Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thoughts On Self Image

I looked in the mirror after my shower today and realized that I liked who I saw.

I don't mind saying that for the first time in my life, I think my breasts are beautiful. I am not overly blessed in this department, but I as I studied myself I realized that they are not horrible looking.

Sure, there are a few stretchmarks from six pregnancies and nursing six babies, but their shape, size, and the way they hang is perfect for me. I discovered one is larger than the other. Yay child #5 only wanting the left side. They are soft, creamy colored, and with the added weight I have put on due to medication and a few years of sedentary life, I actually have cleavage when I wear a bra.

This may seem as TMI to a lot of you, but it's groundbreaking for me. Body image is a big deal.

It's one thing to be able to determine the state of my mental health if I can look at myself in the mirror and like the person I see or not. That usually has nothing to do with my overall physique, but what I see when I look in my eyes.

But to be able to look at my body as is, stretch marks, lumpy I've-had-six-kids rolls on my stomach that will never go away without elective surgery, thicker arms and thighs than I ever imagined I would have, and accepting it, thinking it's beautiful and mine, is a first for me.

When the first mood stabilizer, Risperdal, had me gaining weight and tipped me over the 200 lb mark, I didn't ever want to look at an outfit in the mirror again. Even after I changed meds, I've pretty much stabilized between 205-215 no matter how much walking, kickboxing, trips to the gym, etc that I do.

And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like I not only can live with it, I can feel good in my skin.

When I say a very long time, I mean in probably 42 years. Well, ok, there were times when I was in starvation mode, working two jobs, sleeping 3-5 hours a night for 2 years, and barely having time to catch one meal a day that I could fit into some super cute outfits and felt like I matched what the world sees and expects.

Of course, when that ended, my body said, "FOOD!!  Save it up for the next time she stops eating!!"

Also, given the fact that I am fairly close to 5'9", the extra fifty pounds could look much worse. Lets be real here, on my mom, who is 5 feet tall, fifty pounds would *really* show.

I wish, very much, that when I was younger and had that fit body, the teenage health and vibrance of life in my 20's that I had been just as comfortable in my skin. There's something freeing, something that shines from within when there is that comfort.

Only now do I feel that for real. Yes, I have cellulite. Some days I comment on it, because it's simply a fact that it's there. And because of that, not every piece of clothing is going to look good on my shape. And sometimes I will and do get exasperated at something that looked so good on the hanger not looking good when I put it on.

This is simply a fact, and that's something that I can't always be happy about. But that doesn't mean I feel like I'm ugly or unlovable.

I think that's the most important bit. I think that somewhere along the way, I've decided that yes, I'm lovable. Just as I am.

Perhaps this has to start on the inside. When the bad days are bad and those evil demons of depression are telling me that I'm horrible and worthless, it starts with my thoughts. I feel like my soul is twisted out of shape, a disgusting waste of energy that shouldn't be a smudge on anyone else's existence.

I know that distorts what I see in the mirror. It's like a dark overlay, causing me to hate what I see on the outside because I can't love what is on the inside.

That being said, I didn't suffer from clinical depression when I was younger. I had NO idea what it was like until after my son was born and I had post-partum.

I knew that my grandparents loved me, and I knew that God loved me. That was always a given for me, and somehow that was some stable rock that has stuck somewhere in my brain and has never budged. It's the tiny granite core of the sea-bed that makes up my emotions, self-image, and view of the world.

Yet attached to that core is the fear that they will stop loving me if I make too many mistakes. If I turn out not as perfect as they had hoped. I am fallible; I have certainly not lived the life of a saint, and I have a great many regrets.

For once in my life, for real, I have discovered that people love me no matter what. Perhaps not all people. But my true friends, my brothers, my sister, my mother. No matter what. And maybe that's helped me realize that it's okay for me to love me, too.

Loving me includes loving the lumps and rolls and imperfections that come with aging, motherhood, and the quirks that make up my body.  It's pretty darn cool to feel this way. :)

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