My therapist said, ‘Anorexia is a form of self flagellation.’ I knew what she meant. I didn’t want to own it then. I’d been working really hard peeling back the layers of inter-generational trauma. I understood why I befriended the shadow: anorexia. And I went to Africa. My brain was fried.
I’d physically recovered by 23 and didn’t give anorexia much thought. By 30, I was pregnant with my first child and by 35, a mother of three. I returned to work four years later, weekend ICU, an intense world which kept me enthralled for 18 years. I needed a break and moved into community health. Writing called. I answered.
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.
What do the words, ‘good girl,’ unleash in you?
I’ve been a good girl for most of my life. Has it made me happy? Sometimes. Like most self discovery; it’s a mire in there. ‘Good girl,’ is in the hard basket with other taboos: periods, mothers who drink or do drugs, women who choose not to have kids…
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?
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
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’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’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.