Body dysmorphia is one of my coping mechanisms. It crops up when I feel out of control, when I feel the need to protect myself, when I need something comforting and familiar. It seems odd to think of something so negative as protective but it's a pattern. It's what I know. So when things feel out of control, I return to it like a well-worn sweater.
I've noticed my body image going bonkers over the past two weeks. In tandem, I've been engaging in some eating and drinking that I've realized was coming from two not-so-great places: one of numbing and one of self-harm. The numbing is obvious, particularly when it comes to alcohol. To explain the self-harm -- I sometimes overeat so that I can berate myself later. I knowingly eat 4 Oreos instead of 2 so that when I feel bad later (pain from the infidelity crops up, for example), I can justify it in my mind ("this is all actually your fault because you no longer have self-control and your body is falling apart"). This is dark and a bit sad but it's the ugly truth that exists when I lift up the rock of "why am I doing this?".
I know it's body dysmorphia because this pattern has occurred so many times that I can now go back and look at pictures from times I remember it happening. I look at those photos and realize I looked nothing like I thought I did at the time. And now, despite my coach Hanna promising that I look exactly the same and even catching glimpses of myself working out and thinking that I look exactly the same, mostly I avoid mirrors because I can feel that I'm so much bigger. I would guess that it doesn't make sense if you haven't experienced it. The best way I can explain it is just a feeling -- a feeling of being bigger, of being out of control, of no longer being good enough.
The awareness is there: this is body dysmorphia, this is disordered, this is a coping mechanism coming from a place of trauma. This is also sometimes self-sabotage. The awareness is at least a step in the right direction. The next steps -- challenging the thoughts and dissecting the fact from the fiction are still a little out of reach. The process of learning this pattern took awhile so it stands to reason the process of unlearning will also take some time. I know there has been progress. It's just slow. Over the past week alone I've examined my reliance on appearance to define my self-worth, said some things aloud to therapists and friends that I had only said in my head (and it's amazing how much less power something holds once you expand your circle), and confronted some very painful rumination that I've been battling for the past 6 months. As hard as it is, I'm acknowledging that body dysmorphia, this toxic form of perfectionism, is a coping mechanism that no longer serves me. [It never truly did but we've had a good long run.] I'm breaking up with it. Unlearning.
It's a journey, and it's a lot. Steady as she goes. If you are muddling through your own shit during this dark and cold season, I'm with you. Keep with it.