I’m taking part in WEGO Health’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge
Day 10 #HAWMC – It’s often hard to like pictures of ourselves – post your favourite picture of yourself. Though today is technically “Wordless Wednesday,” tell us why it’s your favourite and what it means to you.
Being wordless is sometimes difficult for a writer, so I’m glad they asked us to elaborate on our choice.
There was a period of at least two years in my twenties when I avoided having my picture taken. Due to the pill, various psychiatric drugs and possibly my illnesses, my adult body weight doubled in the space of just 4 years. Looking at myself was indeed like looking at a stranger. I looked at that stranger with revulsion. Even though I rode my bicycle, walked everywhere, and did circuit training, etc, I never lost the weight. Strangers began to yell insults from cars, and people I knew began to make not-so-oblique comments about my size. In 1994, following a brief hospitalization for depression, I dyed my blonde hair black. I don’t have a photo of the stranger with black hair. Over the following 16 or so years, I learned gradually to look at myself with neutrality. I came to accept that the stranger in the mirror and the photographs was me. I was no longer so dissociative.
In 2010, I met a counsellor who taught me the simple but profound Buddist practice of metta (a Pali word that translates as loving-kindness). I began investigating other practices including self-compassion as taught by Buddhist teachers, Tara Brach and Toni Bernhard. I didn’t become a Buddhist, although I embraced many of the practices. Sometimes I was able to look at myself through the forgiving eyes of self-compassion and could even find beauty in what I saw.
This photo is one of my favourites for many reasons. This is what I see when I look at myself through the eyes of self-compassion and loving-kindness. I took it during one of my now essential afternoon rests. Most days I have to sleep for at least 3 hours in the afternoon, as well as at night, which tends to be broken due to pain issues. I know the rules of sleep hygiene, but my experiences are closer to those shared by Toni Bernhard in Sleep Hygiene for the Rest of Us.
I also love this photo as it shows me treating myself compassionately by taking a rest when my body demands it. I used to beat myself up over needing to rest to get through the day as just one more thing I couldn’t do like a ‘normal person’. Now (for the most part) I honour that need as a practice that actually helps me to get more done.
Finally, I like looking into my eyes in this photo. It feels like in some way I am seeing myself for the first time.