Ok folks… this is going to be long & really personal, but I want to share because I know I’m not the only one going through this & maybe my experience can help.
Body dysmorphia is no joke. It takes time for the brain to catch up with the body, especially after major weight loss. I thought I had finally figured it out, but having my plastic surgeries so far has made it rear it’s head again. I was talking about it this morning with one of my sleeve sisters (I’m looking at you, Rima), so I decided to bring it up with my therapist.
For me, I can see myself the way I think others see me when I look at a picture, but something goes haywire when I just look at myself (in a mirror or just in the flesh)… I definitely don’t see the me from the pictures. So my therapist (if you don’t have a great one… go find one!!) asked me what goes on in my head when I look at myself, what are the voices in my head saying & how do I feel. If you’ve never actually spent time really listening to your voices, this may seem crazy, but I had a real conversation with my voice (seriously… I sat in the chair and spoke as my voice, then moved to the couch to speak as me!). I, as my voice, vocalized the thoughts I’ve been having when I look in the mirror… your thighs are still fat; you still need to lose more weight; you’re lazy; you need to exercise more; you snack too much… you get the idea. And then I asked the voice why it was being so critical, so negative & so unsupportive. The answer… I’m trying to help so you don’t get fat again.
Yeah, sit with that for a minute.
Why is there part of me that thinks that being mean is helpful? We all know people like that… people who think that pointing out your flaws or everything you do wrong is a good way to get you to do the right thing. They mean well, but gosh, they’re not really helpful! But those messages leave a mark, and if it’s someone important (a parent, close friend), we often internalize the hurt because we KNOW that’s not their intention… because they love us and would never say things like that to intentionally hurt us. And when we internalize, we’re protecting the person who hurt us instead of protecting ourselves. For me, that person is my dad. He’s a boy & he’s kind of clueless when it comes to being emotionally supportive, but I know that he loves me and would be absolutely devastated if he knew that his little offhanded comments had hurt me… and the last thing I ever want to do is hurt my dad!
So we’ve got a dilemma. And this is where my therapist had to step in. I don’t have to tell my dad that he hurt me… at least not to his face. But she could give voice to my dad… the part of my dad that knew that he had hurt me. This is so hard to write because I know it sounds crazy, but it’s my reality and crazy as it is, it has really helped me, so there it is. The part of my dad that knew he had hurt me was so sorry and said that it wasn’t my responsibility to protect him… that it was ok to let him take that from me. And in that moment it was like a weight was lifted & the image in my head was of my dad holding hands with the mean/helpful me and walking away, because mean/helpful me wasn’t needed any more. And I was left feeling like a weight was lifted and all that was left was the part of my dad who I’ve always been able to count on… to protect me & keep me safe.
So now I get to see what happens when I look in the mirror. That critical voice is gone for now. In its place is a loving and supportive voice. It’s still going to take some time to believe that what I see is really me, but I’m hoping it’ll get easier now that I’ve quieted that voice.
So, what are your voices saying when you look in the mirror? And what do you need to do to make peace?