I’ve been home two weeks exploring the new me. The changes astound me. An avid talker, I’ve descended into an eerie silence. The need to express an opinion on everything has vanished. My poetry, a way to explore the hard stuff, is silent too.
Where have my words gone?
The gap, a result of casting off my anorexic shadow, is vast. I could not have imagined this space. It is both beautiful and utterly terrifying. Endless opportunities inflame some of my old coping mechanisms. The perfectionist screams: ‘Make a plan, set a direction.’ There is an undercurrent that not doing something is infinitely bad or lazy.
I’ve run through life, a super-achiever. Everything had to be perfect. And now at 60, I realise that I’m walking towards the sunset of my life. And I have a choice as to how it will all play out. Anorexia only ever served the paper-doll cut out me.
It lived inside even when my weight stabilised and my periods returned. The tools it gave me, hurt me and skewed my life. Suppression kept me small. A woman, I had trouble asking for what I really wanted. Self-sacrificing made me feel good but after a while resentment showed up. It had never been there before.
And perfection kept me hideously busy. Time to reflect easily swallowed by an eternal list of ‘have toos.’ ‘I should,’ pips up at times but when it does I return to Africa and the endless miles in the bus looking at the desert. In the emptiness, I found resolution. Normal life challenges me and lures me back to old habits.
My manuscript rests on the desk. Maybe the end is now. In the gap, I am developing a new relationship with myself based on self-love and tenderness. Anorexia is brutal and unrelenting. It is a manipulative mindset that promotes self-flagellation. Leaving the writing for now contains a barb, ‘You should be helping people.’
But I have found myself, warts and all, mental health diagnosis and all. It is what it is. As the sun sets on my life, I understand the fundamental value of self-acceptance as a stepping stone to self-love and a bridge to a greater love that of all of humanity.
It will become clear.