Heart, by Shelia Liu. [Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives 4.0 License.]
Content warnings: some NSFW artwork and language, discussion of body dysmorphic disorder, gender dysphoria, grief, gun violence, depression, neurodivergence, kink, microphilia, macrophilia, and shame
Introduction: arguments with my body
It will come as no surprise to you that I’m sitting at a table in a chair with my feet on the ground, while my hands type comfortably on a laptop. You—and most of the people who know and love me—might be intrigued to know that my senses also tell me I can lift my hand and touch the ceiling with no trouble, because it’s dangerously close to brushing my head.
Would you like me to open the front door, fifteen feet away? It’s within easy reach. Or, at least, that’s the argument my body makes.
My senses agree I’m sitting at the table in the usual way, but they also feed me contradictory information about the walls seeming to close in around me, about how there’s no space for my knees and legs between the table and the wall, no way this chair should be able to support my weight, and no way that my fingers could possibly type on a laptop that feels like a toy for a doll.
If I close my eyes, the sensation intensifies and logic takes a backseat to a kinesthetic awareness of overwhelming size. Some days I feel overwhelming smallness instead, as if everything is huge and heavy and beyond my isolated reach.
Luckily for me, if I open my eyes again, I’m able to use the visual information to combat the strange, contradictory physical information. I concentrate on the evidence of my eyes and wage a war against my kinesthetic senses—the same kind of battle I’ve been fighting quietly since childhood.
In some circles, this experience is known as size dysmorphia: a sense that your body’s size feels larger or smaller than you know it to be.
I know that I stand five feet, two inches tall. I know that my body does not change in size. And yet, it’s as if some ancient part of my brain and body refuse to completely accept this data.
Sometimes it happens without warning, like a radio shifting channels and offering music and static from two different stations. Sometimes I go for days without noticing anything unusual, my broadcast uninterrupted on a steady playlist of “five-foot-two” with no interruptions.
When I feel a sizeshift coming on, sometimes I groan inwardly and grit my teeth. Other times, I try to induce the feeling myself, just for the sheer joy and arousal and exhilaration of it. Few sensations are as empowering as a sense that you stand twice as tall as everyone around you.
Until about three years ago, I refused to tell anyone.
I assumed I would take the secret to my grave.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome
This phenomenon may be related to Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AiWS), also known as Todd’s syndrome or dysmetropsia. If you suspect you have this, it may be wise to seek out a therapist, neurologist, or other medical professional because at least half the cases seem to be related to migraines, tumors, or other health concerns.
A touching article in the NYT from 2014, I Had Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, shares a mother and daughter’s experiences with migraines and AiWS, which may have a genetic component. The article also offers research showing that the syndrome appears to be benign and without obvious cause in roughly half the cases studied.
Wikipedia defines AiWS as a “disorienting neuropsychological condition that affects perception. People may experience distortions in visual perception such as micropsia (objects appearing small), macropsia (objects appearing large), pelopsia (objects appearing to be closer than they are), or teleopsia (objects appearing to be further away than they are). Size distortion may occur in other sensory modalities as well.”
Individuals with AiWS can experience hallucinations or illusions of expansion, reduction or distortion of their own body image, such as microsomatognosia (feeling that their own body or body parts are shrinking), or macrosomatognosia (feeling that their body or body parts are growing taller or larger). These changes in perception are collectively known as metamorphosias, or Lilliputian hallucinations.
…One 17-year-old male described his odd symptoms by the following: “Quite suddenly objects appear small and distant or large and close. I feel as [if] I am getting shorter and smaller ‘shrinking’ and also the size of persons are not longer than my index finger (a lilliputian proportion). Sometimes I see the blind in the window or the television getting up and down, or my leg or arm is swinging. I may hear the voices of people quite loud and close or faint and far. Occasionally, I experience attacks of migrainous headache associated with eye redness, flashes of lights and a feeling of giddiness. I am always conscious to the intangible changes in myself and my environment”.
Because my issues seem to be completely physical and not visual, I hesitate to claim AiWS, which seems anchored in visual hallucinations. Are my shifts in size physical hallucinations? How does that work?
I don’t have tactile hallucinations (except for that one time as a kid when a morphine allergy had me convinced that I was covered in fire ants). However, one term did stand out to me: proprioception. Courtesy, once again, of Wikipedia:
Proprioception (/ˌproʊprioʊˈsɛpʃən, -priə-/ PROH-pree-o-SEP-shən), is the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. It is sometimes described as the “sixth sense”.
Falling down that rabbit hole (pun intended) led me to explore a proprioceptive hallucination known as the Pinocchio Illusion, in which your nose appears to grow like the nose of the character in the fairy tale. But it requires outside stimuli.
The most common propioceptive hallucinations appear to be phantom limb syndrome, in which an amputee feels ghostly sensations from their missing limb and an awareness of where they’d expect that limb to be at any given moment, even though they can see and understand that the limb is no longer present.
Recent studies (see section 3.2.2. Mirror Therapy) have shown that mirror neurons may play a role in activating these ghostly sensations. Since first listening to Mirror Neurons: Are there People Who Feel Others’ Pain? in 2010, I have recognized that I show some signs of “more sensitive” mirror neurons—heightened reactions to others’ emotions and physically intense experiences. I have a very difficult time watching gore or violence for this reason, since part of me feels like my own bone is breaking or my own face is being punched. This may contribute to my susceptibility to size dysmorphia triggers, such as feeling large while watching Attack of the 50-foot Woman.
