I have gained 16 pounds recently. For those in my intimate circle this is an outstanding accomplishment and one where compliments and general happiness is given to me. As I can often look like a walking, talking skeleton anytime I gain weight there are those close to me who celebrate. It is much different for me.
When I see myself with 16 extra pounds I see something far more dramatic. In my head each of those pounds equals ten pounds. I convince myself that instead of only gaining 16 pounds, I have actually gained 160. True? Nope, not even close. 160 pounds would be gaining another me and then some. But it doesn’t matter, because no matter what anyone else sees, no matter what can be pointed out to me, I see something entirely different.
Why is it when we have a blemish on our faces it becomes the largest, reddest and ugliest thing in ten countries? Why is that we see only that blemish when we look in the mirror, and literally can not see anything else, good or bad? It is the focus, the focal point, the one thing that is guaranteed to destroy our self-esteem and our self-image.
The brain is fascinating, I write about it a lot. There are so many things that it does, both good and bad. Ask a schizophrenic if they have ever had an imaginary friend, and they might just tell you no. Because it is that real, that perfect of an illusion that even our most complex brains can’t distinguish fact from fiction. I often wonder if the people who I love, those that I hold onto when it gets so desperately dark are real or not? I look at my own children and occasionally wonder if they are a manifest of my imagination. I remember the labor, but the brain is powerful enough and great enough to even imagine that 12 hours of my life. So what is real? And really who do you ask, your imaginary friend?
So when I look in the mirror and see 160 additional pounds what if that is real as well? We all know the scale only said 16 but what if what I am seeing is in fact real? And why isn’t it real?
I am honest enough to admit that for me, the pounds real or imagined, are a difficult thing. I am already, and have been since pound two, concentrating on ways to go on a diet. I think constantly, even when I am hungry, about the need for that food versus the simple desire for that food. I think about those pills that promise to take the fifteen pounds away easily, or the fasting, or the liquid diets that promise easy results. I think about the foods and meals that have been successful in the past, and those that failed. I think about eating, foods, drinks so constantly that there are times that the 16 pounds that I have gained, because 30 that I lose. Do the math.
Those around me will tell me that I don’t need to lose weight, that I am perfect the way I am. They will say that my clothes are finally fitting rather than are too tight. They will do everything in their powers to reinforce the image that my gaining weight was something I did right in my life. And in my head all I see is a failure.
I have this problem with many things in my physical world. I will take pills, buy certain lotions and cleansers, I will fall victim to the latest craze in exercise equipment and pretty much convince myself that each thing will change me completely. That I will be a better person if I just redo this one thing. That I will be more successful, more loved, more needed if I just become my vision of beauty. The only problem is that vision is not only unattainable but changes constantly. Therefore, my vision of myself is never going to be perfect.
The brain has its own remote control in this life. It determines its own mode of play and its own volume and the rest of us simply hope that the words coming out of our mouths actually make sense. The idea that I speak to someone who no one else can see really doesn’t bother me. My brain’s attempt to give me comfort, to give me someone to rely on isn’t that scary.
My brain’s image of myself, however while dangerous, simply can not be changed. I will also see that blemish as larger than it really is, the cellulite on my thighs as much deeper, and the belly hanging slightly over my waistband when I sit down as unsightly. No way to get around that.
I don’t know if there is a way to get around the money I spend on miracles, but one hopes that I can also find that along the way. Or at least give up the attempt.