''I Cannot Trust What I See In The Mirror!''
The terrifying feeling of body dysmorphia
For the last month, I have been practicing letting go of residual habits from my eating disorder. I realized that even after recovering, I still had some rules about when to eat or what to eat. I still had my inner critic that was watching my food intake over my shoulder. Even though I wasn't constantly hyper-aware of what I was eating, I wouldn’t say I completely got rid of my toxic mindfulness over food (This is not the good kind of mindfulness, but an extreme one that does not allow me to have a free and spontaneous relationship with food). I always found it challenging because I was convinced that if I did not stay ''mindful'' around food, I would gain an unimaginable amount of weight. Thus, letting go of my residual eating disorder habits and letting myself be ''inattentive'' around food indirectly meant letting go of my fear of weight gain. I thought to myself ''Am I always going to have anxious thoughts around food and fear that I will gain weight? I don't wanna live like this way!'' and decided to do something about the situation.
Rebelling against the fear of weight gain; I did not weigh myself, avoided looking in the mirror. I ate freely, I ate whenever I felt like eating. I kept myself busy so that I had no time to stop and think about what my belly and my legs look like. This rebellion went on for three weeks until I weighed myself one morning. Everything came crashing down.
I got really mad at myself and felt disappointed. Despite the fact that I knew that no outcome would leave me feeling good when I weighed myself, my Healthy Adult could not manage the situation and I stepped on the scale anyway (Yes, even someone who has recovered can experience this!).
Panicking, I went in front of the mirror and started examining my body. I saw a body that was larger than before, a belly pouch that was sticking out more, and legs that were thicker than they were before. I felt tingling sensations in my chest and my heart rate went up. I started walking around the house with free-floating anxiety in my bloodstream. When my boyfriend saw what was going on, he told me that he does not see any changes in my body. He then suggested that I may be seeing myself in the mirror differently than what I really look like. A light bulb lit over my head: body dysmorphia?
The idea that my body dysmorphia may have been acting up did not calm me down though, because it meant something even scarier:
''I cannot trust what I see in the mirror!''
I felt like I was -by definition- ''going crazy'' because I literally could not trust my senses. My eyes were showing me that I had gotten bigger, I could touch and feel my body to be larger. At the same time, there was also a high possibility that my senses were lying to me. I could not be empirical, because everything I was seeing was somehow distorted. But I could see myself larger! I could literally see it! How could something that I can see, something that I can physically feel be wrong?
The fact that my senses were lying to me was much more disturbing than the possibility that I had gained weight. Body image issues can and do cause our senses to delude us. We want to trust our senses to accurately reflect reality. It is simply terrifying and unsafe feeling when we feel like we cannot trust them. It is an isolating feeling, to feel like you are going crazy; while from the outside, everything seems fine to other people. If this is your reality every day, every moment; it makes sense that you are feeling vulnerable and alone.
If you see your body change before and after eating, ask your partner if people on the street are skinnier than you because you genuinely have no clue what you look like; you are not the only one. It is a part of your eating disorder.
If you recognize parts of yourself while reading my diary, it is your sign to seek professional help. You do not have to live feeling unsafe, you deserve to live a life where you live in peace with your body; a life where you can trust what you see in the mirror, your senses and most importantly, your body.