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Author Topic: Dealing with some emotional issues...
Atonement
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Hello, Everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve last written, and that’s partially because overall, things have been better.

But there have also been a lot of tough issues that I’ve been ignoring out of business, and I think that it’s time for me to finally talk about them and try to tackle them.

The first issue is with my body image.

In the past 2 years, since I came to the school I’m currently at, I’ve gained 20 pounds. I think a lot of that is to do with stress and the fact that the only hobby I have that I consistently enjoy is cooking. It also probably has something to do with the fact that at 23, I probably no longer have a teenage metabolism. I’ve never really been what would be considered skinny, but those 20 pounds have pushed me from what BMI followers would call “high normal” to “approaching obesity”.

Now, the thing is, I don’t really think of myself as ‘fat’. I know I have a structure that seems to comfortably support more weight than average for my height, and I feel healthy. But it seems like the world disagrees. Everywhere I go there’s “thinspiration” and “obesity awareness” campaigns telling me I’m going to die if I don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret model. Thanks to the relentless marketing by the weight loss industry, fat-shaming has never been so socially acceptable, because its “for our own good”. Being forced to take a nutrition class for my program has made things even worse. A couple of years ago, I felt inspired by movements like HAES. Now I feel like I’m all alone in a crowd of calorie-counting, gym obsessed peers.

It’s gotten to the point where I won’t even make eye contact with a guy, because I feel like they’ll freak out because the fat girl is looking at them. The fact that I’m living in a community where I feel racially, politically, religiously and socially marginalized doesn’t help.

Then, to top it off, there’s the issue with my mom.

If any of you are new to my backstory, I grew up with a pretty abusive father, and that situation didn’t end until about 2 years ago when, due to a stroke and subsequent medications, he became pretty much incapable of retaining most memories and now doesn’t do anything but stare out windows.

For a little while, my mom seemed grateful to get out of the abusive situation. Then, about a year ago, she started complaining to me about her lack of a “normal married life”, by which she basically meant not having sex. I remember being a little irritated by it, because my mother had always been very sex-negative and I always had to carefully hide any of my sex life from her. It seemed a little hypocritical of her to be complaining to me about not having sex when she never saw it as a valid choice for me.

In the last 6 months, my mother went through this massive personality change. She started making friends and partying with them regularly. She started attending events in a city an hour away from her home. Suddenly, after years of being raised to be a certain way, I’m “uptight” because I don’t find her sex jokes and bawdy friends funny. And now, apparently, she has a boyfriend or a friend-with-benefits or whatever he is.

I’m trying to be understanding and rational about this, but it’s hard. I feel a certain level of awkwardness, but also a level of resentment.

The fact that I grew up in the environment that I did is partially her fault. And it’s probably at least part of the reason that I’m obsessed with my independence to the point where I’m nearly isolated. It’s probably part of the reason that I can’t have a functional romantic relationship because I’m so concerned about avoiding traditional gender roles. It’s probably part of the reason I’m so introverted, and the way I can’t receive attention from a guy without becoming deeply suspicious of his motives.

I want my mom to be happy, but somehow it just seems unfair. I’ve never been ‘normal’, and I probably never will be. While I do appreciate my individuality, it can be really hard sometimes. And it just seems so unfair that she can walk away from all this like it never happened and be happy with a new partner while I’ll probably never fully escape the ramifications of it.

There’s also a bit of jealousy. Ever since my mother has been “on the market”, men have pretty much ben flocking to her. At 23, I don’t think I’ve been so much as looked at in over a year. Even though I’m not looking for attention, it doesn’t do much for my already fragile self-esteem. But my mother is always had a magnetic sort of personality, while I’ve always been the quiet girl in the corner.

On one hand, It’s nice that I don’t have to keep my past sex life a secret anymore. On the other, that does me very little good if I might never have sex again anyway. To top it off, I think she’s starting to be concerned that my interest in dating is declining more and more. The truth is, I don’t know if I could find a guy that’s a good fit for me or is feminist for me, and I’m sick of being let down. Also, I really don’t know if I want to sacrifice the independence that being single affords me. And the only vibe I get from her is “why are you like this?”, when she should know exactly why.

To top it off, due to the huge academic stressors, I’ve kind of been burying these feelings under the pile. But I really think it might be time to sort it out…

Thoughts?

