From the age of 17, for the seven years following, I led a life run by severe to not-so severe eating disorders. I write it as plural, but actually it was just one big fat one, disguised by different ‘titles’. But the title doesn’t matter, it is the fact that there was an eating disorder of some kind, running rampant during each of those years.
As I type this part of my story for a project that is going live real soon, it makes me realise that it is the one piece of my story I long to keep secret. All because I did it to myself. It is so embarrassing, so hideous, so disgusting, so so painful, so so destructive, so violent, so awful, so heartbreaking.
May I introduce here, shame. Shame is the thing that is wanting me to keep schtum. And the thing that is making me feel the way I feel above: like I want to lock that part of my life away and just feed it biscuits until it is so fat it falls asleep and never wakes up. But, thanks to the rad Brene Brown, I now know this is the most unhelpful thing I could do. I kinda knew that anyway, but having a cool American chick publish a theory and do a TED talk about it, gives my intellectual brain some proof to chew on.
Shame is the thing we need to knock sideways in our lives. It is the birthplace of depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and the rest. But it is so completely normal too. We all have it. And, man how I wish we didn’t. But we do. So, as vulnerability is the thing I am increasingly trying to embrace with open arms when all I want to do is punch it in the face and run away and hide, I am talking about this. This part of my life that is riddled with shame. Because how else will it ever be healed? Not by feeding it biscuits, that’s for sure.
I have for all these years, wanted to cry and share the pain that I was in, living with the hold of the eating disorders. They were so fucking bad. On the flip side of this desire for secrecy, is a deep longing that has always been there – to give this part of my journey, a voice the most. I wanted to so desperately have someone take me by the hand and show me the way. Or let me just share the self destructive pain I was in. The spiral that just fell deeper and deeper, and took more and more control of my life until it was literally in every nugget, every corner of my day and night, and my mind. The way I would look at other girls and just wish I could be like them: care free and beautiful. The way I felt so helpless but I was the one doing it. The way I could feel how I was destroying my body’s health but I couldn’t do anything about it. The way I hit a point that I was ‘sick of being sick’ but the fear of being well was too much, and I didn’t even know how to get there, so I went deeper and more destructive.
None of this got a voice then, but it can now. I don’t know if this is okay, I feel riddled with fear and embarrassment, but sometimes we have to do the thing that makes us terrified to step through to the other side, right?
Things always feel so much worse in your head, and once they’re out – they’re words, they’re no longer festering thoughts or emotions – there is space for the grief to come through. For anyone having lived a life with an eating disorder, grief is something that needs to happen. We need to cry those tears for our younger self. We need to tell her she’s safe now. We need to prove to this shame that follows us round about this part of our story, that it no longer has a place here anymore.
Words can do this. Stuffing can’t.
So speak up, people. And I will too.