Warning, this is a very serious post about a mental illness that I have. It is not to be treated as a light subject in any way.
Honestly, this post has been in my head for awhile now, but I’ve been dreading writing it down and giving it life. It’s a side of my life that I honestly hate talking about because it makes me feel so terrible about myself.
But I can’t really put it off any longer. Thanks to Facebook for throwing the reminder in my face, I was at one of my lowest weights a year ago.
Sounds exciting, right? Not when I have put back on almost 30 pounds over the last year.
Why? I know a lot of the reasons why. Most of it is due to complete laziness. It also has to do with stress. Letting my sweet tooth control me. Going through a severe stage of depression. Getting a promotion at work and taking on additional responsibilities. But mostly not putting the time into it like I did a few years ago.
But that’s not what this post is about. Let’s discuss something that has such a stigma around it, and you will rarely hear much about – male body dysmorphia.
What it is about is the fact that even at my lowest weight, after losing nearly 80 pounds, I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I hated pictures of myself.
I lost 80 pounds and could only see the 249 pound person I let myself get to.
And now that I’ve put on 30 pounds and am not even close to my original goal weight any longer? It’s terrible. All I do is look at myself and see the flaws. Constantly.
And you know what is especially hard about it? Is that I am such a hypocrite about body images. I highly encourage people to be comfortable with themselves. I use the word beautiful and share it as often as I can. I make sure to promote healthy self views from a young age.
I think stretch marks are amazingly symbolic of the journey that a person has gone through, especially after childbirth. I have stretch marks. Do I think that about myself? Absolutely not. To me, they are a constant reminder of what I did to myself.
I also have loose skin on my stomach from the rapid weight loss (60 pounds in less than a year). Could I do something about it? Probably. But I am always telling myself what’s the point? I have these stretch marks and this loose skin that I am never going to be comfortable in my own body.
I refuse to go swimming with other people because I have such insecurities with my own body. Is it really that bad? Probably not, but the way I see myself I just can’t get through that mental block.
I wear a compression shirt. Every. Single. Day. Why? Because at this point it is such a security blanket to me that I can’t imagine going a day without it. It squeezes in all my imperfections and hides them away, at least for the day. I can dress nice, and feel good about myself for a little while until I catch my reflection somewhere in something.
I know that it is such a problem for me that I intentionally go out of my way to try to make sure other people don’t feel the way I do about myself. When people say nice things about me physically, I generally do not believe it. In my eyes, I do not see myself as an attractive person, in the slightest. Which is ironic because people tell me my two youngest look just like me and say that they are beautiful. Should be a compliment, right? Right.
My negative feelings about myself physically have been the reason for many of my periods of depression. I start to feel so down on myself that I often will try to seek some sort of validation that things aren’t as bad as I think they are. You know, the cheesy social media post selfies seeking attention, or things like that?
But those never go how you imagine, and you generally do not get the feedback you were hoping for. Maybe it’s because I’m a guy and people aren’t comfortable giving men compliments? I don’t know. But when you’re already feeling terrible about yourself and you throw a final S.O.S. out there and get nothing in return? It’s a really quick shortcut to depression and negative self feelings.
When I did photography I would try to limit the amount of editing I did to my clients because I wanted to capture their true essence. Their genuine beauty. And I was great at it. I would often have conversations with clients who would ask for things to be removed and I would push back and tell them it’s a part of them that they should own and feel beautiful in their own skin (things that aren’t temporary like birth marks, moles, etc – not things like pimples that come and go).
But when I see pictures of myself? I want to edit one picture for hours. I want to make that person an attractive person. Because I’ve never felt that way about myself, maybe at least I can manipulate it through editing, right? Not quite.
Body dysmorphia is terrible. I should be proud of how far I’ve come, but all I can do is yell at myself for how close I was to my goal, and how much I’ve let slip away.
And what do I do about it? Nothing! I could be doing more exercises to tone the areas I’m extremely uncomfortable with (my stomach and my chest), but I don’t. Because no one is holding me accountable. Stupid, I know.
