Deep Belly Breaths

The hardest part of yoga
is letting myself breathe
after 7 years of practice
it still feels impossible

I've heard that meditation
can turn toxic if you let yourself
spend it ruminating on the negative
listening to that hateful little voice inside

I don't know how to avoid
that sharp pang of self-criticism
and still breathe into my belly
to find deep, full, relaxed breaths

I've spent my whole life
disassociating from that area
avoiding myself even in the internal
mirror of my own self awareness

Only on my back can I let myself
fully expand and take up space
with the help of gravity to hold me
and keep venomous thoughts at bay

How can I learn to love all of myself
when some parts cause me so much pain
this undercurrent of overwhelm at the idea
of accepting it's something I cannot change

Unworthy

The fear of not being worthy of what my torn and bleeding heart so longed to do was the most frightening fear of all.

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Mental healthy is a slippery thing. One day I’ll feel like I’m doing great things, living a beautiful life, surrounded by love and opportunity. Then next I’m silently screaming in the shower as my body crumples convulsively in on itself in an attempt to disappear. The thought that grips me most violently in these moments is that I am alone. I am so alone. I’ve always been alone. I will always be alone.

My mind scrambles searching for the people that I love. Where are they? Where have they gone? They dissolve into floating masks, colorful fictions. A door slams in the face of my heart. It feels like these people never knew me, don’t like me, don’t care for me at all. Worst of all, I can’t convince myself that this is not true. Even on my good days this feeling is there, I just don’t look at it closely so it doesn’t hurt as much.

Depression and anxiety play tricks on you. Tag teaming tormentors of the soul. They twist and contort the world around you until it becomes unbearable and grotesque. They block out the light and tell you you’ve always been in darkness. Pinholes poked through a shrouded sky reveal only the most painful parts of your reality. Suffocating. All consuming. Looming large on a jet black horizon that seems to be closing in faster and faster.

When I find myself in this desperate state, my already poor social ability breaks down even further. A drowning man violently grasping and grabbing, trying to pull everyone around down with them in a blind attempt at salvation. When my clawing hand is pushed away, it is a confirmation that I’m not worthy of the oxygen I need. The world becomes a funhouse mirror. I can’t bear to look.

I’ve often heard people saying “it’s not you, it’s me” is just a line, a cop out. That no one really means this when they break up with someone. I’ve never felt so sure of that. I’ve felt the truth of these words in my own throat. It is because I love the people in my life that I feel compelled to sever all ties with them. I am nothing but a burden, a leaden weight pulling them underwater with me. I’m a chore, an annoyance, something they would be happier and better off without. When someone ends their own life, everyone gasps, “How could they do that to their family?” Not realizing they probably did it for their family.

I’ve felt unworthy since the moment I conceptualized that was something one could feel. I’m sure other people feel this way, but I wonder if they feel it in the same sense that I do. I wonder if they hold it up to the light of justice and feel these pangs with that additional intensity. The added weight of taking what is not yours, of doing something vile and criminal, something sickeningly selfish.

All the bonds in my life feel tinged with injustice. I don’t deserve to be loved. I couldn’t possibly be loved. I am doing a disservice to everyone I meet by allowing them to pretend for the sake of my own neediness, to dissuade my heavy sense of self pity. The melodrama is thick, but it’s genuine. This is how I feel. When I push someone away, there is never even a moment’s consideration of whether that has hurt them, whether they are sad, whether they might miss me or want me in their life. These questions seem ridiculous to me. I’m clearly not worthy of remembrance or tenderness. You don’t miss a rock that has finally tumbled out of your shoe when you shake it.

When I begin to feel better, when my agitated state of mind starts to settle, I still don’t believe these things to be any less true. I never feel worthy of love. I just feel less guilty about receiving it. I never lose that sense of being utterly alone. Being alone just doesn’t seem to hurt as badly. I’m left with only a sense of embarrassment and shame for showing the world my suffering. For being selfish and conceited enough to think that anyone else should or would care, for bothering everyone by asking them to, for being so ungrateful when I already have so much more than I’ve ever deserved.

I’m just left wondering: How can you move forward, how can you be happy, find love, love yourself, when you feel so certain that you are unworthy of all of it? When you feel guilty for even wanting to?

The Searing Pain of Self-Hatred

Some days I am really surprised by just how much I still hate my own body. Objectively I know that it isn’t even an unattractive one. It seems like people have complimented and enjoyed my appearance for my entire life. Yet I have never been able to accept my own image staring back at me in the mirror. It’s honestly impossible for me to even imagine being okay with myself. I have been counting calories, dieting, and despising my stomach since I was young enough to still call it “baby fat.”

Today as I moved through my yoga flow, it actually brought me to tears to realize how incapable I am of connecting with my core. I am only able to hold my awareness on those lower ab muscles for a few seconds before diverting my mind elsewhere. I feel such violent disgust and hatred for my belly that I’ve disassociated from it entirely. I find it terribly challenging to deepen my breath in any position other than lying flat on my back, because the expansion of my belly is repulsive to me. My breath stays shallow, high up in my chest. Even making the effort to deepen it brings me no peace as then I am overwhelmed with negative thoughts about myself. The ironic part is, because of that, no matter how many crunches or ab workouts I do, I can’t effect that area at all. The rest of my body’s muscles compensate because my brain has all but severed any connection with my midsection.

There have been many times in the past where I’ve tried to keep engagement and awareness in my core throughout the entire day. It is utterly impossible though. I end up tensing my lower-back and hip flexors instead. It is just too painful for me to notice my stomach for any significant amount of time. Even writing this down feels so pathetic and frustrating. It’s hard to even acknowledge.

Instead of softening and feeling compassion for myself, I hate myself for hating myself, as stupid as that sounds. I feel as though I am in an impossible position. I know that in order to ever have any hope of having a flatter stomach, I have to first accept myself so that I can consciously connect to and strengthen those muscles. However, this is an absolutely atrocious concept for me to even consider. I can feel my entire body tense at the thought. I begin to hold my breath. My heart seals closed.

I desperately want to love myself and feel okay in my own body. Even though I believe that everyone deserves that, somehow at the same time I still believe that I don’t. It truly makes me afraid of how I will be able to cope with the inevitable aging of my body. If I can’t love it when I’m young and healthy, what will happen to me when I am older, heavier, disabled, or ill? I am so utterly fed up with my fixation of my appearance. Of all the trillions of things in the world to focus on, I waste so much time and mental energy hating myself for something I clearly have little to no control over. Do other women feel this way? Is this the reason that my grandmother’s core muscles have actually atrophied over time? I don’t even know where to begin to address this issue.

The power of our own self-perception is staggering. It’s crazy to know that my own (possibly grossly distorted) self-image vastly outweighs what anyone else thinks about me. Despite all the people in my life that have told me I’m pretty or even sexy, never once have I truly believed them. If anything, my initial instinct is one of wonder and suspicion. Why would they say that to me? Are they just trying to be nice? Are they attempting to flatter and manipulate me? Occasionally, I even become angry by these kind of comments because I feel them to be blatant lies that I cannot comprehend.

I guess I’ll just try to visual that someday I’ll be able to love myself and my belly exactly how it is. Because right now, the idea is laughable and unimaginable to me. Then maybe once it doesn’t sound so ludicrous to see that as a possibility, I can work towards making it a reality. All I hope is that there comes a day where I don’t feel I have to avert my eyes each time I step in front of a full length mirror, a day where I can calmly observe my own reflection if not with love, than at least acceptance and an absence of desperate, frustrated tears.

5 Habits for a Healthy Body Image | The Clinic on Dupont Blog