Well, well this issue keeps rearing its head all up in my face so I guess I will deal with a little bit. I have been quite fixated on skin lately, the body and how it works in general has been of great interest to me. I have always been fascinated, but I go through cycles. This particular cycle has gone into a much deeper aspect. An emotional and physical relationship with me and my skin – my whole body really.
My pattern is to consume information when I do not understand something.
I investigate, study, observe, analyze, and then apply the information to my life situations. It’s no wonder I have been obsessive about human anatomy. I have been mixing that with emotional and behavioral observations as well. One thing that I have observed in my family, and with people in general, they will acknowledge what you look like, or what you are wearing. Most of the time they only compliment the appearance, and if they do compliment you about your intelligence or a character trait it normally feels awkward and uncomfortable. (Although, appearance compliments, can at times, make me feel very uncomfortable depending on the person, how it said, and the situation.)
A source of confusion for me for a lifetime is compliments.
Many people in my family will give compliments about appearance. It seems that many of my family members, much of the time, are obsessed with their appearance and hearing how attractive they are. As well as being obsessive about the appearance of others and how attractive, or “not” attractive (from their perspective) they are. If they are not told forthright about their wonderful beauty gracing the presence of this earth, they will tell everyone, themselves how beautiful or awesome they are. When these family members see me, the first things they comment on have to do with my appearance, (good or bad, or loaded compliments) or they ignore me. In the past, to ensure that I measured up I made sure to always be the skinniest, and there were tanning battles as well.
I did not know I was battling though.
I actually had no idea that there was appearance competitions going on. I only had feelings of being uncomfortable and confused by behaviors and words. I was seeking to be seen, I learned that in order to be seen I needed to look good. The attention felt negative most of the time, but I did not understand it. I did not even do much to make myself look good – I did live up to what everyone paid attention to. I was thin, tan, and had pretty hair. I brushed it a lot you can call me Marcia. (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia! I do a mean Jan Brady impersonation.)
I can see where my confusion or seeming aloof is perceived as being rather bitchy. (The best word to use.)
I cannot recall many of the things spoken because they made no sense, or I had to forget them because they hurt my feelings. At the time, they did not feel right, and that is the only way I can explain it. I do recall though after having the kids, and I had an additional thirty pounds on me I was treated differently. My other aunt made a comment about my weight, something about my face being fuller.
I said, “Well it’s the first time you are seeing me at a healthy weight.”
It was true, I was speaking from a medical point of view, and I had to keep telling myself things like that because otherwise I went into self-attack mode. I feared my family would reject me if I didn’t look a certain way. I had to force myself not to starve myself. My mom was worried that my body would never go back to normal seeing me pregnant with twins. There were comments about my weight by family members as well made into jokes of course, but I wasn’t sure how to take them. I was pregnant – I was supposed to gain weight! I felt uncomfortable because I did not know what I looked like and after the children were born my body had changed, I was really out of touch with a body I am already disconnected from.
I feel very disconnected from my body most of the time.
Part of my issue as well is that clothes never feel right. I have a hard time finding things that I like that are also comfortable. I do not like wearing big frumpy clothes, and I do not like wearing tight clothes. I have no idea what I look like in clothes and I have had to rely on my mom and friends to help me. I have always kept my attire simple. I went through cycles of certain types of clothing. I would only wear skirts with shorts underneath, or jeans and a specific style of shirt. I would have many different colors of the same style.
If I found pants that were comfortable I would (do) buy several of them.
I do love coats, boots, gloves, hats, scarves, though I do not like wearing clothes. It is the irony of my life. The constant love – hate battle with things. Not having an awareness of how clothes fit, and also being very sensitive to how they feel makes me self-conscious about what I look like in them. Since I relied on others to tell me if it looked ok, I assumed that if people did not say anything it must be bad, and if they said something it must look good.
Depending on the comment of course.
I would go home and throw clothes away if someone made fun of me, or if a boyfriend said something about what I was wearing that I perceived as negative. There were too many connections to the clothes then. However, there were some things I refused to get rid of no matter what because they fit and felt comfortable. My decades of white t-shirts, and boxer shorts drove my mom crazy, but I did not care. I loved them!
I love white t-shirts and they were a large part of my attire during a certain phase.
There was a music video that I saw where a woman was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans. I thought it looked like the coolest thing ever. After that, I stole all of my step-dad’s white t-shirts. I stole my boyfriends, and I stole them from my first husband. I am wearing one right now, it’s pretty much the coolest sleeping attire ever. (It has to be men’s size large. Certain brands I cannot wear, but Old Navy and Hanes seem to have the right texture for me. Same for men’s Old Navy boxers. ) Prior to that as a child I would wear my papa’s white t-shirts for bed all the time. I stole his too. He wore white t-shirts and white tank tops with suspenders. Hee hee I also went into a white tank top phase because I saw that on a video too and thought it was awesome. I have about twenty or more different tank tops in assorted colors. They are my other source of fashion awesomeness, and yoga pants.
There are several factors for my self-image/self-awareness issues. I am going sharing two today. This is a huge assortment of problems it is not as simple as having a self-confidence problem, or needing positive encouragement. The first one is a personal issue and I am sure that others may have a common bond as well with family placing high importance and acceptance based on appearance.
I hope that in my following posts I will be able to articulate the matter that is beneficial to others.
The second one however, I believe touches on a huge issue for those on the autism spectrum. It deals with proprioception. It is our sense of body awareness. My two factors for today.
