The Dark Side

My head is tuned in to minor thirds. It resonates with clashing chords. It connects, on some fundamental and physical level, with melancholy despair, with violent lyrics.

There’s a certain type of song that sounds like my eating disorder feels; that mirrors the despair and the desperation of my anorexia; taps into the violence and anger of my bulimia; and provokes an almost physical reaction – a stunned recognition – followed by an overpowering sense of sadness and pain.

I had an epiphany on the way to work one morning. Somewhere between St Albans and Hatfield, when Amy Winehouse had reduced me to tears, I realised what my response was all about.

Good music is meant to provoke a reaction, is meant to reach through to an emotional level. It rarely gets there, so it’s a bit of a shock when it does; but good music is meant to resonate. It’s meant to make you feel – even if the feeling isn’t very nice.

This was my lightbulb moment. For years, I had evaded the discomfort of difficult emotions. I had acted them out (bulimia); had tried control (anorexia); sought distractions (OCD); had feared what they meant and how they made me feel.

But I hadn’t just sat with them, and I hadn’t just accepted them.

If, instead of fighting the not so nice side of human emotions, I just considered them as part of the human experience, something we all go through…well, it felt very different.

If, instead of being scared by anger, or being overwhelmed by depression, or making everything violent feel safe, I just took all the not so nice stuff as the flip side of positive experiences, part of being a rounded person – then maybe I would have learned a healthier way of managing myself.

Because, I’m beginning to think that my eating disorder was a bizarre representation of my dark side. It was my perverse (and hugely flawed) way of dealing with the thoughts and feelings and experiences that seemed too much for me to handle. A way of separating myself into safe and unsafe and good and bad and black and white segments; of making it more manageable.

And therein lay the lesson: recovery wasn’t about changing how I was feeling. Life was about finding a better way of dealing with those feelings.

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