July 06, 2006

Mirror, mirror

It embarrasses me to explain this, though I suppose it is very common, at least in its present manifestation: I see myself as fat, even though I "know" (insofar as what size 0 and extra small tell me) that I am thin. I hate to look at myself in any mirror, because the reflection seems to show me looking as obese as I was when on too much Zyprexa...and the thing is, I HATE myself for it, I can't stop thinking about it, and it torments me endlessly to the point that I often refuse to go out to eat with other people or if I do, only pick at food or pretend I'm not hungry, (though I'll eat fine once at home alone...). I am actually proud of myself for having eaten ice cream with friends this week, because I almost balked and had only a diet coke...Felt like I’d somehow expose my shameful concern and look weird if I didn’t join in though.

What is even weirder is that when I actually was obese, I saw myself as thin! Truly. No one knew this except one doctor in the hospital, who made fun of me for it, mocking me by calling me "Tiny". When I weighed over 180 lbs at 5'3" I both felt and thought I "looked" thin in the mirror, and ONLY the scale told me otherwise, and the number size of my clothes (and also photos). I hated myself then, too, but mostly because of the purely intellectual knowledge that I wore an extra large size, not because I actually saw how fat I really was.

Ah, self-hate...How to explain it when I scarely understand it myself? I suppose it comes from a guilt I’ve felt nearly from birth, arising indirectly from the message implied in being told that my twin sister, the second and a little smaller until adulthood, was the frail one who had to stay in the incubator two weeks longer than I ...And therefore needed more attention and care than I did. I always felt I was not allowed to show any emotions, which ended up with my not feeling them, because I was labeled the "stoic one." I had to take care of Lynnie, who had temper tantrums and was a crybaby etc. If I evinced any strong feeling, I was simply called "Sarah Bernhardt" and told I was acting dramatic.

But back to self-hate: the possible genesis of it may have been due to the fact that I felt it was obvious that I was to blame for Lynnie's apparent frailty. Insofar as I, being the bigger twin, "ate more" than she in the womb, by extension, I ate more than my share...Which made me a glutton and selfish even then and therefore evil in nature at birth. None of this was said by anyone, mind you. It was purely a conclusion I came to on my own. But I've always had a sense that I had to do good and be extra good, simply to atone for being born evil, for which I rightly hate myself. My evil is so terrible, moreover, that it pollutes people who come near me, the worse so for those who don't believe in it.

That's why I can't not hate myself. Because if I don't keep my evil in check, I could contaminate and destroy the world. It is bad enough that the people near me suffer from their insistence that they are protected, or not in need of protection. They are the most vulnerable! It is only those who stay away because they hate me, or are afraid of me and the power of my evil, who remain safe. And yet, because I am at least apparently human (I say "apparently" deliberately), I also feel lonely and scared when too many people stay away, even though I know this is right and good and as it must be. Even here I sometimes worry I might virtually contaminate people...

So it goes. on and on. I'm working on it, slowly, but it's hard, because I don't think it is wrong or erroneous to think this way...

Thanks for letting me talk. There's much more that goes into it, but this is a start.

Posted by pamwagg at July 6, 2006 03:28 PM


With many apologies, I find I must say just one thing more--and then I will cease and desist! Until a couple of days ago I had never posted anything on a blog in my entire life; I don't know the rules, really, and feel as errant and blundering as the proverbial bull in the china shop. Still, this seemed important.

Pam, I feel certain that if you were truly evil the apprehension that it MIGHT be so--should you entertain it at all, which seems highly unlikely--would not cause you a moment's disquietude.

I certainly hope that I am no authority on evil, but I do believe this: that is is distinquished, at least in part, from all degrees and shades of human frailty by its absolute lack of compunction, regret, and remorse.

I am a stranger and have no right to address you so familiarly, but--please--accept your reverberant blessedness.


Posted by: Cynthia at July 9, 2006 11:57 AM

Dear Pam and Paula--

Once, when she was very young, my daughter lay on the grassy ground under a monumental oak tree and, gazing up into its massive canopy, gasped, "Oh! I'm so small!" And I lay down beside her and gazed up myself and--oh!--I was so small, too . . .

It is all a matter of relevance, see. Perhaps it would help to contemplate this: in the universe, there are said to be 80 billion galaxies, more or less. Each galaxy hosts no fewer than 100 billion suns. In our own galaxy, the Milky Way, there somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 billion suns, or almost 70 suns for each and every one of us.

Are you feeling ANY smaller? We humans are not so much as sparrows; we are not the crumbs the sparrows eat; we are not the specks of flour in the crumbs; we are not the atoms in the specks! Comparatively, we are nothing at all. It is astonishing that we manage the least squeak of sentience.

And this is so even when we feel gargantuan in our stupidity, as I do now . . . Pam, how tired you must become of the odd comments of strangers attracted to your captivating blog. And Paula, forgive my intrusive sequel to your intelligent and relevant response. Still, I can't get over the thought that we really ARE nothing, corporeally or in any other sense.

(I should add that I am indebted to Annie Dillard for the statistics.)

Many good wishes to you both--


Posted by: Cynthia at July 8, 2006 10:09 PM

I have felt for a long time that there was something amiss in your public appearances where it seemed to me that the implication was that you are now "cured". No one who reads your blog could possibly believe this. You have admitted to the return of your hated voices, your paranoia(i.e. the supermarket)to name a few of the things that have disturbed me. Now the specter of the old "body image" problem raises its ugly head once more. I simply cannot accept the complex "Lynnie as weakling" theory as being the cause of your preoccupation with your size. Disagree, as I know you will, but as I've said before, anorexia by any other name is still anorexia. Period. It's a mindset, not a physical problem, a mindset as difficult to abandon as a heroin addiction. Just accept it, darling. I accepted it as my way of life so long ago that I realize that it is simply a permanent part of me. I am 55 years old. I have never been in danger because of this aspect of myself. I have always been very healthy until I met my Waterloo, the deer tick. Look at yourself. Despite years of neglecting yourself and being on so many potentially toxic meds, you are still writing exquisite poetry, you've written an excellent book, traveled extensively to promote it, and you are not yet in the throes of malnutrition. You won't be either. You will not let it go that far, as I have not. Put it behind you, darling. Look forward to publishing a volume of poetry that I shall read and reread till it is in shreds. If you do anything with these completely candid and well meant words I have just written, please do not interpret them as criticism. I am a pot, calling my fellow pot black. I know you'd rather I speak the truth than lie. We share many characteristics, and this one is a thorny one, but it's just "same old, same old" to me. Let's tilt at a new windmill, okay my dear friend?
Tenderly,Perkless as can be

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at July 7, 2006 11:33 PM

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