I grew up nose in a fairy tales book, a little girl who wanted to be a princess. I disliked the scary stories like Little red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel. The dark woods frightened me. As I grew up, I found myself there, an anorexic perfectionist deep in the forest.
It took me a long time to understand the role of the darkness in my life. This a series of questions are me unpacking the darkness.
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We all like to look beautiful. Beauty comes with a shadow. The shadow includes jealousy, lust, objectification …. You can probably add a few of your own. It’s a long list of uninvited things. Have you ever wondered why they are there?
I’ve sat on the razor’s edge of beauty. It took me places I didn’t expect. Being slender lead me to flaunt with anorexia in my youth. As a young woman, I dimmed my light and hid. I got angry at the injustice of it all. I lost myself among the definitions of who I should be as a woman. Outside definitions came into my inner space and ran amok. Messy.
I was posting a letter to my daughter. Snail mail! I enjoyed the walk to the post box, all spring wind and sunshine. Walking clears my head. It keeps me nailed on. That rhythmic patter of my feet on the footpath calms me. My mind can mull unimpeded in the fresh air.
Mull it does. This morning The words, ‘the Smallness,’ kept taking centre stage. Oh no, I thought. I didn’t want to think about that right now. But a few kilometres further on, I’d done the mental gymnastics.
What does the smallness mean?
I’m watching the blossom fiercely wrenched from the trees by spring winds. A metaphor? I too, am suspended in the whim of the universe, a dance so random that I can’t always keep up. I’m still writing. I’m trying to encapsulate the process of self-empowerment, an adolescent anorexic turning the tide. It ebbs and flows a staccato experience.
Writing has given me the courage to shine light into my deepest recesses. Words fail. How do I convey my truth and share something that drove me to deny myself over and over? Like the blossom, I’m stripped bare by spring winds of my pen.
I’m in a raw place. It’s painful to let go. Life has been cataclysmic , loss upon loss, the outworn endlessly shed. Am I a willing participant? Probably not. Would it be easier if I was? Probably. Why is it so hard to let go? Why?
I consider myself recovered. But some days a small voice nags. It is still there lurking in the background. Weird things seem to trigger it, but most centre around a central theme: authenticity. I used to feel separate, Anorexia does that. It cuts you off.
Challenges are a gift. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Sometimes life gets me down and I struggle to see the positive. But at those moments that I feel the most disconnected, I’m again honouring the inauthentic in my life. In a world dripping expectations, remaining true to oneself can be quite a challenge. I’m not ashamed to admit, I spent a good deal of my life chasing rainbows.
Sometimes life cracks you open and sometimes it doesn’t. Facing one’s mental health issues does. It does. Rising above the monsters that lurk behind the 2D cut out self, takes self-compassion and patience. Some would say we have to fight and slay the beast. But is it so?
I had to befriend mine. An acrostic poem …
The manuscript is progressing and I’m in the middle of year eleven. It’s a whirlwind time with senior school responsibilities and study and boys … At 59, I’m recalling what it was like to be fifteen, anorexic and naive. I’m looking at my two-dimensional view of the world and that of my greatest influencers, my father.
After my fifteenth birthday, our relationship changed and he distanced himself from me. Loving me became Mama’s job. But dad’s views underpinned our lives, both hers and mine.
We have them now and then, those weeks that see you taking a deep breath and praying you’ll make it to the end healthy and sane. Last week was one of those, things stacked up, lots of big things: goodbyes, a new job, facing the demons …
I thought I’d examine the effect on my mental health. Weeks like that can uncork the most grounded being. And I’m working on the grounded part. I’m a leaf with a rock on it.
The perfectionist said, ‘It’s okay.’ It didn’t have to say more. Okay didn’t equal perfect and everywhere I looked the ideal loomed. I didn’t compete with others. In fact I disliked competition. But I held a different set of standards for myself. Personal choice, I figured.