Mirror, Mirror. On the wall, why do I hate me most of all?
This week we’ve been putting the spotlight on eating disorders, with podcasts, vlogs and more. If you haven’t already, I urge you to check it out. The reason we wanted to cover this was because of the number of people getting in touch with us via Twitter who have issues with eating disorders. But for me personally I really wanted us to look into this area because of the impact body image has taken on my mental health over the years. Like many people with depression, I have very low self-esteem. I also hate what I see in the mirror whenever I look at myself.
First thing I want to make clear. I do not consider myself to have an eating disorder. I am stupidly overweight. But I do have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food. When I was younger I used to joke I was a bulimic with commitment issues, because I had the bingeing part down but struggled to commit to the purging part. A joke I used to cover the reality.
That I have an unhealthy cycle when it comes to my body image.
Not Just for the Young
Even now, I go through phases of starving myself, taking appetite control pills and laxatives in a desperate attempt to get slim. As I sit writing this, it’s with full knowledge that breakfast was a biscuit and a cup of coffee and I disguised that fact by giving my partner his breakfast in bed while I ‘ate’ in the kitchen. My head is in that place of utter self-loathing, but I won’t openly admit to it. I’ve even hidden the appetite control tablets I’m taking from my partner as I don’t want to admit that I’m that desperate to change how I look.
This is a long term thing. I’ve been exhibiting these behaviours since I was a teenager. When I was first diagnosed with depression at 15, the referral to a mental health counsellor was expedited after my doctor discovered that in addition to going to Weight Watchers and following a strict diet, I was also routinely making myself sick.
My natural body shape is curvy (big boobs, big bum). Unfortunately currently everything is big. But no matter how lovely my partner says he thinks I look, I hate what I see in the mirror. I always have. Even when I was 16 years old with a size 10 dress size, I hated myself. Even with a figure I’d probably now do anything to have, I was routinely self-harming.
It’s hard to explain that level of self-loathing. Now, when self-harming becomes an issue it almost feels even more justified because I am overweight. I deserve it because of how disgusting I am.
As a mum to a little girl, I know how toxic my thinking is. I recognise it. But I do struggle to deal with it. My body type is never going to be super-skinny, but I cannot seem to break the cycle. When I’m unhappy, I eat. Food is a comfort that I’ve turned to time and again. Then I feel awful for doing it and the cycle spins back the other way, so I won’t eat or I eat like a sparrow.
The Media Mirror
So much importance is placed on appearance nowadays it isn’t surprising to see how we are as a country seeing unprecedented levels of mental illness, especially in the young. So many young people of both sexes who tell themselves ‘I hate what I see in the mirror’. It’s everywhere, the constant objectification of people down to how they look, not their achievements. I’ll give you an idea of what I mean; if you read the Daily Mail online on the right hand side of the screen there is ALWAYS a long list of mini-articles, usually celebrity focused. But what you’ll notice is the wording they use, it’s so-and-so shows off their slender pins, their pert derriere, their ample assets or how their body has snapped back in some ridiculously short time after giving birth. It’s insane. Amal Clooney, an extremely successful human rights lawyer, is often reduced to just being slender, shapely or leggy. She gets snapped by paparazzi in New York leaving the office and is anything said about what work she’s doing? No, it’s comments about how she’s putting on a leggy display in a fetching red dress.
They are not the only culprits. We see it everywhere. As a culture we are entirely too focused on what people look like, judgement is passed on body shapes, choice of clothes, tattoos and piercings. We look and we assess the quality of the person before they’ve opened their mouth.
I Hate What I See in the Mirror, but I’m Learning to Love who’s Inside
When I say that I hate what I see in the mirror I am not referring to the person inside. I hate my packaging. Sometimes that hatred can be turned against the core of who I am, when depression is in full control I believe my failures are every part of my life. I will evaluate myself as a poor mother, a flawed human being with little to offer the world.
This is not true. It is the lies my own version of the ‘dark passenger’ tells me. In the same way a person suffering from anorexia is led to believe they are overweight when they are not, depression convinces that we are totally and utterly worthless in every arena of our lives.
With all these mental health conditions we are battling an incredibly powerful and devious enemy: our own minds. To fight back against that voice is incredibly difficult, especially alone. Which is why we ran this eating disorder awareness week. Too many people are struggling alone, believing the voice in their mind. But with the voices of Hope Virgo, Elle Rose and Hannah Brown and ours I hope you will have a greater insight into how that voice lies.
You are more than your packaging. If the voice in your head is not showing you some love, is evaluating you just by what it sees, remember there is always someone who loves what you see as flaws. My daughter and son love me, they just see their mum who will do anything for them. They don’t see the flubbery mess I see myself as. EVERYONE has beauty to them, we are unique, creative and wonderful creatures, we just need to learn how to love what truly matters and quieten the voices both inside and out that tries to convince us otherwise.
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