Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Just Sleep Naked

I think it's safe to say that all women have body issues. We are raised in a society that pushes body issues onto us, from day one. We grow up as little girls with moms who call themselves fat in front of us. We read magazines full of air-brushed super models. Our boyfriends "read" porn full of naked air brushed models. Everything in the media - from television shows to magazines to movies to books - teaches women that we are not thin enough. No matter where we look, that's the message we are receiving: you're not skinny enough. This message results in women with serious body image issues.

I am no exception. Whether I am the smallest I have ever been, or the heaviest I have ever been, I don't always see in myself what other people see - or really, what is actually there. And women are like that.We have this unique ability to look in the mirror, and what is actually 5 foot 3, 125 pounds, we can morph into 5 foot 2, 500 pounds. We don't see reality, we see the image of our reality, and usually what we see is much worse. I've talked about this before, the way that my high school body was so tiny and yet I thought I was so fat, but I feel like it is such an important issue to talk about. And so I'm writing about it, yet again. 

As my regular readers are already aware, I was in an abusive relationship from August, 2009 until November, 2011...or, from when I was 26 until I was 28. My boyfriend was manipulative and emotionally hurtful, in addition to the times he assaulted me physically. During these two and a half years, my weight was all over the place, and I eventually ended up the thinnest I'd ever been - partly because I hated my home life so much that I spent hours at the gym every day to avoid going home, partly because food and calories burned were the only piece of my life that I was in complete control of, and also in part because my boyfriend - who had mind fucked me into thinking he loved me - was constantly telling me how disgusting I was. Being called disgusting by your boyfriend is something that will weigh on the way you see yourself, more than you may think. I was fairly convinced (at one hundred and five pounds, mind you) that I was disgusting.

There was a day about six months before we broke up, that he told me he hated to see me naked because I had tattoos - and he hated tattoos. There are a lot of things from our relationship that I remember pieces of, but there are things, and this instance was one of them, that are very distinct, precise memories. He said that I should be saving my money for tattoo removal because of how much he hated them, and a pretty big fight took place from there. He did not once ever see me naked from that day forward. I started sleeping in sweats and a tee shirt, I locked the door when I showered, and we never had sex again. Looking back on it now, this was the beginning of the end. This was when I started secretly looking at apartments on my days off, quietly packing items away in the back of my closet, and hiding money from him. Because there comes a time when you realize you cannot change permanent things about yourself to please someone, and his asking me to remove tattoos from my body was an eye opener.

The thing is though, about control and manipulation, is that it distorts the way you think. This day was not just the last time I let this boyfriend see me naked; this was also the last time I ever slept naked - alone or otherwise. The next guy I dated after breaking up with (as we call him) Lucifer, was a great guy, super nice, treated me very well...but I always slept in a tank top and underwear at his place. And before I went to therapy and figured it all out, I blamed it on just not liking to sleep naked - it just felt super uncomfortable. Of course now I know I was only uncomfortable because I was manipulated into hating myself. I've shared a bed with other guys since then as well, and I just can't sleep without at least my underwear on. I know, I know...it's weird even just typing it.

So even though it seems so silly, my #faceyourfears challenge for today (day 11) was to sleep naked. And I did. I went to bed about 11:00 last night, sans the usual tank top and panties, and the minute my head hit the pillow, I was as comfortable as I've ever been, and I got a great night of sleep. When I woke up this morning, I wasn't uncomfortable or awkward; even though I was in bed alone and not with someone else, I think the whole point was that I needed the reminder that it's okay to be comfortable in my own skin.

My life is so much better now than it was three years ago, and not just for the fact that I am no longer with someone who destroyed me internally. I am surrounded by people who lift me up, who support me through my craziness, who challenge me, but most importantly who are invested in me for the person I am, not the person they want me to be. We all have flaws. We all have issues. We all have fears. What I am learning, is that the only way to become stronger, braver, and better is to face your fears head on. And in my case, sometimes it is as simple as taking off my clothes and hopping into bed naked, to sleep all night in my own room, under my own covers, where I feel safe.

Maybe I should add, sleep naked with someone else to my list of fears to face this month? Eh? Takers??