The third party, AKA; a partner

I am not necessarily one of analogies, however, sometimes they really do help make a point.

The other day, as I was thinking of how to explain the chaos in my head and its effect on my (physical) confidence, I realized something. That, my relationship with my body is like an abusive relationship. Yes, I know, what an epiphany right? But I don’t just mean that I abuse my body (which I have and occasionally still do), but, that the relationship is very much like an actual abusive marriage. Let me explain.

The abusive relationship takes place in a supposedly safe haven (the home, or in this case, my head). It is thus separated from the outside world and from external interference. It’s not something you would easily discuss with others. And this is how it can subsist, because, no one can intervene if they are not in the know. Trouble arises though, when there is a third party involved. Let’s say that, in the analogy, your sister gets evicted and needs to crash at your place while she is in between houses. In my self-abusive relationship, the third party could be a partner. Both times, there’s someone wiggling its way into the privacy of this abusive relationship. Someone is (about) to become aware of it.

You can’t hide the fact your husband beats you around the house daily for your sister who is now living in the same space. Just like I can’t hide the fact I (verbally) abuse my body daily to someone who is to share this physical realm with me.

I have good days, sometimes even good weeks. Times like those, I can follow my intuition and my heart. ‘Wanna stay over at my place tonight?’ all of a sudden becomes a very plausible option. ‘Do I want to? I think I do? Okay!’

Kiss me, as therapy, or give me, butterflies, alternatively

Kiss me, as therapy, or give me, butterflies, alternatively

But then, there’s the not good days, or even weeks. All of a sudden I want to hibernate, I don’t want to see people, not even him. And if I do find a way to push myself to drop by for a moment, I come up with the lamest excuse to go home at 3.30 AM just so I don’t have to spend the night. This is already confusing to myself, let alone to someone else!

Having him in my chaos-space, in my physical realm, means things will come to light that I have always kept to myself. The sister staying at your place will mean the unseen will be seen. This does too. And so, it needs to be addressed.

Having your sister in your abusive home helps you shed some light on your situation as well. What has become normal to you, all of a sudden feels not normal. The fact you feel as though someone is intruding your personal (secret) space, the fact you WANT to hide it, already emphasises that it’s not normal to you either. Your sister may even be able to help pull an escape card.

Having a third party in my personal space helps me shed light on the fact I am still not totally at terms with my (new) (physical) self. That I am not as okay with my body as I thought I was. That it is not judgement of someone else I am fearing, but that it is the judgement I have already impeded on myself that is the abnormal here. That it’s not normal to secretly bash myself daily. Maybe having someone in this space can help me break the habit.

What it takes, though, is honesty. Soul baring honesty. Firstly, it means honestly admitting to myself that I ain’t all that okay with myself yet, not as much as I thought I was, anyway. It means admitting I still have quite some work to do. And secondly, it means being honest with my third party. About my own struggles, about my body image issues and about my mood/confidence swings. About it being internal rather than external, but still involving him in the process. Someone else is not going be the answer or the solution, but they can help shed some light and lend a helping hand at times.

To figure out my ‘self’

Addictions are, in most cases, ways to dodge life. Coping mechanisms to avoid facing the truth, to avoid feeling difficult feelings, experiencing hurt and sorrow, making choices, etc. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that our addictions can make us forget who we really are. Or were. Or wanted to become.

I know that, when I embarked on the road of recovery, I found myself completely clueless of who I had become and who I once was. Was there a me left or was it just my addiction? Who was I without my addiction? Who was Sooz? What was her core? Her values? What was she good at, what did she like, what didn’t she like? What were her goals, motivations, plans? I was completely lost for any of those answers.

So I made lists. Religiously. About anything and everything really, but also about ‘me’. And I made others’ do the same. My mom, my best friends. I asked them, too, to make lists or ABC’s of things that reminded them of me. Just so I could get a grip again on who I was, who I was to others, who I was to me and to figure out who I wanted to become. You can’t make choices if you don’t have a clue of the direction you want to go. In order to recover and ‘find myself again’, I had to understand where it was that I was heading. To lead the life of the woman who I wanted to become, I needed to understand who she was.

In learning to find, accept and eventually love myself, I needed an understanding of what that ‘self’ was.

green green grass

If you struggle with the same thing, find that you  are lost in who you are and who you want to be in the future, maybe doing something similar could help. Like making lists or collages or mood boards or ABC’s etc of things that you like or love. Things that suit you, that make you happy, that mean something to you. You could ask others to do the same thing as well. What things spur to mind when they think of you? What do they appreciate about you? My collages had quotes, colours, fabrics, words, photo’s. My ABC’s (my own and others’) were not focussed on physical references (“tall”? I knew that!), but words like “truth”, “mom”, or, “bare feet in cooling grass”. Things that feel close to your heart, or that once did and with which you would like to reconnect. Memories, plans and things to figure out. It doesn’t have to be clear, or even ‘graspable’, as long as they mean something to you.

What makes you your unique and beautiful and amazing (and maybe sometimes annoying) you? What are some words that spring to mind when you think of ‘your self’?

PS: I am linking this post to the gorgeous Anne-Sophie, who is hosting a ‘self-love blogging carnival’ this week. Do check it out!
 

Finding body-peace

As I mentioned before, this blog seems to be slowly dying. And I’m sort of okay with that. Though the chaos in my head will never vanish, – I have accepted it is a part of who I am -, it is no longer what controls me. Chaos is a part of me, I am not a prisoner of my chaos.

