What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
So we all know that I'm Addicted to Everything™, right? I spent my formative years happily smothering those icky things you normies call feelings with bulimia, booze, sex and drugs. Now I try not to do that shit anymore, and instead I just walk around like a weird no-skin baby being constantly sort of scraped against by life.
Snorting coke is not hardcore. Walking around feeling whatever fucked-up shit you feel, without escape, 24/7, is fucking hardcore.
Especially when you're a trauma survivor and your brain-body-emotional connection is tenuous in the first place. Trauma -- rape, abuse, neglect, whatever -- just sort of dumps a bucket of water on your internal keyboard and leaves everything all short-circuited and blasting little bolts of electricity everywhere. Be careful of your babies' little keyboards when they come pink and factory-new.
That last line was a bit intense, right? I must be depressed.
But of course you can use almost anything to escape. The soberer I get, the substances just get less self-destructive. I might spend a little too much on dresses or mainline sugar -- it's not yoga, but it's not gonna end with my ass dead tomorrow. While I role my eyes as much as the next girl when I hear people with double digit sobriety talking about "counting days" off television or whatever, I do acknowledge that getting into addictive patterns with anything can be painful.
And lately, while going through Secret and Terrible Things™, I've turned to an old substance that feels as familiar and comforting as an 80s commercial: completely fucking hating myself. Specifically, hating my physical appearance.
You know that feeling when you turn your phone camera on and it's facing you and all of a sudden you get mentally slapped with a huge, unflattering vision of your own face from below? I feel like that all the time lately.
"I'll never be happy, I'm too FAT" I barked into the room xoJane employees refer to as "the clubhouse" yesterday. People literally laughed at me, it was so melodramatic. And like, rolled their eyes, because nobody is impressed with a girl who says something like that, even me.
But even if I'm not saying it, my internal monologue is barking it into my own head 24/7: You're so fat, you're so ugly, no one could ever want to have sex with you, you're disgusting, you're repulsive, why did you eat that?, look at your fat fucking belly and on and on and on. Who IS that mean bitch?
Even as a I'm typing this, I want to let you know that I AM ACTUALLY VERY FAT RIGHT NOW so don't try to defend me. Like, empirically I have gained weight and last week someone congratulated me on my non-existent pregnancy, so. (I am the mean bitch. I am the mean bitch to myself.)
But even if the weight gain is real, I know that this self-loathing has nothing to do with my actual body and everything to do with distracting myself from feeling painful feelings. Don't get me wrong, the self-hatred feels horrible, but it's a comfortable horrible, one I know well. And as long as I'm wallowing in it, hating my stomach and dissecting every crumb I put in my mouth, I don't have to feel those other, scary feelings.
So here are a few things I've learned to do to help combat extreme self-loathing and body hate. Sometimes they work, kind of. Other xoJaners weighed in as well!
Wear comfortable clothing that fits and is flattering.
Anything too tight or too dumpy will just make me feel worse about myself. Pants are basically out -- the last thing I need during times like these is a fucking WAISTBAND.
Marianne says: Well-loved but comfortable clothes is a big deal. That way even if I feel like I look like shit, I KNOW that's just feelings instead of reality because I've worn that outfit before or whatever.
Eat healthy foods and exercise.
Maybe avoiding donuts means the brain terrorists have WON, but eating healthy balanced meals can give me some relief, and emotionally eating junk makes me feel a million times worse. I actually find tracking what I'm eating to be helpful as well, because I may see that I'm eating a normal and reasonable amount of food even though I'm beating myself up over having one piece of chocolate or whatever.
Louise says: I personally like to do some crazy deep stretching, go for a long walk, or a yoga class or something. I just try to force myself to focus on what my body CAN do in the moment, not how I want it to be. Sometimes just the realization that HOLY SHIT I'M STRONG ENOUGH TO SLING AROUND 30 POUND BAGS OF DOG FOOD is enough to start the baby steps toward being kinder to myself. Things our bodies can do that we take for granted but are actually remarkable.
Read about horrible shit happening to people and practice gratitude.
Yesterday, I started reading "Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala, who lost her entire family (husband, two sons, both parents) while vacationing in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami. That's a lot worse than what's going on with me, and a reminder to be grateful for all that I do have: a beautiful son, a dream job, a home, my health. (I also do a daily gratitude list which I've written about before.
I am also always comforted by reading "When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies," "The Language of Letting Go" anything by Geneen Roth and 12-step recovery literature. Find what's spiritually fulfilling for you or just distracting.
Daisy says: I read to escape. Like A LOT. I've basically plowed through the entire YA dystopian genre in the last three months. It's magical.
Be of service.
Nothing to make you hate your own fat ass more than sitting around thinking about your own fat ass. Get up, get out and focus on someone other than yourself. Volunteer, or just do something kind for a friend.
Alison says: My mom gave me the best advice once -- she said "When you are feeling terrible the best thing you can do is to get outside of yourself and do something for someone else." Doing service for others ended up getting me through a terrible time. I walked a few people's dogs and picked three people who had contacted me with "I want your job!" emails and wrote them encouraging, thoughtful responses.
Take it to the floor.
Coined by my brilliant friend Heather, "taking it to the floor" is a last-ditch resort for when you can't outrun your feelings anymore. You lay on your floor and feel them. Possibly, you cry. Eventually, you fall asleep.
What do you do to combat self-loathing? Lesley wants you to know she dances in her underwear.