Body image, Bras, Depression, Exercise, Jogging, Sex, Weight gain, Yoga
Today I went to buy some new bras – a necessity I’ve always hated.
From my early teenage years I had big boobs. I was always embarrassed to be wearing bras when my schoolmates had barely a hint of anything worth restraining.
As I grew older, I discovered there are hardly any bras made for young women with DD cups. I mean, you can buy DD bras alright, but they’re not suitable for chicks who don’t want to look like a grandma when they undress.
Then there’s the matter of support, which reduces the candidate pool even further. Sure, you can get some lacy & pretty DD bras these days but they aren’t bras you can wear with any regularity unless you want to end up with back and/or shoulder pain.
Anyway, I digress.
What I noticed today in those oh-so-helpful dressing rooms with mirrors that show you what you look like from every angle is this – my body is wearing the war wounds of my trauma.
Now, in my pre-assault life, I was never what you’d call a thin wispy thing. But I was fit. I jogged, I did yoga, I rode my bike, I went to the gym. I was curvaceous but toned. And now, my body looks like a wasteland of this time. The basic structure and musculature is still there, but it’s obscured by more body fat than I’ve ever had in my life. Not that I’m obese. Just possibly carrying around 15-20kg more than necessary.
I’ve had body issues most of my life. In my eyes I’ve always been too tall, too big boned compared to other females. I also had a brother that managed to tell me every day for a good ten years that I was ugly, fat, stupid, wasn’t going to amount to anything etc. And you know what they say – if you’re told something often enough, it sticks.
I managed to see through the taunts about my intelligence – it was blatantly clear I was much smarter than my brother. I was able to make a life for myself, study, and get good jobs that paid well enough. So that never really stuck. But the body image stuff really really did.
I need to say that when I’m fit and not carrying too much excess body weight, I’ve received many compliments. I never had a shortage of men in my life and I was able to be… if not happy with how I looked then – okay. I was okay with how I looked and I could accept I’d never be model thin or gorgeous. And I could also accept that men liked how I looked, even if I could never see it myself.
But today, taking a good look at myself in the mirror (for the first time in a while) – I was able to see the exhaustion, the pain and the need for refuge imprinted on and in my flesh.
I’ve always been sporty, always active and doing things. But like many people dealing with depression – I stopped. Well, it was stop-start for a while before my will for exercise sputtered into nothingness.
Something I seem to do is self-punish. If I’m feeling low or down, I’ll take things away from myself that could make me feel better. Sad but true. And throughout the last couple of years I’ve held myself responsible for what happened to me. For what someone else did. Yeah, yeah – logically I know it’s not true. I can’t count the number of times people trotted out that tired old line “what happened – it’s not your fault you know”. Yup. Try telling that to the Supreme Judge residing within who signed my guilty verdict before the bruises had healed. And it seems, I’ve made myself pay with my body.
There’s another theory, one I’ve been thinking for a while. And one with which my therapist agrees. It’s around being attractive to the opposite sex.
Until December last year, I hadn’t had sex with anyone since I was assaulted. Well, technically from a month or so before I was assaulted actually. Andre (not his real name) and I had been seeing each other for a few months before I called it off. At least a month before that night.
For a long time it wasn’t even a question, I had no sex drive. I had no interest in men. I was literally too terrified to get close to anyone. [Note: I’ll deal more with some of these topics (sex, dating etc) in separate posts.]
In any case, the theory is something like this – in order to not have to deal with men being attracted to me in any way, I let myself gain weight. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed that also helped me maintain my weight. It’s a great avoidance tactic when you think about it.
Then, once I noticed the weight I’d been gaining I did make an effort to lose it. For a while I even had a personal trainer I was seeing twice a week for 2-3 months. But whilst I got fitter, I didn’t lose any weight.
I do know now that this is a psychological reaction in an attempt to protect myself. The only problem with that is because I have prior issues with my body/weight/looks, my weight gain contributes to my depression. So I avoid mirrors and I don’t go shopping for new clothes a lot. Despite being aware of all these things, I find it incredibly difficult to re-build my exercise routines.
Lately I’ve been making slow but steady inroads towards regaining my fitness. I have a ‘once a week’ rule. If I can do something at least once a week, it’s a triumph. Right now, I’m either going to a yoga class or going for a light jog. Anything else is a bonus.
