“The Thing Attached to My Head” (Week 11)
The Skinny on Sam
One Client's Journey with Nutritious America
A year ago my dad’s best friend, Gabby, a world traveler and entertainment lawyer, committed suicide by jumping off a bridge outside of Los Angeles. I became obsessed with that bridge and would stare at its haunting image on my laptop screen. I cried every day, both for Gabby and for myself. Gabby had depression, and had been one of the few people who reached out to me when I was struggling with it who really understood what it felt like to be in my head. Suddenly, he was gone, and I felt incredibly lonely. Abandoned.
I also cried for Gabby’s body, something that with depressed people seems so distant and distinct from their heads. Gabby’s body was still trying to live as he fell from that bridge. His blood was still circulating through his veins, his lungs were still breathing air, and his cells were still hard at work. It wasn’t his body’s fault that his head was so depressed. But he threw that body off a bridge. He gave it no chance.
For someone who obsesses so much about her own body, I also feel very disconnected from it. My head- well I live in my head. But my body doesn’t feel like it is mine; and it never really has. When I have been overweight (for me) the fat gathering around my hips and outer thighs has felt foreign and I have declared, both to myself and to others, “This isn’t really me. I am a skinny person. See, I have pictures.” Yet when I have been skinny it has felt fake as well because I’ve known that it isn’t permanent. I do not own it. I’ve had the urge to respond to compliments on my figure with, “Oh thank you, but it’s not mine.” My body feels like something I’ve gotten on renttherunway.com; it is like a designer dress that I am going to have to return.
I take lots of pictures when I am thin- all with my head tilted to the right and a large fake smile without letting my cheeks smoosh up under my eyes. I want proof that I existed. Proof that I looked that way. Oddly, I can see myself in pictures better than in actual life, in the reflection in a mirror. Pictures hold still; they don’t change. Is any part of us really ours if it is constantly changing? Our skin freckles and grows stretch marks and then wrinkles. Our thick hair thins and then, magically, overnight becomes threaded with bright white. Were we ever gold – something valuable- if we have become irreversibly so tarnished?
Sometimes, I find myself envying inanimate objects. I look at my stuffed animal- Snowflake, a whale my dad gave me on my seventh birthday- and I think, “You will exist after I am dead.” It is like the Titanic- they can pull up the things owned by the passengers and touch them and display them in museums, but the passengers are dead, whether they made it into the lifeboats or not. Which makes me think, on a side note, when an object outlives its owner, was it ever really owned? Or just rented for a short lifetime? Who really owns who? Likewise, when we look at our bodies, do we own our bodies or do our bodies own us? Or are we one and the same thing? Spiritually, I believe this – that we are the same thing. But then how can I feel so distant from myself?
Then there are other times when I just stop and realize what an amazing thing my body is. It goes on living, healing, regenerating, and working without any help from me. In fact, I often abuse it- think negative thoughts about it, deprive it of nutrients, and drown it in alcohol. Once I completely starved it. And yet it keeps going. Like an anthill, with thousands of ants working for the good of the whole. And occasionally I feel so grateful to this thing attached to my neck that I have treated so badly. And I feel sorry for what I have done to it. Done to me.
Maybe sympathy and compassion for my body – as though it were some separate, innocent thing like a puppy or some other animal – will make me have more sympathy and compassion for myself, meaning my head or my mind. I am learning to take better care of my body just like I am learning to treat myself better. I am trying to stop all the self-judgment, which definitely fueled my depression. Because, really, the head – the brain- is just part of the body. And all of it deserves to be treated with kindness.