Layers

I get nervous when I’m not wearing layers
As if other people seeing my body
Is so horrifying a notion
That it requires constant, unwavering attention.

It was blisteringly hot today.
I went out in a vest top and shorts.
I spent the entire time nauseated
by how much of me everyone could see.

You see, there’s another voice in my head
which wordlessly screams my shame:
that I am ugly and hideous and awful,
and should never, ever be seen.

It drowns out the voice that,
when I look in the mirror,
thinks: oh, I actually look lovely,
I think I might really be very pretty.

It consumes the part of me
that can put on a costume, no matter
how revealing it might be,
and feel the most beautiful in the room.

Because the person they’re seeing
isn’t me; it’s the part I’m playing,
it’s someone else wearing this gown
which shows her shoulders and arms.

That all goes when the other voice starts,
screaming its litany of hate in my mind,
and suddenly I am putting on layers
to hide the shame of my body.

I put weight on when I was sick;
my medication increases appetite.
My size almost doubled,
and my body no longer felt like mine.

I was trapped in this huge mass of flesh
that was more belly than anything,
and it took me ten years
to be strong enough to escape.

Now I am halfway to getting it back,
and when I look into the mirror
pride fills me with its presence;
its awful, wonderful, terrible presence.

Because where pride comes, shame follows.
I delight in feeling more myself,
and then that voice begins again:
the body that is mine is still inferior.

And as I wallow in that shame,
I have the same thought, over and over:
I don’t even have an eating disorder.
This thing I am feeling is ‘normal’.

And I wonder whether, if I could look up,
if I could lift my head from aversion,
if I would see everyone else
clinging to layers just like me.