Izzi Lynn

Body Dysphoria

i. I want to tell you a story about a girl with a history of sharp sharp teeth and forgetting what her own name was in favor of remembering how to clean blood off the skin. I want to tell you a story about why you shouldn\'t give up. this is for all of you, on the edge of giving up, needing just one reason to keep going. this, this is your reason. 

ii. Your body does not feel like it is yours (maybe it never has, maybe this is a recent development). Your body is not your home, but rather a cage with steel bars and walls that are always closing in on you. You are a hermit crab but your shell does not fit you and every day you feel more and more like you are dying. (you are dying). Your body does not feel like a body at all, but rather a pile of bones and bloodied iron. Your mind doesn\'t feel like it is yours, but rather something sharp and painful and something with blood on its teeth, always. But you, you are something small, so small and insignificant and tiny

iii. I was in sixth grade when I really started to develop anorexia. I was one of the lucky ones. I survived. Anorexia felt like this: my body was not my own (and it felt like it never was). I looked in the mirror and flinched at the girl (monster) staring back. I once spent two hours on the cold tile of my bathroom floor, eyes wet and swollen from tears, naked and wishing wishing that this body would fit me right for once. Every pound was like a cross on my back, heavier and heavier and heavier. I stopped eating lunch and blamed it on my ADHD meds. (secret: it wasn\'t the meds). I thought love was a kind of emptiness. I thought hunger was the only way to feel pretty (every bite of food felt like a betrayal of the worst kind). God, I thought pretty was the only thing I was ever going to be useful for. That I was never anything more than just something to be viewed and judged. 

v. Anorexia was more than just wanting to be thin and pretty. Every night of seventh grade, I dreamt of being something wild and free, of having wings and feeling the wind in my hair. Every night of seventh grade, I dreamt that I had a scythe for a spine and forests woven into my hair like Queen Titania and scales the color of water-heavy moss instead of skin. Every night of seventh grade, I dreamt of perfection and stepping out of this skin to become the girl I saw in magazines and the tv. I wanted so badly to take a scalpel and mold myself into someone beautiful. Into someone I could love. 

vi. When I was in seventh grade, I started to develop depression. I was depressed in the way that I felt like an empty cup, not an empty cup that\'s always been empty, but rather a cup that used to be full but it spilled and now all it has is the dregs of what it once held. I was depressed in the way that I felt like a loaded gun with the safety on. Always coiled and tense and ready to be fired, but stuck on the \"off,\" button. What, exactly, is safe about a loaded gun? I was suicidal, but, not in the glaring, billboard bright way, the sitting-on-ledges-and-wanting-to-jump way. More in the casual, sitting-on-ledges-and-realizing-i-wouldn\'t-mind-if-i-fell way. Like walking across the street without looking both ways. Like smoking cigarettes and a friend says, \'you know those will kill you,\' and responding with, \'i know.\' Not like holding a gun to your head with one round in it and firing twice, but like holding an empty gun to your head and imagining what would happen if it were loaded. Saying, \'bang bang,\' and then scrambling to hide it before someone sees. 

vii. So how did I get better? The million dollar question. The answer is not that I shed my skin and molded myself in the image my head told me was right. I did not get better by starving myself until I had a hollow rib cage and I was as light as the birds I had so admired. I didn\'t get better by changing my body into someone I was not. I did not get better by taking the safety off and firing, nor did I get better by sitting on ledges and wondering how it would feel to hit the ground.

viii. What I did was shift my mindset. I gave myself a paradigm shift. I do not have to be pretty to have worth. This body is a temple, and I should treat it as shut. Not because that makes it pretty, but because it is something grand and beautiful and worthy of worship. I am something to treasure, something precious. My body does not deserve torture (and what I did to it was torture). am something precious. I learned to stop taking revenge on my body and instead learned to love it. Whenever I feel like an empty cup, I fill myself up with poetry and words and creation. I create. When I feel most empty, I turn that emptiness into something powerful. When I find myself on ledges, metaphorical and literal ones, I do not wonder what it would feel like to hit the ground. I instead think of how my absence would be glaring, would be so heartbreakingly obvious in the lives of those I love. I think about how there is a reason I am still alive. And that reason is a poem I wrote detailing all the things that I love so much. I rewrite it whenever I feel the urge to cross streets without looking both ways. I am something with so much more depth than that. No, it was not easy getting to this point. I still have relapses, but I am trying, so hard, to keep struggling. To keep my head above water. To keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

viii. Yes, some days I still feel like I am trapped in a prison of flesh and bones. Yes, some days I want to scratch my own skin off and claw my own eyes out and tear my own hair off my head. Yes, some days I feel so nauseous that I end up eating nothing at all. Yes, some days I am empty and I am numb and it feels like I am just another wave in the ocean, destined to hit the sand and evaporate. But there are also days when I step out of the shower and just breathe and this body finally feels like I\'m coming home. Those days when I feel so proud of myself, not in the way a lion is proud of its teeth, but rather more like how a mama bird is proud watching her chicks step off the branches and spread their wings. Those days when every part of me feels full to the brim with something vibrant, when I feel iridescent like the wings of a butterfly and violently vibrant like a neon motel sign at two am on the road. Days when I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, and it\'s made of the fireflies that made their home in my rib cage. And don\'t I deserve a soft epilogue? A soft, sweet ending like the end of a flower\'s bloom? 

ix. I went to therapy and worked on coping techniques. I learned to set up my own coping strategies and learned to alleviate the way my body never felt like a body, only a warzone. And I don\'t mean that in the way that I kept losing weight, because the mind will not be satisfied. It is never enough. Never. You can try to \"change yourself\" to fit your mind\'s image as much as you want, but you will never be enough. There are better ways to be someone you can love. You were someone before the flood, you were someone before the water took your place. You will still be someone after the flood. You will still be someone with a face like the first dawn and bones like light that shone long before life crawled from the sea. You will still be someone with a heart like poplar honey and star-stuff. You will still be a person, a person, a person. You will form yourself from the water like Aphrodite from the sea. 

x. So I implore you to keep looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. I promise it\'s coming. You deserve the end of a flower\'s bloom. You deserve the soft melting of the snow, the muddy redemption after the rain. We all do.