Body image. Being female. Life’s challenges: wedding dress or bikini? Both bring us face to face with our bodies. They are emotionally charged experiences, all mirrors and expectations. Bikini shopping lays us bare, as close to naked as it gets. But the wedding dress final fitting puts our flaws under the microscope on a grand scale.
Can you relate to the image of the girl on that special day, hand on tummy, breathing in, eyes avoiding while desperately seeking the mirror? She’s present but has checked out. Self-acceptance is out of her comfort zone.
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.
image : http://www.clker.com/clipart-black-question-mark-square-icon.html
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 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 …
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.
Conflict? Is it beneficial? Soul-destroying? Or an opportunity to learn? Can we become addicted to conflict? Writing my story, I’m in year eleven of my high school experience battling anorexia and I’m forced to address conflict. I was at breaking point. Something had to give and it couldn’t be me, good girls don’t make waves.
I’d made a huge discovery, I didn’t like the life I was living anymore. I’d had enough. Would this ensure recovery? Would it be enough?
Everyday I discover something new. That’s how I choose to live my life. Tackling my struggle to stay on top of the inner critic, I’ve had to embrace honesty and self-awareness. My body talks to me. Yours does too.
But do you hear it?
I’ve lived with the shadow of anorexia for 45 years and have spent a lot of that time trying to understand why this happened to me. It took me nine years to physically recover: weight within a normal range, regular periods and less sensitivity to the cold. But in my inner world the duality continued. As I understood myself more, it lessened.
Ageing is confronting in a world where beauty is valued and financially rewarded. Although the body ages slowly, the changes are possibly more apparent to someone living with an eating disorder. Many women my age, 55 plus, have either not been diagnosed nor have they ever been treated for their eating disorders.