Friday, October 03, 2008

Putty face.

I have a particular problem that used to be bad all the time but now, it only affects me at certain times of the month or when I can't run. It has a name. Every flaw. Every asymmetry, that is normal for a person to have, is magnified, far and beyond the usual issues people have with their appearance.

I look at myself and a recent picture and just before I can express my horror of how awful I look in the picture, Sweet Baboo says, "Hey, that's a good picture of you!" My closest best friend, when I lived in South Dakota, thought that I was vain because I checked the mirror so much. She just didn't get i that I was checking, the same way someone with an eating disorder might check their weight.

I blame my mom. And maybe, some chemical stuff that I probably inherited from my father's side. LOTS of depression and self loathing runs deep in both sides of my family. But anyway, Mom was a professional artist and so I have more than a healthy knowledge of "proper" proportion and symmetry and am acutely aware that I have neither of those things and frankly neither does anyone else but remember, a good neurosis is all about me Me, and my inability to stop fixating on how much I often wish I looked like something other than how I looked.

In bad times, I see the chicken pock scar from when I was ten, and the mole that I've tried to freeze off 3 times despite most people not even noticing that it's there, and the groove that's deepening between my eyebrows, and the nose that I've had altered, and lines that are just starting on my forehead. I feel the insecurity rising in me, the desperation, as I look at a face that looks like I've had a stroke. My face misshapen. I look like a face made of putty that's been stretched unevenly.

But then.
But then I say, Screw it. And I go out for a run. And then it fades away. I come back all sassy and sweaty and don't care how I look. I see myself, and I see strong and healthy. I'm a strong healthy slightly assymetrical nearsighted forty-something woman and I don't notice the lines after the run. I just notice the glow, and the smile.

Except that right now, I can't run. Erg. I've gotten better about this problem that I have with my appearance, but I want to stay ahead of it. I used to take meds that helped with various things, but nothing ever helped with this, until I started running.

So. But. I'm not writing this for validation of how non-ugly I am. I know, intellectually, that I'm not ugly. But when putty face strikes, it's not intellectual. It's emotional, and it's chemical. I'm telling you because maybe you know what it's like. I'm telling you that it's not you. It's emotional, and it's chemical. You just have to keep searching to find the solution, which for me, was running. Sometimes, for some people, it's meds, or therapy. For me, it was running.

Running, for me, is magical. I stop picking at my skin. I stop staring in the mirror. Sometimes I go by reflective surfaces and I even forget to check. I run, and I'm fabulous, and beautiful, and strong.

So I run. ALOT. Except that right now I can't. Soooo, I guess this afternoon I'll try aqua-jogging. Running is my new drug, my new addiction that makes the ugly putty face go away.

I'll do anything to keep it from coming back.



  1. I didn't come here to validate your non-ugliness, (athough it never hurts to hear that you are indeed non-ugly...which you are) rather, I'm here to offer condolences to your non-running prescription. It's hard to lay off something you love...especially when it's good for you.

  2. OMG...I just went through this yesterday, only my focus is on how much "fat" is on me and my face in particular at present. But like you, when I'm out on a bike, riding, none of it matters. Which brings me to - go ride a bike!! Seriously. It won't fulfill your need to run, but you may find that you love it. And, no, you are nowhere near ugly!

  3. I'll start off by saying you're beautiful.

    I understand how you feel, though, and I hope you find some peace with the aqua jogger --or some other substitute -- until you are able to run those feelings away again.

  4. You have such a gift to put into words what so many of us think!! You are gorgeous!!!

  5. I admittedly don't understand how you feel, but I do know that when I put on my running clothes, I always think I look fantastic. The "you're fat" negative self-talk just seems to disappear.

  6. Great post, you really put into words what a lot of us feel. For the record, you are really beautiful. :)

    Good luck with the aquajogger!

  7. I kinda know what you mean. I think we tend to be our worst critic. I know I'm my worst critic. And yes, I have a friend who also thinks I'm vain. But it's not about vanity at all.

    Anyway, I hope aqua-jogging makes you feel as good as running does.

  8. You explain what this feels like so well. Aquajogging may help - it's certainly tough. I find if it's not running, it's got to simulate the running effect on my heart rate, perceived effort and even sweating and it has to be at least a half an hour (more is better). Since you are a triathlete, let me ask if you have a trainer stand for your bike. (?) Both my dear one and I have found that a trainer stand for our bikes (hybrid, road, whatever - we like Kurt Kinetic stands but they're pricey) and one of the long and nasty Coach Troy Spinervals DVDs (he has multi-hour ones as well as short ones) is a good butt-kicking endorphin- raising sanity-saving substitute when weather, injury or other lesser demons keeps us from running (which brings out the big demons - putty face, depression, self-loathing) but cycling is still ok'd. It's not the same as running, candidly, but it's the closest thing we've found. Failing that, maybe there is an evil spinning class somewhere you could try. Good luck, hang in there and keep letting us know how you are.

  9. Yeah. I know a little about all that. I run and train in full make up to hide my scars. I am sorry.

    I can say that you are beautiful (which you are) and that you have a wonderful husband that thinks you are beautiful inside and out (which he does) but I know that doesn't make it go away.

    I can't give you any advice because if I knew how to fix it I wouldn't be haunted either. Maybe it helps to know you are not alone and to get a reminder that it isn't always like this? It does pass. You have felt ok before and you will again. Sometimes that is all I have got to hang on to and it helps.

  10. Misty, this has to be one of the best posts ever and I can totally relate to the self image issues. I run for the same reasons. I run to feel good about me and when I run, I feel strong and confident....certainly things I dont feel about myself on an every day basis. Running is my drug too....and I go batty when I dont run so I feel for you in this down time of running that you are going through.

    If I can only offer one thing, I would say you are not alone in your feelings at all especially in relation to the running.

    Your blog has inspired me on so many different occasions. Hang in there wishes from the East Coast.

  11. I look at myself in full length mirrors as often as possible - 20 times a day. I look to see my reflection in windows as I walk by. I'm looking to see how big do my thighs look - how huge is my ass - how round is my stomach - what else about my body can I rip apart? So I hear you - loud and clear. I hope the aquajogging helps and I'm putting in a second for a little side affair with Coach Troy. You get a greatly elevated heartrate and will produce so much sweat you'll want to put a towel under you bike. Or you can go to your masochistic spin class. Also, I personally find that swimming really hard gets me a much better high than running ever did - but then I have to deal with my cellulite. Damnit!

  12. Wow. I can relate how you feel. I think we are all raised to feel we are imperfect. Bad skin, scars, uni-brow, cellulite. It doesn't matter--they way I deal with my everlooming depression is by remembering that EVERYONE has scars--mine are just visible--everyone can point and laugh at my skin too. But deep down I know that those pointing are scarred by something much deeper than imperfect skin. I know it is corny but it helps me cope with my "scars".


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 I'm no longer involved in multisport or endurance sports. I've started my own business, a psychotherapist specializing in anxiety d...