(no holds barred. Totally making myself vulnerable here. If you are of the harsh and judgemental variety, please click away now.
I woke myself up at about four oclock this morning because I was kneading my stomach in my sleep. Taking fistfuls of fat and loose skin and pulling at it. As if to remind myself in my sleep that I ought not to accept this, no matter what my logical mind, my sensibilities, my feminist lionness, my strong and happily aging self keeps gently and compassionately hammering at me during my conscious hours. The Fat Grabber seemed to be saying; "You're not to be okay with this. I'm going to sit here in your head and remind you that this is totally unacceptable. If I could, I would have pinchers grabbing at your thighs as well, because your stomach is one thing.... But those thighs...."
I woke up thinking about my weight. Truth be told; there are precious few mornings that I do not wake up thinking about my weight and listening to that irritating Fat Grabber lecture me on the importance of exercise, the wisdom of eating until you are satisfied and not past; the ridiculousness of feeling so disgusted about one's body and yet being unwilling to commit to an exercise regime. Fool. The Fat Grabber always says. Weak, foolish, sucky-pants. Get over yourself. And oh... How badly, deeply, completely I do want to get over myself. Yet, I'm utterly convinced that shame will not propell me there. Only compassion, patience, and yes... some technique. Technique that I've been fully aware of for this entire ten year relapse. I'd had five good years before that. Five years of pretty clear thinking. Very low levels of struggle. Very, very low. But I digress. Wistfully digress.
Most mornings I wake up with that elephant on my shoulder. Most mornings, by the time I am dressed and reaching for my glasses and book of the week, the elephant has been re-caged and doesn't torment me the way she did in the full-blown, really bad, lowsey, no good, fully disordered years. She doesn't torment me in the kitchen, where I prepare and eat food that I love and am able to painlessly enjoy for the gift that it is. She doesn't usually torment me as I move about my business of working, playing, loving, dreaming. She doesn't preoccupy me in social settings so that I feel such intense shame that I believe that everyone is looking at me with disgust and disappointment. She doesn't even stare back at me from the mirror every time I look into it to check for stray hairs, butt crack problems, or whether a little lipstick would hlep instill some confidence in parents who leave their children in my care. (nothing like leaving your cherub with someone who looks like the colour of death....)
But she's always around, waiting to seize me when my defenses are down. Like a virus attacking a compromised elderly man and knocking him dead with the simple flu. Like a whisper that's ever present, but becoming an undeniable, uncontrollable roar that frightens and frustrates me to no end.
Knowing all the facts helps most of the time. But the crazy, senseless preoccupation hangs over me, no matter what. I fantacize about being a different size. It thrills and frightens me. I tell myself not to play with fire. That I'm forty-one, in the healthy range for body weight, with a healthy love for divine food. And crunchy food. And chewy food. And black licorice. I have no shame for these loves, and wish them upon everybody.
But I envy myself the years when the struggle had abated. When I ate out of physical hunger only. When my body held nothing for Fat Grabber to clutch at. When my mental reserves were such that life could throw me a curveball without me being reduced to thinking about numbers on the scale; plans for running, running, running, never eating sugar again; engaging in any number of schemes and rules and plans to manipulate the size of my body.
I miss those days when I was more well than I am now. I think about them often and try to solve the problem of how to get back there. I tell myself that no one can go back; that that was then and this is now. That I should revisit all the guidelines that helped me get well in the first place and achieve again that era of relative peace.
But something stops me. Something powerful and scarey.
And I wake up with the Elephant once again.
I posted recently about the increase in my self editing. I meant everything I said. Now that I know how some people misunderstand my words and thoughts, I will not stop telling my story. I understand that it may not be your story, and you may not be able to identify one little bit. But I also recognize that considering the statistics of women dissatisfied with their bodies, there will also be a number of women who can identify. I write to them.
I don't imagine that anyone can "save me". I try not to worry about those who might feel sorry for me. We all have our shit, and this happens to be mine. I've carved out a pretty darned fantastic life regardless, and I strive constantly for more healing in this regard. Writing helps me to process, and I know that it is comforting to read about someone else's struggle when you find yourself with the same annoying animal sitting in your head.
I am not a head case. I have come a very, very long way. I just know that there is more resolution to be had with this curse. I urge mothers to hope for more for their own daughters. I urge you to find other things to talk about than your bodies, other people's bodies, beauty, or lack thereof. I encourage you to avoid fashion magazines at all cost. Don't buy into diet ideas. Any of them. Learn your body's own wisdom- it saved me. If you need some good books on the subject, check out Geneen Roth's work. Food is one of God's great gifts, and we should not associate food with shame and weakness. It's too precious and wonderful to be reduced to a power struggle and exercise in deprivation.
My desire is to be a voice of a different sort. Not reinforcing the diet and beauty industry's messages of inadequacy, but providing a different voice that acknowledges the damage done to me, while desiring to promote a different sort of message. It's a painful place to be, and maybe refusing to be silent will have some redemption somewhere down the line.