Why Self-Compassion Is the Most Crucial — and Most Difficult — Part of My Eating Disorder Recovery
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
I have a body. As I said once before, it has served me faithfully all my years. I have been blessed with strong bones, good teeth, a great immune system and most excellent health. I am extremely fortunate, indeed.
I was not, however, blessed with any confidence in this body. Nature, nurture and the environments in which I grew, destroyed my perception of this body as being “aesthetically tolerable.” I have never been able to look in the mirror with anything other than disdain and self-loathing. I no longer even have the ability to see my body as it actually is. I have developed a distorted perception of my body shape and size and I can’t “logic” my way out of seeing any different. No matter what my size, I still struggle.
I have gained and lost a lot of weight over the years, but for the most part, the image I see in the mirror is always similar. I avoid looking when possible. I feel ashamed. Ashamed of having a visual reminder of my failings and my weakness. A visual reminder of my gluttony and sloth. The shame of my body makes me want to hide it not just from myself, but from everyone. Including my husband.
Never once in our 25 years together has he ever passed judgment upon my size, shape or appearance. He has demonstrated nothing but the most loving acceptance of me at any and every weight. He loves me just as I am. I know this.
He is also painfully aware of how I feel about my body, and how I feel about being seen naked. This morning, he dragged me out of bed to stand in front of the mirror — naked. He stood there holding me, looking at the reflection that I was forced to gaze upon, and he said, “Beautiful. Just beautiful.”
I’m still stuck for words. I’ve been trying to process this all day. I can’t see what he sees. I see regret and disappointment, a body that betrays the passage of time and the toll that pregnancies, surgeries and weight gain have taken on it. I see something completely unlikable — utterly unlovable. I cannot reconcile his declaration of beauty with the sordid image reflected back at me. I don’t know how.
Part of the recovery process is self-compassion, self-acceptance and self-love. I expect these will be the most difficult — and no doubt crucial — parts of the journey for me. And that compassion will need to extend to every part of me, inside and out. I will need to accept my body. I would like to accept it. To be grateful this body that nourished and nurtured three children through pregnancy and breastfeeding. This body has carried me to faraway places, climbed mountains and surfed through salty seas. It has known great pleasure and pain. It has been good to me. It is my turn to return the favor.
One day, I’ll gaze upon my reflection and say, “Enough. You are enough.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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Thinkstock photo via ruddy_ok.