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.
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.
Last week was like standing by the Southern Ocean in a gale. I ran into the wind, trying to keep up with the ‘should’s’ in my life. Monday morphed into Friday and then the weekend came. I’d tried to write but the kept deleting the fragments on the page. Poetic words floated past evading my intentions to capture them.
Stress does that, a cement beanie on the soaring mind.
But I had something to look forward to the first Sunbury Literary Festival and my closest friend had bought tickets. We went.
Rupertswood Mansion: photo Lindy Schneider
vigil definition: an act of staying awake, especially at night, in order to be with a person who is very ill or dying, or to make a protest, or to pray Cambridge Dictionary
18/06/2018, 5.30 -7.30 p.m. Reclaim Princess Park, that’s what came up in my Facebook feed. Introduction to Oncology for Physiotherapists and Exercise Professionals, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre 18/06/2018, 8.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. My PD landed me right in the neighbourhood.
I wanted to pay my respects to Eurydice Dixon.
Siphoned along by the ever-increasing throng of people who knew where to go, I found my way to Princess Park. The grass underfoot yielded and cold seeped through the soles of my boots. Melbourne winter, just shy of the solstice, freezing of course. Silently a crowd gathered.
It was amazing as you can see from Kate Carey Peters’ footage.
My resolution of my ED has been a lifelong journey, I’m nearly 60. The decision to write about it was driven by an incessant internal nagging. I resisted it for a long time, knowing that behind the recovered physical body of the anorexic, lay unresolved emotional misconceptions.
Then I began.
I smashed the experience out quite quickly 45,000 words of undecipherable me. My best friend gave me valuable critique. ‘It’s too confusing,’ she said. At this point, flashing neon doubts arose. I wondered what people would think. Where is the line between wellness and ongoing mental health issues?
Retail therapy? I like shopping. Sometimes, I indulge my unhappiness with a new pair of shoes. Sometimes window shopping isn’t enough. Wandering around, checking things out, watching people and walking away with a brown paper shopping bag can be very therapeutic. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not.
I hope you enjoy my prose poem.