I have debated posting this post. It was written several days ago and has been saved in my drafts ever since. Writing it was one thing. Posting it; that’s something else altogether. I’m out of the country at the moment, spending a few weeks in Canada. I’m having a wonderful time – baking in the heat, playing baseball, getting swarmed by mosquitoes, catching some pokémon, spending time with my person. It’s honestly so great, but I do have a bit of a problem. It looks like I haven’t come on holiday by myself. Baggage has also rocked on over across the Atlantic with me and I’m a bit stuck.
Sometimes, I’m totally fine. Sometimes I’m mindful of my diet and exercise, but I don’t let it prevent me from living. Other times I try so hard not to let it be such a dominant force but I fail miserably. Lately, I appear to have made a return to the latter camp. I’m trying so fucking hard to eat like a normal human being at the moment (albeit, one who is on vacation), but one of two things is happening when I do; I either get this overwhelming sense of guilt and disgust that I have to go out and do some exercise, or I get so fucking anxious because I haven’t ‘earned’ what I’ve just had that I sit completely restless, juddering around like a faulty washing machine. It is driving me (and other people) completely mad.
I know a huge part of it is a self-esteem thing. It somehow became ingrained in me many moons ago that thin = good. While I am MUCH better at saying no, not at all – healthy = good, and while I can override this and not let it have control over how I spend my time, it doesn’t take much for something to trigger my Awesome Self-Esteem. The first thing that seems to happen is an automatic set of comparisons of people around me, and I pick apart every single part of me. I then berate myself for living a life with any amount of enjoyment or fun thrown in there (because look at what it’s done to me, look at what it has made me), internalise it all and then I’m left with this overwhelming sense of how fucking worthless and fat I feel. And I do. I feel utterly enormous.
This is one of the things that pisses me off the most. Fat is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. Anxiousness, happiness, fearfulness, sadness, excitement, joy – these are all emotions – these are all things you can feel. But fat is not a feeling. And yet! If you ask me at any given time how I’m feeling, I can either lie and tell you I’m feeling okay, or be honest and tell you I feel like a fucking whale. It’s pretty much the first thing I think about when I wake up. It determines how I sit, how I allow myself to lay down, how I am around other people, how I walk, how I stand, how I interact. I try SO HARD to push it down and not let people know exactly how fucking enormous I feel, and sometimes I can hide it pretty well. But you bet that as soon as I have anything to eat (not really drink unless there are calories in it), I’ll be sitting trying to hide with my arms folded across my torso, holding my posture differently and wishing the earth would just swallow me whole. And I hate it.
Food is social. It’s fun and engaging. It’s how we bond, it’s something we share with people close to us. But it’s also a fucking battleground for me sometimes and I hate that it has this level of control over me. I wish to the heavens that I could stop feeling so fat, but I spend my life looking at other people and comparing them against me on autopilot (strangers in the street, people on TV – everyone) and coming up short every single time. I make comparisons so quickly and so automatically that it’s become second nature, and I internalise every single one. Heaven forbid there is any kind of ‘logical reason’ for a comparison against someone to be drawn, or where I already feel particularly inferior to a given individual. You can bet your last dollar that I will come off second best every single time, and it’ll just reinforce this absolute belief I have of being fat, lazy, inferior, fat, uneducated, stupid, fat, slow, rude, inconsiderate, fat, arrogant, selfish, neurotic, fat, and worthless.
I know that I have body dysmorphia – this is a given. A huge amount of people who have had an eating disorder in their past (or currently have one) will have suffered and likely still do suffer to an extent from body dysmorphia. Body dysmorphia is the annoying inability to know what the hell you actually look like. I honestly do not have a clue what I look like. I know what I feel like (ie, le podge), and I, therefore, believe that I am (take that, Descartes).
However, I also know that when I go clothes shopping, I start with the size 14-16s first. These are often a bit on the baggy side. So I migrate to the 12s, and if these are still roomy have to move to another size. You might think this could be logical evidence (I am a scientist after all) that maybe my perception of myself is skewed? No, no. There is such a thing as vanity sizing where shops make you feel better by taking what is actually a size 14 and sticking a size 10 label onto it. This is where we exist – in a land where a size 10 varies in size within the same shop (a recent trip – three different size 10 pairs of shorts in the same shop – one I struggled to fasten (hello, anxiety!), one was MAHOOSIVE and one fit – so what actually IS a size 10?). A particular size also varies from shop to shop. I always have to buy bigger sizes in Topshop than I do for Dorothy Perkins or Next. So asking what size clothing I wear, as if this is supposed to be logical evidence I can hook onto to stop feeling so fucking huge, doesn’t work. Sizes are not consistent and vanity sizing absolutely does exist, and I am utterly CONVINCED that each item of clothing I own is a testament to this.
So if I have no evidence that I can hook onto, it’s no fucking wonder I don’t know what I look like. How is anyone supposed to know?! Also, it’s not like my closest people are going to be honest with me and tell me I look fat – especially with my history. Plus, with me feeling so enormous, I’m just convinced they’re lying anyway. I hate admitting this because I hate that I’m effectively calling the people I love a bunch of liars, but it’s so much easier to believe the crappy things about myself where I have empirical evidence to back it up, than to believe the nicer things people say to me where I have no physical evidence of reality.
Three sources of evidence – all flawed. My own because I’m well aware I have Issues (don’t we all) and my perceptions are potentially skewed. My clothes because there’s so much variation. My nearest and dearest because I surround myself with people who actually care about other people’s feelings and aren’t cruel. What else is there to go from? I’m just stuck in this land of feeling horrendously fat until this bout of insecurity kindly sods off and then I can get back to actually enjoying my holiday and not bringing the people around me down.