Welcome to another amazing guest post in the Gravity Imprint Blog Swap. Today, our guest is the wonderful and inspirational Lindsay Fischer. There’s more info about Lindsay, her work, and her book below, but first, here’s a post she’s shared about domestic abuse and body dysmorphic disorder. Thank you, Lindsay, for joining us today.
Photo by Volcan Olmez
Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD: another medical acronym in a longstanding list of diagnoses after leaving my abuser. I couldn’t even see myself for who I was; my mind was a highway in gridlock: too many thoughts, too many problems, so much to absorb. I felt paralyzed.
You’re getting so fat. You’ll eat when I allow it. His verbal attacks played on a loop in my head.
Maybe, just maybe, my ribcage protruded because fat accentuated them. One meal a day doesn’t matter when the calorie count is high.
This disease went undiagnosed in me for three years; I rationalized it as my new normal. Convinced his words were my truth, I let myself be ruled by false phrases. You’re getting fat and I don’t care what you look like as long as you’re confident spewed my way within seconds of one another. Crazy-making conversations that led me to believe in my own worthlessness. It was okay to hate what I saw in the mirror because it reflected how I felt inside.
I was never going to get my self-image back, because I could never be the person I was before I survived.
To be honest, I’m not sure there is a diagnosis for what followed leaving. Not only was I obsessed with my appearance and unable to truly, realistically look at myself, but I started gaining and losing weight, 40 pounds up and down the scale, because I needed to know I was capable of remaining in control of my body. In fact, my preoccupation with how the physical and mental assaults inflicted by him impacted my body and led to my own harmful tendencies:
I ingested and regurgitated, starved and then over-filled, designing and preparing for each shift in weight like they were as normal as the seasons changing.
Was I conscious of it?
But over the course of the three years I went untreated, then after the diagnosis, I struggled along through trauma therapy for three more, ranging from a size 2 to a size 12 (#shortgirlproblems) in next to no time. Up and down, over and over.
None of this is something I should’ve tried doing alone, but I unintentionally set myself up for success by writing about the bloody, gaping wounds hindering my soul. That’s when others told me they understood. They’d been there, and they wanted me to know I wasn’t wrong for feeling the way I did, but I could change it when I was ready. Ironically, these messages came from abuse and eating disorder survivors, from family members of both, and from anyone who could relate their trauma to my own (even when the correlation seemed murky, at best, in the moment).
The abuse, it appeared, was easier for me to acknowledge, because it took more time for me to realize what I was doing to my own body, after I freed myself of his manipulations.
Seven years down the line, I’m finally able to see myself again. Some days, it’s easy to look in the mirror and be confident. Other days, I still see the brokenness: seeing myself as too thin or too thick, but I’ve learned that choosing to heal doesn’t mean problems vanish.
Now, I’m simply equipped to handle them.
What I’ve learned is that life and recovery are equally complicated. Good times and bad are intermingled in such complex ways that it’s impossible to see them differently. While I might still struggle with body image, I’m thrilled with how far I’ve come, never doubting the work I’ve put in has changed me – in the best ways – even when I hate what stares back in the mirror. Because even when my confidence is questioned, I love the person behind the body. The soul that shares openly–raw wounds and those that’ve healed–so people realize they aren’t alone in their own fights. Just like brave warriors did for me.
No matter where each of us lands on the spectrum of happiness and health, we’re all able to connect with one another if we try. It’s an impossible feat to go through life without support, and an act we shouldn’t be trying so hard to wear as a badge of honor and courage.
When I was stuck in a constant state of trauma, there was very little chance of me fixing my BDD. Through the help of a professional, I was able to break down one medical acronym at a time, realizing they all stemmed from the same beliefs (but manifested in different ways).
If you are dealing with any kind of body issues, I encourage you to dig deep and let the root of your problem surface, making it easier to overcome than when merely focusing on prevalent symptoms. It won’t be easy or pain-free, but it’s certainly worth it.
Feeling alone doesn’t equate to actual solitude, and I’m happy to be your sister in arms whenever you’re feeling less-than-perfectly-you. Because, along this road, you’ll remember why life is so worth fighting for, why lessons sometimes knock us on our backsides, and why the getting up is more important than the terror of descending.
Lindsay Fischer is a best-selling and award-winning author, and the creator of #domesticviolencechat on Twitter. An avid reader and learner, Lindsay took her passion for words into a classroom before starting a writing career. Life got messy when she fell in love with a man who would become her abuser, and it pulled her from the classroom. After three years of trauma therapy, she saw an opportunity to use her voice against domestic violence, blogging about trauma recovery since 2009 and releasing The House on Sunset, her domestic violence memoir, in 2015.
Lindsay hopes she can be an advocate for women, men and children who are still living inside the nightmare of domestic abuse. She currently lives with her husband and three dogs in St. Louis, Missouri.