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.
Year eleven, German Verse Speaking Competition … gaps, Swiss cheese recall. I sought ways to reconcile the short fall in my memory. Accepting my cultural heritage had become another pillar in my recovery from anorexia. I’d fragmented myself. But realised that I had choice and in an adolescent way, with my half-formed brain, began to glue the fragments together.
But the question remained, how did one stimulate the fuzzy memory?
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?
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.
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?
Normal. Where is the line? When do faulty beliefs become pathological?
Spiralling into an eating disorder at 12 years of age, I’d crossed the line into the unhealthy zone. I didn’t know that. My parents watched me derail weight loss, cold, amenorrhea, exercise compulsion, obsession with food … It became unhealthy.
The epilogue of that experience, scattered ideas, metaphors and images scrawled in a notebook. I think better on paper than on a computer screen. I wanted to crystallise what I’d gained from my unhealthy association with my inner critic. What was the root cause of my ED?
I’d lost myself.
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.