Seeing Myself Outside Of the Frame

One day when I was fourteen my parents came home from work and announced that we were going to see a therapist. When we arrived, the first thing my mother did was pull out my yearbook picture from when I was 8 years old and declare “this is what he really looks like.”   A profound denial of obvious reality, since there I was sitting in front of her, six years older and a goth teen.  My hair was really black and green, and I really changed in my natural development as a person.  Unfortunately, the therapist didn’t challenge my mother, and tell her that I am real and she has to accept me as I am, not prefer some disembodied photograph taken long ago.  Instead he validated their denial, ridiculed my appearance and made jokes with them throughout the session.  It was a great way for them to use an intermediary to talk over and around me even more then they usually did, but there was no intervention on my behalf.

Recently I had a relapse.  In the midst of a really bad month, I  wound up starving myself for a week.  I thought I was just making a small change in my diet, but it went too far and every night I was getting hunger headaches, and my body became bogged down with exhaustion and inflammation.  I finally stopped and went back to my usual routine but it’s made me re-evaluate what was going through my mind when I made that decision.  While in truth I’ve made great progress in sticking to my meal plan and not emotionally eating, my body image has not changed and I was still holding onto the idea that someday I would be much thinner and life would be so much better.

My mother’s attempt to replace me with the caricature in her mind of an exaggeratedly innocent child had a very deep impact on me and my self-perception.  She never saw me, or even tried to.  And as a result I couldn’t see myself, I also dissociated constantly and became unconcerned with actual reality, leading to my body dysmorphia.  I realize that I’ve also kept my own picture for a long time, of when I was 17 and at my absolute lowest weight.   I had eaten nothing which contained any fat in it for about 8 months.  I got sores on my face as a result and towards the end I could only sleep for two hours each night.  Life was terrible but there wasn’t any other way while trapped in my parents house.  Today that isn’t the case.  I can have a functional life, not spending all of my time under or overeating.

My health is much more fragile now as well, with everything I’ve done to myself in the last ten years of my eating disorder.  Things that can’t be taken back, like the year I spent constantly doing water fasts for weeks at a time.  I had to go through a long period in my early recovery of having blood sugar issues and anxiety about getting my next meal as a result of that insane cycle.  Intentionally binging on foods that I’m allergic to also no doubt made the allergies that I have today much worse.  I didn’t set out to repeat these patterns recently, but it’s what happened anyway and I also felt myself becoming afraid that at each meal I was still eating too much.

Since this relapse though, I’ve had a breakthrough where I can really see myself more clearly then ever before.  I’m not anywhere close to being overweight, and I know that looking after my health and making small changes when needed will lead me to the right place.   But I’m starting to see that there is nothing wrong with my body today, and I’m good enough today.  I felt like a prisoner of my body all this time and couldn’t see changes because that’s what I was taught to do, not because there is genuinely something wrong with my appearance.  I look forward to living without my self-image swinging wildly back and forth with whatever emotion I’m feeling.  And with that stability, I won’t look in the mirror and be inspired to destroy myself in some way.

In truth I’ve had very little experience in my life without suffering from one eating disorder or another, so what standard I have to look for needs to be something new.   Not a reference from my anorexic period, though it almost turned into something healthy and stable and I always thought it would be better to start from there.  But I don’t have that option anymore, I have to start from where I am now.   I will never get back to my low weight, but that’s not my goal anymore, so it’s fine.

I’m also starting to accept that healing from my eating disorder is a process.  If I still do something ed-related today, it’s a part of that process and I’m seeing and learning things.  As much as I used to fantasize about being able to say that it was all behind me and I was 100% recovered, I don’t have to prove anything to anyone and there is no timer that’s going to go off letting me know that “your life begins now!” whether when I’ve lost a certain amount of weight or spent a certain amount of time in recovery.  It’s already here, as difficult and sad as it is.