Posts: 444 | From: United States | Registered: Apr 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MusicNerd
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Hey Atonement! As a queer, multiracial, feminist, atheist who has been marginalized in various social contexts, has dealt with her fair share of disordered-eating, and who is currently working on her body image and self-esteem issues, I could relate to so many parts of your post. So, let me just first start off by saying that you are so not alone when it comes to the issues you’ve mentioned.

For starters, BMI is not an accurate measure of someone’s health. Not at all. In fact, I know plenty of athletes who would be considered in the “approaching obesity” part of the scale because of their body weight. I on the other hand, a person who currently isn’t exercising due to medical issues and who is considered to be in the “normal” part of the BMI range, am damn well not nearly as healthy as some of those athletes. Even though there are parts of the internet that have “thinspo” and other body-negative sites, there are just as many blogs and sites that promote body-positivity and are not concerned with how “thin” a woman is or how much she resembles a Victoria’s Secret model (who are all photo-shopped, btw, and don’t even typically look as thin as they do in their catalogues). Trust me, there are lots of awesome blogs/sites like that.

I’m sorry that you’re having trouble making eye-contact with guys. I understand what that can be like, since I’ve had trouble approaching and making eye-contact with my crushes in the past. Please know that other people probably don’t judge you as harshly as you judge yourself. That’s something I too am working on, and my therapist has had to remind me of that at times.

You know, there could be guys who are thinking the exact same thing when they see you and going, “She’s so cute! But I don’t wanna go over and talk to her and make a bumbling fool of myself!! Let me just chill over here and not look at her, since she’ll think I’m weird if I look at her.” Also, you can’t be 100% sure that no dude is/has been interested in you. Some people are super-shy and think you might not be interested in them, or maybe they have let you know but it wasn’t in a way that you noticed. Maybe some dudes are really hoping that you, yes you, will one day approach them. You never know. There’s actually an article I came across on Scarleteen a little while back that I think would go along with this part of your post pretty nicely: How Do I Let Go of Feeling Sexually Unattractive?

Regarding your mom, if her jokes and such make you uncomfortable, next time she does it again you have every right to let her know like, “Hey, can you please not talk to me about your sex life/make sex-jokes? It makes me uncomfortable when you do.” That’s totally an okay and reasonable thing to ask of her.

I grew up in a similar dynamic with my mom: she’s very much so an extrovert who can make a wall talk, whereas I’m a total introvert. And when I was younger, my parents basically forbid me from dating, but my mom in particular would slut-shame the girls who were dating in my middle and high school. But then towards the end of my high school career/once I graduated and was on my way to college, she was pretty much like, “Get out there, girl!! Flirt with errybody!!!” Okay, so maybe she didn’t say those words exactly, but still: it was pretty much like that.

And now, as a college student who has never had sex or been in a romantic/sexual relationship, I understand that it can feel like maybe having sex or connecting with someone in that way won’t happen (or in your case, won’t happen again). Hell, I still go through times where I feel like that, especially since almost all of my friends are in romantic/sexual relationships. But, unless you’re psychic (btw if you are, could you hook me up and help me sort out my future? [Wink] ), there’s no way to know that for certain. It’s very unlikely that you’ll only have had one sexual partner and that’s that.

Also, when it comes to finding a guy who’s feminist: there are actually quite a few dudes who are on board with feminist ideas, but because of misconceptions surrounding feminism may not even be aware that they’re on board with feminist ideas. For instance, you might meet a dude who think gender roles are outdated, but he might not identify as a feminist or realize that that’s a feminist concept. I know some dudes who even self-identify as feminists. But the bottom line is, regardless of what he agrees or disagrees with regarding feminism: it should be non-negotiable that he at least respects your feminist beliefs and doesn’t try to belittle or bash your ideas, or try and corner you into gender roles instead of respecting your desire for a relationship of gender equity. It’s like being able to respect someone’s religious beliefs even if they don’t agree with them, you know? Who knows, he might become more feminist just being around you and talking with you enough. I have a friend whose boyfriend now considers himself to be a feminist because of her, so you never know. [Smile]

Since it seems like you’ve mentioned feeling like you’ll “never fully escape the ramifications” of parts of your upbringing, I’m just wondering: have you considered seeing a therapist to talk through these issues with?

[ 12-02-2013, 12:26 AM: Message edited by: MusicNerd ]

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"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

Posts: 301 | From: a galaxy far, far away... | Registered: Jun 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Atonement
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I've actually had two therapists.

