I got married young and my marriage wasn’t like it is in the story books. My Prince Charming, wasn’t charming. Well I take that back, he was only charming when it served him, this was usually only around our family and friends. Day in and day out I took care of our home, raised his son as my own and finagled three dogs to the dog park. Compliments were a rarity and if he glanced at me it was with displeasure.
I had switched my birth control from the ortho evera patch to the Nuva Ring. The new hormones caused me to gain weight at a rapid rate. He let me know day in and day out that he was not attracted to me. He’d tell me “if you get over 200 pounds I’ll have to consider a divorce…..” I tried dieting, it didn’t work. running which use to be my escape became a chore. No matter how many miles I ran the weight didn’t come off, it stuck to me like glue. I became self conscious and started wearing clothing that hid my body. If my husband was repulsed by me, everyone else had to be too.
He’d tell me things like “you know you’d be really hot if you lost weight.” Or my personal favorite “if you lost weight I’d find you attractive again and that might make me want to sleep with you again.” Sex became a weapon in our marriage. He used it against me and forced me into situations I never wanted to be a part of. I’d disassociate during those times, I’d go numb and go through the motions just to get it over with. He’d tell me “if you ruin this for me, I’ll divorce you. If you ruin this for me, it means you don’t love me.” He knew I had a fear of failure and he played on its every whim. Divorce equaled failure in my eyes and I didn’t want to be another married to young statistic.
The months turned into years as I grew into a shadow of my former self. I no longer recognized the woman in the mirror. Her bright eyes had turned dull, her skin lost its peachy tone and her curls were brittle. Stress was taking a toll on this once vibrant soul. I felt trapped in my own skin, a skin I wanted so desperately to get out of. Because maybe if I looked different, he’d love me more. I was existing on slim fast shakes and chicken breast, hoping if I lost just enough he’d notice and then he’d love me more.
On October 22, 2009 our lives changed forever. I found myself in the emergency room struggling for every breath. A blood clot caused by the Nuva Ring landed in my lungs, to top it off a piece broke of and caused a stroke. Recovery was tough and the weight I had kept at bay slowly crept in. Scott didn’t have any sympathy for me, he only had frustration because he was paying for a gym membership that I no longer used. With time I realized my running days were over, that chore which was my escape was no longer a tool for me to use. I was in a body that my husband didn’t love.
Now some would tell you that I was a slim size 14. I didn’t see it though, I gravitated towards 2x clothing when I only needed a large. I did what I could to hide the body that I had. The woman I saw in the mirror didn’t match the woman standing in my bathroom. Where others saw strength, I saw flaws. Flaws that could not be tamed, flaws that needed to be hidden so no one else would speak the words. The words that Scott spoke to me “you’d be prettier if you lost some weight.”
I remember the first time someone told me I was beautiful. It was after I left Scott, I was going to happy hour at the Green Mill in Uptown with Sherri. We had just parked and we were walking to the restaurant and a gentlemen said “ma’am!” I paused and turned thinking the worst. “I just wanted to let you know that you are beautiful!” I started to cry, that was the first time in years that anyone had told me I was beautiful. I remember that moment to this day and it was a pivotal moment. You see that day I chose to wear some tight jeans and a strapless top, it was summer and it was warm. I felt uncomfortable in my skin, yet Sherri convinced me that I looked good, so I wore it. Silly thing is, I still have that outfit tucked away in a box. The clothes no longer fit, but the memory will fit me forever.
Charlie was a saint. He would always tell me “Mannie you look so strong. You look so healthy, along with dang girl! your ass looks great in that!” Through his gentleness he taught me how to love the skin I was in. Another pivotal moment is when Charlie asked me to a fancy cocktail party. I had gone to Saks to try on dresses and nothing no matter the size fit right. I ended up crying in the dress room. Charlie softly knocked on the door and asked me what was wrong. Through my tears I told him nothing fit. He hugged me and put his arm around me as we looked in the mirror.
He kissed the top of my head and rubbed my back as he gently said “Mannie, do you not realize that you are our ancestors wildest dream? Girl, look at your curves and do you know how many women would kill for those high cheek bones? You are beautiful and no man can ever take that from you.” With tears in our eyes we proceeded to go through the pile of dresses on the bench. With his help I found the perfect one and I felt like a million bucks that night. Not because of the dress, but because I had found a man who saw my worth before I ever did. I found a man who taught me how to love myself first.
Years later when I was sitting in therapy with Ms. Emily I realized that what I was feeling had a name. Body Dysmorphia, body dysmorphia is an unpleasant gift that the ex-husband had left me with. It’s a gift that I struggle with on the daily. It’s a gift that I’ve learned to treat with kindness. It’s a gift that Charlie and now Jay has learned to dance softly around. One wrong word or glance can send me into a spiral. A spiral that leads to all of my clothes in a pile on the closet floor.
Clothes have been hard lately. I have a closet full of clothes that no longer fit me. Dresses that are to loose in the bust, pants that barely stay up and shirts that were once to tight are now swimming on me. I’ve lost weight. 36 pounds to be exact and I do not see what others see. When I look in the mirror I see my now deflated breasts and my insecurity is on full display. My right breast is a cup size smaller that my left. When I was bigger, it was easier to hide, but now I don’t have room for error. Wrap dresses have become my best friend and bras, well they are a struggle. My ass isn’t as plump as it once was, though Jay tells me it’s still incredible. My back fat is pretty much non-existent now too. I can see these changes in the mirror, yet I do not attach the woman in the mirror to myself.
I don’t see what others see. In my mind I am still 258 pounds, I don’t see the 222 pound me. It’s a struggle that I’ve carried silently, only those closest to me know about my body dysmorphia. Someone once told me “why struggle alone, when you can struggle in perfect company.” So that is what this is, my search for company. I made a vulnerable Facebook explaining my body dysmorphia. That post showed me that dozens of the women and men in my life are struggling too. That body image is hard. Weight loss is a journey and not all of us process our results the same. Some of us throw ourselves at the gym or exchange our cravings for a protein shake and then there are those of us who stare into the mirror looking for a glimpse of what the world sees.
Maybe with a little time and a little coaching I will one day realize that the thinner woman in the mirror is me. But until that day comes just know I am struggling with insecurities right along side you and we will take it one day at a time.