The phantom limb description resonated with me, so I continued digging. From Proprioception and the Pinocchio Illusion, by Paul John White:
Jack Tsao, MD. at Walter Reed Hospital has advanced a theory based on the concept of “proprioceptive memory.” This theory argues that the brain retains a memory of specific limb positions and that after amputation there is a conflict between the visual system, which literally sees that the limb is missing, and the memory system which remembers the limb as a functioning part of the body.
I felt chills in my body upon reading this. What if my body sensory hallucinations are based on memory? What if I experienced some brief AiWS as a child, but because I had access to media like The Borrowers and cartoons and movies that allowed me to keep remembering what it felt like, maybe it stayed with me? What if that same sensitivity that keeps me from watching horror flicks allowed my mirror neurons to empathize with the shrinking or growing onscreen, and made it more real for me? What if I unwittingly practiced invoking the proprioceptive hallucinations that I had as a child?
Wouldn’t that lead to a kind of “proprioceptive memory,” whereby my neural patterns would perpetuate those sensations—especially once I had inadvertently linked the sensations with sex, arousal, and the endorphin rush of climax?
Did I basically program myself to get hooked on the happy brain chemicals of orgasm, based off body memories of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome? Did I train that mental muscle? Does that mean I could untrain it? Or learn to control it better?
What about everyone else in the Giant/tiny community and SizeTwitter? I know of several people who suffer from migraines and many who deal with depression. Did they ever have AiWS? Do they currently? Are any of us at risk for major health concerns?
Can I own this? Is AiWS where I belong?
Ice cream Lab × Alice in Wonderland, by Shelia Liu. [Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives 4.0 License.]
Can you see why I use “size dysmorphia” instead?
I can’t remember when I first heard the terms “size dysmorphia” and “size dysphoria” but I know it appeared in conversations within the “Giant/tiny” community Tumblr. Unless the person who coined the term maintained a fastidiously G-rated blog, it’s safe to assume that their presence on that platform, and all evidence of how they came to use this term, sank with the rest of that Titanic in December 2018.
Since about fifth grade, I have experienced mild and moderate instances of standard garden-variety body dysmorphia, where my appearance in the mirror seems disfigured or deformed to me, while my friends and family argue the opposite. This has nothing to do with size or weight.
I remember vividly standing in a fitting room with my mother at the mall as a teenager, shedding tears of shame at the way a pair of shorts emphasized my body’s deformed shape. I just didn’t look right, and I don’t mean knobby knees and chicken-leg thighs. I mean I looked at myself and genuinely saw something wrong. My mother’s compassionate arguments fell against my confusion and shame like water off a duck’s back. How could she not see it?
It wasn’t until my 20s, when a weekend experience at a clothing-optional Pagan festival helped me re-train my eyes to the genuine appearance of “normal” bodies. But that’s another story for another day.
My partner has dated people with body dysmorphic issues and helped me process some of my own issues with a steadfast appreciation and love that I’m always grateful for. (For example, he complimented me on my freckles once and I was confused. “You mean the blotchy, mottled skin on my cheeks?” He gently explained that I had freckles, not blotchy skin. It was a revelation to me.) Sometimes seeing yourself through another’s eyes is good medicine. And when you can’t see through their eyes, sometimes it’s enough to know that they see you differently than you see yourself. On a rough day, that perspective is worth trusting.
Size dysmorphia feels similar to but separate from my experience with body dysmorphic issues, and it also feels separate from the gender dysphoria described to me by trans, nonbinary, and genderfluid friends and writers.
I obviously have some sort of size dysmorphia or dysphoria or at the very least, hallucinations of some kind. But do I have AiWS? I honestly don’t know.
I have only experienced two or three migraines in my life, have headaches only infrequently, and have only experienced one instance of situational depression that lasted several months in 2016. More on that later.
I’ve had full-body scans, x-rays, MRIs and CT scans for various other things before, and I feel like they would have mentioned a tumor. Does this mean that I have AiWS, but I fall in the 50% of the patients who have no apparent physical cause, and that have a rare version of it that does not manifest visually but rather physically? Pardon the pun, but this seems like a stretch.
There’s no other explanation for it. I’ve connected with others through Tumblr, Twitter, and Discord, who share similar feelings and experiences without apparent cause.
Like it or not, on any given day I may feel twenty feet tall, half an inch small, or anywhere in-between. And those aren’t even my greatest extremes.
A Bowl of Night, by Shelia Liu. [Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives 4.0 License.]
How to trigger a sizeshift
All manner of emotions, thoughts, and sensations trigger these “sizeshifts” for me, but often they happen without warning.
Pride, love, courage, anger, joy, and hope tend to make me feel large.
Sadness, fear, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, despair, and helplessness are all easy triggers to make me feel small.
Of course, it’s not as simple as big = good and small = bad.
I have felt small because a lover held me safely in his arms. Rage with no outlet or remedy has forced me to shrink before, and embarrassment has forced me to grow because I feel big and awkward and obvious. Tight clothes and small spaces often make me feel large in a claustrophobic way.
Wide open vistas can have the opposite effect, as if my body and mind want to grow to fill the allowable space. However, if the view is from the top of a tall building, I’m likely to feel the same height as the building. (This made the ride back down the Empire State Building elevator uncomfortable to say the least.)
There’s no way to measure this, no way to predict it or control it. Triggers that worked instantly yesterday may have no impact at all on the feeling of my size today. They might have the opposite effect.
