To Look with Love

It’s time to talk about something a little bit harder than usual. I usually tell you stories that are a little bit funny, and a little bit cute, and it’s all tempered with love and humor. So, even when I’m frustrated, I don’t seem all that unhappy.

I have self-image problems. I avoid mirrors like the plague. I do not have a full length mirror in my home. I hate my body to a level that I know is unrealistic and damaging.

It’s still an improvement over where I was five years ago. Five years ago I contemplated suicide because I  didn’t believe that I was worth taking up space, food, or oxygen on this planet.  Those are rare resources after all, and ought to go to someone who deserved them.

I’ve had therapy. A lot of therapy. And drugs. A lot of really well designed drugs. And time. And love. And friends who stood by me and let me call at absurd hours and who loved me even when I was so deeply depressed that I even annoyed me.  I think about them, and thank in my mind, every time I look at my daughter.

I almost didn’t have this amazing life.

Even when I decided to live, to not kill myself, it wasn’t because I had value. It was because it would hurt too many other people. I could tolerate the pain for the time being. For a while, I started to try to distance myself from everything so that people wouldn’t be as hurt when I finally fell into that abyss.

You know when I finally realized that I was worth this life?

When I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a deer in my car.  I wasn’t thinking about my car. Or myself. I was looking at the deer and thinking, “Poor deer.”

Then I really started thinking. I slammed on the brakes for that deer, but I lived in a place with thousands of deer.  Thousands. They were, in fact, hunted every fall to thin the population to a level that they wouldn’t suffer. It didn’t matter. I still didn’t want to hit that deer.

I realized that I believed it had value. That particular deer. Just for existing. It didn’t need to justify its value. It didn’t matter that there were too many other deer. It just was. It didn’t need to feel bad that it took up resources. It was valuable. It deserved my care, my carefulness, just because it existed.

That was an “Oh!” moment for me. Because I finally got it. It was a year since I’d been in therapy, but I finally understood why I had value. It’s not because of anything I can do. It’s not because of the degree I fought for. It’s not because of sex. It’s not because of friendship. I am valuable because I exist.

Which started me on the journey of self-love. It’s an incredibly selfish journey. You have to learn to love yourself. Being passionate about yourself in our society is hard. It’s called all sorts of names narcissism, vanity, ego, and selfishness are just a few that I’ve heard.

Then just when I was starting to love myself, I was blindsided by parenthood. And the moment you think you’ve got it all figured out and under control, parenthood will prove you wrong.

Parenthood takes self-identity and shreds it. It takes selflessness. It takes courage and strength. It takes stuff that I didn’t have much of when I started all this. And, the truth of the matter is, I’m not as secure in my self-love as I was when I started.

Especially when it comes to my body. I hate my body. Especially my stomach. I won’t describe it to you, but it shows the effects of having lost fifty pounds, being stretched to accommodate an eight pound baby, and all of the stretching and pooching and softening that goes with that. And I’m overweight by about 70 pounds.

So, Fiona’s obsession with my tummy is hard. indescribably hard.

She cuddles it. She loves it. She plays pretend with it. She pats it. She exposes it.

She forces me to notice it.

And I resent it. Oh, god, how I resent it! And it makes me want to hide. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me feel like I am less worth while. Not without worth, but worth less. I won’t deny her though. The ability to touch and feel comfortable with me is worth more to me than my self-image right now.

Yesterday, she was playing with it. My belly. I hate even naming it.  And she says to me, “I love your tummy, Mama.  I love it. It so nice. It so perfect. It beautiful. I love tummy. I love you, too, Mama.”

Oh. Oh, to see myself through her eyes!

I need to learn again to love myself. Especially my body. Especially my tummy. Partially for her, but mostly for me. Because I have value. I am worth loving.

One of the things that I did learn in therapy is that, if you’re not happy, then it’s time to make changes. Changes to what you’re unhappy with. Changes to the way you think. Changes to the way you act.

I have to make all of those changes. I want to see through her eyes. I want to look at myself in a mirror and see something beautiful. That means that I’m going to have to learn to look with love.

I know this is long, but I wanted to share. Because sometimes, someone has to start. Someone has to go first. Someone has to say, I’m broken and I’m healing and I’m trying, but I’m not perfect.  I’ll do it. I’m not perfect. My body has issues and I hate my body.

But I’m going to try to learn to love it.

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8 thoughts on “To Look with Love

  1. My friend, you not only have worth, you are a treasure. Sharing this kind of deep sorrow and struggle is a great gift you give to free up others to know that they’re not alone in this sort of feeling, this kind of effort to live life well and happily. I have had it easier than most, but thanks to [body] chemistry still went through some of the same depressive agonies as you describe and thanks to [medical] chemistry and therapy am alive, semi-sane (as much as need be!) and kicking, and very glad to be so 95% of the time. I’ve posted about the journey from time to time and suspect, from what I’m reading here at your blog, that you and I have some similar experiences and feelings–so I hope that you will find blogging and the incredibly supportive and wise and loving community that grows out of it to be as therapeutic as I do, too.
    Hugs to you, and hope–
    Kathryn

  2. Kids sometimes can be the best therapist. I love you ‘Mandie and miss you bunches. Can’t tell you how glad I am that you walk into my life.

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