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?
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.
We all like to look beautiful. Beauty comes with a shadow. The shadow includes jealousy, lust, objectification …. You can probably add a few of your own. It’s a long list of uninvited things. Have you ever wondered why they are there?
I’ve sat on the razor’s edge of beauty. It took me places I didn’t expect. Being slender lead me to flaunt with anorexia in my youth. As a young woman, I dimmed my light and hid. I got angry at the injustice of it all. I lost myself among the definitions of who I should be as a woman. Outside definitions came into my inner space and ran amok. Messy.
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 …
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.
It didn’t feel good then. But as I began to write, there’s been an unravelling of me. My story came out haltingly. To my surprise, I had to prise it from my memory. Once again, I touched the darkness within.
and I went to write
dark emotions threatened the page
so virginal and pure
empty space stared back at me
dare I disclose my struggle?
Have you ever felt your back up against the wall, repetitive and intolerable situations pressing you tighter into the corner? My life has been a series of micro-deaths, traditions, observances and people. But I keep trying to fix whatever is broken. I’m looking at the finger not what it’s pointing at.
Allowing has been a challenge but I’m doing it. I’m moving to the heart. Maybe you can relate to being trapped in the head with all those chaotic thoughts. Maybe you feel deeply and intensely, so deeply that it scares you. Maybe you want peace and emotional resolution.
Here’s a poem about my experience.
The Echidna crossed the road. My husband stopped the car and I ran back. ‘Hurry,’ he called and I began to run. but the Echidna ran faster. He’d begun to hide.
Writing about my adolescence and my descent into anorexia, I’ve re-discovered what I’ve come to know. To truly overcome any affliction, the body, emotions and mind need to integrate the experience into the fabric of ones being. Integration usually involves a lot of avoidance.
I’m a master of avoidance.