On the last day of my 59th year, I attended a Body Esteem Educator Training Course run by the Butterfly Foundation. The irony of the situation wasn’t wasted on me, a recovered anorexic learning about body esteem.
What was I doing? What was I looking for? Food for thought here.
I have given my manuscript to four readers, one reader has daughter traversing the anorexic landscape. I’m mulling through the feedback as it rolls in. My body is sick; a winter bug that has left me horizontal, vulnerable and deaf.
Yesterday, I saw my psychologist. I’m struggling: illness adds a whole new dimension to redesigning the inner world. It flays you. So, I’m stuck with the unpleasant feelings. Loneliness bites. It invites me to run towards myself not further away.
‘The Anorexic yah, yah,’ doesn’t go away. I’m still learning to live with it.
The process of change is for the courageous. To change you have to meet yourself honestly which takes determination and patience. Struggling with a rampant inner critic, I view myself harshly, expecting perfection. Nothing less.
Stress triggers coping mechanisms and perfection is a coping mechanism. Perfectionism is common in those living with eating disorders such as anorexia.
Over the years my ED lay dormant, a salient spore. I knew stress triggered me and I coped by setting unrelenting standards for myself. Enter the perfectionist. But which perfectionist? Was there more than one?
I employed three:
- The punitive critic
- The demanding critic
- The guilt inducing critic
Slippery and deceptive, I have just begun to honestly face them.
Love spots? I do. I’m wading deep. Doves coo and immediately I’m back home, a child barefoot in the back yard among the fruit trees, Gardenia in the air. I’m unravelling. The past and present co-exist inside me.
I’m the girl with spots on my dress. And I’m not alone.
Anorexia looks extreme: the weight loss, restriction and rituals. But it doesn’t begin that way. It creeps up on you and hoodwinks you into allegiance to a dangerous ally. That’s my experience anyway. How are we influenced? And why?
This poem looks at two vastly different experiences. I’ve lived the experience through my cultural lens and watch my daughters struggle with their perceptions of their bodies. During my travels, I’ve come across women with far less wealth but a powerful sense of self.
Food, arghhh! It’s complicated isn’t it? I love food, I really do. Even at my most vulnerable, as a restrictive anorexic, I loved food. I loved watching people enjoy food. ButI loved chips and chocolate. My mother’s ongoing sabotage of my love of greens, probably helped to keep me alive.
Mama always kept treats in our pantry. It smelled delicious, like a deli. And it was. Treats included chips and chocolate. I caved time and time again gorging and then self-flagellating. It gets better right?
Good friends keep us sane, especially the kind we plan to get old and weird with. A waft of cigarette smoke caught my attention. I craved a fag. Omg. Where did that impulse even come from? I mentioned it. She laughed: You’re self soothing.
The words struck me and stuck fast. Truth does that! I had to admit to myself, I’d been hurting despite the perfectionist persona.
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.