I got one hour of sleep last night and felt dazzling this morning, and by dazzling I of course mean groggy, sluggish, and light-headed. I rolled out of bed and into my 8 am class wearing rumpled sweatpants and a hoodie, my hair in a messy knot on top of my head, clutching a mocha and a bad attitude. I was not having it.
When I settled into my seat, I looked down at my lap. My thighs swelled like two beluga whales in my white sweatpants. My thighs are huge, I thought to myself. This is disgusting. I am disgusting.
The sun shone through one of the big windows in the back of the room, shining directly on me like some sort of natural spotlight. This sun is awful, I thought to myself, shielding my face with my hand. It’s illuminating my bad skin and drawing attention to my ugly face. I tried to scoot out of the glare but I was caught in its cross-hairs; I was stuck. I started to panic, I couldn’t hear what the professor was saying. I need to get out of this sun. I need to get out of this spotlight. I took off my glasses and held my head in my hands, hiding my face.
I felt my skin hanging off my body, heavy and bloated. I am hideous and huge, I thought to myself. I need to stay indoors so no one has to see me. I am unfit for being out in public; my appearance is offensive. The thoughts came fast like a staccato beat in my head, I couldn’t stop them. The longer I sat the harder I wished for class to be over with so I could go home and hide until tomorrow.
In treatment they made us do a lot of “thought logs,” which were basically worksheets to help process our automatic thoughts in a given situation and to challenge them with positive ones. You write down your activating event (i.e. looking at my thighs; feeling like the sun is an unwanted spotlight; bodychecking), your automatic thought (i.e. “I’m fat”; “everyone is looking at how ugly I am”; “I’m too ugly to be out in public”), and your actions (i.e. panicking; feeling trapped; hiding my face). After that you write down some positive disputing thoughts and the consequences for believing those new thoughts. As much as I loathed doing the worksheets on the unit they were actually pretty helpful, and before I knew what I was doing I was ripping a page out of my notebook and writing down my own makeshift thought log.
These were the disputing thoughts I came up with:
- “I am healthy. My body is strong and keeps me going.”
- “This sun feels good, it’s warm on my skin. I am thankful for being in this light.”
- “I am not hideous. My view of myself is distorted; people are not paying that much attention to me and even if they were, it has no place affecting me this much. I have things to do – I need to keep a healthy focus on myself.”
When I got home, I shared my thought log with my sister.
“I don’t understand why you feel so offensively ugly,” she said, handing me back the paper. “What makes you think that?”
I couldn’t answer her; it’s just something I’ve believed about myself for so long now. A thought that needs to be changed. I’ve heard that when you think something, it creates a sort of groove in your brain, and the more you think that particular thought, the deeper that groove gets. I’ve got all kinds of negative grooves in my brain, and it’s going to take some time to fill them – a lot of time. But you have to start somewhere, and thought logs seem as good a place as any!