Body image, trauma responses, and a pandemic, OH MY!

c/w trauma, binge eating disorder

Hello all! I hope this post finds you in a space that is ready to read. If not, perhaps put down the device and take a moment for yourself to create a more suitable space. I take no offense, please take care of yourself. For those of you that do find yourself in such a space to read, I welcome you!

I’m currently sitting at my dining room table as my skylight windows are drenched in what can only be described as a bleak, gray, uninviting day. I would also describe this as the perfect writing weather- nowhere to be, no rush to get outside, just a strong desire to process. So buckle up friends because today we are driving full force into it: Body image, trauma responses, and a pandemic, OH MY! So, let’s get into gear, shall we?

This last week or so has been rough. I had a shift in mindset and I can pinpoint the exact moment it happened. I was sitting on my phone, for longer than I had intended, scrolling through social media, and this old voice comes into my head. ‘You’ll never be like them. They are popular and beautiful and you will never be them, so stop trying. And they certainly don’t want to be like you.’ I couldn’t seem to turn the voice off. Running, which has been my solace throughout this pandemic, couldn’t even shut it down. It just played over and over. This voice has been a dear friend of mine for some time even though I used to be really harsh with her. “SHUT UP!” I would usually yell, which only made it louder. I now use a different approach. I respond gently and inquire what is coming up, what memory or pain is there?

There were plenty of memories and pain. I knew I was having a trauma response (hence the skipped blog post last week). I had stomach aches and I recognized them from a mile away; I got them all the time as a kid. This is known as the mind-body connection, wherein your body hears what your mind is saying and responds to it (i.e. sadness leading to stomach aches). I have gone through different types of trauma in my life and there are a few warning signs that let me know a trauma response has been triggered. First, my inner critic starts up. Second, are the stomach aches. Third, is this overwhelming desire to eat until I can’t feel, which then masks the stomach aches. No longer do I have to think about the feeling I am having, but rather I can focus on the self-induced pain I have caused by eating too much.

This is also known as Binge Eating Disorder, something I have suffered from for most of my life. Actually, I would like to instead say, something I used for coping with most of my life. Albeit, not a healthy way of coping, but a coping skill nonetheless. The thing about binge eating though, is that it all connects back to that initial thought, right? Because when I eat too much, I feel like a failure, which then makes me sad, which then makes me have stomach aches, which then makes me want to binge eat. It’s a cycle.

So, this brings me back to that harsh vs. gentle voice. Since I now know and recognize all the signs, I am able to process a little differently. In this last week, I had a lot of reflection time. What is coming up, what memory or pain is there? This pandemic has brought up a lot of hard memories and pain. Memories of feeling alone. Memories of being a teenager and feeling like being here was just a little too hard. A lack of direction and needing guidance. Pain from broken relationships. Thoughts about loss of love. It was baby Sarah again, just wanting someone to hold her.

I would like to note that as I am writing this, tears are splashing onto my table, flowing from my cheeks like a waterfall. Not because I am sad, no; I am crying because there is a release happening. It’s like being under water for a long time and then getting to come up to the surface for air. There is that mind-body connection again, my brain processing and my body responding to it. In this connection, I’ve learned that the best way to heal from past experiences is actually embracing how my body is responding, not shaming it.

I’m also crying because my younger self only knew shame. Now, knowing that there are other ways to understand oneself is equivalent to taking in that first big breath of air. Shame was something I learned young and specifically from how I presented my body. I remember being a young girl and “developing early” as they say. My boobs grew in fast and my butt was always bigger than the rest. Something I now embrace, but as a kid I could only feel shame about. I remember wearing outfits that would hide and distract from the fact that my body didn’t look like the girls in my class. My friends were all thin and blonde and kids. I was thicc, had boobs in fifth grade, brunette, and had to grow up too fast.

I guess this is all to say that quarantine is bringing up these feelings in me again. I can feel baby Sarah isolated and alone, but instead of feeling shame I go to the source and I examine it deeply.  So the source came from when I was scrolling. What was I seeing as I was scrolling? This thicc body of mine has been a source of jokes for many people lately. Memes draped in images that look like my body, with words that express fear of being like me. Posts about eating too much because there is nothing to do, when my stomach knows what overeating really feels like. These images have hit the core of baby Sarah and that inner critic. However, after exploring it more I found that these things have not made me feel shame, what they have made me feel is lucky that I now know my worth. That I have had time to examine my body outside of what others think it should be and I have found pride in the creases and lumps and dips and highs and lows. I remind baby Sarah of all the things this beautiful body has brought us. This life I have is all thanks to the body that got me here.

I say to her now:

“Baby, we don’t feel shame for this body anymore. We still feel a lot of things all the time, but we do not have the space for shame. Brené Brown once said ’empathy is the antidote to shame’ and we hold that antidote inside. We are superheroes, healing ourself. We still feel a lot of things all the time, but baby shame is no longer one of them. There is a pandemic and people are sick. We are healthy and surviving. I know it feels easier to focus on our body because it is a space we can understand, but if we are going to do that we are going to use our antidote. Baby, we don’t need shame, we need understanding and self-compassion. It’s okay that we felt triggered, we experienced some tough things, but guess what? We made it through and we will keep making it through. Baby, we do not have the space for shame.”

In this quarantine if you are finding yourself responding in ways that you don’t like, try not to yell “shut up!” Maybe try a gentler approach. Gather your empathy that you so often share with others and turn it inward. You deserve love and understanding as much as anyone around you does. Perhaps, you’re having trouble knowing how to be gentler and that’s okay too. Just try starting small, like saying ‘shh’ instead of ‘shut up’ and maybe those words eventually turn into ‘I love you’.

But for now, just remember, you are a superhero with the antidote for shame right inside of you.

A[wo]men

**Side note: with this blog post I am doing a giveaway! To enter:

  1. Follow my instagram account- sarahlorrainerobinson
  2. Follow my friends instagram account- sopowart
  3. Tag a friend that you think would enjoy reading this weeks blog and use the hashtag #awomengiveaway on a photo on my instagram page.

You will then be entered to win $50 via Venmo and a painting made by sopowart (see featured image for painting). Winner will be chosen Friday 5/1.

SHUT UP!

SHUT UP!

SHUT UP!

“I can’t.”

they whisper.

“but maybe,

if you held my hand,

i could change my tune.”

-how to approach yourself

 

 

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