Today was an eye opening day.
It began as any other Saturday – a late lie-in, snuggling with my husband, watching the sunrise through our bedroom window.
With porridge in front of me and a cup of tea by my side, I logged onto my laptop and checked today’s task for the 7 Day Writing Challenge. My heart almost stopped and I was on the verge of tears. I wasn’t sure I could do it.
Take a mirror and spend two minutes studying your own face, then write down what you see. No judgment. No writing how ugly or old you feel. No descriptions using adjectives of judgment. Just describe what you see.
I was horrified. My anxiety immediately soared and my first thought was that I didn’t have to do it. Nobody could make me. That is of course completely true. This a free writing challenge – I’m not going to be assessed. If I don’t participate nobody will know, and I’m the only person who will care. So no, I don’t have to do it.
The second thought was, the thing that terrifies me the most, is the thing I most need to do. Nothing about change is comfortable, and nothing about this task was comfortable, therefore doing the challenge could contribute to facilitating change.
I pottered around and procrastinated. I had a shower and did the washing and put clean sheets on the bed. I painted my face on, as I do every day. Then I took a pile of selfies, picked the one I felt was most genuine – not the one with the nicest smile, not the one showing the worst wrinkles – but the photo I felt best showed me as I really am.
I spent several minutes staring at my face then used the selfie as a reminder while I wrote. These are the words that flowed from within, while my conscious self closed down.
The task – to gaze upon my reflection and see not flaws or angst, to look past the fear and loathing, to seek that which is hidden in plain view for all the world to see. The task is to see Me.
I see healthy plump cheeks with a peachy complexion – dusted with powder and cream. And faint reminders of the kiss of the sun in the fading freckles beneath.
I see gentle furrows etched softly across the forehead, deeper between the eyes, mirroring the joy and grief a lived life receives.
I see a small, wide nose, nestled centred in a soft round face. A nose finely tuned to the faintest scent wafting on the air it breathes.
I see wet pink lips. Sparkling with the glow of brushed on gloss. Lips softly pulled into a gentle smile, hiding the secrets of a thousand kisses. Ready to share a thousand words and ready to silence a thousand more.
I see soft brown brows, framing the windows to the soul. Speckled with moments of white, anticipating the passage of time.
I see small hazel eyes beneath plump fleshy eyelids. With soft brown lashes and a small blue mole tucked gently on the edge where the eye meets the bones below.
I see eyes with a layer of salty water protecting from the brisk winds and filled with hope and fear. Eyes that silently listen. Eyes that always see. Eyes that hide great pain and share great love. Set deep beneath the soft, brown brows, these hazel eyes, with pupils rimmed by a fine black ring and speckled with the reflected light of the day around, these hazel eyes have looked and seen, then looked some more. They’ve seen what’s there and what isn’t. They’ve felt a thousand sorrows and embraced a thousand joys. They’ve stared into the depths of a lover’s gaze and beheld the wonder of new life. They’ve watched life fade away and die. Friendships blossom and grow. They’ve seen hurt and bias, jealousy and vitriol. They’ve seen it all. They’ve felt it all. And sought to understand it all.
I gaze upon my reflection, and I see Me.
I felt nothing as I wrote – the fearful tears from earlier in the morning were gone. I just let my insides out and followed the instructions we’d been set.
I felt nothing throughout the day but by late afternoon I started to figure out I wasn’t having a “hungry” day or a “domestic goddess” day. I wasn’t having a “feed my family” day. I was buttering bread, cooking chocolate sauce and raspberry jam, baking chocolate chip biscuits, and making pancakes, because I was doing what I’ve always done – seeking food to bury emotion. I tried to run from my feelings with a dozen chocolate chip biscuits.
I was bingeing and gorging and purging, all because I had to look at myself in the mirror. Not glance into it to see if red boots match a green skirt. Not focus on my eyelashes while applying mascara. I had to look at myself and see what others see. Not to say, old or ugly, wrinkly or pale. Not to pretend I see beauty or love or a life well lived. Just to see what’s in the mirror. And it’s terrifying. I don’t do that. I have never done that.
I listened to the group video later on. A video acknowledging the difficulty so many of us face with a task like this. A video that talked about the pointlessness of self-loathing. Nobody is interested in it – and that point rang true. If I point out my flaws to others they contradict me or change the subject. Nobody is interested. They don’t lack compassion – it just isn’t relevant.
I spent time yesterday writing a timeline of progress I have made in my mental health recovery over the past twelve months – and that progress is pretty significant and substantial. I still have a lot more work to do, but the work yet to be done, does not diminish the gains I have made.
One area remains hugely problematic and a very big hurdle – it needs to be tackled now. And that is body image and confidence. I hear again and again, freedom from disordered eating will never be achieved while focusing on weight. Weight gain or loss is a natural product of finding a healthy relationship with food and with my body. Once that happens, the body will stabilise at the weight is meant to be.
Today’s writing task shows me just how much work I need to do in this area.
Today’s writing task took me deep within and opened the door to acceptance. It was eye opening. I will look into that door for sometime – contemplating what lies within.