Chest Binding And Body Image

This post contains discussion of gender dysphoria, body dysmorphic thoughts, and eating disorder thoughts. Read at your own discretion.

My 28th birthday is coming up and I’ve been trying to think of what I might like for it. But, unfortunately, everything I’ve thought of costs around $100 and we just can’t afford it. Then I remembered that I had a binder bookmarked and I’d heard really good things about it. It’s from GC2b, which is supposed to be more comfortable than other binders on the market ’cause they’re actually designed for AFAB* non-binary/tans folks. And their most expensive option at the largest size is only $40, made in the USA. So I’m thinking about that.

However, I’m concerned because I weigh a lot more than I thought I did (more than ten pounds more). I know this because my doctor’s office now gives you these visit summaries and I saw my weight on one of them ’cause I was looking at it. I’ve told them before that I have an eating disorder and I turn my back when they take my weight so I’m really upset about it. Should probably file a complaint about it but I have other, bigger things I need to complain about.

Anyway, because of that, my body dysmorphic thoughts have been worse. And my stomach isn’t anywhere near flat. The binders only bind the chest so I’m afraid I’d look really beer-bellied and I’m afraid it would be more damaging to my body image than helpful. However, my breasts really bother me on a gender dysphoric level and I’m not sure what to do about it. I’ve wondered about top surgery but I had a really traumatic surgery in July and I’m just not sure if I’ll ever be able to put myself through it again, not to mention the financial cost (most insurers do not cover gender affirmation treatments like surgeries or hormones here).

So, I guess I’m stuck. I need to do more thinking but I feel really stuck about it. Real conflicted.

*Assigned Female At Birth

IMAlive – My Review and Experience Using A Crisis Chat Line

This post contains mentions of self-harm, suicide, homelessness, and disordered eating. Read at your own discretion.

I’m writing and posting my experience contacting IMAlive, a crisis support chatline, to hopefully help people use it if they need to. I almost didn’t contact them, myself, because I didn’t know what it was like. However, this is only my account of the one time I used IMAlive and everyone won’t necessarily have the same experience.

About a month ago, my partner, birds, and me ended up having to sleep in a hotel lobby for a night, not knowing what we were going to do the following night, because our resources to stay in the hotel had run out and we still had no income, despite our best efforts. I had already relapsed on self-injury several times during our stint in that hotel due to the extreme stress we were under, I had lost a significant amount of weight because not only was my ED triggered but we usually couldn’t afford food, and I was fighting suicidal idealizations on a daily basis. That night was one of the hardest of my life and I didn’t get much sleep because a disturbed older man woke me up in the middle of the night to ask me where he could smoke (our state has a ban on indoor smoking in public buildings so I told him he couldn’t and he got irritated with me).

The following morning, we desperately tried to find somewhere, anywhere, to go so we wouldn’t end up on the street in the middle of winter. We didn’t have any word back yet and I was actively planning suicide at that point so I went to IMAlive’s website because I knew I was in crisis.

I’d tried to use them in the past but every time I tried previously they were closed and I never could find hours posted anywhere. But this time I was taken to a page I hadn’t seen before. It asked me to enter my age range, zip code, and gender (I selected “other”). You could remain as anonymous as you can when entering that information or put in your email address. I chose the former.

Within minutes (two or three), I was typing to one of IMAlive’s trained volunteers who called themselves Alex. They asked what they could call me and I told them my name. They also asked about my situation, how I was feeling, and generally just listened and offered support. I could tell they had been trained in how to deal with people in crisis and that made me feel better, especially because I tried another chat service (NOT a crisis line) that left me feeling less than helped at the end since the people on that service weren’t trained.

I don’t remember the details of what we chatted about but I felt more hopeful by the end and Alex asked me if I would like it if they sent me a followup email in a few days. I said yes and they asked for my email address, which I supplied.

My friend helped us get into a new hotel that evening and then a couple days later, Alex emailed me to see how things were. I updated them but didn’t hear back; I’m unsure if that’s policy or what.

So, that’s my review of my experience using IMAlive. I hope this might help someone feel more comfortable using the service who otherwise might not because they don’t know what it’s like. Please, please, if you’re thinking of hurting yourself, contact IMAlive or another crisis line. You’re worth than you think you are in those moments.

Not Doing Okay

This post contains discussion of disordered eating patterns, manipulation and psychological abuse, housing instability, self injury, and gender dysphoria. Please use your discretion when reading.

