I haven’t binged, purged, or done that weird thing where I chew my food and spit it out since August 27th. This is not to say that I haven’t over-eaten or made bad food choices, but I haven’t gone too far astray since before Labor Day. I feel this is something to celebrate.
I have also had several conversations with myself where I’ve acknowledged the fact that “conquering” my food and body issues may ultimately mean doing so only in an internal, spiritual way. My physical body may never change (at least on the outside), and I need to be okay with that.
I was starting to believe I could be.
Then I see one photo of myself and am reminded how much work still lies ahead.
My family went to an awards banquet for my father last night. He was nominated for an Educator of the Year Award. The nominees were judged 50% on their own speech and 50% on the essay their nominators wrote about them. With these as the voting guidelines, my dad should have easily crushed his competitors. His speech was powerful, fluid, and void of the million cliches all the other speakers used. I think his downfall was that he was too good, though. He doesn’t speak or think like a middle school teacher; he speaks and thinks like a college professor- and not one of the near-retirement, jaded and cynical variety either. Anyway, I think his words might have been a little too sophisticated for the judging panel (the man referenced the Gordian Knot, for christ sakes). This is not to put down anyone in the room, or belittle what K-12 educators do. My dad has influenced countless lives as a middle school teacher and high school basketball coach. But sometimes it saddens me to see glaring examples of how much he really settled in life. I wonder how much of what he chose to do with his career was because of my sister and I. Without us, would he have felt less tied down to the goals he made in his twenties? Would he have gone off and done even greater things? Or would he have never gone back to school in the first place and still be working a blue-collar job at J.G. Boswell company? Either way, I spent the evening proud of him- proud of the respect he has rightfully earned from his peers and the community, proud of the values he has instilled in my sister and I, and proud that (whether or not this is the life he would have picked for himself) he has done so much with the path he has taken.
My grandparents were in attendance, cute as ever. My sister was there too, and I always feel like a truer version of myself in her presence. With the exception of some awkward dinner conversation with other people at the table and a few really bad speeches, it was a great night. At the end of the event, it was picture time. They were taking several of our family for the local newspaper and school records and things like that, which I dutifully lined up for. Then I asked someone to take a picture of me and my sister with our grandparents; I’ve been on a kick, trying to get as many pictures of my Granny and Poppa as possible while they’re still alive.
When I saw the photo on my iPhone screen, my heart sank. Staring back at me was a gigantic, ugly, insecure, unhappy football linebacker with round cheeks and an ill-fitting ensemble. I immediately began tearing into myself. My sister had to stop me. I’m ashamed to admit she had to stop me several times over the course of the next 12 hours, because even this morning I had to bring up how frustrating it is to have had a breast reduction and still feel like I have humongous, saggy tits that make me look 10 years older than I really am. She tried to help by reassuring me that I didn’t look any different in the picture than I did in real life. This (unintentionally, of course) made me feel worse. I made myself post the image on my Facebook, because I have been wanting a picture of me with my grandparents to use as my cover image. Although I uploaded the picture, I couldn’t go so far as to make it my cover photo. I have gone round and round about deleting the picture all-together for the last fourteen hours, horrified every time I see my face and figure in it, but subdued when I look at the kind and lovely faces of my family. Bottom line is, for whatever strides I have made in food management and talking to the mirror, I still have some major body dysmorphia concerns. I can acknowledge I’ve made enough progress to recognize this solely as dysmorphia and not any true reflection of reality. I know my eyes are playing tricks on me; but I have not quite got to the point where I can figure out how to see beyond that.
I say this not to complain, but to state a marker point for where I am in my recovery. Three months without binging or purging is a mile-stone and something I am very proud of- but I have more battles ahead.
And I am up to the fight.
I will try to leave the picture up. I will try to even promote it to my cover photo at some point; to remind myself not only how much I love my grandparents and sister, but that I am more than any one picture- that I am more than any or all of my physical characteristics.
Please, no comments about ‘You’re beautiful, Haley” or anything like that on this post. Though I appreciate the sentiment, that’s not what I am aiming at here, nor does approval from other people necessarily help with the issue. This post wasn’t to incite compliments; I just want to look back in a few months and gage where I was at.
And where I am at is: better than I was five months ago. And that’s great, by my estimations.