I started running a month ago. And I’ve put on 5 pounds. How flipping discouraging is that? I’m doing more strenuous activity than I’ve ever done and my body just mocks me.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do to fix my body image issues. I wish I did. I wish I could stop looking at a mirror or a picture of myself and just stop seeing a distorted funhouse mirror version of myself. But I can’t. I don’t know how long I’ve had these feelings. I was in amazing shape when I was in my first year of college (before marriage), but pretty quickly started putting on weight over the next 10 years. When I look at the picture above I wish I could get back to that. I tell myself I would be happy now if I were that person again.
But I know I wasn’t happy with that person when I was there, either.
I could lie and tell you it’s not an every day battle, but it really is. Every day when I have to put on this shirt. Every evening when I climb into bed (which, surprisingly I can’t sleep with a lot of clothes on so that certainly doesn’t help). Every time I see a picture of myself. Every time I look in the mirror and notice my hair is not looking good. Or that it is staring to recede. Or that I look terrible with facial hair. Or that I wish I didn’t have to wear glasses. But putting contacts in is such a hassle. Or that I never feel comfortable with my clothing style. Or how I struggle when I run. Or that I constantly question if I’m eating the wrong things or the wrong amounts. Or thinking about all the toning exercises I should be doing but never do. Every day when I see people who just make things look so effortless.
I wouldn’t wish body dysmorphia on my worst enemy. It literally eats you alive from the inside out. Honestly, I’m surprised I never battled with an eating disorder as much as I don’t have self love for myself. I think it’s because I just stopped looking in the mirror for a long time. And I “noped” out of a lot of picture opportunities.
Someday it will get better. I’m trying to learn to love myself, but it’s not easy.
So the next time you hear me give someone a compliment about the way they look, know that I am saying it with a lot of intentionality and meaning. It is not a superficial remark. I don’t ever want anyone to feel about themselves the way I feel about myself. And if I’m giving you, or someone close to you a compliment? It’s coming from deep in my heart and carries more weight than you probably think (in a making you feel positivity sort of way, if that makes sense).
Today I’m praying boldly and selfishly. I’m praying that You help me overcome these negative feelings and help me to start loving myself. Please continue to guide me towards living a healthier life. I hope to be healthier to live a longer life to be able to do more good in this world for You.
I want to be able to be more active with my loved ones and spend more quality time with them. To be a support and role model for my children.
Please help me in overcoming my control issues with food. And help me in having more will power to be more active and do the things I know I should be doing. My body was given to me by You and I need to be treating it as the gift it is.
You ARE beautiful. Every single one of you. I hope if you hear it enough it will eventually start to sink in.
This post is long overdue. There’s going to be a lot of happiness that you will read, but I’m also going to address some bad moments as well. I don’t like putting on a mask and only showing the “good” side of life. A lot of growth comes from the struggles.
So I hereby, finally, dedicate this post to the one who has been with me through it all – my amazing wife, Allissa.
My wife and I have been married 13 years this year, and I can honestly say in those years I have only spoken poorly of her maybe once or twice, and only to my own mother (who quickly set me straight). Therefore, I’m not going to start with this post. Don’t get me wrong, there are things that she does that drive me crazy at times, but never to the point that I would belittle her to others.
No, this post is going to be about how much of a patient and understanding person she can be, especially when I am being such an idiot. I’m going to discuss some things about my past that I am not proud of, but I am not that person anymore and I will never be that person again. Basically, I’m calling myself out on my past bs. So buckle up. There will be moments where things get bumpy, but the end result (where we are today) is beautiful.
I met this beautiful girl when I was 13 years old…
For those of you who don’t know me, most of my childhood I was this incredibly skinny, awkward (but adorable) kid. I was really active, could eat anything, and never gained a pound. Until I hit puberty entering middle school and I got fat. Like, really chunky.
But, and this may surprise some of you, I was incredibly social. I was friends with everyone! Mostly the girls (I mean, I was a 13 year old boy… duh!), but basically I got along with everyone. And I had silly crushes on a lot of the girls, too (better chances with a bigger selection, right?!). Little did she know (or maybe she did since she is a girl and they always seem to truly know) she was one of the girls I had a crush on.
We, of course, were fast friends. We shared a lot of the same friends and classes, too. But do you think anything came of any of that? Nope, that’s where the middle school story ends. Never dated, never admitted to liking one another (or rather I never told her, I doubt she liked me as I was an annoying overweight teenage boy). We ended up going to different high schools after that. I “chased” a lot of girls, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever had a handful of “girlfriends” in my life, and only one of which was actually serious. I was always in the friend zone. As someone recently so astutely pointed out, I’m really good at being there for other people and helping them through their rough times.
