search for what's not lost

Continuing the trend of writing when upset. Ha.

I've lost some weight recently. It sucks, to be perfectly blunt. I'm trying to learn how to deal with depression and anxiety without slipping back into old toxic patterns, but I'm a work in progress. Right now, progress is slow. And I guess it's becoming sort of obvious.

I work a desk job, so I am no stranger to weird office culture as it intersects with food and body issues. I doubt I need to elaborate, right? Diets and weight change and food morality are constant topics of conversation. Women bond over body hatred, as we're socialized to do. It's a nightmare for anyone who has ever had an eating disorder (it's a nightmare anyway, I would imagine, but I can only speak to my own experience).

Today has been especially rough. A former coworker came in for a visit and made a few weird comments to me, ending by jovially asking me if I quit eating, wink wink nudge nudge. I wish I could say I rebuffed her in a calm but firm fashion, but I didn't. I froze up. I shut down. I'm still thinking about the million things I could have said, but didn't.

A few minutes ago, three coworkers sitting near me started to talk about how thin I am, and what must I be eating, and aren't I so LUCKY. Even after explaining that I owe this weight loss to depression and anxiety, and that being thin does not make me happy, they continues with a barrage of back-handed "compliments" and judgments ("That's true, you never seem upset when you get really heavy!!" hey cool that's not a mindfuck. Thanks.) One woman actually said, "Trade places with me, I'd LOVE to be skinny and depressed!"

I'd love to be skinny and depressed. Marinate on that for a second.

I have to stress that this is not unusual. These conversations take place all the time. It's just that much more difficult to deal with them at your place of employment. I tend to get defensive, and my default retort is something along the eloquent lines of "Fuck off!" Which is obviously not an appropriate response in this context.

So I freeze up. I shut down.

It's SO tricky, and it evokes in me such a complex and overwhelming internal response. I feel weird and embarrassed about the fact that I didn't come up with an effective way of shutting down that toxic conversation. I feel scrutinized and exposed, because this intensely personal, private struggle of mine manifests itself in a highly visible, public way. I feel betrayed by my own perceptions, because I really can't tell what I look like; though I know logically that I have lost a significant amount of weight, that isn't what I see when I look at myself in the mirror. Hearing other people assess my body like this is startling. Perhaps worst of all, I feel really frustrated and angry that so many women have internalized the belief that their health is worth less than conforming to an arbitrary impossible standard. I'll get better, my weight will stabilize, and I'll be ok, and I'll...still be living with the knowledge that people thought I was lucky that my mental health issues were once severe enough to impact my physical health.

That is fucking gutting.

And we get to live with it every fucking day.

I don't think I have an insightful spin to put on this one.

1 comment:

  1. Gah. That crap drives me insane. I would never in a million years think to speak to someone like that. I hope you get to work out a response that feels best for you whenever you're ready to work it out!

    I lost weight last year due to stress - because my mother and boyfriend were both diagnosed with cancer one week apart. (They're both fine now.) And my coworkers - in public/shared areas - loudly commented things in the hallway like, "You better eat more! You're wasting away to nothing!" And I felt like you know what? If you have no tact in this area then I don't either and I would reply, "Yeah, my mother and boyfriend have cancer and it's due to stress. I've already seen a doctor and we're working on it." Thanks for your careful concern, dudes.

    I've also had a tiny and incredibly fit visiting coworker who runs daily pull me aside after work dinners - twice in one visit - to ask me if I was eating. And then if I was exercising too much. "I failed gym class in h.s. I hate exercise so much. Thanks, I'm fine."

    I guess your only consolation in dealing with people with that mindset is that you have the capacity to be happy, and they don't. The fact that they're trying to align you with that thinking, however, is jacked and I'm sorry you're dealing with it.