Last week I posted “About me” section of this site. It is not very long and with just one photo; however I spent all day writing it. I procrastinated. A lot. It was very hard for me to write about difficult experiences of my life. I definitely wanted to stay positive, but also to include short information about struggles I went through. It was really challenging to find balance between my past reality and vision of my existence. Today I focus on how my body image progressed.
My story is public
After posting thoughts started to rush in my head. There is a possibility that people all around the world can learn what my life is like. They will learn about the hardest, most shameful and embarrassing moments of my life so far. And there was this huge photograph of me displayed almost full screen! Moreover, people who I did not want to know about details of my life, can suddenly look up information about me. I could not fall asleep, I had anxious dreams, I could not stop thinking who gets to know me. Then I saw that a strange woman gave a like to my Facebook post. I got so nervous. Then Facebook congratulated me to my successful post… Aaaa…
Making my life experience public was my decision, which I consciously made against my internal mind program. Working with myself (as a self- psychotherapist) I gradually came to a conclusion that there is nothing shameful about my life, that I am a person who tries and learns how to live her life. After few baby steps I decided to go big and public – to have my own personal website – a therapy platform which will hopefully serve for my further growth in many areas of life.
Today I have decided to continue in what I began… Body positivity has never had strong roots in me. As a child – kindergartener and first and second grader – I did not know anything about body positivity. Although I was very often ill with tonsillitis followed by fever, my body simply existed and it was perfect. Then I was diagnosed with chronic tonsillitis and underwent tonsillectomy few days after my eighth birthday.
As a part of my mental health postpartum recovery I have tried several therapy methods and I learnt that most illnesses, disorders, syndromes and health issues are caused by disharmony and imbalance in life – they are psychosomatic disorders. At least it is true for me. After giving birth I had so many physical health issues: painful pelvic area, painful wrists, eczema, hair loss, “eye floaters” (Muscae volitantes), constant dizziness, tinnitus, grey teeth to name just few. Although I asked specialists for help, I received two kinds of answers: firstly, it is hormones; secondly there is nothing abnormal, everything looks all right. My health issues have begun to resolve “themselves” slowly after I started with self-therapy. It leads me to wonder what was happening in my life back then that led my body to respond through chronic tonsillitis…
After the surgery I started to gain weight. Was it because my appetite have grown as I was not ill that often? This is what I considered true most of my life. Or was it because a problem causing chronic tonsillitis expressed itself through me gaining weight? This point of view overtakes now.
So I was in third grade with many new classmates and I was overweight. Few boy classmates started to bully me. They called me fat girl and laughed at me. I remember it like today – the classroom, the toilet where I went to cry, the weather, those faces… It really hurt my feelings. I did not know what to say. I knew I was overweight, buying clothes for me was not easy, almost nothing fit me, even my pediatrician used to say I needed to lose weight. Any remarks on my body from anyone became unnecessary, inappropriate and hurting for me.
I remember my mom going to my classroom and talking to my teacher and classmates while I was waiting in front of the classroom. I was crying then. There was also a girl classmate who empathized with me. Yes, she did, when my mom was there – although she did not have any reason, she did not want to get into trouble by any chance. And those bullies pretended it was not them who was responsible for those words… It was always my mom, who tried to help me with this. My father has had no idea. When he coincidentally finds out about this website, maybe it will help him to get closer to understanding why our relationship is the way it is.
Adapting to status quo
The worst part is that there where no systemic steps made by school or teachers. I stopped to report classmates bullying me because there was no point of it. It lasted at least for three years and faded out by itself as we came to puberty and I probably grew taller and did not gain much weight. It is quite important for me to give my experience a proper name – it was bullying. Now I can see how harmful it was.
I just hope that conditions in schools have changed and teachers and educators are more sensitive to disrespect and bullying then it used to be twenty years ago. Unfortunately, I doubt it.
My body image in the past
Looking back and looking at my photographs from that period – I consider myself just little overweight. However, comments about my weight (and other factors – standards of society and family-inherited body image) has changed my perception about my body. Although I could accept other people’s bodies, I could not accept mine. I laughed when people told me I was not fat. I looked at my body as being fat, but it was not!
Luckily this has never developed into an eating disorder. I was in my first year at university when I could bear my body. I have never had many positive thoughts about my body. But after giving birth and having many physical problems I literally hated my body, I hated being a woman, I hated that I needed to go through all of that to have a child. I gained weight – it was 15 kilograms more then pre-pregnancy weight and 5 kilograms more the my pre-labor weight. I could not stand several body parts, especially my perineum which was mutilated1 by episiotomy. Also now, after so much progress I have done, I ignore my perineum, because whenever I think about it, I experience disgust when I imagine how a midwife put scissors in my vagina and cut my perineum like a piece of fabric.
Positive body image is far away. Yet!
I have been working on positive body image for several months, but there is a long journey awaiting me. All my past was thrown at me after giving birth. My body, mind and soul told me: “Hey, deal with it finally! You were warned!” So I am dealing with it and this is a short report of that.
- Marsden Wagner. 1999. Episiotomy: a form of genital mutilation. In The Lancet [online]. 1999, vol. 353, no. 9168 [cit. 2021-02-07], pp. 1977-1978. Access: <https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)77197-X/fulltext>.