Anyways, our story jumps 4 years to 2006 when we finally got back into each others lives. Allissa had a serious relationship before me and had Maddi earlier in that year. I was off at Purdue having a grand ole time (not really) when this cute girl starts sending me messages on MySpace (yeah let’s throw it way back!). She reached out to me first and asked if I remembered her, and of course I did. She was really good friends with one of my close friends, so getting back in touch was pretty easy.
I wasn’t a very religious person at the time, but looking back she came into my life right when I needed her most. We started talking seriously early in my first semester. I think we were “unofficially” dating for awhile, but it all happened really quick after my grandparents passed away. My grandmother passing was one of blessing as she was in a great deal of pain and suffering from a long battle with cancer. My grandfather less than 2 weeks later was not so much. I was completely devastated as I was extremely close with him. Allissa was the one person that got me through it. She stayed up with me for hours on end and just listened as I cried.
We “officially” got together shortly after my grandfather passed away. A lot of people thought I was just filling a void. And, to be honest, I was. 13 days later we got engaged. Yes, you read that right. 13 days. About a month later I got Lis out of a very toxic environment with her family and she moved in with mine… while I was 4 hours away at Purdue.
She gave me a sense of purpose that I did not have at the time. In a few short months I became wanted. I became a father to a 7 month old. Real honest moment? I fell in love with the idea of being a dad and having a family before I actually fell in love with Allissa. There were things that both of us did that filled in the gaps for the other person. I don’t think either of us will deny that we likely were not in love when we got married only 8 short months after being engaged (so, less than 9 months from being together if you’re keeping track).
Insane, right?! 19 years old getting married and having a family after being together for such a short amount of time. Most of our families didn’t really agree with the expedited marriage, but my parents became grandparents and I think that’s what made them more okay with it.
And because of that, do you know what was missing? A whole lot of growing up!
We struggled for a long time in life. We were perfectly content with having very little money, not having any goals, and just getting by. Because that’s what we knew. We were broke. As in, dirt poor. We had jobs where often we wouldn’t get paid for weeks at a time.
Anyways, our relationship wasn’t the best. We fought a lot but we always put our children before everything else. It was always a good buffer for us having the kids to prioritize over fixing underlying issues. And that’s how it was for a long time.
When we first got together I was starting to shut out all my relationships while Allissa was the one with a lot of close friends, most of which did not like me. At all. Because she always chose me over them and I basically stole her away from them.
She quickly started to give away parts of herself that weren’t centered around me. Her close relationships, hobbies, etc.
It wasn’t until our 3rd child was about to be born that we started to take life seriously. I got my first “real” job right before he was born and that has since grown into the amazing career I am in now.
But this amazing woman has sacrificed so much of herself for me to be where I am today.
The rest of this post is probably just going to jump around a lot and seem random as I try to discuss some things. Sorry in advance!
I am just now in less than a month, finally going to be finishing college with my third degree. Which means I have spent a lot of time over the last 13 years taking classes and being away from my family. She gave up all of her social life to allow me to finish something I believed to be important for the future of our family.
She was the one at home, caring for our children. Cleaning the house. Scheduling appointments. Cooking meals. Exhausting herself for us.
We, jokingly, had a saying that she was the primary parent and I was the secondary parent. But it was 100% true. I had no clue what was going on with my kids. I was only focused on what I was working on.
Here’s some more brutal moments of honesty. I’ve had moments where I’ve been a pretty terrible husband. I’ve never physically touched my wife. The closest I’ve ever come to it is aggressively grabbing a cup from her hand that scared her. But emotionally I’ve done some serious damage. The next few things aren’t going to be easy to read, but I assure you they are definitely harder to write and admit.
I’ve had moments in my life that I was so sad, depressed and in pain that I wanted others around me to share in my misery. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone else in my life except Allissa so she got it all. I was extremely good at saying things in ways that would make her feel less than. Or not worthy.
She’s had a rough life, not filled with love, but full of abandonment. When the rest of the world made her feel that she wasn’t worth loving, her own mother, father and sisters, the one person who should have been there the whole time reminding her of how special she was made her feel like it was all to be believed.
