Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dreams, perceptions, and reality

Before my power went out, I had wanted to write this post. A few weeks ago, I had this dream. I was at my old high school and mingling around. Maybe, this was a reunion but I'm not sure really. I came across this young woman who was a teacher. I did not recognize her but she somehow knew me. Her first words were, "You look too thin." I denied the answer and promptly left. I don't remember what happened after that.

Dreams are an interesting thing. There is such a variety in them. Sometimes, they depict subconscious thoughts underneath the surface. Other times, they are relevant to the present moment, becoming a way to suss out or mill over matters. Some are happy, some are sad and nightmarish, some are just in between, and some don't really have an emotion to evoke. My favorites are the dreams that make absolutely no sense, yet, you still try to figure them out anyway. Example: animals talking.

Then, in a category all its own, are the ED dreams. These are the dreams about food or treatment or your treatment team or the scale or your weight or your body image or the perception of yourself on others or illness or even death. I don't know about you, but these have always been some of the most vivid, memorable dreams for me. They tap into my fears and disillusioned perceptions and always ask "WHY" questions or leave strings unattached.

Fast forward a few weeks at my last therapy session. (I have another post on that in the works) Towards the end of the session, C. asked me how eating and exercising were going. I was honest, told her it was so-so. My exercising had decreased since I had Tovah and the visit with my parents--both good things for the most part. I told her I knew I had lost a little weight back in mid-late December. I only knew since I weighed myself at the fitness center. Of course, when I said the number which was not significant at all, C. claimed it was a lot. I told her I had probably regained most of that weight back anyway since I was exercising less and eating more.

Then, C. said, "You're thinner now than when I remembered you in college. Even today, you look thinner."

Seriously, I was quite shocked. I know my perception is skewed but I also know how my jeans fit around my waist, and they are not as loose as they were then. This should have been a victory for me--not falling down the rabbithole. (or is it pigeonhole?) But instead, it just made me question my perception of reality and wonder if I'll ever be able to see too thin, thin, normal, and fat, at least on myself that is. Has the eating disorder forever scarred my perception?

What's your take? For those recovered/in recovery, are you able to see the dimensions or your own body or the perceptions others see?

Related perception posts:
Perceptions and body image
Perceptions and our pets


Kim said...

This is a tough issue for me as well. I know my perception is off because one day I think, "Ok, still too thin" and the very next day, I can think, "I've filled out." It really depends on my emotional state. If I'm upset, I think I look bigger. I don't really trust my perception. I look forward to the day when I can :)

Lisa said...

I don't have a clue what others see when they look at me. It often depends on the other person's relationship to me, as well.

Just Eat It! said...

I know my perception of myself is completely wrong. I notice that, since being in recovery, the "fatness" perception has de-escalated ever so slightly.

kb said...


Definitely a nebulous area for me! What has shifted, however, is that I really don't care anymore whether people think that I'm "normal" or "thin" or "just right" or "fat". I think that used be something that would keep me in knots - how to control (or try to) my body based on other people's perceptions (I also would worry about my food intake based on other people's perceptions too, sad to say).
So, although I continue to question my body, perhaps, I do question myself in general much less, and that seems to be an important factor in worrying/not worrying about how I see myself in terms of weight.

Kyla said...

thanks for talking about dreams! My ED dreams too are some of the most vivid and disturbing dreams I have. I have a hard time accurately perceiving my body, but I hope that won't always be so. I used to see it as much larger than it is. After being told so many times that I'm thinner than I think, I am now shocked by photos of myself now by how large I look. I just grew used to telling myself that it's in my head, so I practice looking in the mirror and takign a couple inches off of what I see. so, it's always been skewed for me. I don't really remember what I thought I looked like before my ED. Do you? I don't remember thinking about it at all.

Sarah said...

My perception of my body is way off from others. At the beginning of my Ed I noticed this, and it actually frustrated me that I could not see what they saw. I don't know if I'll be able to perceive my body in a healthy way but I hope so.

Speaking of, this Monday in therapy I will be drawing out my body as I see it, then have my actually body traced over it to see the difference in my perspective

MelissaS said...

i shudder at the thought of a high school dream. yikes!

i can tell my weight by the shape of my face. i'm now average weight, but if i lose a couple of pounds, my face starts to look a little sunken. that tells me i'm going too low. (i wrestle with myself -- of course, a part of me likes it.)

i wish i could really accept my body. i wish i could look at it like my boyfriend looks at it. when i GAIN a few pounds he truly loves it -- curves, curves, curves.

sorry for such a long comment. obviously, you touched something in me!

Tiptoe said...

Thanks for the feedback and discussion. It looks like a lot of us in general still have trouble with the perception issue of how we view ourselves versus how others view us. However, the positive is that we hope to get to a place of being able to accurately gauge ourselves.

Kim, I think emotional state can play a big role is how we see ourselves.

Lisa, relationship to person can be a factor too. There are some people who I "believe" more than others.

JustEatIt, "fatness" de-escalataion is a good thing. :-)

Kristina, I think that is a great shift to make and one I hope to get to someday. There is a real freeness of just not worrying what others think.

Kyla, that's a good technique in taking inches off of what you actually see. I'll have to try that. As for what I looked like before ED, I was just "normal" i presume. But yes, it's still hard for me think about pre-Ed.

Sarah, I think this is part of my frustration--that I can't see what everyone else is seeing. Good luck at your body tracing. I'll be interested to hear how it goes.

MelissaS, my face does similar things too. It can be such a battle between knowing what is healthy or not and what you desire too.