Also, in recovery, I have come a long way over the past two / 2,5 years. I do not by any means consider myself recovered. I still struggle with body-image, still binge and still let how I judge my body influence how I feel and how I act too much too often. However, I can put things into perspective again. Pick up right where I left within a matter of minutes. Be spontaneous (again? was I ever before??). Laugh, dance, flirt, travel and LIVE again. And in the end, I believe all of this has made me a more complete and understanding person.

I still have a few posts in mind that I might or might not be writing in the coming future though, and today is the day I want to talk to you about (struggling with) body image. Call it what you want, right now, I’ll stick to body-peace, because acceptance sounds like something external and love sounds like something a little too overwhelming. So, peace it is. And I kinda like the sound of it. Plus, peace, in my mind, is something mutual. I am at peace with my body, but (quite miraculously after all I’ve put it through), my body is at peace with me again as well.

First of all, my picture post was partially meant as a reminder how eating disorders (or food addictions, I know you’re reading!) are about bodies. I never developed this because I wanted to lose weight. I didn’t like my sickly, skinny body. But ironically, my recovery (for a large part, anyway) wás about my body. In matter of months to  a year I doubled in weight (no, not kidding), none of my clothes fitted me anymore (I even outgrew my shoes!), my body started doing things that belonged to puberty (which had been ten years!), and everybody commented on my change in appearance. I immensely struggled with this, and I’d like to show some things that helped me along the way.

Basically, it comes down to this: Touch it. Rub it. Watch it. Dress it. Love it. Let it be loved. Lemme break it down for ya:

  • Touch : Schedule some quality bathroom time. Take a long shower or a hot bath. Wash your hair, use some really nice soapy product. Feel that soft skin, untangle your hair, let the tears flow away with that hot shower water.  Let the water cleanse physically and emotionally.
  • Rub : After getting out of the shower or your bath tub, take time to lavish yourself in crème or lotion. Gently rub every inch of your body, without judging it. Almost like a mantra : Now I am putting lotion on my legs, lotion on my bum, lotion on my tummy, lotion on my boobs, lotion on my arms, now I lotion my shoulders, my neck, lotion my face, etc. Comb your hair, spray your favourite perfume. Just take the time to feel your body without being judgmental.
  • Watch : You can already do this while showering and while lotioning. See your body for what it is, not for what it could be, should be or has been. If, like me, your body changed rapidly, it is not at all weird that your body feels foreign. Sometimes passing a mirror or a shop window would literally make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up straight. That was me?! And then I got two mirrors for in my home, both in spots I’d normally just pass. So not in the bathroom or closet door, but in my hallway and in my kitchen. Why? Because now I was confronted with my reflection more often, and more off-guard. I literally made myself get used to the confrontation, and after a while, it didn’t shock me anymore.  I would notice how different clothing made me feel and look different. I noticed some days I didn’t look all that bad. Sometimes, at night in pitch black darkness, my reflection caught a little outside-city-light and I’d notice my contours in the mirror as I’d sneak through the house naked for a midnight bathroom stop. I would see myself in all different kinds of light, literally as well as figuratively. That soft golden hour light, that harsh artificial lighting, gloomy grey day light or bright and sunny daylight. All and all, I got used to seeing myself, started to accept that reflection as mý reflection again.
  • Love : As I just mentioned, I think being gentle with yourself and non-judgemental are the first big steps. Letting your body be without focussing on what it coulda/shoulda/woulda been is not easy. Not to mention to stop comparing yourself to people you pass on the streets, on TV or in magazines. But taking it a step further, is to actively appreciate and, dare I say, love it. Now, I am not saying I am now the queen of body love (or even acceptance), but what I mean is this: When you have a ‘good day’ (which does NOT equal a ‘skinny day’ !! ), say it. Out loud. To yourself. To your reflection. When you catch yourself in the mirror and realize you don’t look all that bad today. When you catch a glimpse of your tummy/legs/arms when taking a shower and you kinda like that wet and soft skin, when you put on your new dress or check your freshly done hair/make up, tell yourself that, – damn girl! -, you look fine! You don’t have to always feel comfortable or great, but just make sure you actively state it when you do!
  • Be loved : Ooooooooo lord am I going here? Briefly! Yes. I am not saying external validation is what body love should be about. Stop comparing, stop the deadlines, stop the start-overs, stop judging. Be okay with being okay. We all know people will always have opinions, and even though they mean well most of the time, a LOT of people will be commenting on your new look as you slowly get back to a healthy weight. As I explained, most of those comments aren’t even about your new weight, but about the life and fire and stars and brightness that is coming to life in your eyes again. But there is more to letting others love your body. It is getting vulnerable, honest, naked. It is accepting someone else doing the same. It’s dead scary and exhilarating at the same time. Having someone else not run away screaming, and making myself not do so either for that matter!, was a bigger relief than I would have liked to admit. But now, I sort of see how helpful it is to have someone else confirm the fact that this (new) body is fine the way it is. That it doesn’t have to look like it did when I was 18 anymore. Because I’m not. We all change, and that is totally okay.

I think this was already a lot to take in, so I’m leaving it at this for now. But please do comment with additional tips and tricks you have found useful in this journey of self(re)acceptance. Some of the best stuff happens right below in the conversations flowing from this comment box, so share away!

Love, Sooz