Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Body Image Bear

Today I happened upon a Women's article called "Wrestling the Body Image Bear." Holy crap that struck a nerve. It's an amazing article about women and physical body image and how it affects their marriage relationships. As a single woman I don't get that part so much, but I surely could identify with the whole concept of feeling undesirable and ugly, yet having someone love me because of or in spite of those things - looking at the real me.

I've been very, very blessed with a wonderful community of friends who remind me daily that I am a beautiful woman. They remind me that beauty is who a person is, not what she looks like. Beauty is a product of love, and if that's the case, then considering all the friends who love me, I am the most beautiful woman in the world.

I have a God who places my worth above rubies. He showers me with blessings and gifts that I cannot begin to thank Him for. He loves me with an everlasting love and He designs all things for my best. Even in a situation as bleak as Monday's, He can bring beauty out of that ugliness. He has given me back my voice to speak words of pain and healing and power so that the evil done to me cannot rule me.

As I was researching images to use to illustrate this article, I came upon a blog called "fat feminism" which I plan to read religiously. The woman who writes it calls herself a "Rubens Woman," referring to Paul Rubens, the famous painter of curvaceous, voluptuous, larger-than-life beauties of a time long past. On her blog I found an article, "Spock Does Fat," about a wonderful photography collection by none other than the inimitable Leonard Nimoy. The collection, "Full Body Project," is online and fabulous.

My favorite photo is at the bottom of this page. It is a wonderful shot of sexy, vibrant women who are beautiful, joyful, and unashamed of who they are. I want to be that. I want to BELIEVE I'm as beautiful as these women. I want to BELIEVE I'm as beautiful as my friends tell me. And you know what? One of these days I will.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find a stairway and dance.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Primal Scream
god is a son of a bitch
with a sick and twisted
sense of humor

i am too fat
for the people
who study fat people
i have no worth
and they can't see me

numb numb numb
dead inside
screaming in my head
sound with no words
a shell echoing
my skin a shroud
an animated corpse
flesh sans anima

what game are you playing
how many arrows will pierce
my armor

i died
and my body doesn't know it

There's been a lot going on over the last six months. I have had periods of great joy and fun - like going on a cross country adventure with an internet friend whom I'd never met in person. We had a BLAST! I met Dave Barry, met a whole bunch of other internet friends and just exhausted myself with fun and pleasure. I didn't know I was gonna need such a storehouse of it to draw on.

More recently I have had a prolonged period of great despair, depression and grief. My mother died ... (I don't think I've written that just that way yet ... deep breath ....) My mother died September 1 of an acute attack of pancreatitis with renal failure. I have now survived the very worst day of my entire life, barring the death of a child or spouse. In fact, my mother was very much like my spouse in that she was the person I always went to first for everything. Her death has left a gaping, raw wound in my life and it can never be filled. Not ever.

Let's add insult to injury now, shall we?

I had my group therapy last night and it was going so well. I felt like I was getting so much out of it. Then our therapist (who is also my individual therapist now) mentioned that right as group was finishing, we were going to have a graduate student come in to talk to us about a study of binge eating disorder she was doing for her doctorate. It's a study on the brain's reward recognition system for binge eaters because there's been some indication lately that whatever makes up this system in normal eaters is lacking or missing entirely from binge eaters. I was so psyched because binge eaters are the stepchildren of the DSM IV. Or maybe it's V or VI now. Anyway, we're given really short shrift in the psychiatric community and I can't help but think that there's still some stigma, even among eating disorder specialists, that what binge eaters are lacking is simply discipline or willpower. That is not the case.

Anyway, I was so excited that finally someone was doing some work in this arena and I was really excited at the possibility of being a part of this survey. It would mostly consist of an interview and an MRI taken while engaged in two games with monetary rewards with the purpose of mapping the neural pathways used. Then she dropped the bomb. Participants have to have a BMI between 30 and 40 to participate. I was crushed and felt utterly humiliated - I was stunned because once again I was simply inadequate, incompetent, worthless. Here I was being given a chance to do a study on fat people* but, oh, so sorry, honey - you're too FAT for it. SONOFAFUCKINGBITCH!!!!! I mean WHAT THE HELL? You come into a group of eating disordered patients, get their hopes up and then tell them they're not QUALIFIED for your STUPID study?! What kind of a moron ARE YOU?!?! You claim to have six years' experience working in this field and yet it NEVER OCCURS TO YOU that you are preying on the minds of extraordinarily vulnerable people?!

(OK, so it's really not a study on fat people. There are plenty of folks out there with BED who are not fat like I am fat, but that's how I felt upon hearing this, so that's how I wrote it.)

Honest to God, I was completely numb for about 5 minutes. I knew that I was upset, but I didn't know how much. I did manage to ask why the limitations and learned that the MRI machine can only take a body so big and still have room to maneuver. THEN WHY NOT DO YOUR STUDY AT A LOCATION WITH AN OPEN-SIDED MRI so that you can actually serve the population you claim to be studying?!?! At this rate you're only going to get moderately overweight folks who will suffer from BED in conjunction with restriction and/or purging. How can someone suffer from BED alone without being my size? Maybe my view is narrow, but I can't see how that's possible.

I was furious, but well beyond that I was HURT. The adjectives that exist to describe the intensity of the pain that ripped through me over this are perfectly inadequate. I am well aware that I have extremely intense feelings, but I make no apology for that fact. As Monk would say, it's a blessing...and a curse.

By the time I realized how much pain I was in, I was in the car and driving away. I was WRACKED with sobs to the point I couldn't breathe. I had to detour into a parking lot and just sit there while I raged impotently and screamed and beat the ceiling of the car with my hand. It was some minutes before I was capable of anything remotely resembling rational thought.

One of the things we learn in therapy is that all emotion is the same - it comes, it peaks, it passes. Period. So I let myself ride the wave, as overwhelming as it was and as much as I felt like I was drowning in pain. And indeed that pain was made far more intense by understanding that the person with whom I would have shared it is no longer with me. My mother, my confidante, my best friend. My Significant Mother. I wept and wept for that loss as well.

How's that for a hideous fucking day?

Eventually, the pain did begin to recede, much as waves at the shore. They roll in until high tide comes and erases all the beach in its path, then it gentles and rolls out and each successive wave comes in a little less far than its predecessor. So it is with pain. We cannot live on a steady diet of pain any more than we can live on a steady diet of celery. We have to have joy to balance the pain, and that also comes in waves.

Today I am angry. The hurt is still there underlying the pain, but today I can work with it instead of feeling like an overused pin cushion. I will call my therapist. I will talk with her about how I felt about this. And I will tell her what I need from her, starting with an apology.

There is great embarrassment and shame in admitting to the depth of my emotion, but at the same time there is great empowerment in telling my story. Thank you for letting me.

No, I am not insane. Yes, I have issues - BIG ones. Yes, I am working my way through them. No, I am not generally violent. No, I am not as private a person as perhaps I ought to be. So be it. I apologize for nothing.

Pardon me while I comfort the beast chained in my heart.