Here in the UK we have a TV show called "How to look good naked". It's hosted by a fabulously extra camp chap called Gok Wan. Gok takes a woman who has lost herself and brings her alive again by encouraging her to make the most of her assets, whatever they are and to love the parts of her that she's come to hate.
I think Gok gets away with things that no straight guy ever could in the same situation - I was all at once both horrified and thrilled when he buried his head in a woman's chest and sighed "you have magnificent bazookas". No-one with a sexual attraction towards their subject could get away with that without being totally creepy, yet when Gok does it you admire his cheek and long to be that woman!!!
I watch this show with a real mix of terror and elation, knowing that the women who agree to participate are at the end of their tether, with sub-zero self esteem, much like myself. He treats each woman with utmost kindness and respect, coaxing them out of their "sacks" that they hide behind. He shows them that their self-image is way from the image that others have of them - they will almost always describe themselves as much fatter than they are, they often have hang-ups about stretch marks and other things they see as blemishes. Gok shows them that they are indeed lovable and beautiful. He gives them back their self-esteem by gently showing them how to dress to suit their shape. He offers these women hope that they'd forgotten existed.
The two best bits of the show are the bit where the woman is photographed naked and she always comes out looking like a glamourous, vibrant soul, no matter what her size or shape. It's done with such attention to detail and care that the woman's "best bits" are highlighted, drawing the eyes away from the so-called blemishes. The other wonderful bit is where the woman models her new wardrobe (and self) on a catwalk in a busy shopping centre, culminating with a walk down the catwalk in underwear and finally a cheeky naked glimpse at the end. The reason why this is so joyful is that a woman who starts the show crushed, broken and bleeding suddenly sees what others see. Her family is in the audience and to be honest, the look of pride and happiness on the husband/boyfriend/best friend/Mum as she struts her stuff is so uplifting. It's real soul food.
Each time I settle down to watch the show, I realise that these women often display at least some of the characteristics of depression. They are fragile and brittle in a way that looking in seems heartbreaking and "plain wrong" given that we as the viewers don't see them with their own eyes, we see them with at least unbiased eyes and (in my case and that of many of my friends) see them with eyes that are full of kindness for the lost soul who is being helped by Gok.
I need a Gok in my life. I could never get my kit off in front of a camera or strut my stuff on a catwalk, I'm just too far gone to ever achieve that. BUT I can see how someone stroking my hair, telling me how clever/kind/caring/pretty I am and helping me to see that for myself could help me up from the abyss that I'm making tiny steps already to climb out of. Oh how I wish that I could have my own confidence restored and to become a Linda that I recognise, rather than this ghostly, pale, scared soul that I've become.
My psychologist is making some headway here but my mind keeps finding its way into black corners that are difficult to see how to escape from.