About proudlysensitive

Gay male survivor of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
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14 Responses to Seeing Myself Outside Of the Frame

  1. shoe1000 says:

    I support you. You are so courageous. Your courage gives me courage to look at what I do.

  2. New Life says:

    I liked what you said about not having to prove anything. You are wonderful as you are and there’s absolutely nothing to wait for to enjoy life, even if experiencing it and enjoying it mean feeling sad and heavy at times. ❤

  3. Daisy says:

    I was just talking to a friend today about how acceptance of and kindness to myself have been important to my recovery from PTSD and my eating disorder.

    At first I would have the occaisonal good day, then I would have some good days and some bad days, then I would have more good than bad days, and now I only have the occaisonal bad day.

    Not sure if that’s on topic, but I wanted to encourage you to perservere, it’s so worth it.

    All the best

    • Thanks Daisy. You’re totally right on. Being kind and accepting of myself is something I strive for. I’m glad you’re getting more good days, and I agree it’s definitely worth it. Gaining bits of freedom from old patterns has shown me that.

      take care,

  4. There are times when I am reading what you write and somehow I want to transport us back to the moment, so I can do what I did as a kid. Push you behind me and demand better treatment for you. Other parts make me feel like reaching out to you and just hugging you. You don’t have anything to prove. You are wonderful the way you are and any change you make is a stepping stone in the process of healing.

    • EA, thank you. I also have moments of wanting to do that to in looking at mine and other’s experiences, that’s why its so good to call them ot today, see how wrong and sick those people were being. I really appreciate your support,

      take care

  5. Paris Tovah says:

    For all the years of looking inward to eradicate the point of pain , you are seeing yourself “outside of the frame”. No longer chained to the inside chamber of existence, you are stepping outside of yourself with so much courage, beauty in character and powerful words. Standing on the outside looking in, we see an amazing sensitive survivor sculpting his life by seeing himself as no longer needing to prove anything, your journey has been difficult but the lens is zooming in, and the frame is picture perfect! What an inspiration you are. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your support Tovah. I like your description–stepping outside of those old circles and patterns really does enable me to see much more clearly what’s been happening.

      take care,

  6. Caden,
    I lost my comment! It was a good one too.. LOL ~ basically it said that these kinds of “professionals” should be sued! This kind of devaluing treatment goes against everything they are supposed to be doing. Being further invalidated in this way is a huge part of the problem and it is SO freeking wrong that children/teens and adult victims of child abuse are re-victimized! I am glad that we know the solution lies in healing ourselves, and mending what others broke! Great post!
    Love Darlene

    • Thanks Darlene, it’s great to hear from you. And you’re right, it’s so sick and wrong for someone to call themselves a therapist and proceed to put someone down, miss obvious signs of mistreatment and validate the abusers. That was the only session of family “therapy” we ever attended, and later that month my father physically assaulted me because he didn’t like the way I looked–so really, maybe a competent therapist could have defused that situation instead of just treating me with disdain, agreeing with my parents that I was the problem–after everything they did to me. But yeah, thankfully it’s not absolutely necessary to put ourselves in the hands of someone like that to be healed.

      take care,

  7. “…mother’s attempt to replace me with the caricature in her mind of an exaggeratedly innocent child….”

    You mean like when you were too small to fight back? Not savvy enough to notice abuse? Completely dependent on her for your survival? Yeah, I’ll bet she misses those easy days when she didn’t have a full-grown man smarter than her to contend with. That’s gotta suck.

    • Thank you allthoughtswork! That’s a good point, my mothers attempts to infantilize me were also meant to ensure that I had no self-esteem or confidence, that I wouldn’t realize my own power and abilities but have nowhere else to turn to but to her sick lies and twisted, fake offers of support. I’m sure it does suck to be her right now, perhaps even through her layers of denial and delusion, she senses that it’s over and I’m never going to be under her control again, that I have my power and she has none left.

      thanks for reading and sharing,
      take care,

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