The best I can usually hope for is to successfully ignore it. If I am well rested and unstressed by life, I can often set this kinesthetic sense (or proprioceptive hallucination?) on mute, or at least turn down the volume. I’ve become expert at focusing on the “five-foot-two” channel and ignoring the “forty-feet-tall” channel.
It’s one reason I don’t work, read, or write easily when there are distractions around—I’m often already juggling two different feeds and it takes mental effort to mute the one that’s lying to me. A friend of mine in the medical field tells me this is “disassociation as a survival technique.” I neglected to ask my friend how often disassociation has overlaps with sexuality and kink, but more on that later.
When I’m stressed or not well-rested, it’s as if my volume control doesn’t work. The sensory dysmorphia is loud and insistent, drowning out the “five-foot-two” message, making me feel clumsy, helpless, and out of joint with the whole damn world.
In this state, I have to force my seemingly huge 5’2″ body into small elevators and doctor’s offices and airplanes and behind the steering wheel and attempt to distract my mind or focus past the strangeness. I don’t behave any differently, except to seem distracted or upset. It’s mostly internal. When I feel small, everything can feel distant and beyond my control. When I feel large, everything can feel constricting and suffocating.
It’s genuinely terrifying when a sizeshift happens while I’m driving. I remember struggling with it when I learned to drive at 16, and feeling mortified that I couldn’t possibly tell anyone, I just had to deal with it myself or they’d think I was crazy.
In September 2017, someone on Tumblr sent me an anonymous message to say “Hope you’re feeling gigantic mtg!”
You may find my response illuminating:
I appreciate the thought, but I have to point out that feeling gigantic is not always a good thing.
I was on a roadtrip recently and came over the crest of a hill to see a beautiful wide plain surrounded by more hills. For some reason the relief of this open expanse (after miles of closed-in trees and hill country) made me grow like gangbusters. It didn’t matter that I was behind the wheel in the smallest and cheapest rental car available.
I could feel my body stretching and enormous, luxuriating in the extra space and the surprise from the other drivers as I lay down across the road and ran my fingertips across the hillsides as I would the hip and breasts of a lover.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m grateful for the experience and the sudden sensuality. But I also had to grit my teeth and cling to my steering wheel and focus, focus, please fuck just focus, because I was also driving on a construction-riddled two-lane interstate packed with 18-wheelers and the concrete partition jammed up against the line so there was no shoulder and no margin for error.
The looming, monsterous 18-wheelers tend to make me feel tiny in that cramped space, especially when we’re all barreling ahead for hours at 80 mph or more. And there I am, bloodless knuckles clamped to the steering wheel, simultaneously clinging to a sense of smallness and focus, focus, fuck fuck fuck fuck–while also growing huge. I grew larger than the leaves of a wind turbine carried on 18-wheelers past my car that day, truly massive, my legs and arms pushing out across the plain and that blissful open-breathing space, allowing my knees to fall away from each other, allowing all the drivers to see my secret places as if I were a new roadside attraction.
As fun as that was, I wish I’d been able to dismiss the feeling, or at least the panic attack it gave me in the middle of the interstate. #SizeshifterProblems
Thanks for wishing me well, though.
If I have the energy for it, I can try to bring my mental state into a calmer place so that I can attempt to trigger a different response. For example, deep breathing while I’m feeling tiny can help me feel larger pretty quickly, but it doesn’t always work. I have had some success shrinking under weighted blankets.
I love asking my partner to hold me tightly to help me feel small when my body threatens to outgrow the room. Sometimes, all he has to do is whisper, “look how small you are,” and with a blush, suddenly I am.
For all the mental energy I expend on fighting these feelings and trying to manage my own body awareness, for all the danger of vivid physical hallucinations, for all the frustration at feeling claustrophobic or trapped or helpless and stranded… if you could “fix me” and banish this size dysmorphia from my life? I would refuse.
For better or worse, sizeshifting is part of who I am.
I can point to some experiences in my childhood that may have contributed to my size dysmorphia. It’s impossible to pin down correlation/causation—keep in mind that I may have been been dazzled by these moments because I had size dysmorphia already.
I vividly recall my fascination with the 1992 BBC miniseries adaptation of The Borrowers with Ian Holm as Pod, Penelope Wilton as Homily, and Rebecca Callard as Arrietty. In spite of phenomenal casting, it can’t hold a candle to the Studio Ghibli masterpiece The Secret World of Arrietty. Nevertheless, I loved it so much that I remember begging my mother to rent the VHS every time we went to the video store.
If I had understood back then that the miniseries was based on a young adult book series by Mary Norton, I would’ve become a fan with enthusiasm to rival the geekiest of Potterheads. I discovered the book series with absolute delight in 2018 and shared an excerpt and my thoughts on my G-rated Tumblr here.
I remember asking my mother’s help in setting out little acorn caps of juice and using her pretty glass thimble to hold the barest bite of dinner, then waiting overnight to see if they’d be gone in the morning. Waiting for Borrowers was more thrilling to me than waiting for Santa Claus to eat a boring plate of cookies. How much more fascinating to believe a tiny family cherished the single chocolate chip I’d left out for them!
Other movies and shows with shrinking and tiny people dazzled me for different reasons, such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Ferngully, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, and damn near every episode of Magic Schoolbus. It seemed like many of the kid’s cartoons available to me after school had at least one episode where the characters were shrunk against their will by some magical or mysterious scientific means.
I scoured the Science Fiction & Fantasy shelves at bookstores looking for more shrinking, more growing, but was disappointed. For the most part, shrinking and growth were treated as fun visual experiments and not stories and perspectives in their own right.
