#ARoseyOutlook: Every Rose Has Its Thorns
This is both one of the easiest and hardest blogs to write. Easiest because there is nothing I know more than my life-long obsession, and hardest because when I tell you about my obsession I am really letting you into my messed up mind.
But every Rose has its thorns, and in my case it's a friggin' bramble. So tread carefully.
I talked earlier this week about taking pictures of myself in a bikini so that I had references for "before" and "after" shots. I talked about wanting to wear a bikini in public the week of our wedding (98 days!). I talked about wanting to feel comfortable in my body, and about wanting to be able to see the progress I am making in my health and fitness goals.
Wearing a bikini may seem like an easy enough goal, but you need to understand: Since the age of 14 (So, nearly 20 years), I have worn a bikini in public exactly 3 times - and in all three times I covered up at least half my body - and in all three times I weighed 100 lbs and still completely hated my body and thought I looked fat.
When I shared this on the radio, I received the response of, "you don't need to worry, you look great," or, "if you think YOU are fat, look at ME."
And while all those responses are kind, and intended to make me feel better, they often leave me feeling frustrated. Because the TRUTH is that there is no size at which I will feel great. I could be in the best shape of my life and I will want to cover up with an over-sized T-shirt. My problem is not with my body, my problem is with my brain.
And it has ALWAYS been with my brain.
I was just a child, like still playing with dolls, the first time I can recall being very aware of how my stomach had rolls if I was sitting down. Or how my ankles were so much thicker than the other girls in school. Or how my butt had dimples if I squeezed it.
I was a young teenager the first time someone I loved very much told me, "you're so pretty, I can't even imagine how pretty you'd be if you were in better shape"
It was also around the same time someone I loved made pig noises if I went for second helpings of food.
And around the same time that I was encouraged to start going to the gym because I had been gaining a bit of weight. But, I didn't really WANT to go to the gym, even though I hated everything about myself when I looked in the mirror, so instead I ate the entire box of chocolate bars I was selling for school under the covers of my bed in less than an hour. Even though I felt ashamed, it also felt really, really good - as long as no one knew.
I was an older teenager when I did start to workout. That was around the time I realised I could eat less than 1000 calories, while working out for 2 hours each day, and I would quickly lose weight. And I received so much validation for what I was doing: I was skinny, and it was congratulated by pretty much everyone.
But that is tough to keep up, and it still didn't change how much I hated myself, so eventually I started getting bags of chips and chocolate bars and ice cream and eating it secretly in the car instead of going to class. And, even though I felt ashamed, it also felt really, really good - as long as no one knew.
I was in my early twenties when that became the norm for me. Except, I'd also realised that if I threw up or took a laxative afterwards it made the shame go away.
I was in my early twenties when I paid to have my makeup and hair done, got dolled up in a beautiful dress for my university formal, kissed my parents goodbye so I could drive to the dance...
but I felt like I looked so fat and so ugly that instead of going to my formal I drove to Krispy Kreme, got two 12 packs of doughnuts, and parked somewhere and ate them all. I stayed parked and listening to music until it was late enough in the night that I could drive home and my parents would think I had gone to the formal. When they asked how it was, I told them the dance was super fun.
When I would feel badly about myself, or express what I was going through, someone would always say, "If [insert someone bigger than me] can be confident, so can you." Or, "you have nothing to feel uncomfortable about, you look fine." As though it made ANY difference.
I was in my mid twenties when I went to Mexico with my friends and hated myself so much I spent every morning, afternoon and night in a heap on the hotel floor crying because I JUST COULDN'T...I couldn't go out in a bikini. I couldn't find ANYTHING that FIT RIGHT when we wanted to go out at night. I couldn't. I couldn't!
And when it happened my friends would say, "I don't like my body either but I still want to have a good time." They couldn't seem to understand that I WANTED to have a good time too, but I couldn't. I just ACTUALLY couldn't, it didn't WORK that way for me.
I was 27 when I managed to get myself to 100 lbs - on a 'good' day, it was 98 lbs. It was the usual tricks: eat less, count calories religiously, throw up if you overdid it, workout. Everyone thought I looked great. Literally, everyone. I was 27 and was the same weight I had been at the age of 12, and I still didn't think I looked okay. And people would say, "wow, you look great," but I still wore only the loosest of dresses. I still covered up. I still wasn't good enough. When I look at the pictures from then, I still wish I looked that way, even though I know what it took to get there.
I am 33 now and I have learned a lot:
I don't count calories anymore - for better or for worse.
I don't work out to be skinny anymore, I work out to be STRONG (and I owe this one to my fiance, Tom, who got me to change a lot of the way I approach health and fitness).
But dressing to go out is still crippling for me most times.
Eating in secret is still routine.
While I can do things I am super proud of - I can do sets of 8 consecutive strict pull ups, that took YEARS to achieve - I still look at skinnier times and wish I had that body instead of the stronger, but thicker, one I have now.
And purging, unfortunately, does still happen...though much, much, MUCH less. Barely ever. But it does.
And it is NOT to do with the size of my body. And it does not help me that 'you feel fat too' sometimes. Nor does it make me feel better that there are people 'who are bigger' than me, or that you think I look great the way I am.
My issues go way, WAY below surface and no matter what I look like on the outside, my inside will always fight this fight.
Which is why I took those pictures. MAYBE if I can put something side by side, I can have evidence that, despite what I think I see in the mirror, I HAVE made progress, and I SHOULD be proud.
In 98 days I get married. And for some crazy reason I have a goal of wearing a bikini in public the weekend after the wedding. I am well aware that even if I wear a bikini in public at that time, I will not be 'healed'. And I know that, no matter how hard I work, I will never actually FEEL like I reached my goal when it comes to my body.
And I am well aware that my BIGGEST goal isn't physical, it is mental.
But this is me. And these are my thorns.