I don’t write about my own experience with Body Stuff very often. I hint at it, here and there because it’s a part of my insecurities, but I haven’t really written about how I experience life in my body. As a trans person, it’s easy to assume body dysphoria as it relates to gender. I don’t actually have that: I really like my cunt, and I’m somewhat ambivalent about having boobs- don’t love ‘em, don’t hate ‘em, they’re just kinda there. But I do have body dysphoria around my weight. At times, it’s manageable. At other times, it’s obsessive. But either way, it’s something that is a part of my life every single day.
I am aware that my dysphoria is a perceived flaw in my body. It’s not real. I am not overweight. I absolutely know this in my mind. But this isn’t something that can be talked away with logic. It directly relates to my mental health- both the fixation aspects and the depressive aspects, and logic only goes so far with mental health.
On a good day, I look at myself in the mirror and grudgingly nod. Getting better,I think. On a bad day, though, I can’t stop staring, picking out each flaw like my body is a poorly written English paper: I want to mark it up with red pen, point out each place where there is an error and send myself home with firm instructions: fix it.
Fix it. Like I’m broken.
It’s complicated. It hurts sometimes. Around 19-20, I had a problem with ephedrine-based diet pills. I was working 3 jobs with no car, and they kept me awake, and they also made me lose weight like crazy. In women’s pants, I dropped from a 14 to a 6 in four weeks. At 5’10”, I weighed 137 lbs and I could count my ribs in the mirror. I still felt fat, still couldn’t get rid of that little pouch that curves up between my naval and pubic bone. It scared me; I knew I looked ill, and also knew I wanted to lose a little more weight. I quit them cold and had the worst depression of my life, compounded by gaining almost 15 lbs back. It’s been 7 years, and I still haven’t gone back. But the problem hasn’t gone away, either.
I have an incredibly skewed perspective of my body. I can step on a scale and it tells me 155 lbs, and I look in the mirror and see 200. My self-confidence falls down to almost nothing, and I am desperate for affirmation. I do things I normally wouldn’t because I feel so disgusting in my skin that any attention feels like good attention. When I snap out of it, I feel gross for the ways in which I allowed myself to be taken advantage of. I promise myself I won’t do it again. And then another bad body day comes.
It’s complicated, because my perception of my own body has very little to do with reality. I don’t have the same perception of weight in the external world that I do inside my head. I see women, curvy, voluptuous, heavy, and I don’t think twice about it. There’s also not a lack of affirmation; I understand, on some level, that the external world views me as an attractive person, for the most part. The disconnect is in my head, within my own body. It’s not all the time, or even most of the time, necessarily. But man, when it hits, it hits hard. And I’m left here, lying on the sofa, aching from too many consecutive days at the gym and trying to be vulnerable on a FetLife post (cause I’m the kind of person that wants to be perfect, on top of my game, totally in control of each aspect of myself at every minute; admitting I’m not feels a little like rubbing my skin raw and sitting in the sun for 8 hours).
I feel awkward writing this. I don’t feel like I have the right or the place to talk about these things because, to the world outside of my head, I am not overweight. It seems like an overdeveloped sense of vanity, and I don’t mean it that way at all. I know that self-confidence is sexier than self-doubt. I know that what happens between my eyes and my brain and the body in the mirror is like some sort of twisted optical illusion trick. But I can’t worry about what is sexier to other people right now, because what is sexy to me is honesty. And honesty isn’t always pretty, or confident, or tied up neat with a moral-at-the-end-of-the-story. Sometimes honesty is gritty and sloppy and confusing and painful. Sometimes it’s weird and complicated and doesn’t make any sense.
I am not what I see in the mirror, but I don’t know how to change the image. I know that what I see is not what other people see, but I don’t know how to adjust my perspective. Subjective truth conflicts with objective reality. And I need to find a way to bring that confident, fiery, headstrong, passionate person that I believe I am, sometimes, back into the forefront of myself before I wear my body out trying to fix things that aren’t actually broken.
[Cross-posted from FetLife]
3 thoughts on “Body Dysphoria”
This is a fantastic description of body dysphoria! Thank you!
I always try to let other writers know when I refer to their content: I link to your blog in my latest post comparing body dysphoria to viewing an optical illusion (https://thomasingenderland.com/2016/08/22/ambiguous-androgyny-part-1-recognizing-an-optical-illusion/).
Thanks again for sharing such an eloquent description of your experience,
Thank you so much! I’m honored and glad that my comments on body dysphoria (particularly re: the sensation of optical illusion) were helpful to link into your post! (It’s a wonderful piece, by the way!) Thanks for the heads up!