A Respectful & Appreciative Envy

The Catcher In The Rye

I. HATE. MY. BODY. More than anyone has ever hated anything. There isn’t a single part of my body that I like, let alone love. In fact, I don’t think I can even tolerate any of it. Sound dramatic, but that is exactly how I feel. How I’ve always felt. People say “oh don’t talk shit, I like you the way you are” or “there’s nothing wrong with how you look” but would they still be saying that if they spent a few minutes in my head? Platitudes are all too common, especially when people don’t know what to do or (even worse) say it purely so they don’t feel guilty about not wanting to get involved. When I was suffering from an eating disorder, I had a very specific view of my body. Being in recovery, not much has changed except I can no longer use food as a form of control. Shouldn’t. So this got me wondering…what if the way I feel about myself is some form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)? That would certainly explain why I think or feel like I’m in the wrong body. That there’s something wrong with the body I currently have. Wouldn’t it? Maybe I’m in denial, trying to avoid the truth about who or what the fuck I am.

I don’t want to self-diagnose which is why I’m not going to look into the exact causes or definitions of BDD. I know a bit about it from my time in an eating disorder unit. It’s essentially a warped view of yourself. But is what I’m feeling a “warped view”? If I was concerned about my nose or my knees (which I am), and became obsessed to the point where I struggled to live a normal life (whatever “normal” is) then yeh, you could say it’s BDD. But what if it’s not one particular part? What if it’s the entire body and everything associated with it? I know BDD can stem from low self esteem, so could that be an explanation for all this? I mean, I’ve never thought highly of myself. I’ve never been popular or a typical male. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t I then over-compensate for that? I should be hitting the gym, getting ripped and doing the manliest things I could thing of. Instead, I’ve gone the other way. Is that still BDD?

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve always been skinny as a kid. A naive and scared child from a dysfunctional family, who had trouble fitting in with the world. I had no real control over how I looked. We weren’t a rich family, so as kids we had to make do with what we could afford. I had a dorky haircut, which my mom would take care of. Our school uniforms weren’t renewed every term and it was never the official school one but instead, ones that were almost the same colour. When my sister’s shirt was too small for her, it was handed down to me. I used to go to school absolutely shitting myself that another kid would notice it buttoned the other way round or that it didn’t say “boys: ages 8-10” on the inside of the collar. But why would they notice?? It was just me being paranoid and self conscious. Thing is, I wasn’t worried about wearing a girl’s shirt. That wasn’t the issue. In my mind, it was perfectly fine. It felt right. The thing I was actually worried about? People finding out and calling me a freak or whatever the junior school equivalent was. So could my distorted view stem from little things like this? Why I feel like it’s acceptable? Can a fucking shirt make that much difference to a person as they’re growing up?! I think this over-thinking is frustrating the hell out of me. Argh. Just taking some time out to re-focus and to think about this, I’d love to say yes. That being given my sister’s hand me downs are what caused this. But I know I’d be lying. I mean, if I had been made to wear my dad’s shirt, would I become a miserable and selfish computer engineer as a result?!

So that’s that theory out of the window then. What next?! Comparison? Something I have experience with from my eating disorder (and probably before then) is the feeling of not being good enough and constantly comparing yourself to others. Looking back, I’ve tried to do whatever I can to be somebody unique. I’ve worked with bands I’ve grown up listening to, I’ve fund-raised for causes, I’ve gone out of my way to help others – even appearing on TV or radio to raise awareness for eating disorders. But that’s not something that affects me physically so what about the outside? Well, other than wearing make up, I’ve not done to much about how I look. I hate how I look so, if anything, I’ve tried to avoid it altogether. One of the reasons I hate mirrors. However, you don’t need a mirror to get yourself down about the way you look. I know I compare looks – but not in the way you’d expect. When I see a male, I don’t think “ah, I wish I had biceps like that”. If anything, I’m glad I don’t. If there’s any comparison, it’s to do with females. Fuck, there’s not even much to compare: I don’t look like they do. End of!! When men look at women, it’s usually to see how attractive they are and to make an assessment. When I see women, it’s more than that. I’ll maybe spot something about what they’re wearing or their make up or a particular feature and think “oh, that’s nice” etc. It’s certainly not the same way that men normally think. Besides, if we are talking about the “typical” sense then I only have eyes for one woman…and I’m already married to her (until she divorces me because of what I am). A lot of the time, it’s envy. A respectful and appreciative envy. Yeh, it really gets me down, especially knowing I can’t do anything about it. That’s the way I think: I can’t do anything about it, so I don’t. Wanting but not being able to achieve change. So it’s most definitely an internal issue too, not just an external one about how I see my body. Fair enough if I just wanted a certain body shape, but it’s not just that. It’s wanting my body to match my brain. That can’t be BDD, surely??

When I was at school, I remember studying a book called The Catcher In The Rye. It was about a boy called Holden Caulfield who was trying to find his place in the world, whilst struggling to deal with angst and alienation. I loved it and I could identify with the character on so many levels. To this day, it’s still my favourite book. Holden went on a little journey of self-discovery and awareness, a bit like what I’m doing now. However, writing these posts worries me, as I’m scared of what I’ll find out about myself. It’s needed though. I can’t keep going on the way I have been. But there’s something else too. As Holden discovers at the end of the book, reliving moments and opening up can bring about the realisation of what you no longer have. Whilst he was referring to people from his past, my realisation is of the life – the body – I don’t have.

Featured image: via Pinterest

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