My body has done a flawless job at disappointing me. Even though we come together and make one final being, we don’t think alike, and we don’t agree on anything. And with that, it’s easier to be at war with the chaos that is my body. It’s easy for me to disassociate myself from my physical attributes because I feel like a stranger in my own skin. While the human body is supposed to be a comfortable place to release vulnerabilities, like the deliverance of tears or staring at oneself in the mirror questioning who they are, I have never felt so distressed. I can’t trust my body because it hasn’t given me much reason to rely on it, and that frightens me. I know it’s normal for people to feel insecure in their skin from time to time, some more than others. However, I am the exception.
It’s not just the way my stomach lunges forward when I slouch in a chair, or the sea of endless stretch marks that cover it – not even the awkward and unbecoming way my silhouette looks when I’m standing in the middle of a crowd. I know it’s not only how awful my face looks when I don’t try to look pretty or presentable – but simply me in a natural, raw state, or the rolls of skin that are visible from the inside of my clothing. It’s important to note that it’s also the bubbles that form in my stomach in the middle of the day for no reason and I assume that something is wrong. And there are the times when I feel like I’m feverish when it’s probably all in my head. Sometimes it seems like I’m dying and I am in zero control, and there’s nothing in the world I hate more than not being in control. Nausea keeps me company and rocks me to sleep at night, as I feel the lump I’ve been focusing on now, growing in my throat. I don’t even have to guess if the feeling of dread that comes along with my body is back in session, because I can’t seem to hide this unnerving, anxious feeling bubbling up from the bottom of my stomach. When this happens, I surrender myself largely to my body and have acknowledged my war loss of the day. I temporarily accept the fact that I am a prisoner in this shell, and while my body is supposed to be my support and shield, it’s rebelling, swelling, and continues to writhe in an unhealthy affliction. I let the darkness consume me as I lay hopelessly in my bed, wishing that I could stop feeling inadequate and alone, ugly or in pain. At the end of it all, I know that I am clearly obsessing and it’s evident I am irrational. One of the most exhausting, debilitating things however, is recognizing these imaginative symptoms because of how intuitive I am. Even though I desperately want to break free from it, I am in touch with my body, the terrible one that makes me feel invalid and sometimes unreal, and I can’t even find a way to stop it. How is it possible that I allow something so unreliable to have that much power when I am tormented by it?
Some nights, I loathe my body because it has betrayed me and leaves me shivering in the dark with irrational, aberrant thoughts swirling around in my head. I want nothing more than to strip down the queasiness that abides me daily and let my skin fall off of me just so I can escape from this unbearable discomfort. Afterwards, I can release myself to the world without feeling insecure, and all is well. But still, the twinge radiates, my breasts hurt, the bones ache, and my gut burns. I’ve convinced myself that I have contracted an alarming illness, so alarming that I have dubbed myself the queen of self-diagnosis. Not only do I have trouble loving my body for it’s physical traits, but for the mysteries that lay beneath. I blame this on my body and the tricks that it plays on me. While I’ve spent my fair share pitying myself for my appearance and making scrutinizing comments about my stomach, my face, my lips, my legs, my arms, I also have wasted away on the internet, searching for symptoms that align with the ones occurring in my betrayal of a body. This sequence would last for hours on end; it was almost addicting. There were rare, unexpected moments where the anxious stride would fade and it felt nice to come up and breathe from my bed-ridden environment. But it didn’t last, of course. Once, I thought I had breast cancer. I was nineteen years old and my chest would be in immense pain for about three straight months. The pain would radiate into my lower arms and armpits, and of course, I convinced myself it was cancer. Looking back, it makes me sound so ignorant. I would clock away time searching for reasons regarding my ailments, while resorting to my bed, crying and wishing that all of it would just dissipate. There were times where it was difficult to do daily things, like showering or brushing my hair.
“I’m going to die, anyway” I would mutter to my friends underneath my blankets. I was, without a doubt, a classic case of hypochondria. I was also incredibly stubborn, overly dramatic, and continued to self-diagnose. I would try really hard to ignore the twinges, the sensations of poking and prodding that occurred throughout my upper chest, but I found it almost unbearable to sit still. Sitting still was when I felt the agony colliding at its peak and I desperately wanted to take a magic pill that would stop all the sparks of pain from electrocuting my body with fear. If I gave in and decided to live my life by ignoring the aches and pains, I felt as though I was giving up entirely to my enemy – my body. I didn’t want it to have the satisfaction, to creep up on me with some crazy illness without my attention. So, I would stay up until two in the morning learning not to check Web-MD, but Mayo Clinic, and my internet adventures would ensue; it was the only sense of control that I had, so I clung onto it without letting go.
Want to know something really kind of awful? I used to emphasize my hypochondria and body hating escapades in order for people to find me more interesting. It sounds ridiculous, and I’m embarrassed to admit it but it’s true. I thought that if I hyped up the dread I was experiencing, it would be easier for me to get through the agony and loneliness that the wars I had with my body brought. If I made fun of the idea when I was around other people, or in my writing, it would feel minuscule. But I was wrong, because that only seemed to make it worse when I needed to heal.
“Medical diseases in all descriptions, body aches and pains galore / I’m still smiling on top of the sadness / I promise you’ll never get bored”, I once wrote in a poem entitled “Hypochondria Queen” when I was twenty-one years old. I put in “Queen” because I wanted to glamorize the hell out of feeling terrible, because I was desperate to take something that was eating away at me and turn it into something positive. I would continue on, talking about how good I was at covering up the pain by putting on a mask of happiness and bliss. “The red lipstick solidifies my lies, because I’m not always happy / I’m exhausted living this toxic life / And I’m tired of hating my body / Little does anyone know this, but I can wake up in a chaotic panic / I go about my day cool and collected, but beneath the surface I am frantic.” I found another poem along the same lines that went a little something like this: “I don’t know what it’ll take / to drag me back and tell me it’ll be okay / I’ve already made up my mind / I’m already losing it / and nothing will be the same.”
I sound like a mess, I know. And that’s probably because I am a mess. But I’ll admit that over the years, I’ve gotten better. My family isn’t interrupted by me asking if “accidentally getting acrylic paint in my mouth will give me lead poisoning and kill me”, or if “having continuous migraines means I have brain cancer” or something along those lines. It’s important to remember that having anxiety with your body, whether that’s health anxiety or insecurity about one’s appearance, (or like me, both) is not quirky or cute.
I’ve learned that it’s possible to force myself to feel things that weren’t ever there to begin with, and that it stems from something much deeper – probably my depression and my obsessive compulsive disorder. It never really was body who was the enemy, it was my mind. I forgot how powerful the mind is, and I underestimated it. I’m better at calming myself down now, reminding myself that I am making it all up in my head because it’s easy for me, that the real culprit is my conscious. I still do the daily “googling” as I call it, but I’ve eased up. My body and I aren’t in a lot of wars these days, but it has shifted to more appearance-wise. Now that has to do with insecurity and lack of self-worth. I look in the mirror and cringe most times. If I feel secure in my skin, it doesn’t last; it’s not consistent and I hate that with every fiber of my being. I don’t want anything else but to be confident with my body, no matter what the case is. It’s my dream to wave the white flag so that my body and I can cease the fighting, the wars, the constant control.