The first one, overall, was really helpful. The second, however, I wasn't too happy with.

When I started off with her, I was really at a point where I was wanting a relationship, but had a lot of issues both meeting guys and a problem where I'd totally freak out and go into panic mode whenever a guy did show interest in me.

Instead of digging deeper and trying to resolve the underlying aspects of my dating anxiety, she pushed me into being more social, getting out there, and trying online dating.

I tried all that, but pretending to be extroverted when you're not is a lot harder than it seems. I'd often blurt things out that sounded ridiculous, and I think I did more harm than good. My well intended friendly joking always sounded mean, my stories always sounded random and untidy. I felt like I was just going through the motions.

To top it off, I did meet someone from online, but we were a bad fit. He partied to much for my taste, and after meeting him, I really started to question whether or not I really was ready for a relationship or not in the first place.

When I made the decision and told him I wasn't in a place where I was ready for a relationship, he was a total jerk, and accused me of lying and being "too immature" to just tell him I wasn't interested.

After that, my interest in dating has kind of thinned out. Last spring break, I flirted a bit with a boy I knew at a party. When the party disbanded, I suggested we go do something else. He literally jumped back like he was afraid I was going to eat him or something...

These were all following a rejection from a guy who flirted with me all the time, and then told me he only thought of me as a friend when I started reciprocating.

The truth is, I know none of these guys were right for me anyway. And I don't really see the point of "getting out there" and wasting my time with the wrong guys when I should be waiting for the RIGHT one to come along. And then I start to wonder if the right guy exists, or if I'd even want it if he did come along.

It's also kin of a mess because I probably should consider going back to therapy. It was free through my school, but I really didn't have a good relationship with my therapist, so I quit.

Now, I'm about to leave school. I've had very bad academic experiences with both my university and program, so I'm taking a semester off while I apply to a new program. This is really scary both because I feel like I'm $40,000 under for nothing, and I have to find a job to keep paying my bills. Between all that, I'm not sure I could find a therapist I could afford.

That being said, I've mentioned I really don't like my town or the type of attitudes that are prevalent in it. As a result, I have high levels of distrust for adults who have finished their education and are in the workforce, but choose to live here anyway. I can't imagine why someone would choose to live here unless they're kind of racist/sexist/ect. So, I have a hard time believing I'd find a good therapist here.

That may be an issue with the feminist guy thing. In my area, even feminist women are pretty rare. And I think I've lived here long enough that I forget that the world as a whole is a much more diverse place than here. When you're surrounded by nothing but a single attitude, it becomes easy to believe that everyone is like that.

By the whole “never fully escape the ramifications” I don't necessarily mean I'm sad all the time or that I'm completely mentally unhealthy. I've formed some really awesome friendships this semester, and have a best friend for the first time in several years, which i really think is a positive force in my life.

The issue is that I'll probably always be a bit odd and introverted, and I think that odd and introverted people will always understand me better than average, extroverted people. And it's a lot easier for too average, extroverted people to meet than it is too odd, introverted.

The thing is, overall I like who I am. My mom thinks I should let some things go, like how I won't let guys buy me things like dinner or a drink because I think it goes against my personal practice of feminism. But I feel like letting someone buy me things would compromise my beliefs, and it's really hard to find people who understand that. I feel like they would think I was rejecting them or something.


Also, I think you're right, I do need to find some body positivity sites, ect. I just wish that I could find some people offline that feel that way too. The bad thing about being in the health/science field is that everything is presented as absolute fact. And usually, I'm pretty scientific, so it's hard for me to not feel constantly attacked in classes like nutrition, even though I've read HAES and no how manipulative the weight loss industry is, and that a lot of the stats they're throwing at me is psuedoscience at best. Everything I see is "fat is bad, it causes diabetes and heart disease, and there's no disputing it." There was also a very upsetting/hurtful day in class where the powerpoints showed illustrations of people with their BMI below it, listing several thin looking people as overweight and obese.

On that note, do you know of any good body positivity sites/blogs?

I apologize for this post being kind of all over the place. I just kind of wrote down all my thoughts, and am running a bit too late to clean it up properly.

Posts: 444 | From: United States | Registered: Apr 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Molias
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Hi Atonement,

I hope it's ok if I just swoop in and address the last part of this post: the body-positivity resources!
Shapely Prose is no longer updated, but the archives are worth a read.
Marianne Kirby has writing all over and is pretty rad. I've interacted with her a bit and I really like a lot of what she has to say.
Michelle, the Fat Nutritionist is a REALLY helpful place to bust a lot of myths about eating & nutrition. I'm actually working with Michelle who runs that site right now and have found her to be 100% fantastic.