- My family seems to think that appearance is a high priority, at least I perceive it that way. Those who are pretty get the attention. (This is on both sides.) There are not compliments given about what you have achieved using your mind. If you use your brain you are challenged, or ignored. If you look pretty, you get all the smiles and attention.
- Sensory issues cause me to feel uncomfortable and awkward in my own body and on the outside of my body. This can be a challenge to feel connected, or see with a proper scope, and I do think it is a factor in my dysmorphia issue.
I have a book that I recommend to those with sensory issues, or if you want to better understand your child, or anyone you care about who has sensory issues. It is a long title “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do If You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World.” In chapter four, in which I am sharing excerpts from, there is a section titled ”Disconnected From One’s Body” in it there are details that explain how an infant comes to a healthy understanding of their own body through the touch of their parents. (caregivers)
“The more solid the child’s body sense, the more solid her sense of self, and she grows up to feel attractive, close to others, and endowed with sexual identity.”
This statement is based on a”normal” functioning sensory system. Those who are sensitive to touch find it uncomfortable, and as an infant who rejects touch it is said to receive inadequate tactile and proprioceptive information to feel connected with, and get a sense of her body that can cause a lack of a well-developed body map.
“Thus, she ‘loses touch’ with her body and grows up not feeling grounded, or ‘inside’ her body.
“The tactile defensiveness child may engage in contact sports, such as wrestling and football, or even self injury, such as cutting or burning the skin, or become sexually promiscuous. At the same time, poor body awareness inhibits them from moving comfortably in a sexual way or expressing sexual signals in a relaxed manner. They are unaware of their sex appeal.”
“When I was young and thin, with my large bust,” says one woman, “I had no idea that I turned men on. I didn’t even think about sex. I couldn’t see what I really looked like.”
“When they don’t have weight against their skin, defensives feel constant skin hunger- an “unbearable lightness of being”
“Yet, defensives feel compelled to erect a mental suit of armor to protect people from violating their tenuous space. Life is a constant irony.”
There are so many things I could comment on with this little bit I shared.
I drove my mom batty with all of my gymnastics, and pounding dancing. When I was a young adult I was prone to jumping into mosh pits, or slamming into people on the dance floor if they got in my space. I would get aggressive in sports that is one reason why I stopped. I was a cutter. Sex is another whole issue – I am an avoider.
Becoming aware that I am not the only one who goes through this is very helpful.
Though I am going to be processing the emotional and social confusion aspects of this in a series of posts, this understanding of proprioception has cleared up many things. My mom is not a “touchy” person. As a child she did give me touch, but I was also sensitive. When I was an infant I cried all the time, I was up most of the time, and the only person who could comfort me was my grandmother. She held me tightly wrapped and on her chest. She would hold me for hours until we moved to Germany. I got about six weeks of that, and then my mom was on her own with me. My mom did not have the patience for that and had her own sensory issues to contend with. I do not remember anything about my dad at that time the stories indicate that he was working, or out much of the time.
Discovering this information can help me seek out things to help me gain body awareness.
It can help clear up some emotional baggage as well. I have mentally attacked myself for so long for not being able to handle the touch of others. I felt shame or guilt in relationships because I simply am not capable of being what they needed, or need. I have often felt like such a freak because it hurt my body to hug, (even family) that I didn’t want to kiss anyone, or that their hands made me feel icky. In more intimate relationships, I cannot force myself to do things and in the past, I was able to use alcohol to help me with this. It was not a healthy way to deal with people touching me, and I know that I am not able to drink alcohol.
My body and mind are intolerant.
Something that helped me a great deal was in the book 22 Things a Woman With Asperger’s Syndrome Wants Her Partner to Know when she is talking about sex/intimacy. She goes over many aspects of the sensory issues that play into this issue as well as the absolute need for trust. She makes it clear that all Aspie girls are different in this area, but “sensory issues might make sex something more akin to being strapped into a dentist’s chair, and being poked and prodded, inducing panic, fear, and dread, rather than pleasure.”
Um… that is all. I will add more from this chapter.
“Extreme sensitivity might mean that she wants sex all the time… or never. I have heard young women that while their senses overload during sex, they’re not actually very sensitive ‘down there,” and so at best, merely tolerate sex, and worst, detest it. I’ve also talked to women who were that way with one man, but quite enjoyed sex with another, who “ticked all of the right boxes.”
I have spoken briefly about intimacy and that I have some serious issues with it.
I believe much of it has to do with feeling so disconnected from my body. I am not strictly talking about sexual intimacy. Intimacy in general, though I am fixated on how the reproductive organs work and have been researching that as well because it is something that has always been a struggle for me. I blamed it on abuse, insecurity, living environments, the weather, any excuse you can think of I have used it as an excuse. I used them because I could not explain what was wrong, and people do not understand. They think it is a rejection of them. While many factors play a role here, the bottom line is everything has to be absolutely right for me in order for it to possibly work. This can include friendships as well – there has got to be multiple connections, or understandings in order for me to feel safe.
I do not know what people mean to feel “sexy” either.
I do not know what sexy is, but I would like to understand these things. I would like to feel comfortable in my own skin. I am gaining answers that are helping me not feel like such a freak or a horrible person. However, others may still think I am horrible and this is easily fixable – it is not. I feel like this is a huge step into being able to deal with some of my triggers with a rational mindset and no longer emotional/social confusion. Now I have concrete answers that helps my brain process. I am not sure how long this series is going to take. I will share when I can with the move and all it may take a bit longer than I want it to. Until my next one, I recommend the two books I mentioned above if you share any of these struggles.
I do plan to continue writing lighter posts though – I have to write!