I don’t remember how old I was when I discovered a copy of The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson. Perhaps eleven or twelve? I read it with a flashlight in a single night, from cover to cover (while under the covers). At the time I didn’t have a handy phrase like “toxic masculinity” to help me unpack the confusion of feelings it evoked. Aborigen has an interesting analysis here from the size kink perspective. I remember my frustration at the protagonist turning away from his wife as he shrank, though I couldn’t explain why I felt that way.
I sold the book back to the bookstore immediately, feeling disturbed and disappointed but not knowing why.
Crossing the wires: when does size dysmorphia become a kink?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when my size shifting sensations of growth and shrinking “crossed wires” with my sexual identity and developed into microphilia and macrophilia.
Was it puberty? What prompted it? There are hundreds of “Safe for Work” Tumblr blogs that celebrate and explore Giant/tiny feelings without ever associating them with sex or sexuality. Why couldn’t I be content there?
I don’t have answers, but I do have theories. One of my earliest memories of arousal: I remember rough-housing with an older boy at age eleven or so, and he buried me in pillows and couch cushions and blankets, then jumped on top to smother me.
I thought, “this feels so much tinier than usual.” Instantly, remarkable sensations lit up my body with warmth and heightened awareness.
The inner glow I felt was connected to the sensation of being totally trapped, surrounded, smothered by a heavy weight and yet totally safe. The boy lost interest in the game long before I did, leaving me once again disappointed without knowing why. I remembered this experience clearly when a friend let me try her weighted blanket that she uses to calm her anxiety. I felt instantly small, and full of mixed feelings from a long time ago.
When I hit puberty and the “wires crossed” between the size dysmorphia and my own sexuality, I learned I could control the sizeshifting even more by binding it to sex and arousal.
I didn’t have words for any of this, of course. I didn’t know what I was doing or how I was doing it. But when I could focus on the sensuality of feeling large or small, it set my senses on fire in a wild way.
It was the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, so of course I played around in chat rooms and stumbled onto erotic stories online, courtesy of Alt Sex Stories Text Repository and The Erotic Mind-Control Story Archive. I remember a brief and perhaps unfortunate obsession with the popular Master PC Universe by JR Parz, in which a stereotypical geek invents computer program allowing him to change and control the bodies and behavior of the women he likes, often enlarging their breasts, ass, and narrowing their waistlines or making them taller. (Though never tall enough.) I have that story to thank for my mind control and hypnosis kinks—plus some internalized misogyny and “noncon” or non-consensual kinks. Thanks, JR Parz.
Another story tagged with mind control in one of those online forums involved a scientist who tested a breast enlargement serum on herself (wacky hi-jinks ensued) and this set my sizeshifting triggers off in the strangest ways. Breasts the size of houses? I printed a copy and hid it under my bed for years.
These explorations coincided with learning self-pleasure techniques, and I made the triumphant, life-changing discovery that when I felt a sizeshift happening, I could handle it by encouraging myself to feel aroused, then pleasure myself to orgasm. In the blissed-out calm of the afterglow, I could sometimes find my way back to my “normal” body size feelings
The freedom of this was profound. Before long, the Venn Diagram between “I feel sexy” and “I feel huge / I feel tiny” overlapped almost to form a circle.
I was thrilled to be able to manage my size dysmorphia by channeling it into sexuality. I didn’t realize it was a strategy that came with risks.
Unfortunately, it also came with a heavy dose of shame, even in my sex-positive household where my parents answered all my questions with age-appropriate yet scientifically accurate terms and my mother imparted such lessons as “if he won’t wear a condom for you, he’s not worth your time and you should go home and masturbate instead.”
No, I became ashamed simply because I noticed that nobody else talked about fantasies like growing or shrinking—nobody else shared dreams of receiving a full-body kiss in the palm of their crush’s hand, or towering over a tiny city in the nude. I felt idiotic or insane for desperately wanting things that were obviously impossible.
In between my furtive attempts to use the family desktop computer to read erotica, I also tried search after search looking for ways to rid myself of these feelings. “How do you get rid of a kink,” “cure for fetishes,” and “re-train perversion” were phrases that I cleared often from the browser history. I never found anything useful.
By the time I figured out I was bisexual in 2002 thanks to a certain scene with Morena Baccarin in a certain sci-fi western, I already lived part-time in a rich inner world of sexual exploration. I knew little about my own sexual orientation, yet I already had well-developed strategies to manage my mental health and size dysmorphia with elaborate and impossible sexual fantasies.
I didn’t realize what a positive mental health tool this was for me. At the time, I just did what most young people do with unusual sexual desires. I kept it secret and buried it under shame.
The thing that gave me freedom also imposed limits on what I could experience. I kept those fantasies and feelings under lock and key in the back of my mind, always trying to hide them and banish them from my waking life. At nighttime, I could open the Pandora’s Box and let my inner world rule. It was a sanctuary and a shameful secret, all locked up together.
That’s how kinks come to be.
It’s worth mentioning that I never did find a way to “cure” my kink—only a myriad of ways to accept myself.
Shame : isolation :: acceptance : community
In my late 20s a friend who loves Western astrology explained to me that my Saturn Return would land in Scorpio, so my next few years would focus on themes of “sex, death, and other peoples’ money.”
By the time I turned 33, I had switched jobs, fallen in love, become polyamorous with my partner, married my partner, lost two family members to Alzheimer’s and heart disease, dated numerous people, joined the thriving Austin polyamory community, experienced threesomes and foursomes, danced nude around bonfires, and watched two romantic partners face life-threatening illnesses, depression, and become suicidal at the same time. During those years I also come out as kinky to my partner and a friendly play partner, who encouraged me to start “an after-dark Tumblr.”
