I stand in front of the mirror, tugging at the hem of the pajama pants that I wear often because the elasticized waist and loose legs make me feel less body conscious. It’s the end of the day, so I’ve washed off all the makeup that adorned my face earlier and piled my hair on top of my head in a messy bun. I can barely keep my eyes open any longer from exhaustion, but still I unfortunately find myself taking part in something that’s become a sort of sadistic ritual; I examine myself from the front and the side, trying to convince myself that the person in the mirror is unworthy and hideous.
Oftentimes, I manage to. It’s something that’s so deeply ingrained in my thought process that I’ll occasionally catch myself thinking it even when I’ve managed to wake up that morning feeling somewhat ambivalent about the way I look. And ambivalence is really the best that it gets.
Sighing heavily, I remove my glasses so that the image in the mirror becomes fuzzy and unfocused. Then I slide into bed, letting my eyes close and allowing the person in the mirror a brief respite from the demons in my mind.
Body dysmorphia is only part of the struggle. Having anorexia nervosa, anxiety, and depression is sort of the perfectly potent concoction that causes me to constantly be unhappy with the person I see staring back listlessly at me at the end of every day. I find myself picking out all the flaws I believe I see, no matter how little. There are terrifying dark circles under my eyes. My skin is scarred and vaguely sallow looking. My body is too wide. My thighs now manage to brush against each other. There are lines on my forehead from where my expression creases into a frown, which is far too often.
Why is it so difficult to love the person I am? These aren’t things that I would ever dream of saying to anyone else; nor are they things that I ever think about others. Never does a negative thought cloud my mind when I see other people milling around me. It’s as if I’m constantly the ugly duckling in a sea of swans. And my severely lacking and injured confidence radiates from me in what I envision as a dark, angry, swirling cloud of sadness.
Why is it so easy to insult the person I am? Why is it so simple to sling hateful words at my reflection with such a vengeful force I’m surprised the mirror doesn’t shatter sometimes?
When my disorder had its hands gripped tightly around my throat with a hold that threatened to end my life, I had these thoughts. And even though now I’ve made tremendous strides towards putting my anorexia in the corner where it can’t hurt me, I still have these thoughts. They’re poisonous and vitriolic, and they’re virtually never-ending.
Explaining this to others is difficult. True, I’ve managed to be compliant for over a month and a half now. This means that I’ve restrained myself from engaging in self-destructive behaviors like restricting and overexercising. But I haven’t managed to restrain myself from thinking so overwhelmingly negatively about myself with a constant barrage of barbed words.
Soon I will be transitioning to IOP. If I think about where I was just a few months previous, it’s like comparing night and day. The person I was then was emaciated and sickly looking. She had lost all her happiness, sort of like a depressingly deflated balloon. The person I am now is healthier looking, with a faint vibrancy about her that’s come as a result of better nutrition and self-care habits. She’s regained some of her happiness and no longer looks at the world through eyes completely clouded over with hopelessness. But she still looks at herself with eyes clouded over with lies.
I know that my disorder is cruel. I know that it’s the voice whispering malignantly in my head. I know that what I see and what truly is differ greatly, like night and day themselves. I can rationally separate the truthful thoughts from the deceitful ones. But there is nothing more difficult than that.
The image I’ve selected to accompany this post is one I took this morning. It shows me smiling, which is something I’ve been finding myself doing more and more lately. And it also shows the semicolon ring I wear as a daily reminder to myself that every moment, every breath, is a gift. To live is the greatest opportunity I will ever receive, and it’s frightening when I think about the dark times I’ve been incapable of seeing that.
They say that seeing is believing. In my case, though, the complete opposite is true. As the weeks continue and I progress further and further in my recovery, my vision starts to clear a little, though. Bit by little bit, I can perceive the girl the rest of the world sees. Bite by bite, I begin to regain control of my life and my health. It’s an incredibly difficult battle to fight, but I soldier on.
A friend of mine from my journey shared a quote once that I found incredibly powerful. I decided to make a piece of art out of it.
For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse. So collapse. Crumble. This is not your destruction. This is your birth.”
Recovery means collapsing. Recovery means crumbling. Recovery means surrendering myself to the most difficult challenge I’ve ever faced every single minute of every single day. It means blind faith and it means cautious optimism. It means the ability to stand there in my pajamas, without my makeup on and with my hair tied up, and tell myself that I’m beautiful, which I’m proud to say I managed to do the other day. And it means actually believing those words.
Recovery is so worth it.
Someday soon I hope to believe that I am too.