The first effort to adhere to this rule was going to my favourite yoga studio. In order to make this possible, I had to put a few structures in place. I made a vow out loud to a friend that I was going to go. I pre-packed my yoga bag the night before and made sure it was in the boot of my car. Then I drove my car to the train station next to the studio – not my usual station. Despite all of those things, I had to again verbalise to someone at work what I wanted to do, and took their encouragement on board. It was still touch and go as I was walking back to my car after work. Heading towards the studio, I felt as though I was wading in wet sand. It was unbelievably tough. But finally I got there and my inner cheerleader went berserk!
There were a few weeks between this first effort and the next. But now I seem to have it sorted, at least for my ‘once a week’ rule. And when, a couple of weeks ago I went for a walk/jog in a local park, the crowds went wild!
It’s still hard every day. As much as I love exercise, the battle to allow myself something that I enjoy is a tough game to win. But slowly the Supreme Judge within is losing gravitas.
Looking in the mirror(s) today I saw I’ve got a long way to go. I don’t want to look like this any more. I do want to be attractive to men once more.
I know that in order for my body scars to fade, I’ve gotta start taking care of myself. The early foundations are there. And right now I’m waiting for the impulse to arrive that will make the ‘once a week’ rule obsolete as my natural desire to be active returns. I live in hope, with a healthy dose of intent thrown in for good measure!
You are dealing with your troubles honestly and bravely. I am impressed with your insight. It makes me very sad that another human being can inflict so much emotional pain on another.
It sounds like you are making progress with your general self care. Exercising once a week is a good start. I hope you are able to gradually escalate that to your previous level, and to your previous health. Maybe even better, huh?
I have heard of women making themselves ugly and undesirable post assault. Though I can understand the logic, I see it as a poor coping mechanism. There must be better ones, and from your writing I think you have the intelligence, the insight, and the willingness to find them.
GO! Smell the flowers said:
Hi there flower Smeller!
Thanks for you recent visit and we find your blog truly inspiration – theres always a place for you over at GO! Smell the flowers so feel free to drop comments in on the posts that interest you – you’ve got a gift to inspire others and you write in such a heartfelt way,
GO! Smell the flowers – we hope to see more of you.
I can relate and thanks for adding me as a friend in MyBlogLog. I will add you…had to check out your blog first. I enjoyed it. Will be back to visit.
Thanks for the comments!
@FerdC – I know what you’re saying, but its not something I chose to do conciously. It can be really challenging to manage all the different issues that surround you after being assaulted! I’ll be reading your blog also.
@GSTF – thanks for your kind words. I will indeed read and comment on your posts.
@CC – Thank you too. I will pop in and out of your blog as well. 🙂
My mom and I are wishing you all the best! She can relate to looking in a mirror – she says yuk to that!
Judith van der Roos said:
Those who are not survivors themselves rarely realise just how much our physical scars effect us, and few understand what sort of war we have to wage within ourselves to just be able to gaze upon our own body once again.
The ignorant tell us to “Get over it”, or “leave it behind you”, they blithely say “Look to the future”. But they do not stand in front of their mirror and see our attacker’s marks – the network of small scars on their face, or the scar of a great knife slash across their breast, or the criss cross lines made by the box knife over our genitals, or the deep kelloid mess that marks the grave of where my womb used to be.
How do you get across to people that no matter how much you strive to forgive, forget and live again that part of you will always exist in “that moment”.
Anyway, I kind of drifted from what I really wanted to say. Good luck on your journey, may your Goddess guide and protect you. Keep writing, as I will keep reading your site.
@Judith – Wow, thank you so much for finding my blog and leaving a comment. I’m currently in the process of reading your story assault and your current time blog. And I’ve seen some of the photos of your recovery, including the scars across your chest.
My story has nothing on yours, and I know how hard its been for me to regain my composure (still not quite there yet). And my scars are not so much physical, except for the weight gain.
Dealing with an incredibly traumatic event is not something a person can just get over. There’s so many layers of ‘stuff’ to deal with: physical, emotional, psychological. All of these layers have their scars, even though not all of them can be seen.
Its tough though, for those who haven’t had some kind of trauma to understand. How could they?
I am truly inspired with how far you seem to have come (your wife and children). I’m desperately reading (as fast as I can without upsetting myself) to catch up on how you got there.
Peace to you, lovely lady!