life as i know it

"...everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt." -Sylvia Plath

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday Scribblings...Skin

Skin…taut, pulled firm against bone and failing muscles. Skin…padded, cushioned, protection against the world and the self. Skin…scarred and bruised, covered in shame, bared in pride.

For the past month, the skin of these women stares back at me, forcing me to evaluate my own skin, forcing me to cast my eyes downward on the skin that is the doorway to my world. And as I catch sight of my reflection, my world begins spinning as I reminisce and acknowledge the hunger of my own skin. As I doubt the thickness of this layer that stands between my heart and reality. As I am questioned by others about the competency, the strength, of my skin.

It is uncomfortable these days. My skin does not feel like my own, too much questioning resulting in attempts to expand the layers that lie beneath my skin. I walk through the door and eyes are cast doubtfully in my direction. Are my bones visible? Does my profile reveal enough depth to warrant relief? And consequently, I come home to feast upon protein and more protein, healthy fats, and an array of junk food…anything to put the weight on. But it is uncomfortable to live this way. My body is protesting that health does not come with more weight beneath my skin. And the end result is punishment for the body that God gave me. No clinical work unless I can alter the natural form of my body, unless my clothes reveal a tag stating size “5” instead of “0”.

Sometimes skin is just skin. But most often, our skin is simply the message we carry to the world of what lies underneath. Where I work, our skin carries the message of health versus sickness, strength versus weakness, trust versus mistrust. Each day that I walk into the office, my body, my skin, is scrutinized. Am I too thin? Is the weight gain enough? Can I carry the pain and anger that will be thrown at me from my patients? Each day, I walk in with my sole focus to help my patients, and each day the focus is turned back upon me, my body, my skin.

It is a dangerous way to live, an environment that threatens the durability and acceptance of my own skin on a daily basis. Food, weight, the bodies covered by skin…these are the essence, the center of the world beyond those doors. Not enough? Too much? Are there compensatory behaviors? Does guilt follow the last bite of supper? Dieticians and scales and a kitchen stocked with an endless supply of nutrients. Doctors and tests, diagnosis and prognosis…will this one survive? Will she be able to tolerate one, two, three more pounds on her skeletal frame? Will that one stop running to the bathroom after each morsel of food that enters her mouth? Will the repulsive scent of vomit linger until death knocks on her door? Yes, it is dangerous and frightening and exhausting. But these are my patients, not me.

And so somehow in the midst of these women, in the midst of a world that focuses far too much on body size and dimensions, I must find a way to live comfortably within my skin. And in this skin, I must find a bridge to reach these women, these patients. I must find a way to help them reach a place where they can find the courage to love themselves. Anything, everything…not just skin.


At 9:43 AM, Blogger Laini said...

This is very powerful -- what an intense and sad environment that must be. What a mystery our minds are, with the potential to warp our vision of ourselves like a fun house mirror, and to give us the terrible strength of will to carry out such campaigns of terror against our bodies. Society is in such need of caring people to work in these difficult fields, but I always worry for them, people like you with such big hearts and souls, taking in so much sadness all the time. Be well.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Ali la Loca said...

I had an ED for about 8 years and I was not happy in my skin, that's for sure. I remember once having a therapsit that was very thin and I couldn't stop comparing myself to her, this blatant reminder of my "failure" and her "success" because she was skinny.

I've been in recovery for several years now and had ups and downs in terms of how I see my body. But now, I can happily say, I'm happy with my skin and everything it holds inside for the first time in a while.

Thanks for sharing this, and thanks for the work you do.

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Jerri said...

As one who has struggled with too much weight, it's fascinating to be given a glimpse into that struggle's alter ego.

Wonderful, powerful piece. Thank you.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger Jessie said...

TD, I have missed you. And I loved this piece of writing. There is so much to makes me want to get to know you even better. I hope all is well with you these days. I love you.

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Tammy said...

It must be very hard to help patients when you are tiny. I don't want you to put bad stuff in your body to put to rest doubt. You have a gift of a sensitive heart so I will send "power thoughts" your way to help them, while you remain our sweet Tara. How is your family? I miss you!

At 12:46 PM, Blogger la vie en rose said...

yes it does take courage to learn to truly love ourselves, to accept our skin when society is screaming so many different messages at us. beautiful writing.

At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful work...I think you are doing incredibly important work, but like Laini, hope that you are also taking care of your spirit.

At 4:54 PM, Blogger Stacy said...

I found this very thoughtful. Thanks.

At 6:53 PM, Anonymous susanna said...

Before reading your post, I never thought what it would be like to be a therapist/doctor/counselor for people who have eating disorders. The pressure you'd feel about your own body while trying to counsel someone who is so focused on weight and body image... Very interesting post.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger BendingPeak said...

Tara, this was a great post. I am about to start my first practicum this summer and have elected to work on the ED unit. I too have already felt the pressure to feel comfortable in my body to ward off the uncomfortable vibes that I will invetibably face.
Thank you for such an honest post,
:) Heather

At 8:21 PM, Blogger georgiacoast said...

What lies beneath your surface "skin" is beautiful TD.

At 10:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a beautiful post, tara dawn -- and straight to the heart -- but i would expect nothing less from your writing.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmmm, it's interesting to see the perspective from the therapist's side. you write your thoughts out so well. it's good to see you're back from your visit with your grandmother... i hope you had some special time with her.

At 4:07 AM, Blogger Susannah said...

beautiful friend, i know that the strength in you will carry you and support you along this path. you are doing a wonderful job, and this peek into your world was so moving... hugs to you x

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Belle said...

Hi Tara,

Skin...nice post....insights.

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Sky said...

insightful exploring here and on the phone when we talked, too. let's do some more of that when time permits.

having a good visit here. wish we could have hooked up. time on this coast is always too short, especially with such restricted focus right now.



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