Which is how, in December of 2016, I finally came to acknowledge and accept my size dysmorphia and my kinks, microphilia and macrophilia. Among others.
Which is also how, in three years, I amassed a following of almost 1,900 people interested in my perspective—or at least interested in the same kind of kinky concepts, art, and writing that interested me.
One of my earliest Tumblr blog posts, “Acceptance” on December 24, 2015:
It wasn’t so long ago that I was so embarrassed by my micro/macro fetish that I thought I would never tell anyone. I really was prepared to go my whole life lurking online and keeping it a secret. I’ve been doing it for a decade or so anyway, it didn’t seem like that big of a sacrifice to stay alone so I wouldn’t be considered weird.
Eventually I decided to take a leap of faith on someone I trust deeply. So I told one person. My partner, who was remarkably accepting and happy to be trusted with my secret. Then a friend encouraged me to embrace the mysterious kink I won’t talk about, and suggested I start a tumblr. Over two hundred posts (and less than a month later) I feel like I’m really falling down the rabbit hole, wondering if I could ever stuff these feelings back in the bag now that they’re loose.
Last night I made a friend and spent a happy couple of hours comparing experiences and role playing. I’ve never made a friend who liked what I liked.
Then the most amazing thing happened. When we went to bed last night my partner spooned me extra tightly, holding me close, and said, “You feel so tiny.”
I just about died from happy. I was so happy I actually cried.
A wise mentor in an adjacent kink community insisted I protect myself by reading The Bottoming Book, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy. I tentatively bought an easy-to-hide Kindle copy of the classic BSDM guide. Days later I plunged into its companion, The Topping Book.
Both were invaluable to me as guides for managing the conflicting desires I had to be shrunk and submissive to an owner, or to grow and dominate and have my way with complete strangers. (My astrology friend helpfully pointed out that my Venus is in Gemini, so it’s no wonder I’m a switch, a sizeshifter, bisexual, and love reading and writing erotica.)
I recommend the author-read audiobooks—there’s something vastly reassuring about hearing two mature rabble-rousing women recount the life lessons of hundreds of kinky adventures. If they can explore and embrace this side of themselves, I began to realize, then so can I.
From my Tumblr blog post, “The Bottoming Book” on February 23, 2017:
I have just finished reading The New Topping Book and its predecessor The New Bottoming Book. Both have been fun, sexy reads. I’m almost certain at least one of the authors has at least an awareness of microphilia and macrophilia, as they often refer to feeling large as a top and shrinking as a bottom. Even if it’s only metaphorical, it certainly resonated with me. Mind, heart, spirit, and definitely my body.
Both books have been full of revelations for me, as I struggle with my identity as a switch, a dominant, a submissive, a Giantess and a tiny.
I am grateful to have read both books. They have fed both of my Giant/tiny identities. Perhaps most important to me has been the revelations surrounding my own darkness. Processing my shame around my kinks has been hard but worth it. I never knew that these dirty, dark sides of me could bring such healing, both for myself and my partners.
I had no concept of nurturing in a BSDM context. I didn’t know that I was capable of such things, though my own body and heart and mind and soul vibrated like strings on a violin when I approached it more closely.
“How can we do spirituality and healing with such dirty stuff? A lover of Dossie’s had a fine answer for that – ‘I know my fantasies have dirty roots.’ And how else would you grow roses?”
On Tumblr I discovered a treasure trove of artwork and a thriving community of writers, artists, readers, fans, and enthusiasts of all sizes, backgrounds, and descriptions. After years of isolation and shame, it was like falling into a kind of paradise.
I posted with abandon, crafting sensual captions for others’ artwork, taking part in audacious public text role-play sessions, slowly exploring and revealing my various other kinks, and sharing my own struggles with size dysmorphia. I didn’t expect to forge meaningful friendships. I didn’t expect to find love. Connection, intimacy, new relationship energy, surprising amounts of hope.
There was something deeply powerful about sharing these dark, fun, and ridiculous fantasies with anonymous strangers. It was even more powerful when those strangers became friends and real connections became possible. I discovered sides of myself I never knew existed, and stepped into dominant and submissive roles for different reasons, but with equal enthusiasm.
In early 2016 I read Brené Brown’s first book on shame resilience, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.” It’s based on the research she did with thousands of women over a decade of interviews about shame. One of her more recent books, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, offers a chapter on her newer research that focuses on how men have been socialized to handle shame differently than women. I highly recommend both books, but it helps to start with I Thought It Was Just Me, or even with her TED Talk, Listening to Shame:
Shame drives two big tapes—”never good enough”—and, if you can talk it out of that one, “who do you think you are?” The thing to understand about shame is that it’s not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.”
How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that?
Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.
There’s a huge difference between shame and guilt. And here’s what you need to know. Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders.
And here’s what you even need to know more. Guilt, inversely correlated with those things. The ability to hold something we’ve done or failed to do up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s adaptive…
If we’re going to find our way back to each other, we have to understand and know empathy, because empathy’s the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.
I was lucky that a friend in the size kink community on Tumblr took me up on my recommendation and read it with me at the same time so we could discuss what it meant to us. What it meant to learn that shame thrives in isolation. What it meant to learn that something as simple as “I’ve been there, too” can help form a safety net around your heart and mind when shame sends you reeling.
