Bipolar Disorder: Body Image & Anxiety

Song of the Day: No Light, No Light by Florence & the Machine

(Photo Credit: ny156uk available under a Creative Commons Licence).

Really struggling with the binge eating at the moment. I feel so ashamed of my behaviour. I’m greedy and out of control. I hate the way I feel after I’ve binged- bloated and sick and guilty and full of shame. So why the hell do I do it?!!! Aaarghhhh!!

I hate that I can’t stop. I have no ability to delay gratification and my impulse control is virtually non-existent. I’m so worried for my health now. I was hoping going back to the gym would automatically help me to focus on health and nutrition, but it doesn’t seem to be working that way!! Guess it’s early days.

I don’t remember a time now when I wasn’t extremely preoccupied by how I looked. At school losing weight was more about avoiding any teasing. I guess a lot of it is STILL worrying about what other people think of me. Are they judging me as much as I judge myself? It’s quite narcissistic really to think that other people are focusing on how you look. I’m convinced that when I walk out of the house I stick out like a sore thumb, I feel so self-conscious and am only comfortable walking around Spixworth really early on in the morning when no one else is about. It’s not that I don’t go out, I do, but I just love knowing that nobody is there to judge me- it’s freeing. I am extremely harsh on myself. I don’t mean to be. Controlling the thoughts your mind comes up with is bloody hard: you’re a fat heifer, why would anybody ever find you attractive? You look like a kid, I hate the way you look- just a small sample of the pleasant things I say to myself. Don’t realize that I’m doing it half the time, which makes it harder to stop. But because I do this to myself, I assume other people are also thinking the same things about me.

As a slim teenager I actually thought I would rather be dead than fat! I was very self-controlled, maybe too controlled, and I guess I was guilty of judging larger people harshly. Now I am fat I don’t want to live this way. I don’t want to die, just not to live life like this: waking up everyday hoping I’ve lost a few stone (!), feeling my stomach, how big is it today? Worrying about what I’m going to eat. Thinking about how I look every second of every day. It’s weird because even though I take very little care of my appearance in general these days, I’m still worrying about it, maybe more than I ever did! I honestly think my anxiety has never really improved, I seem to have a chronic level that always exists in the background. Suppose that’s Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I understand is a common co-existing condition with Bipolar Disorder.

Why is it so important to me for other people to approve of everything about me? And it really is you know! It’s almost the main point of my life, to make everyone like every little thing about me. Guess it all stems back to the whole keeping your parents happy thing. They were very depressed when I was growing up and I felt it was my job to keep them as happy as possible. If I came on the end of their wrath I felt so worthless. You don’t exist as a child without your parents- you’d be abandoned if they disapproved of you so badly, and my Mum & Dad’s reactions could be pretty devastating. I need to be gentler on myself. It is not my fault that I have learned these thought and behaviour patterns. But I am the only one who can change things. That’s a huge responsibility- taking care of myself. I want someone else to do it for me! It’s so scary to take responsibility, well, to me anyway. But I’ve got to remember I’m worth it (cue L’Oreal hair tossing).

6 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder: Body Image & Anxiety

  1. Sandy Sue

    Rachel, I am right there with you. One of the problems with compulsive eating is that it works to some extent to alter mood. I’ve read about this a lot, and the high-fat, high-carb junk foods stimulate serotinin and dopamine, which calm us down and lighten our moods. I learned as a little kid to hit the cookies and ice cream to make me feel better.

    The other part is the compulsion itself. No one really addresses this. Geneen Roth tries, but she can’t offer any help when the compulsion is combined with bipolar. What I’m trying to do is just *watch* when the compulsion shows up. If I’m aware of it, I might be able to make a different choice, but usually not. So, I just keep watching to see how the compulsion feels in my body, what thoughts arise, if it shifts, when it goes away.

    I’ll tell you one thing I do when I get that I-hate-my-body-don’t-look-at-me feeling. I go lay down on my bed, get my expensive, scented lotion and rub some on my belly. I tell my belly I love it and that I know how it’s protected me. I tell it it’s OK for it to shrink down if it wants to, but that I’ll love it no matter what.

  2. jillnottelten

    I like Sandy’s comment about rubbing her scented lotion on her belly when she’s triggered.
    There’s been a lot of work done in Mindfulness about ways to “ground” yourself. ie to bring yourself back to just here and now and get a bit more control. Some people do it with really alerting stimuli to shock themselves out of the moment and then calm themselves down using something else before doing something to ‘improve the moment’ by doing something they enjoy. Others, like Sandy go straight to the self-soothing process. Different things work for different people.
    Some of the other things that people do to ground themselves using strong sensory input include: walking/running, lifting weights, heavy work, house work, holding or chewing ice, moving furniture, yoga, stomping feet, dance, sucking on hot balls/sour balls/strong mints or biting into a lemon or chilli, rocking in a rocking chair, breathing exercises, sitting on a balance ball, pottery/clay work, art work, using a stress ball, wearing a weighed item eg backpack, ankle or wrist weights, jumping rope, vigorous exercise, patting or playing with dog or cat/pet, playing drums or other instruments, hot/cold shower, isometric exercises, stamping and/or clapping hard, sucking on a lollypop, aromatherapy or use of scented items…
    Some other things people use include: doodling, fidgeting with things, holding someone’s hand, writing in a journal, massaging hands or feet, singing along with a song, playing solitaire, playing computer or play-station etc type games, doing craft, detailed jigsaws, doing crosswords or Sudoku, phoning a friend or helping someone with something.
    Sometimes people even make up kits of things that they find work to either ground or distract them from what they are trying to avoid to suit the time and place that it happens in. It might be contained in a bag or box – whatever suits the purpose of the kit and where you will be when you need it and whether it needs to be portable or not. Most kits will include at least something to distract and/or ground; something to self-soothe and something to improve the moment when crisis passes.

  3. rachelmiller1511 Post author

    Sandy Sue: Oh wow, I love the belly-rubbing thing too! Great idea. I guess the compulsive eating has helped me in depressive episodes when I’ve been having suicidal thoughts- it distracts enough to stop me acting out on them. So I could see the eating as kind of a protection.

    I’ve got the book “Women, Food and God” by Geneen Roth which I thought was good too.

    Jill: I’d never thought of “grounding” myself before. We did learn how to do this on a meditation course and I think it would be helpful when I feel so anxious about my body. I like massaging my feet, singing and aromatherapy oils so that could be a good starting place for me. Thanks very much for the suggestions.

    Thank you both for your comments.

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