If you use tumblr at all, a general search for body positivity will turn up a LOT. I'm not linking to particular blogs since some do have photo content with nonsexual nudity and we have underage users, but if you're interested, the content there is pretty easy to find. =)

Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MusicNerd
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Sorry to take so long to respond! I’ve been running around so much lately!!

Sorry that your second therapist didn't work out. Having a compatible therapist makes a huge difference. Have you thought about getting in touch with your first therapist since you seemed to get along with them well? Also, out of curiosity: what are you looking for from therapy? It helps to think about what you want in order to screen for a therapist who's right for you.

Yeah, therapy can definitely be quite pricey (especially if one doesn't have insurance that covers it). Do you happen to have insurance that would potentially cover most of the cost (and would only have you pay the co-pay)? If not, there's also the option of sliding-scale priced therapy places, where they base your fee on your income. I'm sure Heather and staff members here could hook you up with some counseling places near you if you were still interested in getting therapy.

Sorry that you dealt with someone with someone who was such a jerk about your honesty. [Frown] Please know that you didn't do anything wrong by telling him how you felt. Also, not everyone will be so ridiculous about you being honest about your feelings, nor will everyone react the way that dude at the party did. There are people out there who will react positively to your flirting/honesty/etc.

That’s great to hear you’ve made a best friend! [Smile] When I mentioned you saying how you felt like you couldn’t get away from the ramifications of your upbringing, I wasn’t trying to insinuate that you were upset 24/7. Sorry if it came off that way. I brought it up, because usually when we’re feeling stuck in some part of our lives, therapy can be a good space to talk about those things. But that’s only if you’re interested in going to therapy, since that’s totally up to you.

Also, awesome links, Molias!! I was just going to recommend tumblr blogs! [Smile] A few that are sticking out to me in my mind right now are:
[Trigger Warning: some posts mention eating disorders, depression and anxiety]
Internal Acceptance Movement
and
Radical Self-Acceptance.
I remembered you mentioning feeling marginalized racially and also because of your feminist beliefs, so the first link should also posts relating to race and feminism (and the intersectionality of the two) as well.

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"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

Posts: 301 | From: a galaxy far, far away... | Registered: Jun 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Redskies
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A few extra thoughts to MusicNerd's (and I really like MusicNerd's contributions here!) -

When you're talking about yourself and your mother, Atonement, it sometimes sounds like you think your mother has a "better" personality than you do, or at least one that makes her more popular and liked than you. I can really understand how it can feel that way, because that's how it tends to when we're around someone who's "magnetic". But it's not necessarily how things actually are. There are plenty enough people in the world who prefer your more introverted style to your mother's magnetism, for all kinds of reasons: quieter people who feel overwhelmed by an extrovert, bubbly people who don't have enough space next to such magnetism... It's ok that you're so different from your mother. Try not to compare yourself to her only by her context - that is, being a Personality. You can be you, and the strengths of your personality are not less or worth less than the strengths of your mother's.

It sounds too as if you might be feeling like she's bounced back from the dysfunctional household much faster than you have. Maybe it looks like it, and for sure, that can be hard to live with when you're a child of that household, but with everything we know about dysfunctional households, it's deeply unlikely that everything for your mother is great and fine now. It's likely that your mother still has a great deal of her own dysfunction, and what you're seeing now is a combination of that and of her own personal reaction to leaving the previous situation. Again, it's ok that your reactions are so different from hers, and her reactions are not "better" than yours. Often, we don't see it, but magnetic and extrovert people can still have a lot of unhappiness and dysfunction under the surface.

Maybe it helps to recognise that you and your mother simply have very different needs around the changes in your household, and that enough space around those needs will help them not to clash? You have every right to your boundaries, however you acquired them, and every right to insist that your mother doesn't share things with you that make you uncomfortable. She still gets to live however she wants to live, just not share the details with you.

A practical thought about the being bought things issue: maybe it's possible to figure out a kind of balance? Dinner etc is trickier, but with drinks, one option is to accept a drink (if you want the interaction, of course) and say that you'll buy the next drinks, then do that. Or maybe "You can buy me a drink if I can buy you one [Smile] ". That way, you keep most of the equality while still having the social part.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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