That’s what the Giant/tiny community on Tumblr meant to me. It meant empathy. It meant me too. It meant I could stop hiding and start sharing and let go of judgment. Do you have any idea how healing that was for me?
It’s why I steadfastly reject the term “trash” that gets thrown around in our community. We might make mistakes or do things we regret, but we are not trash. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We should be proud of the vulnerability we have cultivated in exploring these parts of ourselves.
Sex doesn’t have to make sense. My body dysmorphia doesn’t have to make sense. Is everyone involved in real life an adult? Are they giving fully-informed, enthusiastic consent? Then who the fuck cares if it makes sense? It takes courage to let go of shame, but it also takes support. That’s what I was able to find in the Giant/tiny community, and one of the reasons I was hit so hard when it seemed as if it were crumbling away to nothing.
When I joined the SizeTwitter community on Twitter in spring of 2018, I had no idea that by December it would become a lifeline to that critical community when Tumblr imploded over SESTA/FOSTA censorship and the litigious fears of corporations.
So many artists, writers, and entrepreneurs lost so much during that time. Most of Tumblr’s users were women, and many discovered their sexuality by stumbling onto kinky blogs in the forest of many small, outcast communities that thrived in the Tumblrverse. (See more: Tumblr Porn Allowed Women To Be Sexual Architects Instead Of Objects. Now It’s Gone. and Queer Women Used Tumblr to Explore Sexuality. Now It’s Over.) The loss of all those connections and possibilities and chances for acceptance is a loss for us all.
For what it’s worth, in August 2018 I tried asking other members of SizeTwitter if they had experienced size dysmorphia, and with 41 votes, about 34% had experienced it rarely or often.
How many folks in #SizeTwitter also identify as having #SizeDysmorphia? (Your mind feeds you some sensory input like "your head is about to hit the ceiling" or "you can't reach that, you're too tiny") AKA Alice in Wonderland Syndrome or #AiWS: https://t.co/ACrEyrtvtl
— Elle Largesse (semi-hiatus) (@mightytinygiant) August 26, 2018
After I finish and publish this article, I plan to ask the community again, now that I can offer a more in-depth explanation beyond a Wikipedia article. I may update this article if the results are striking.
I suspect there will be a wider cross-section of people there now, since the #SizeTwitter hashtag went from 100 to 600+ mentions on a regular basis after Tumblr refugees claimed sanctuary in Twitter to find some anchor in a storm.
A Dream about Farewell, by Shelia Liu. [Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives 4.0 License.]
The risk of kink: liability or power?
During my sexual awakening, I also encountered one of the devastating risks of channeling my size dysmorphia into kink. You can call it a loss of libido if you like, or say that I made a temporary, involuntary move on the sexuality spectrum from sexual to asexual. I don’t fully understand what happened, but perhaps explaining it here will shed some light on the way size dysmorphia works or help others going through something similar.
Many of my friends identify as neurodivergent and face depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and other issues. I have dealt personally with PTSD and body dysmorphia, but as far as I can tell, I have been depressed once so far in my life.
It began around the time of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, and I didn’t recover until at least mid-spring 2017. From my Tumblr blog post, “Grief, Anger, and Sizeshifting” on June 23, 2016:
After Orlando, my constant switching between grief and anger and fear means my size dysphoria is fucked.
I feel tiny with fear at the thought of attending a vigil in my city’s gay district, knowing that it would be the perfect time for another homophobic gunman to catch a lot of queers together.
I feel enormous with rage at the thought of defending my queer brothers and sisters. I can’t contain my grief or my fury and it wants to tear its way out of this too tiny body…
I feel tiny again at the thought of the pain the families must feel. I feel tiny and helpless and lost when I read news stories… I feel tiny and want to cower and hide at the thought of being outed to everyone, everyone in the entire world, and being too dead to explain why I haven’t been brave enough to share my whole self with the people who care about me. Because who could be brave in the face of such hatred? I was getting closer recently to coming out as poly to my family and my partner’s family. Now I think it would only confuse and worry them more.
My heart swells with gratitude at the thought of the helpers who came out by the thousands to give their lifeblood to the cause. To the Muslim men and women who came to donate and provide water and sunblock and umbrellas to those in line to donate.
My heart shrivels with jaded mistrust when I read the reaction of the man who the media says might become president. Thanks for the congratulations on being right about Islamic terror. Thanks. For the congratulations.
The disgust and the rage send me soaring again, but there’s not a damn thing I can smash. No way to actually smash biogtry or patriarchy. There’s nothing there but ignorance and fear spreading as a poisonous hatred. And a tide of love, carrying so much hope and bravery. I can’t stand up to one and I can’t live up to the other.
I just can’t, today. I don’t know how to be in my body in this world right now.
That was just the beginning of an experience that lasted months and encompassed the end of two romantic relationships, the extreme disillusionment of the 2016 presidential election, and other personal difficulties.
I couldn’t tell what size I felt and became overwhelmed by strong emotions and strange, paradoxical shifts. I didn’t know how to be in my body in this world.
Interestingly, during the worst of my depression, my size senses felt almost completely numb. You might think that it was a relief, but in fact it made me feel worse, as if I had gone suddenly deaf or had an important part of my body or identity amputated.
By September 2016, I was deep in the depression. Here’s how that manifested for me as a “sizeshifter.”
From my Tumblr blog post, “Sizeshifting and Safety” on September 12, 2016:
What do you do when your sexuality escapes the padlocked box where you’ve kept it your whole life? When it explodes in vivid colors, staining and glorifying and forever changing that life?