As I’ve posted about before, I came to an epiphany lately about how if I’m experiencing gender dysphoria, it triggers a miniature eating disorder relapse. I got to kind of test that theory this last week because I tried to gently, politely and calmly correct my father when he used the wrong honorifics when referring to me and he blew up at me. I did it through email ’cause I think it’s ridiculous having to schedule a meeting to talk to someone who emailed me in the first place.

Historically, email hasn’t been the best platform to communicate with my father because he twists my words and finds meanings in what I wrote that I never even thought of when I started typing. And, historically, my dad’s had a major martyr complex. So, I guess it shouldn’t have surprised or shocked me when he reacted poorly but I never expected him to react the way he did. He took this gentle, polite correction (I had a few people read it before I sent it ’cause I have to walk on eggshells with my father) and somehow decided that he does everything wrong and he doesn’t want to talk to me (for my own benefit, obviously, ’cause he still gets to decide that for me even though I’m 26 and have my first grey hair).

His initial email and the one that followed sent me into a major panic spiral plus made me feel so completely wrong in my body. B had to bribe me to get me to eat that day and the day that followed because my head was so messed up.

Then a couple days later, the property management company that owns the house we’re subleasing a room in sent a letter informing the people on the lease that they won’t be renewing the lease and everyone needs to be out by the end of the lease period (July 31). This made me panic and further pushed me into a relapse because we’ve been looking for alternatives to where we’re currently living since DECEMBER and haven’t been able to find anything, that combined with the trauma of getting evicted in September just really pushed me over the edge.

That night when my fiance and I tried to talk about what to get to make for dinner, I had a full blown panic attack and started crying and screaming because thinking about food like that just wasn’t something I could do at that moment in time.

Yesterday, we were told that the property management company is going to be having a walk-through with potential renters today (two appointments). That… I lost it. I haven’t melted down like that since December when we were given 10 days to move out of where we were staying. B’s cataplexy decided to act up right then, too, so he was unconscious off and on all night. By the end of the night, I was sobbing so hard I kept almost throwing up and I was so overwhelmed and panicked that I kept hitting myself in the head repeatedly.

Earlier today, B mentioned he was trying to think of something to make for dinner and I lost it on him. I lashed out and told him that he can’t talk to me about food right now because I’m so triggered. He apologized but it wasn’t good enough for me (at the time) because my brain just isn’t processing emotion properly and I’m just so messed up.

I need to wrap this up because I need to get ready for the last walk-through but I needed to vent somewhere about the gender and eating disorder stuff.

Gender Identity and How It Relates to My Eating Disorder

Strong caution for discussion of disordered eating patterns, body image, and gender dysphoria.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, trying to figure out how best to approach it. It’s been difficult because our weather has been very unstable and it messes with my fibromyalgia and leads to brain fog.

Anyway, it recently occurred to me that my recently embraced gender identity might have something to do with my eating disorder. I came out to my friends (the ones who didn’t know already!) and family as genderfluid (feminine pronouns — she, her, hers, etc — masculine honorifics — brother, son, etc — and refer to me as “person” rather than man/woman/lady/girl please!) a day before my birthday (April 10th) after doing a lot of soul searching and having finally picked out a name that suits who I am better. The initial reactions from my father and younger sister were great; very supportive and affirming. But as time’s gone on, they’ve become less supportive. My dad even told me that he’ll always use my old name and said some pretty insulting things when I told him that B (my fiance) knows and is supportive (“who’s on top?”). It triggered a mini relapse with my eating disorder. I hadn’t considered the connection seriously until I read “Please Don’t Call Me Ma’am” on Disrupting Dinner Parties (which is a great blog and you all should check it out!), which I had done before I came out but only just got around to fully analyzing.

This part really hit home and spoke to me:

I would’ve considered skipping breakfast, hoping to starve away the traitorous curves that evil motherfucker, estrogen, stuck me with.

It’s like a part of me I’d never fully listened to woke up when I read the words that Logan (who prefers feminine pronouns and masculine honorifics!) wrote. There were several times that I was literally pointing at my screen and shouting “this is me!”

