Writing this was just to remind myself of that discussion on Friday, so I can continue to work on that. And to let you know that you’re not alone, if you struggle in viewing your body. I’m here for you, if you ever need to chat. Thanks for letting me use this space to do the same. <3