What do you do when, after six months of deep exploration and even deeper feelings, those colors sink beneath dark, opaque waters? Stress, grief, guilt, pain. Your first taste of depression.
The pleasure and excitement and emotion are all still there, stronger than ever, but submerged in numbing water.
You yearn for the sweetness of that sexual awakening, but you can’t touch it. What do you do? How do you pull everything back to the surface?
This winter I embraced by long-denied micro/macrophilia kink by starting this blog. I fell headfirst into sizeshifter bliss. Six months later, that plunge halted abruptly. Life became overwhelming and my sense of sizeshifting began to feel broken.
How could I be broken in this, too? I moved around the world in numb horror, constantly aware of my horribly limited human size. I couldn’t grow, couldn’t shrink. It was like another layer of size dysphoria, only this time it was my normal shape that felt wrong.
I miss my sensuality the most. I’d had “dry spells” before in life, but never had I been so acutely aware of the joy and pleasure out beyond my reach. I kept trying to force myself back into that place, but it was as if I were singing off key in a whole choir of harmonizing singers. So I stopped trying. Silence felt necessary. Withdrawal was inevitable.
It’s taken me about three months to begin to shift again. It seems to happen most often with non-sexual situations. The color and music have come back, quietly and shyly. It’s like a feral animal deciding whether or not to trust what I’m desperately trying to offer. As if my powers will only begin to manifest again while in “safe” territory. I’m struggling with that, because I consider myself a sex-positive person and want to be brave, not safe. Irrationally, I feel like I ought to be able to be fully sexual again, all at once. But it’s too vulnerable, too raw, right now.
I need to find a way to grant myself permission to be any size, at any time, on my own terms. If that means starting over again with a “safe for work” space, then I’ll try it. Sex positivity doesn’t mean life becomes all about sex all the time.
I’m not sure why I went off the deep end this spring. I’m not sure why everything went numb this summer. For all my previous ability to shrink and grow to extreme sizes, I have no experience with these emotional extremes. It’s entirely new territory for me. I’m learning as I go.
“I wanted to give up the idea I had any control. Shake things up. To be saved by chaos. To see if I could cope, I wanted to force myself to grow again. To explode my comfort zone.”
It’s anyone’s guess when I’ll begin posting here again. Or when I’ll feel up to role play. Maybe a week from now. Maybe a year or never. I hope not never. I give myself permission to play it safe or not as my bravery allows.
In the meantime, you may or may not find me at mightytinygiant-sfw, looking for my misplaced powers.
For months, I grieved for a part of myself that I had only just come to embrace, and “returning to my senses” was a slow process that genuinely felt like regaining lost powers.
It led me to question yet again whether something was wrong with me—or whether something was unusually right. Was this kink a liability or a power? A crutch or my cure?
Was it part of me, like a deformity, or separate from me, like a disease? A jewel embedded in my crown? A thorn jutting out of my side? A sex toy? A superpower? A red letter stitched into my clothes as a dangerous liability in a society grappling with its own desires and shame? Is my size dysmorphia keeping me from normalcy or supporting me in my individuality?
Did any of that matter, so long as it felt good and harmed no one?
Star Creator, by Shelia Liu. [Shared under a Creative Commons Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives 4.0 License.]
Acceptance is a small, quiet room
The road back to myself and my body took countless slow, steady steps.
I sought out a local poly- and kink-friendly therapist, who was instrumental in helping me release my pain and shame, get centered, and figure out what I wanted. I honestly believe every human being could benefit from a little therapy.
Therapy is a chance to explain your situation and strategies to someone trained to listen and respond in ways that research shows are helpful. (Aside from the inaccessibility and price tag in our healthcare-as-profit society, what’s not to love?)
I found myself daydreaming about interacting with my tiny or Giant friends, as if I were starved for those interactions even though my body felt firmly stuck on the five-foot-two channel. It was as if the part of my brain that needed love and sex and connection had encountered the firewall built by the part of my brain that prioritized survival, and was trying desperately to program a workaround.
In September 2016 I started the mightytinygiant-sfw blog where I gave myself the permission to share G-rated, adorably “fluffy” and innocuous artwork and thoughts about Giants and tinies.
It had been many years since I had given myself that permission, and it was healing to explore the ways that feeling large and feeling small could be not just sexy, but also grounded in life, love, friendship, philosophy, spirituality.
From my Tumblr post on April 4, 2017 where I shared my love for Sheila Liu’s art, still available here:
I love that science and art–or at least, the study, understanding and contemplation of the universe–will often ask us to push our minds to different sizes.
I love that there’s a kind of sizeshift happening when we look into a magnifying glass or a microscope. I love that telescopes take us far from our limited human bodies and show us a world so vast that to understand it in human terms requires a kind of inner growth. Pushing the boundaries of our minds…
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
When I was a teenager I used to have that quote (attributed to Emerson) taped to my bedside table. I liked that it mirrored my inner experience of growing and shrinking. I liked the idea of learning as growth.
Now, looking back, I can see a sadness in being unable to return to the origins of our ideas. Being unable to return to the origins of our culture or humanity. Not in person, anyway–only through bones, stone, stories, footprints, tools. The legacy of carbon and consciousness. The limitations of our mortal bodies.