Over the last couple months, I’ve had to take a hard look at myself and what it means to be me and it made me realize that a part of the reason I struggle with food is because of my gender-differentness. When I was really sick and super thin it was easier to be androgynous like I’ve likely subconsciously leaned toward for many years. It was easier to present however I felt like presenting at the time; I didn’t have much in the way of breasts or hips to contend with, my waist curve was barely existent. In fact, when I was thinner and had short hair several years ago, B’s coworkers thought I was a guy, which filled me with a thrill I didn’t understand at the time.  My cis-gender friends were insulted for me when I told them but being “mistaken” for the “wrong” gender made me giddy.

So, it’s an interesting realization. Hopefully my self-acceptance will help me on my road to eating disorder recovery!

Dear Body

Dear breasts,

You and I are barely on speaking terms most of the time. Unlike most people I’ve seen speak about their breasts, I want you to be smaller. Much smaller. Invisible, even. From the time I was seven and you started growing we’ve been at war. I realized at that point that in a few short years that, to society, I would only be worth the size of you, the size of my belly, the ability to produce more people for the world to ruin; not valued for the distance I could climb a tree, the mud I could gather and smear, the distance I could jump on my bike, the bugs I could get my sister to eat. I have been trying to love you and accept your size and shape but each time I look at you, I can’t help but feel resentment that I was born a girl when sometimes I wish I was born a boy. And I’m sorry for that because most of the time I’m happy to be able to call myself a woman; it’s just that sometimes I prefer to be called a man and I will never truly get to be a man. So, I’m sorry. We will work on trying not to oppress each other and maybe eventually come to love each other with time, I hope.

Dear belly,

It’s no secret that I’ve never been able to really love you for who you are. At least, it’s no secret to you and me and people who really know us. And it’s no secret that I have never been able to accept you for the shape that you are, even when I had starved myself to the point of being a walking skeleton and still craved to be thinner. Sometimes I think that you would be better off without me but then it’s a silly thought, isn’t it, because we’re tied together and can’t leave each other. So we hold onto this abusive relationship and try couples’ therapy but it only goes so far. I’m sick, I know. And you’re not, I know.  I’m sorry. There’s no way for you to be what I want you to be because I have unrealistic expectations and will probably never be able to fully accept you. But I’m trying. Writing about my feelings and thoughts about you helps; it lets me deal with my demons without taking it out on you. I desperately hope that eventually I won’t struggle with these obsessions of thinness but until then all I can do is apologize.

Dear face,

You’re the part of me that I can never hide. You’re always there and people always make judgements about you and your crooked teeth, imperfect skin, and scars. But, I think, of all my body parts, I love you the most (don’t tell the others; they’ll get jealous). You’re the part of me that, while I wish I could make your skin less red and itchy and full of acne, I usually don’t feel self-conscious about. Which is pretty amazing, considering the issues I have with your brothers and sisters. So, dear face, don’t change. I love you.

Dear ass,

I know that we’re not on the best of terms and I do apologize for that. I go between loving and hating you, between wishing you were smaller and accepting you for what you are. We have our issues but I think we’re coming to terms with each other. I’m not exactly sure what to say to you, other than I’m working on it.

Dear vulva, vagina, ovaries, and uterus,

Most of the time I pretend you don’t exist. Most of the time I wish you didn’t exist, especially you, uterus, but I’m trying to work on that. I’m trying to accept you and work on maybe one day being able to say I love you (but you, uterus; you’re abusive and cause me nothing but pain, I wish that you would just go away). All I can really say is that I’m sorry for the abuses that you have suffered and I wish I could have prevented the assaults and molestations but there wasn’t anything I could do that I hadn’t already done. It’s taken years to get to the point where I no longer blame myself for that so I think that it’s an important step in our relationship.

Dear arms and hands:

I love you. You’re perfect. Don’t change.

Dear legs and feet:

I also love you. There are some things that you know I wish I could change about you but I love how big my leg muscles are and how arched my feet are. I’m happy that you’re my feet and legs.

Dear body,

I’m sorry that we fight so much and that I will probably never be able to accept you as who you are, with all your flaws and beautiful scars. I must apologize for all the times I’ve told myself, even with ribs sticking out and so thin, that you would be better if only you could become skinnier. There were times when I think I would have died for that, for that small, impossible thinness and I’m sorry; I’m working on trying to love you for who you are and not what my fucked up mind wants you to be. But it’s hard and I’m not sure if we’ll ever get to that point. If it was possible, I would give you to someone who would love you more and better than I ever could. But I can’t and I’m sorry.

 

 

This post was inspired by this poem:

http://aprilrhymes.blogspot.com/2011/04/april-1.html