I’ve told my wife on more than one occasion that I wasn’t as attracted to her because of her weight.
I’ve told her that I wasn’t sure if I still loved her.
I’ve told her that I’ve had lustful thoughts towards other women.
I’ve told her that she wasn’t enough, even when she was giving me everything she had.
A lot of the things I’ve said to her came from a place of pain and I didn’t truly mean them. Some of them I did really feel but never should have said. Do I like admitting these things? Not even a little bit. In fact, they make me cry even thinking about. Do I think I will be judged by the things I’ve said? Yeah, from some of you I will be. But that’s okay. It is my past, it is not my present or my future.
For the longest time, she found it easier for our life to just give me my way. I didn’t catch on to this for awhile (about 9 years of our marriage) but once I did I foolishly pushed that threshold as far as it would go. And let me tell you, it goes pretty far. This woman, who I was taking advantage of, would go to any lengths to keep me happy. We talked about doing things in our relationship that I’m ashamed to admit. Two positives that came from that situation: 1) we never actually did anything more than talk about those things, and 2) it made us both realize that we really did NOT want those things at ALL in our relationship. Regardless, a lot of damage came from that.
I wanted her to hurt like I hurt. Little did I know that she was in more pain than I ever could have imagined.
I broke her. After I had her cut so many people out of her life for continually hurting her, I turned around and did the same thing. I stole her safety that I am still to this day working on giving back. And I destroyed her trust in me. Because I made her change every part of who she was as a person just to turn around and tell her I didn’t like the person she had become.
Why? Because she became me. And I didn’t like it at all.
There were two of me when I didn’t even want there to be one.
Through all this pain I was causing her, I didn’t even know who I was. And, the idiot I was, I never communicated to her. I built everything up and stored it all in until one day I unleashed hell on her. Instead of opening up to her and letting her help me fix my own brokeness I let her believe it was all her fault. I pushed her so far away so I could peacefully walk away and end it all (literally). She eventually grew tired of me constantly putting everything on her that I ended up with an ultimatum. Which probably to this day was one of the best things she has ever done and a moment that I am more proud of her for than any other moment before or since.
I tore this woman apart. I put her in a situation where she could do no right no matter what she did or said. I made her give up parts of herself that she didn’t want to give up.
And yet, she loved me anyways.
When I get really upset I retreat into my own mind. I don’t yell, I don’t cry. I give this prolonged silent treatment and give the dirtiest facial expressions. Yeah, I know I’m real childish. But I also know it drives her insane.
And yet, she loved me anyways.
For long periods of our relationship, longer than I care to admit, I’ve treated this amazing woman like she was less than me. I made her believe that we were not equals, and that she was beneath me.
But let’s be honest. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. She has been the only person in my life who has supported me every single step of the way. She has called me out on my bs and has given me insight on things that I was too blind to see on my own. In fact, I could have missed a major period of depression if I would have left my job years ago when she told me she didn’t trust my previous boss. Fortunately the situation has worked out well in the end, but it took a lot of pain to get here.
I literally would not be here today if it weren’t for her. She often thinks that I never actually went through with ending my own life, or leaving her, because of the kids. But, the truth is, it’s always been because of her.
She was the one person who I felt so comfortable crying to that I eventually thought I needed to stop showing so much emotion to her. I thought my emotions were wearing her down so I stopped showing them to her entirely.
She’s taught me to love myself even when I felt unlovable.
I took away a lot of the things that she did to make me a better person because I wanted to be miserable and I didn’t want to be a part of this world.
So, I’ve told her that I no longer want her to give me my way any longer. Her voice needs to match or be above my own. Me making my own choices and decisions leads to stupid consequences and a whole lot of pain. She is my better half that keeps me going.
She is finding her voice. I still push her when she struggles with her own feelings of self doubt, but I no longer try to make her into someone she is not. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned to open myself up to her. She’s recently admitted that she has held stronger religious beliefs because of the things I’ve put her through. I wish I wouldn’t have stolen her voice so she would have been comfortable enough with me to share that. I strongly believe being Jesus followers earlier in our relationship would have avoided a lot of problems. But then again, I also believe these things happened for a reason.
