I was scheduled for a doctor’s appointment that was meant to address the ongoing pain and lack of mobility in my left hip. The persistent injury was at its worst in last January, preventing me from even walking normally, much less going out for a nice long run. At the time, I substituted my running workouts entirely with low-impact cardio and, when I was disciplined, some weight-training. As the pain began to subside, I hesitantly resumed running, limiting myself to once per week.
It seems foolish to want to resume an activity which, historically, has caused so many overuse injuries, but it is the only form of exercise which provides me peace and freedom from a mind that’s normally a raucous liability. My anxiety-riddled mind demands more miles than my body can provide. Both the inconsistency of my workouts as well as years of overuse has set me up for my ongoing state of pain and misery. My hope for the appointment had been to determine the cause of the pain (fracture, tear, etc.) and provide some guidance for treatment.
I needed that appointment, and yet, I canceled it.
Anticipating being questioned about said cancellation, I invented several excuses: feeling unwell, headache, etc.
When it came down to it, I told the truth instead; I didn’t want to be weighed.
I simply lacked the emotional fortitude to endure the process; the inevitable commentary from medical staff (because, no matter what my weight or state of health, there always is one).
I don’t want to know what I weigh.
Normally, I might request a “blind-weight” be taken, but because I look healthy, they’ve already given me the once over and I’m Done.
I can literally see the thought-bubble above the nurse’s head:“But you look fine, healthy, normal, or-God-forbid-fat,” which then obliges me to delve into the awkward and lengthy explanation of exactly why I am appreciably more mortified by that pesky measurement than the average patient. The medical professional will then respond to that in such a way, which proves, that they are grossly ill-trained for handling this type of situation.
For the most part, outside of Eating Disorder Units, (and sometimes within) patients will not encounter medical personnel particularly sensitive to, or adept at, dealing with the issue of body shame. Right now, I’m in Eating Disorder Purgatory. I don’t look unwell, but I am easily triggered.
My vitals and labs are okay, but the path to sickness is well-worn and not so far in the distance.
After talking with my mom about all of this, she pointed out that this brand of insensitivity is not reserved just for me; people make inappropriate and poorly-censored comments constantly. She cited a very legitimate example of her own recurring experience in an unrelated context. After listening to her example, I started to think of other times thoughtless comments have either rolled off my shoulders or, conversely, sent me reeling.
One particular comment has stayed with me for the last ten years. While on a family trip to the northeast, our group was staying at a hotel which included a fitness center as one of the amenities. At the time, I was about three and a half years recovered from my last significant relapse.
More Radical Reads: Undoing the Dozens: Fighting Back Against Body Shame
My body was roughly the size it is now: within a healthy B.M.I. range, but not without the normal imperfections.
At the fitness center one morning, two female family members and I happened to be using treadmills positioned directly facing ceiling to floor mirrors. I don’t recall the entirety of the verbal exchange, but while we were working out, one commented:
“I’m glad I’m not the only one with cellulite on my legs.”
Why do we, as women, do that to each other? Bond in a self-deprecating, body-shaming way, all in the name of female camaraderie? What would happen if one of us objected to that sort of negative sisterhood, ventured out and said,
“I like my body?”
Not that that I said that, or anything. I’m just wondering.
I pretended to laugh it off at the time, but the truth is, I think about it often. Moreover, I allow my moods to be controlled by it, especially when I am at my local gym, where the treadmills are also facing a mirror.
It always comes down to the fact that, regardless of recovery or relapse, body-conscious comments are never going to be comfortable for me. And right now, they are certainly problematic for me.
At this stage in Eating Disorder Purgatory, when health feels wrong and sickness feels safe, giving credence to comments is counteractive. Body-checking in mirrors is similarly dangerous.
I can’t control what others say or do, but I can attempt to control the way I process it.
Kristen M. Polito aims for brutal candor in regard to her own struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and bipolar disorder. You can read her public blog,SaltandPepperTheEarth @www.saltandpepperthearth.com, follow her on twitter @saltandpepperth or visit her author page here
[Feature image: A fair skin person with long black hair stairs ahead as they stand indoors. Pexels.com]