Being pregnant and schizophrenic is one of the strangest things that I have ever experienced in my life. On the best of days, I have a horrific relationship with my body. I find flaws everywhere – I’m fat, my hair is frizzy, my face is oily, my nose is too big, I have a unibrow and hairy toes, my hands are too masculine, my feet are huge – the list goes on and on. For the most part, during untreated phases of my illness, my body has taken the brunt of punishment in trying to maintain my sanity. I’ve starved it, overfed it, burnt it, picked at it, cut it – anything that I could in order to shock me out of psychosis. It’s not a healthy coping mechanism, and I don’t recommend starting if you’ve never self-injured.
Since my last psychotic break, I’ve had to relearn how to love my body again – even in an imperfect state. I started taking better care of myself and lost over 150 pounds during that time. I met the man that would eventually become my husband, and still have a difficult time trusting that he thinks I’m beautiful. I think most women (and men) go through this self-doubt when it comes to believing their attractiveness, but not with a soundtrack of voices telling you that it’s all lies and your partner is just waiting until they can upgrade. Or maybe normal people do. I’m not sure.
The closest I ever got to accepting my body and self-worth is letting my husband see me change clothes. He still wasn’t allowed to touch me in certain areas, nor was I ever 100% confident that he wasn’t biding his time to leave me. I was maintaining my weight loss, which made me happy, but I still punished myself in lieu of not getting treatment.
The thing is, though – no matter how unpredictable things got with my body, there was always the fact that I controlled it. No one could take that from me. I controlled my weight, I controlled my hair, my shape – all of it. It was mine in a world of too many years of my body and self not being mine.
And then I got pregnant.
One thing that I have found that most pregnant women have in common is this emotional response to losing control of your body. I’ve found reading through countless forums and sites that most expectant mothers tend to share the same concerns – stretch marks, loss of physical attractiveness, bad hair, partners losing interest – and that’s been comforting to me. I’m sorry that I take comfort in your discomfort. But it’s helpful.
For me, this has been just the worst.
Don’t get it twisted: I’ve secretly always wanted to be a mother, and I know that body changes are part of it. However, I’ve spent so many years detached from my body and how it interacts with things that the idea of becoming so in tune and connected with myself has been inconceivable. The time I’ve spent this pregnancy losing control over my body – vomiting, changing my eating habits, even bathroom timetables – has been terrifying for me.
And now, my body isn’t my own. I’m subject to doctors’ appointments and strangers touching me and my stepkids touching me and my husband touching me whenever they want. Talk about immersion therapy. And yet, I find myself crying each day about my body and how I’m not perfect, and how it’s not my own. I cry because I won’t have those beautiful maternity photos that so many other mothers have – regardless of dress size – because I have voices telling me I’m too ugly and why would I subject my baby to that? I cry because I can’t see my feet – something that’s never happened to me before. I cry for the clothes that I can’t wear that used to be loose and flowy, and I cry because I’m an unrelenting snot machine that I can’t take any medicine to cure.
I have always suspected that I am not in the driver’s seat when it comes to my body, and now the pregnancy confirms that. The good thing is that I’m finally starting to be okay with that, because hearing a baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound drowns out even the loudest voice.