I have been having a hard time with my body lately. Currently I am dealing with a particularly bad PMDD cycle – full of the usual anxiety and feelings of hopelessness. I am four days away from relief, and it has been going for a week now. I am grateful that this condition runs like a well-oiled biological clock. There is an end in sight. But I am exhausted from the mental struggle of keeping it together. Subsequently, I am finding it extremely hard to muster up the energy for body positivity right now.
I know this is just life for me, for the near future at least. I know that I need to be prepared for ten days of hell every month until I go through menopause, a few decades from now. I hate it, but I have accepted it. But I am really not in the mood to be body positive in this moment. I feel like whenever I go online, I see all kinds of women being body positive, and I think this is such a wonderful development. But, in a second, I would trade my body for any other woman who has a working set of hormone receptors in their brain. I do not love this aspect of my body. And I find it to be disingenuous to pretend that I do.
I am in most ways extremely lucky. I am an able bodied, fair skinned, straight woman, who can eat well and remain a size four - and I have a face deemed societally suitable to earn money off of. As far as bodies go, I am considered fortunate, and I certainly feel that way myself. That has not stopped me from waging a war against it for far too many years. But once I got in recovery from undereating, I began to grasp the concept of not hating my body. And for a few months there, it was really fun.
Then my hormones began to play up. And each subsequent month any work that went into liking myself gets decimated by the merry-go-round of fuckery that is PMDD. I hate the fact that I have to sleep 12-14 hours a night in order to wake up feeling like shit. I hate all the events and social times with my friends I miss because I just cannot get the energy to put words together. The physical exhaustion takes away my focus and drive, and the mental exhaustion leaves me feeling hopeless and helpless.
I hate the way I bloat up a size or so in water retention. I hate the fistfuls of supplements and medications I have to take every day in the hopes that my next cycle won’t be as bad. Then I hate when it is. I hate that when I miss a couple of workouts, drink even a little alcohol, or eat a bit of sugar, I am going to pay for it in my next cycle. Most of all, I hate that because of this condition, I find it really hard to be light and happy. I have an invisible illness, and that can be hard for people to understand. If I could mind over matter it, I would.
I would swap any of my societally considered positive traits for a healthy hormone cycle.
It is in these moments that looking online at “body positive” women is just too much for me to handle. I am not body positive in these moments. I do not love my flaws. I wish I did, but it is too much for me. My flaws are what creates this hell for me each month. I can accept the reality of them, but I cannot bring myself to love them.
Through PMDD I have learned to appreciate things that most people take for granted. Going to the shop whilst in it without having an anxiety attack is empowering. Going to an event where you know no one and not having an anxiety attack is even more empowering. Using my own mind to pull myself out of a negative spiral is the ultimate in empowerment for me – but each month PMDD tries to take away this power. If taking a picture in a mirror and posting it on social media about loving your body empowers you, like it seems to for so many people as of late, then fantastic. You are extremely lucky to be able to regain your strength, and empower yourself in this way. But, with the hand I have been dealt, this is just not the way things are for me. Every month there are boundaries that I can not cross.
Over time, I have come to a place of acceptance. This, to me, is body neutrality.
I do not hate my body. Even in my worst moments, I feel empathy towards myself. I feel bad for how much pain this alien part of me is willing to inflict on me. I feel extra bad for all the other women out there struggling knowingly or unknowingly with a condition that dramatically alters their daily lives. And on the flip side, I do not love my body either. In a heartbeat I would swap it for one that doesn’t short out on me each month. It would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. There does not appear to be a place for me in the body positive movement without me feeling like a fraud.
So, I am going to embrace body neutrality. I accept my body as something that does a fantastic job of staying alive – something that has also provided me with a fantastic career. Yet I must accept that sometimes it works in ways that are not conducive to a happy life, and that is something that is out of my control. I pledge to always try to feed it correctly, keep active and treat it kindly, so that I can live as happily and as long as possible whilst in it.
And that is about as much energy I can put into it. My life is much bigger than my flesh vessel, my carrier through the days. I have found that diverting energy from the mirror and from my flaws leaves an abundance of energy for more constructive experiences. And this is truly living to me. I have found that it takes as much energy to force yourself to love yourself as it does to hate yourself. I say just leave the conversation all together and use that energy towards becoming the person you want to be.
Body neutrality is an extremely important mindset to me. It is not about obsessing over my “flaws” and celebrating my “perfections”. It is not about power and control over my body. It is simply a state of acceptance over the genetic code that is me. And then choosing to move on and creating a life that excites and empowers me. We only get one life. Why spend it obsessing over our reflections?
Our bodies are capable of so much. We owe it to ourselves to explore that. Whatever empowers you the most, embrace that. Then step out of the mirror and into your life.
Peace and love,