Society’s ideal: a flat stomach and jutting hipbones. My version is grittier, with rotting flesh and deep gashes (the model was also tan before I desaturated her). I, like many others, struggle with my own concept of physical beauty and my own body ideal (I’m a mostly-recovering bulimic). I was having a particularly low self-esteem day and I guess I wanted to take a pretty torso and dirty it up. I did this in May 2005 under my old deviantart account.
[Actually, there's more to the story, but that's for another day.]
This collage was made by me after one of my therapy sessions. It’s crude, but I still love it, because I was able to express many emotions I couldn’t speak. It’s about my struggle with an eating disorder, and self-harm, and the traumatic aftermath of being sexually abused. I hope it says something to you, and if it does, please feel free to comment. Even if you don’t, thank you for looking and sharing a vulnerable moment with me.
My eating disorder has a death grip on me at the moment. I’ve been lying to myself; oh, I’m doing better, progress not perfection. But I’m bone-chillingly scared because I’ve realized tonight how deeply I’ve relapsed. I just woke up from a series of nightmares, all of them featuring me with a noose tightening around my neck with every bite I take and every bite I purge. I woke up and I couldn’t breathe and that isn’t much different than how I feel in reality. My noose might be figurative instead of actual rope, but it’s there, squeezing the life out of me. And not only am I not trying to cut myself down, I’m actively wrapping it around my neck.
My birthday is next week and I feel like I’m at the crossroads again; that place where I have to decide: live or die. I think that — mostly — I want to live, but even typing that out in such wishy-washy fashion shows my ambivalence on some level. If I am going to slay the dragon, I need to believe in my sword. I don’t know if I can do that, because for so long I’ve been fighting futilely. Surviving, not actually living. And part of me thinks what’s the point? Why bother? Just do what I want and maybe I can die on the bathroom floor like the nothing I am.
I don’t know what the point of this post was. I guess I wanted to acknowledge out loud somewhere that yes, I do know what’s happening, even if I keep pretending I don’t. I wanted to cut through my lies for a moment to show myself the real face in the mirror; the one that is tear-stained and haggard, without the fake smile and false twinkle. I am dying, and if I don’t change my behavior, I will die. That’s the bottom line.
Now what do I do about it?
If I had a nickel — no, a penny — for every time I woke up and said, “Today, I get control of my eating disorder. Today, I can do this!” I would have enough money that there would be no 99% or 1%. We would all be sitting poolside sipping the drink of your choice without a monetary care in the world.
Okay. That might be a slight exaggeration. But not much of one. Because my eating disorder is my version of “Groundhog Day.” It’s my own private hell where every day I wake up with good intentions and go to bed feeling like shit because I once again couldn’t get my act together. So why is this Day One any different?
Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’ll fail again. Or maybe, just maybe, this time I can be kind enough to myself to say, “Self, you aren’t perfect, and stop trying to be. Just do your best and don’t let ED tell you that you’re not worth the fight. You are worth the effort.”
We all are. Here’s hoping today is a Day One of some sort for you and that you’re successful. And if you’re so inclined, please wish me luck. I need all the help I can get.
In thick files, there are strings of letters following my name. Not PhD. or Esq. or anything like that. My letters are BPD (borderline personality disorder), C-PTSD ( complex post traumatic stress disorder), ED (eating disorder – bulimia). There are debates about whether I’m bipolar type II or whether I have major depression with psychotic features (currently bipolar disorder is winning). There are notations about my anxiety disorder, the repeated sexual abuse, the severity of my SI (self-injury), the suicide attempts/ideation and how “difficult” I am to treat because of the time span of my “problems.” (As if it’s my fault I wrote my first suicide poem at the age of nine and thought I was “fat” at the age of six.) Every set of letters comes with its own hellish set of stigmas. Because just having a mental illness isn’t enough evidently; they need to make it more judgmental and stigmatizing.
Those letters follow me everywhere I go — including in my own mind.
A former therapist told me I should say “I have …” instead of “I am …” because he said I am not my illness. But if you look at my file and all those letters that add up to a hellish picture, it’s hard to believe that I’m not my illness. When people (including family members) think it’s okay to call you “psycho” as a nickname (“oh honey, we’re just kidding”), it’s hard to believe I’m not my illness. When a licensed professional tells me that my problems are “too complex” for them to treat and dump me, it’s hard to believe that I’m not my illness.
But I am not. There are other letters you could use to describe me, like c-r-e-a-t-i-v-e. Or i-n-t-e-l-l-i-g-e-n-t. Or l-o-y-a-l. I can be loving and funny and full of joy. There is more to me than those thick files could ever hold. So all I ask is that you don’t judge me solely on labels. Erase the labels and see the person. Get to know me in all my moments of normalcy and madness.
People are more than arbitrary letters. Please remember that. End the stigma.