Sunday: A turbulent night over and light peeks through the sheer curtains. I prefer it to the darkness but am peeved to have missed the dawn. It’s been an intense year so far and the hype up to Christmas makes me want to step back.
In sight of the finish line, I’m flat today.
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’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 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 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?
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.