#MyBodyStory is an ongoing storytelling series uplifting women’s bodies and voices. Because every body has a story, and every story deserves to be heard!
The opinions expressed in #MyBodyStory are the writer’s own.
And now, here is Bethany’s #MyBodyStoryIf my body could tell a story, what would it say? Well for the next few minutes, I’m allowing my body to have the floor…
10 minutes ago Bethany was standing in front of a mirror staring at me. She was tilting her heads in all kinds of uncomfortable ways, trying to find an angle of me that she liked best. She has done this for most of our life. She likes some parts of me better than others. For example, she likes the way our back curves into our hips. And she doesn’t mind our legs—even though they are bigger than most men’s legs. She knows they are strong and appreciates them for that.
For years and years though, she has avoided looking at me from the chest down to the low belly. She still hardly even touches me there. She has struggled to find peace with our large breasts and curvaceous belly. She feels cursed by the stretch marks that took residence in these parts of us back in the 8th grade. “Some women who have given birth don’t even have these. I’ve never even had a baby!” she mumbles to herself almost anytime she catches a glimpse. One of Bethany’s gifts is her ability to see beauty and light in almost anyone and anything. Unfortunately, this gift didn’t apply to me.
You see, Bethany has blamed me for the the ‘ugly and dark’ parts of her life. She blamed me for her eating disorder that surfaced when she was a junior in high school. She told herself that it was okay to make herself sick because I was out of control, my fatness was ruining her life and I was the reason no boys wanted to date her. What she didn’t have was the tools or courage to acknowledge that she was experiencing a lot of confusion around who she was—like why she spent a great deal of her free time thinking about what it would feel like to kiss one of her (girl) friends rather than any of her (boy) friends.
She learned to tolerate me a little more when she fell in love for the first time a few years later. She fell in love with a kind boy who made her feel safe. He seemed to understand that she shamed and blamed me more than was healthy and that he needed to be patient with her. He really appreciated and honored me, and even though she didn’t think she deserve it—it helped her to think that maybe I wasn’t so bad after all. But then he broke her heart, she once again blamed me. She lay in bed sobbing, believing that he never would have gone away had we been thinner, prettier, sexier…better.
What she was unable to allow herself to process was that she had put her entire worth into this boys hands and that wasn’t safe and certainly not fair. She was also of course, choosing to ignore that while she truly loved this boy, she still found herself wide awake some nights wondering what it would be like to feel all the things she felt with him, but with a woman. Recognizing and accepting that was too much to bear, so she blamed, shamed and punished me by binging, partying, and detaching instead. But while Bethany may be a top notch avoider, she couldn’t ignore the strength of electric butterflies I put in her belly when she saw ‘her’ walk through the door at a party one night. It was the first woman Bethany was instantly attracted to.
About six months later, Bethany and that beautiful girl who walked into that party were a thing. At first, Bethany allowed me to feel awakened by this relationship. She was allowing herself to feel and express passion freely, she was making healthy choices and she didn’t seem to despise me so much. She was beginning to feel a sense of genuine confidence as she was starting to find her footing in identifying as who she truly was—she even came out to a few of her closest friends. But then one afternoon, she read a particularly offensive social media post that was essentially saying that gay people were evil and better off dead; and suddenly an intense wave of panic and fear settled in.
Bethany had spent most of her life up to this point, feeling an underlying sense of discomfort and unworthiness in her own skin because of how I am naturally built. She felt like I was a burden. So, as she sat at her computer reading these words directed to people like her, that were dripping in anger, hatred and criticism, she made the decision that she wasn’t ready to show the world another piece of herself that she never asked for. She couldn’t hide her body, but she could hide this. Her only option was to regretfully break the heart of the first girl that she loved heart, and with a hanging head—find our way back into the closet.
The next 5 years would be a roller coaster of adventure, failed heterosexual relationships and situation-ships, constant fluctuation in my weight and happiness levels but also a commitment to achieving spiritual, emotional and physical health. And much to my delight, a new found appreciation and application of body positivity. Bethany seemed to be shedding some of the layers of shame and blame she had towards me, and she was emerging to become quite a powerful and driven force.
Then in 2015, just as she was becoming comfortable being single and solely focused on her career and health—she got clobbered by an emotional tsunami. She was juggling devastating family turmoil, the opening and management of her very first business, the reemergence of the eating disorder she thought she’d left in 2006, most notably, falling madly in love with the woman of her dreams.
All of this. All at once.
She was the most sick I have ever felt her but also the most truthful I have ever heard her. She didn’t blame me for ruining her life when she was binging and purging—instead, she apologized to me and promised to get help. She felt overwhelmed, out of control and scared but she wrote things in her journal to herself like, “you are capable and you are worthy no matter what.” She would spend the weekend at her girlfriend’s house and then drive home alone with that ‘I’m falling in love’ glow but also with a body filled with extreme anxiety about how she would tell her family and if they would still love her the same.
It’s been three years, and while I will never say it has been an easy ride, Bethany has bravely found a unique recovery process that works for her. She has came out to her family and the world. She has discovered through her journey, that her purpose is supporting and helping other women via holistic modalities; finding their own tools to feel safe enough to step into their infinite empowerment. And while Bethany may have tilted her head in all those funky ways when she looked at me earlier today, what I didn’t tell you is that after she said those things, she shook her head no, straightened her neck out, stood tall—smiled at herself and whispered aloud, “you’re beautiful anyway.”
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