As awareness grows around the phenomenon of size dysmorphia, I wanted to share some information and experiences in a single place so others know they’re not alone.
For an in-depth look at my experience with size dysmorphia, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, and size kink, please see Size Dysmorphia: A Sizeshifter Origin Story.
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 on Tumblr.
In the size community, size dysmorphia has become a shorthand for people who feel that the size of their body does not feel right. For some it’s a mild consideration, for others it can be a profound discomfort.
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.
Browse peoples’ experiences on Twitter with the #SizeDysmorphia tag.
It’s getting to be almost a bad joke, how traffic can make me feel HUGE. Esp when it’s unexpected.
Stuck in traffic at 10pm, crawling slowly past downtown ATX bc I-35 is forever, eternally under construction.
Watching the skyline crawl past, I feel as if I can stretch my arm
— Elle Largesse (semi-hiatus) (@mightytinygiant) March 3, 2020
I have been working with a somatic experiencing therapist who is kink-informed, and it has been tremendously helpful for me to work through my size feelings by having a kind of conversation with my body, as if she was her own person.*
Something I’ve been exploring is how my size feelings sometimes bring me a sense of rightness. Reading activists, poets, artists, and philosophers doing critical work around gender theory has introduced me to concepts like gender euphoria. I am a cis woman and can never understand the trans experience. I will always be grateful to listen and learn about these dimensions to the human experience, and use them to inform my empathy, activism, and my own mental health.
In this case, I have found a lot of healing in trying to observe my size feelings without judgment. In the past, the discomfort, shame, and disorientation of my size feelings led me to compartmentalize all of them into a box labelled dysmorphia—even when those feelings brought me pleasure, confidence, safety, or joy. Each instance seemed like the exception to the rule. I’m beginning to interrogate the rule.
It’s worth mentioning that though (for me) the discomfort of the size feelings mostly come from within, there is also a deep discomfort that comes when interacting with others who deny or dismiss my experience. The most common example of this comes with people around the kink community who want me to be a Giantess for them, without reading or caring about the “sizeshifter” in my bio, without even asking what size I feel on any given day. Worse, when I try to set a boundary around it, such as “I’m feeling tiny today,” and the other person will insist they are tinier, just to put me back in the role of being the larger one. The loss of agency, denial of humanity, and non-consensual objectification of that all feel awful, but a primary component of it is simply that someone I had hoped to trust is denying my lived experience and sense of my own body. The dissonance of it is disturbing and frustrating.
On the flip side of that, when someone asks me what size I’m feeling and then respects or affirms that, the feeling is comforting, uplifting, and downright wonderful. We all want to be accepted. We all have a very human need to belong. When someone acknowledges the size that I feel, it builds trust with them, and it also creates a sense of safety that helps me build trust within myself and my own internal experience. Finding the pockets of community where size feelings are acknowledged and accepted? Size euphoria!
Perhaps it is harmful in the long run to use a term like size dysmorphia because the language itself assumes my size feelings will always be uncomfortable, end of story, close the book. If I can approach them from a place of less judgment, I can ask my body how she genuinely feels about the sense that I’m 12 feet tall today, or too short to reach my own desk. Pulling away from an expectation of distress or even one of joy, allows me to simply be present. Managing my “meta emotions,” or how you feel about how you feel, has been a blessing.
I’ll leave you with these two poems that have helped me learn to talk to my body:
- The Body Is Not An Apology by the phenomenal Sonya Renee Taylor
- (contains mentions of disability, illness, domestic violence)
- For the Days When I Stop Wanting a Body by the incomparable Andrea Gibson
- (contains mentions of death, disability, wounds, illness, suicide, PTSD)
*For the record, bodies like mine are not inherently female. For me, when getting to know my body as someone I could talk to, I got a sense of several attributes and identities. One of those was gender, so I currently use she/her pronouns when talking to my body. I know gender is fluid, and a social construct, and leave the door open for change someday if that feels right.