My alien body

So yesterday I wrote about how I compared other girls´ looks and started to ponder suicide when I thought about aging.

I thought about how from a certain age upward your risk for cancer increases, and I thought about how one day I will be diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors will say they have to remove my breasts, and I will still not have lived. I will still have nothing done with them. I have done nothing with my body, I have not lived in it, I have not experienced its reactions, I have not given it to others…nothing.

So…I feel guilty and under pressure because I know I´ll never be young again, and yet I don´t use my youth in order to make experiences and enjoy my life. I don´t truly inhabit my body. The only way I can relate to it is by comparing its looks to the looks of other bodies. So what is the deal with me and my body? In what way is our relationship dysfunctional?

Let´s start with the most obvious part. My anxiety. I´m phobic of my own bodily functions (or at least one of them: throwing up). It´s only recently that I learn to work with my body instead of against it when I have an anxiety attack. Quite often I got extremely angry at my body for letting me down, I wanted to punch or cut myself, and often I dug my fingernails into my palms – out of reflex, mostly. I´ve started paying attention to what my body is doing – normally it tenses up all over – and I´ve learned to relax it again. That is of great help against the anxiety attacks.

This leads us to the next thing. Self-harm. During my teens I used to cut. There was a variety of reasons – issues with anger; getting back at others; attention-seeking; self-soothing; blood fetishism (yes, I´m serious!). I was never addicted to it, though, and almost always I had to force myself to go through with it. It started one night when I had a row with my mother, and I felt this white-hot anger flaring inside of me. I was literally blind with hatred. I felt this strong urge to just take my knife and stab it into my hand. But I couldn´t. It took me an incredible effort to just produce some good scratches on my hand.  You could think that this inhibition is a good thing, and it might be so, but it is not the result of me having a healthy relationship with my body. As I realized a few months ago, the reason for this inhibition is that I feel like my body isn´t me, but an object. Now, the thing is, I tend to ascribe feelings to objects, as if they had a soul. Not that I rationally believe in it. Nonetheless, I constantly find myself pitying objects that have been thrown away or damaged in some way.  And so, after I cut, I felt terribly guilty towards my hand. I felt like my hand was probably very sad because I didn´t love it. I felt this in a very childlike way, and I heard my own thoughts in a small, childlike voice. This problem made cutting fairly frustrating, and after a few years, I more or less stopped.

What other issues are there? Well, first of all, I don´t like my body. Either I view it as a child´s body (which is easy, given that my breasts started to grow when I was 12 and stopped when I was 13), or I see my mother´s body in it. Not that my mother had an ugly body. Feeling like I am in her skin, and feeling like it´s her body I´m touching grosses me out nonetheless.  I have attacks where I even believe I smell like her. In moments like these I just want out of my own skin (precisely because it doesn´t feel like my own). And feeling like I have a child´s body…well, I had my negative body image ever since I was a child. My body just feels like a dead weight to me, clumsy, grotesque and asymmetrical. It feels puffy, even though I everyone tells me I´m slim and I lost over 13 lbs over the last few months (without dieting). I don´t mean to lose weight (though I do not exactly mind), I simply forget to eat. This is how bad my relationship with my body is. I forget to eat.

So, what ways are there in which people live in their bodies? They do sports. I can´t. I´m fairly athletic, and I can still do cartwheels or climb trees like when I was a child, but whenever I tried stuff like aerobics my body suddenly seemed to double its weight and I started to feel extremely weak. I was also hit by shame and that same white-hot anger that causes me to self-harm. Doing sports makes me wish I could just take a knife and rip my ugly, useless, clumsy body straight apart.

Yes, and there is this other way. Sex. Now given that my sexuality warrants a psychiatric diagnosis of its own (at least according to the opinion of my former therapist), you can probably tell that this is a pretty difficult and complicated issue for me. I won´t even go into what type of physical intimacy works for me, but just state what doesn´t: sexual stimulation. It´s not just that I´m still a virgin (and scared shitless by the thought of allowing someone to penetrate me); it´s also that I feel very much at odds with the thought of letting someone stimulate me to the point of orgasm. A former boyfriend of mine tried and tried, and I felt more and more disconnected from my body – and in turn I got more and more embarrassed. I was even too embarrassed to ask him to stop. I always seem to give the impression that I am just a prude, or that I am extremely chaste for whatever the reason (certainly not religious, though,  a girl wearing death metal shirts just doesn´t look the part). In fact, I´m not chaste at all.  Just very dysfunctional.  (Okay, the prude part is true. I have a hard time talking about sex, I´ve grown to hate even the word, and I loathe being naked. Still, I´m not prude and chaste out of conviction.)

Well. That pretty much sums up my dysfunctional relationship with my body. Oddly enough, writing this entry was difficult at times because it felt like such an intimate issue. The way I see it, this reveals that I can´t be entirely disconnected from my body. Whatever I hate about my body I also hate about myself. Negative feelings and shame for my body are negative feelings about myself and they undermine my self-esteem. These feelings can be overwhelming and absolute; as overwhelming as I wish positive bodily feelings were. So maybe I shouldn´t underestimate the connection that is there. Maybe I should say I´m misconnected to my body. Feeling not at home in my body, feeling like my body is a dead, ugly freight is a bodily feeling, and it is a connection after all.

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