I physically felt as though I could not bring myself to do this assignment. At first, I was determined to write down the exact moments I would look in the mirror, what thoughts ran through my head, how I felt in that moment, etc. However, the first day I woke up ready to track down each of those things, but as soon as I was in front of the mirror, it was as though I completely lost track of what exactly my intent was in the first place. As if routinely, I looked in the mirror (completely forgetting to note the time that I started looking) and began my checking “checklist”. And I did this each time I looked in the mirror that day, and the days following.
Truthfully, it’s as if the mirror is almost a part of who I am. It’s something I don’t even notice I’m doing. Time becomes obsolete once my eyes become hooked on my reflection. It sounds so vain when I hear myself admit that. As if I am obsessed with looking at myself, because in a way I am. But obsessed in a way that I didn’t even realize until I tried my best to do this assignment of figuring out the length of time each day I check myself in the mirror. Check for all of the imperfections and to make sure that no more have somehow appeared since the last time I checked not even an hour prior.
Here’s a brief outlook on what I do when I check. I wake up. I wait as long as possible to look in any mirror, in fear that somehow overnight my appearance completely changed. My skin probably got worse. My teeth may have gotten smaller. I’m worried about who I’ll see that day when I look in the mirror for the first time, because every single day is different. It’s not as though one day I see brunette hair, then the next I think I’m blonde, or anything of that sort. I just fear that the faults I see and I obsess over will get worse… and some days my mind tells me that they are. Then it’s as if the very next day, my flaws aren’t as apparent to me. I feel a little bit more comfortable with who I am, but never totally.
Once I can no longer force myself to avoid my reflection, I inevitably look in a mirror, and it’s as though I completely lose track of everything around me. Time ticks away as I mindlessly start by looking at my eyes. Are there dark circles under them? Do they look small or are they a bit bigger today? Next is the eyebrows. I put my face as close as I can to the mirror and look for stray hairs that need plucked. But it seems as though they just never seem to be symmetrical, so I look back and forth for an unknown amount of time before I put down the tweezers in frustration and then move onto the next item on my check list.
Since my face is already close to the mirror, I begin checking my skin. The once beautifully clear and soft skin I had has now been ruined by my incessant need to pick at each and every pore, because I swear there is something in there that needs to come out. This part is what keeps me entranced the longest. I start at my forehead, the one area I don’t pick at. I scrunch my eyebrows up and see if the wrinkles have gotten any deeper. I pull my hairline up to see what it would look like if my skin was a little bit tighter. Then I move onto my cheeks. I pull the skin back to see what that would look like as well, and then I begin to examine the flaws. This is where I become obsessed.
In my mind, I yell at myself, “STOP DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING.” But during this whole time, it’s as though nothing else in the universe exists, and even though my mind is telling me to stop before I get started, something inside of me seems out of control and my hands come to my face and I begin to pick. I pick the scabs that have formed over pimples that finally healed. Some leave scars. Little reminders of my lack of self control. Some days the little monster that controls me during these times listens to the pleas from my mind telling it to stop. Some days I feel as though I’m going to start, but I can bring myself to walk away. But other days… most days, there’s no stopping me. Sounds completely fade. I have no peripheral vision. All I see is what I have become fixated on and the only thing that snaps me out is when I eventually become fed up and frustrated at the fact that my skin, like my eyebrows, will never be perfect.
I move on to my hair… the one thing I don’t tend to completely berate about my appearance. I run my fingers through it and feel around to make sure I haven’t lost any over night. I grab it in my hand to feel the thickness. I turn from side to side to see how I will have to wear it that day. If it’s too unmanageable, if my waves didn’t lay just right, I have to pull my hair back. I apply multiple creams to it, in order to protect it, and then comb through and am usually satisfied with the outcome. Some days I panic thinking my hair has thinned out, in which case I’ll give myself scalp massages, thinking it will stimulate hair growth.
Teeth run neck and neck with my skin. I make a wide grin, to see if my teeth look even remotely straight. I put my face close up to the mirror again and slowly move my head from left to right, checking each individual tooth. Check to see if any have new chips, if any have shrunk, if any have gotten a cavity. I then proceed to brush my teeth anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Because they never feel clean enough. I didn’t get every single tooth… every nook and cranny. I then use mouthwash, then floss… sometimes twice.
Lastly, I go to the body length mirror. The one mirror I spend the least amount of time in because I am repulsed by what I see. The cellulite on my stomach. The stretch marks on my thighs. The way my stomach doesn’t sit flat even if I suck it in. I instantly regret what I ate the night before. I pinch the fat that lies upon my hips and squeeze the fat that rests in the middle of my belly. I wish so desperately I could just rip it off and get rid of it for good. I am always frustrated by this, but I’m too disgusted to obsess.
The one time I do find some solace in is when I can find things to occupy my mind from the need to check in the mirror. While working, I am kept busy for most of the night. However, if I see a reflection, I can’t help but to look in it, even if only for a second, just to get a glimpse to make sure I’m still me. While I walk with my dog, I am free from any mirrors, any reflection…the one and only time I feel peace and my mind feels quiet. But I can’t walk my dog forever. I can’t walk my dog all day and avoid mirrors.
Making myself focus more on how much I check may not have resulted in finding out the length of time I waste obsessing over the monster I see looking back at me, however it did allow me to be more aware of what I’m doing when I’m checking and a general idea of the amount of time is spent doing so. In the last week since I was given this assignment, I have definitely been checking less. I constantly feel the need to check, but I have been telling myself to either not look in a passing reflection, or when I feel the urge at home, I reflect my energy to something else. I wouldn’t say I have mastered this. I would say about 70% of the time, I succumb to my checking habits, but I’ll take 70 over 100% any day.
**PSA: I do not share these delicate parts of my life to gain sympathy from people. Each time I hit post, I worry about who many stumble upon my page, read one of my posts, and immediately form assumptions that I am attention-seeking, sharing too much, or that I am a completely broken person–a lost cause. The darker details of my life are shared in order to release some stress inside of me, but also in order to reach out and let others suffering from depression, or other mental disorders won’t feel so alone. I do it in hopes that I can help others in any way. No, my life is not like this all of the time. I am a outgoing and happy girl who just so happens to have a little trouble fighting my own demons. So please, if you’re someone who reads this or any of my other posts, I pray you read it with an open mind and heart instead of judgment. Struggling is not weakness. Writing is my solace. Helping brings me peace.