The cabaret of body dysmorphia

I spend all day twisting and contorting my features
To feel like an ounce of a human
Worthy of love, worthy of life.
I spend every minute feeling compelled to look my best
To every passerby
They could have a face like a foot
And yet I’d still seek to impress
Like a peacock riddled with cancerous boils who flashes her feathers
To hide the putrid, pus-caked skin
Clinging to her underbelly.
Every action is shackled to Beauty
Every head tilt, smile, stroll or expression
Doused in a sickly sweet, eager to please haze
Of self optimisation.

Relatability #1: entering the week with all these grandiose ideas about how productive you’ll be but then never following through on any of them.

I follow all the self improvement sub-reddits. The ones that make you gasp and ‘gosh’ at all these humans around the world who wake up at 5am, go for a run, do some yoga and contribute more to the world before their Cheerios than you do in a full day.

Yes, I’ll say, this is my week. This is when I’ll finally write a poem every day, meditate for an hour, and work out every other day. I’ll get up and go for a jog just as dawn creeps in, and I’ll then whip up something green and nutritious in my Nutribullet before journalling like I’m fucking Ernest Hemingway.

I’ll sit at my desk and tap away at emails, words cascading down my fingers like children on water slides. I’ll break for lunch and not feel guilty about fucking off for half an hour to eat some beans on toast and maybe watch The Office. I’ll log back on and do my work and boss that meeting I’ve been so terrified about for weeks (the one where I’ll have to speak and sell our services with a honey-laced voice that only grows so sickly sweet when speaking to clients).

I’ll log off at 5.30pm and not feel guilty about not staying online for another three hours like that other girl, her icon a stubborn Shrek shade of green. It’s like a fucking challenge to find out who can stay online the longest, and who’s the most dedicated to this really-not-so-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things job. But instead I’ll shut the lid and forget about all the nothingness, and I’ll banish tomorrow’s meeting and next week’s presentation and the following month’s review from my brain as though they were cat hairs that met their end at the hands of a lint roller.

I’ll turn to YouTube for a workout that gives me electric thighs, Barbie doll arms and calves as juicy as hamburgers within a matter of weeks. I’ll see the poundage drop like Deliveroo groceries on a pandemic doorstep and I’ll finally feel chiseled and strong. Then I’ll take myself off for a shower and get in while the water’s running cold (I’ll do this three times a week to boost my immune system and tell everyone I know about it so they’re aware of how incredibly awesome I am).

I’ll apply skincare products as part of a rigorous routine to make my face porelessly porcelain. I’ll coat my hair with a masque that makes it smell like the inside of Victoria’s Secret or the Playboy Mansion. I’ll then read five thousand pages of a book, shunning Netflix for Sylvia Plath because I can learn much more through books than I can from Michael Scott obviously.

In fact, I grow so ambivalent towards Netflix that I cancel my subscription altogether. I sign out and tell my stepdad ‘no, I won’t be leeching off your account anymore’ and I bid adieu to Pam and Jim and all the others.

I’ll read a thousand books in a year. I’ll start studying beginners’ Arabic and take the GCSE in Russian I’ve been considering for a while. I’ll speak to pen-pals in unusual corners of the world and once I’m proficient in Russian and Arabic, I’ll apply to MI5 and become the next James Bond.

Oh the things I could do, if I could just get off my sodding arse.

Avoidance behaviours

My narrative is a series of shoulds and should nots
I shouldn’t be afraid of the things I fear
And I should be more ballsy, more ebullient
I shouldn’t need help
I should be able to untangle all of this myself
A very intricate and unforgiving
Cats cradle of “threat”
The brain is an unkind, messy, gelatinous lump
That’s ingeniously cruel
Like Hannibal Lecter.
I take myself off to parks
Remove myself from these four walls
Sip lattes I can’t afford whilst mulling over these shoulds and should nots.
At least when working, theres no space to think
No need to dwell and torture and yell
At your insides as though they were naughty children
With their Ribena-stained lips and
Mud-caked fingers.
When the day is bulging and fully occupied
Fronted by a “no vacancies” sign
There’s little time for grumbling
Everything’s poised on the edge of eruption
Full and tiring
But when the days off clump together
Like hairs in a drain
The mind starts to melt
Fog throws itself over everything
Like an invisibility cloak
Enveloping, suffocating
Darkness inflates like a balloon
It covers all the corners and climbs into crevices
It fills its boots with the pure air
And stomps away with it
There’s gorgeousness in everything
But today I am blind to it
Blind to everything except myself.

Always working

Work is swallowing me whole

I’m devoured, kicking and stomping against the roof of its Victorian mouth

Stringy thoughts like syrup

Cling to colleagues and projects and deadlines

And weekends are hazy and jagged

Flooded with feelings of money earning, the grind 48 hours from now

An empty Saturday lends itself to too much time spent musing

With money churning in the background

Realising you’re a cog, small and insignificant

Working always, whether it’s at the 9 to 5

Or working on myself

Always ruminating, stalling, forgetting, planning

Sheets sodden with schedules and words

Blunt days off with no real purpose

Work thoughts pour in like post drought rain.