A couple of days ago, I recorded with my dear friend Paul Gilmartin for his podcast, The Mental Illness Happy Hour. First let me tell you a little bit about the podcast, because I love what it does. Paul interviews people, mostly (but not exclusively) in the entertainment industry, who suffer from some sort of depression or addiction. His goal is to help others by letting his audience hear real, honest, and often funny stories and deep, personal truths from people who are going through what is very common yet often hidden. His goal is to get those who suffer to seek help, and to know they are not alone. He describes it as the “waiting room outside of the psychologist’s office.” Listen to some of his interviews. They’re very eye-opening.
I have never been depressed, nor addicted so I am a bit different from other people he’s interviewed. But he thought I had enough insecurities and neuroses to qualify me for an interview. He was right.
I have had severe body issues my entire life. I’m incredibly fortunate that they never progressed to the point of me becoming bulimic or anorexic, but they have often paralyzed me with deep insecurity and fear. Therapy helped me with many of my other anxieties and insecurities, but this was one nut I was never able to crack. Motherhood softened the self-hatred a little, but the gnawing pain of always feeling “not good enough” never went away. I could try to ignore it, or put it on the back-burner for a minute or a day, but I always knew it was there, waiting for me to quite literally feed it again.
I have never passed a mirror without looking in it and criticizing what I saw.
I weigh myself every morning. Whether I’m up a pound or down a pound, this is unhealthy behavior.
I pinch my stomach and arms in the car, or while I’m watching TV, or eating and I think, “That’s disgusting.”
When my husband tells me I’m beautiful, I click my tongue and say, “Ugh. Whatever.”
These are just daily habits of mine. Daily, horrible habits that I have had as long as I can remember.
A year and a half ago, I was the skinniest I had been since high school, and I can honestly say I felt good about my body. (Although now I look back and think I got too thin.) This did not stop me from the weighing, the criticizing, or the pinching. It did stop some of the mean voices, and I was able to take a compliment. But these are things one should be able to do at any weight.
So, two days ago Paul and I talked, with microphones in front of us and a computer logging every word. And for most of the interview, I discussed my body issues. I had heard myself say many of these things before but knowing hundreds, possibly thousands of people would hear what I was saying… Changed everything. For the first time I really heard what I was saying. I heard myself describe this pathetic, self-involved, time-wasting behavior. I was embarrassed that others would now hear it, too.
That night I told my husband I felt like something in me had shifted. I told him I felt lighter. He was so happy to hear these words, but then we both voiced our desire to be cautious on the matter. He wants so much for me to let this go, but he knows how long I’ve carried this burden. So we are both cautiously optimistic.
The podcast will post tonight, or early tomorrow. And, although I’m sick to my stomach about people hearing it, I’m praying it reaches someone. I’m praying it makes someone angry enough at me, that it changes something in them. And truly, I’m praying that this change in me is real, and that it sticks. I’d like to live the rest of my life without that idiotic monkey on my back. Or at least with the strength to kick it’s ass when it jumps on my shoulders.
I texted Paul last night to tell him he may have changed my life. He called immediately to see what was going on, and encouraged me to keep a journal of how I feel daily, over the next few weeks or months. So, I’m going to try to do that here for everyone to see. I imagine many other women feel this way, and I think it’s time we all figure out how to let it go… Maybe even stop future generations from feeling these things. I told Paul that in therapy I learned that I could change my behavior to make other people treat me differently. Why can’t I change my behavior to treat myself differently?
This morning I forced myself to NOT weigh myself. That is a start.