Naming and Shaming

July 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

If there’s one thing I’ve avoided at all costs, it’s naming and talking about what’s happened or happening in concrete terms.

To contribute fully and with validity, it seems necessary somehow to stake your ground. Explain where you’ve come from and how you came to be where you are. Doing this in person has, for me, been very limited. There’s good reason.

Explaining what I feel has happened is a difficult thing. I still don’t know what to call this thing. What accurately explains how it felt and what, medically or clinically, could justifiably be applied to my experience. And then there’s reluctance. I fear that naming will make it real, give what I’m trying to move beyond legs and life that it doesn’t deserve. There are so many stories more vicious, more affecting, more valid-feeling, than mine. Wherein lies the paradox. I can’t heal what I don’t own, yet owning feels like a step to accepting it. Which I don’t. All there is to offer are the pieces that can be remembered. A lot is still lost. A lot doesn’t feel enough. But by virtue of being so hard to express, I guess it must be.

I don’t know what I’m about to write is going to look like. So please, bear with me.

I remember being thirteen of fourteen and wishing to be someone different. I remember the association that formed with those who looked better being more accepted in our limited middle school terms. The thinnest and most-well liked of my friends (so I thought) didn’t eat meat. I remember finding out about calories, cutting everything I could. Throwing away my lunch. Being called out on it by a teacher and my mum. Thinking: okay, that didn’t work out, there needs to be another way of working this out. I had to eat to be allowed to France. So I did. But I also cut the meat and, eventually, the fish.

I don’t remember too much of being 13-16. I remember the scales at my grandparents’ flat and seeing them drop lower with some pride. I also remember being asked why I was fat by a child on my work experience week.

I remember more of 16-18, but mostly it was about getting the hell out of my hometown and everything it felt like.

I don’t remember the first time. But I remember my room, hidden away at the end of a corridor in my first year at University. I remember the first time I told a friend and I cried and cried. But I still kept making myself sick.

By second year, I remember this becoming more conscious. Purposeful. Planned. I remember little more than drinking, dressing up, ballooning, trying to hide it, more purging. I remember wanting to be like everyone else. Handling everything that was happening and not caring. But I did care. There just didn’t feel like another way to be.

I remember the summer I stayed away. Worked, ate from boredom, smoked, drank. I remember the size of my breasts, which was novel.

I remember the blackness of my third year. Anxiety and darkness that stopped me working or studying. Or eating. The haze of eating disorder in the house, which drove me to despair when I couldn’t fix a friend either. I remember bananas and coffee. Not a lot else. I remember the relationship which marked me as a sidenote in someone else’s life.

I remember the day a friend called my parents to collect me. I slept in her bed with her, grateful not to be alone. Relieved not to be in control. I remember the collection, nothing more was said. It was short-lived.

I remember the break helping. The counseling getting everything functioning, but still, just enough to work. Not about the food. Not about that. I remember the relief from everyone that I was ‘okay’ again.

I remember coming back to life over two years at home. The shedding of difficult relationships that began with that move. The reconnection with good food and the outdoors and movement. I remember being fitter than ever by the time I left again.

I remember the loneliness that crept in again this winter. The hurts that cut through my perceptions of self-sufficiency. Being shot down by supposed friends and strangers. The feeling that I wasn’t as strong as I thought. Working into the ground, but getting nothing done. Lost control. I remember hiding my food again. Pretending to throw things away (and what that really means). Smuggling, bartering with myself, compelled and helpless again.

I remember realising it still wasn’t over. The past seven months of struggle. Of incredible happiness tempered by fear of exposure, rejections. Purging again. Smoking again. Injury and immobility. Being weighed and seeking help. And coming back again.

What we could accurately call the sum of this, who knows. There has been unreasonable restriction. The bulk of my bulimic behaviour was left at University. It reared its head this year. Along with compulsive and binge eating.

Now? Now I’m nearing 25, determined to try for anything but all that. Which is one facet of a life that can be so much more.

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