As I know I will never be able to say it enough, I am so sorry for all the pain I have caused. For not being your unconditional support system. For breaking your trust. For making you question my feelings for you.
Neither of us grew up having great relationships in our lives to model our own marriage after. We never really had a sense of direction on how to approach situations. Now that we have people in our lives that encourage and foster our relationship growth, things have been really great for us.
This story is far from over, but I will bring you up to speed on where we are in the latest chapter of our lives.
Now, Allissa comes first in my life. And the biggest thing is, I now make sure she knows that. Some things I don’t necessarily agree on, but out of respect for her and for our marriage, I do them. I make an effort to make sure she feels loved. I’ve tossed out the silly notion of “secondary” parenting. I take her out on date nights when the time allows. I let her be the first person who reads these posts, because in all honesty it’s the first time she’s learning these things about me. I seek her feedback and opinion and give it more weight than I do my own. I listen to her gut instincts more often (not often, because I know sometimes it’s still coming from a place of doubt). I do not have lustful thoughts for others anymore, nor have I for a very long time. I encourage her. I support her.
We have built a beautiful life together. We have a bright future that we are working towards. We have a beautiful family. We have amazing friends that have become an extension of our family and have taught us what unconditional love for others is. We pray together. We dream together. We do life, together.
I am loving her unconditionally as she has always done for me.
This amazing woman has been so patient in my life and I’ve never understood why. I’ve treated her so poorly at times and yet she’s always loved me anyways. But I guess that’s what they really mean by unconditional love. Through the good times and the bad. And the times when your husband is just being a complete moron and jeopardizing the best thing in his life.
She does so much for this family, especially for me. She’s a natural caretaker. Food, home, children. Even after a long day she will often still ask me to lie in her lap and play with my hair.
When you see this amazing woman and wonder why she’s being so quiet, or is hesitant to let you in to her life, just know it’s because she has been put through a lot. She is still working on believing how special she truly is. Just know that once she lets you in, she’s giving a big part of herself to you. Be careful, she’s fragile. I would know. I’m the one who broke her and is still working daily on putting the pieces back together.
And please do not judge me on my past. I, again, confess these things so you will know how far I have come and will love me despite my faults and flaws for they have brought me to be the person I am today.
I met this beautiful girl when I was 13 years old… She would grow up and change my life forever for the better…
Thank You for blessing my life with this beautiful soul who tries to make my life better every single day. Who sacrifices so much of herself for others. Who has been torn down and broken so much, and yet still puts on a smile every day.
Thank You for never leaving her side throughout all the crap I put her through. For comforting her and giving her peace. For listening to her prayers when I didn’t even know she was praying.
Thank You for putting so much into her. She is an incredibly special and beautiful person.
Thank You for not letting our marriage end. I would be lost without her and do not want to think of a world without her in it. Whether people care to admit it or not, she leaves an impression on everyone she meets. She loves unconditionally, even through hesitation from prior experiences of pain.
I see Your love through her. I pray that You continue to bless her life and give her the voice, courage, wisdom and desire she truly wants in life. I know through You she will find it all.
I love you all!
Andy Grammer – Don’t Give Up On Me
I will fight I will fight for you I always do until my heart Is black and blueAnd I will stay I will stay with you We’ll make it to the other side Like lovers doI’ll reach my hands out in the dark And wait for yours to interlock I’ll wait for you I’ll wait for you’Cause I’m not givin’ up I’m not givin’ up, givin’ up No, not yet Even when I’m down to my last breath Even when they say there’s nothin’ left So don’t give up onI’m not givin’ up I’m not givin’ up, givin’ up No, not me Even when nobody else believes I’m not goin’ down that easily So don’t give up on meAnd I will hold I’ll hold onto you No matter what this world’ll throw It won’t shake me looseI’ll reach my hands out in the dark And wait for yours to interlock I’ll wait for you I’ll wait for you’Cause I’m not givin’ up I’m not givin’ up, givin’ up No, not yet Even when I’m down to my last breath Even when they say there’s nothin’ left So don’t give up onI’m not givin’ up I’m not givin’ up, givin’ up No, not me Even when nobody else believes I’m not goin’ down that easily So don’t give up on meWhoa, whoa Whoa, whoa Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah Yeah, yeah, yeahI will fight I will fight for you I always do until my heart Is black and blue