I read an article the other day about a bodily development called a “hip dip.” It’s this apparently very common occurrence where your hips meet your legs and causes a “dip,” like a violin. It may not seem like much, but for a lot of us it is. I’ve had body dysmorphic disorder my entire adult life. Realistically, I’ve never been more than 140 lbs, which isn’t much when you consider that I’m 5’6’’ and have DDD’s. That and it’s just a number that doesn’t necessarily indicate much and has too many variables to really mean anything.
Yet I don’t keep a scale in my house. I don’t trust myself to have those positive thoughts when I step on it and see a pound more than what I want to see. There are many types of dysmorphia, mine obviously centers around my weight and body fat. I could literally not gain a single pound of fat, and the knowledge that I haven’t worked out in a week or that I ate too much sugar could convince me otherwise. I could look exactly the same and be so sure that I gained fat around my hips or legs or whatever it was that week. The power of the mind on human senses is astonishing.
Even now at 25, I’ll visit my parents, they’ll wrap their arms around me, and I’ll hold my breath in anticipation of the eventual “honey, you’re so skinny! Did you lose more weight?” This will sound like gold to me but I know that they are worried when they say it. I don’t know if either of them really knew that I was ever anorexic at any point, but I feel like these comments and them overfeeding me every time I’m home confirms that they do. At the same time, I chastise myself for worrying about something so meaningless. I’m healthy, probably more than the average person, and I have much much more important things to be worrying about. None of that seems to matter to that other voice in my head.
I assumed that at some point I would outgrow it, but so far I’ve been wrong. Variables don’t seem to matter, either. I have a very loving partner, who tells me on a constant basis that I’m beautiful and who makes me feel wanted. He’s even gotten me to start running (I have a very love/hate relationship with running but it’s something I’ve always wanted to get better at, from a survivalist point of view.) I’m learning very quickly that it’s not the opinion of others that determines the strength of this demon. It’s all me.
This is both comforting and completely terrifying. I wouldn’t really ever want to be the type of person who NEEDS the validation of others to determine my self esteem (that is not to say I don’t sometimes seek it, we all do.) The idea that I’m the only one who can tame this thing is still unsettling. On one hand, I have never understood the meaning of the words “give up,” in that exact order. On the other hand, it seems to not understand that either. It is possible that I will be battling it for the rest of my life.
I’m not sure what all of this sounds like to someone who has never dealt with body issues or eating disorders. I’m sure to some of you it sounds dramatic. Allow me to give you a few examples of how it affects my daily life; I’m notoriously the one at the bar or restaurant who can never seem to pick what I want. I’m always the one who orders last. I get picked on mercilessly by my favorite bartenders and my friends for it. I don’t mind. They don’t know that it’s because I am having an all out war in my head, even over just one drink. I’ll go with the intention of just ordering whatever. I’ll get a burger this time. I’ll get a mixed drink or a beer that I like. Seems simple, I convince myself that I will do this and it will be easy and it’s just one goddamn drink. But it never is. When the spotlight is on me and I’m the last person who hasn’t ordered, I freeze. I haven’t decided because there is a voice screaming inside me, saying “that’s too much sugar”, “you should get something without bread”, “vodka is gross, but it’s virtually void of calories and sugar,” etc.
Food is eons worse, though. The only time I’m seemingly able to eat in peace is when I’m stoned or completely wasted. And that’s probably because I forgot to eat before I went out drinking and my body goes into starvation mode and I will eat anything in sight. I realize that this is counterproductive, because alcohol metabolizes fat and sugar differently.
Picking out what I’m going to wear is definitely dependent on what I’m doing. Unfortunately, I have noticed that the level at which I begin worrying more about how I look raises exponentially if I am with my partner in public. It’s not difficult to guess that this is due to me comparing myself to other women. I have a few guesses as to why this is a thing, but that is for another time.
If you’ve ever heard someone tell a story about their LSD trip, you will most likely hear about the mirror effect; the first time they look in the mirror after hours of complete nonsense and adventure. Just a glance and it’s a strange sight, but you get on with your day. If you stare into your reflection long enough, it will begin to morph and twist with the hallucinatory effects of the LSD. It doesn’t bother everyone, but it is bound to be an unsettling experience; your pupils might start to look demonic in size, your hair might start moving on it’s own; you might start seeing little worms coming out of your pores. None of it is real, of course. But tell that to your hallucinating self at the time. The same goes for me. The longer I stare at my body’s reflection in the mirror, the more it morphs. The more flaws that I seemingly pull out of thin air. Until, much like people on a bad acid trip, I begin to itch at my own skin and lose my sanity (momentarily.)
Which brings me back to this hip-dip thing. I didn’t know something that had caused me so much pain and discomfort in my own skin was so common, let alone that it was the way my body grew, that it wasn’t even necessarily fat. There were so many responses to the single article that I came across, including fitness junkies who had worked every ounce of body fat off of their body had and it still wasn’t gone. No matter how hard they worked at it. It makes sense, I thought, I don’t have that much fat on my body, the idea of having love handles seemed a little unbelievable.
This knowledge that I wasn’t the only one relieved me at first; there is a certain amount of comfort in knowing that there are so many other people dealing with the same thing you are. As the day went on, I realized that this also meant that I would never likely get rid of this thing I’d vehemently hated my whole adult life. I’m trying to use that as a source of relief as well. I can’t get rid of it, so I might as well learn how to love it.
I hope I can get there someday.