Still, we empower ourselves when we delve into science and learning and creativity and art. We can shrink ourselves to the smallest corner of a canvas with the tiniest brush to paint our our grief that makes us feel so insignificant and alone. We can grow our vision and art to encompass whole rooms, buildings, city-wide landscapes, to create artwork that shares our immense joy and connects us with a larger whole. We can shrink our tools to work with proteins and cells at a nano-scale to heal ourselves. We can design and build massive feats of engineering to take us beyond the confines of our planet. We can soar to the moon and look back to our tiny blue dot and see in the Earthrise that we are small.
Humanity’s knowledge has grown and (provided we keep surviving) will continue to keep growing. So will our horizons in the cosmos and the dimensions of our reality.
I like the idea that once we change, nobody can ever really take that away from us. It’s true that once we shrink in shame, we know we can survive it. I have survived the smallness of myself in grief and depression and pain. That survival makes me stronger. Knowing I can endure vulnerability allows me to grow in myself and my courage.
Once we stretch our minds out into the universe, once we stretch our hearts beyond the comfort zone of safety, then we know what we are capable of.
We know that even if we are forced to step back from the microscope or the telescope, even if we must return to our mundane human-sized bodies, we know what is possible. We know we can shift our perspective again.
I second-guessed myself many times as I posted and interacted with the SFW accounts, wondering how many of them thought I was just a creepy kinkster trying to get off. If anyone thought it, they didn’t voice it aloud. I found nothing but acceptance and support there. Something in me healed slowly over time.
“If you could say anything to your body, what would you say?” “If your body could say anything back to you, what would it say?”
These are not easy questions—especially not in the middle of a nude photoshoot with a woman who has body dysmorphic disorder and size dysmorphia. The experience moved me to tears, right there in front of the camera. It helped me forge an intentional relationship with my body, focused on curiosity, forgiveness, and support. It’s helped more than I can say.
Since March of 2017 I have been chipping away at an audio project where I write and record guided sizeshift meditations to help people like me feel mindful and comfortable in their bodies. The goal is to offer G-rated content at first, for Giants, tinies, and sizeshifters. If all goes well, I would then move on to more R-rated content. I’m still in the beta-testing phase and hope to offer something on Bandcamp in 2019.
I have a hypothesis that practicing this awareness could help make it easier to trigger our own sizeshifts and bring the size dysmorphia under control. Time will tell if I can make this project a reality. Time will tell if others will find it useful. I hope so.
Existing without apology
I eased my way back into sharing kink content on my NSFW blog slowly over the course of spring 2017, starting with a series of small essays and commentaries on artwork by Apollonia Saintclair, a mysterious artist whose erotic illustrations have always enchanted and challenged me.
Though I plan to release some of those essays here on my new website over time, I want to conclude my origin story by sharing a short piece I wrote sometime in early 2017:
Why does it take so much for a modern woman to see her body as sacred?
I studied history and religion. I know why. Maybe that’s what has led me to this: I want you to catch a glimpse of yourself as a goddess. I want you to see your body in the landscapes of this Earth and to see the raw, exquisite power of your own incarnate body.
I want you to see more than a glimpse. I want you to see it in yourself when you most feel like breaking, when you feel like not enough. I want you to turn the inner eye to watch yourself living and breathing and existing without apology as the goddess you are.
You’re stronger than you know.
We are all stronger than we know. Our vulnerability in being ourselves and our courage to create and connect—all of this makes us strong. When I decided I would begin writing and publishing erotica in December of 2017, I didn’t know how much it would mean to me that I would make it as far as I have, almost exactly a year later.
I have my own LLC registered with the State of Texas, and my own bank account to go with it. I have a novella in edits, almost ready for publishing. I have short stories, essays, and ideas. I have people asking me to continue a story I started, so they can learn more about my characters and the worlds I have been dreaming up for years.
In spite of my struggle with depression and the loss of my blog and the thriving Giant/tiny Tumblr community, I found a way to heal and made a place for myself within SizeTwitter. I have maintained real friendships with real artists and writers who inspire me regularly. Two of them even encouraged and helped me start this website.
Nothing is permanent. Nothing is certain. All the more reason to try and feel as fully alive and grateful as possible, right here, right in this moment. How wild it is, that I can feel as if I am twenty feet tall! How absolutely incredible, that I’m able to shift my perspective in such intimate and profound ways.
How important and precious is that imperfect, impermanent community where I can connect with others and feel less alone. How beautiful it is when we can discover more of ourselves, more beauty and darkness and pain and pleasure and love and art.
I think of my younger self. I think of her laying awake at night and feeling her body too big for her twin-sized mattress, too big for her small room. I can still see the quotations she wrote on her mirror in dry erase marker—“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”
I remember her sadness and her shame. I remember the way she felt as she reached for a fantasy to help her mute the conflicting messages of her body. Five-foot-two. Fifteen-foot-five. Five hundred. None of it made sense, and all of it left her feeling so alone.
What would I say to my younger self, if I could? What would she say to me, in return? Maybe I don’t want to say anything to her at all. Maybe I just wish I could hold her in my hands to comfort her. Maybe she’d believe me if I whispered to her that it will get better.
It’s nearly 2019 and I have no promises that it will continue to get better. We don’t have all the answers nor all the solutions, but I know that we don’t have to be alone and ashamed anymore. There’s healing in that. Healing and hope and power that we can make it better for ourselves and others if we just have a little courage and empathy.
Together, we’re stronger than we know.
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I thought I wanted to write #erotica for #SizeTwitter, but turns out I wanted to write my origin story: a vulnerable, ambitious, autobiographical exposé about how I came to have & accept my sizeshifting powers. https://t.co/Z445aRQtn9
— Elle Largesse (semi-hiatus) (@mightytinygiant) December 29, 2018