Not The Skinny One

I am a sibling.

One (the eldest) of three.

This blog is not about my siblings (who are, by the way, totally wonderful and I love them to bits); but I think it might be about a younger me’s reaction to them, so I’m going to include this.

It is important to distinguish between your reality and the alternative versions of reality; the stuff that belongs to other people, and that which belongs to you.

This bit is mine.

Earlier today, someone asked me what I liked to eat as a child. Hoping to access my pre-ED tastes, I decided that casting my mind back a little (lot) and exploring the things that I used to look forward to at mealtimes sounded like a good idea.

It was. I just didn’t find what I was expecting.

Hoping to form a little connection to my childhood favourites and re-awaken any tastebuds that I’d snipped at the roots, I was waiting for the images of homemade macaroni cheese (yep, liked that) – or breakfasts at the weekend with my Dad (I know I used to enjoy these) – or crumble and custard on Sundays (a favourite, I think), to arrive. Instead, I got a hideous wave of inferiority and a horrible flashback to how I used to feel –

I was not, as a child, the skinny one.

My brother was a beanpole. My sister, petite and pretty. And me –

Normal. Healthy. Attractive. Big. Ungainly. Fat.

With a good appetite. A dead cert for seconds. Enjoyed her food. Greedy. Uncontrolled. Fat.

These things were not, of course, said; nor, I am certain, even thought. It’s just how I felt. Them – and me. Thin – and fat. Acceptable – and totally not.

I don’t know when I decided that body size cast the deciding vote. This certainly wasn’t a family message; and, it seems, oddly, to dismiss all the things that I clearly excelled at – school, music, reading, the ‘clever one’ – possibly, because even writing these things reminds me that they were irrelevant. Instantly negated. Uncool.

For whatever reason, at some deep and complicated level, worth and self-acceptance got all tangled up with whether I was skinny or not -

And, as a child, I was not the skinny one.

So, when I go back, even after all these years, and after the balance was so dramatically altered, the surge of inferiority is still uncomfortable; and the feeling of weightiness, bowls me over. And, even if I try to move beyond this, and go back – back – further – back to an earlier stage, where it didn’t matter so much or I wasn’t so aware; the memories of food remain hidden, and all I can see is –

One wooden chair leg, and a not skinny knee, poking out from a pair of cotton shorts, with the sun streaming through the window behind. A fork, on a plate, and sitting at the kitchen table wondering why I always wanted more.

Photos that made me feel horrible. Climbing frames that I seemed too big for. Clothes that I had outgrown.

Summer days, and paddling pools, and swimsuits with frilled bottoms, and queuing for barbecues, with an acute awareness of just how much space I seemed to consume.

This might, I think, be where some of it started.

In this small, still throbbing, sense of shame – and self-consciousness – and older sister awkwardness, some of the nerve ends remain red and raw.

I need, I think, when I’m feeling a bit braver, to go back and acknowledge that it hurt (that I felt I was different); and reassure, my younger me, that it was nothing to be ashamed of (this taking up of space). To explain that sometimes feelings, are just feelings (and not the reality); and unstick this person, who is still a little stuck –

Because I’ve probably been carrying this childlike sense of inadequacy around for a very long time -

And, it’s time to move on.

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6 Responses to “Not The Skinny One”

  1. Great job here hon follow the Process, right? Look into what’s
    there good for you. You’re a very powerful woman.

  2. Melissa says:

    Yep – going back and then letting go. ;)

  3. James says:

    Really potent post. You’ve made me think – what do I enjoy eating? What was I like before eating disorders really began to grip me? Who am I really? Add in the fact that anorexia came alongside and was a part of growing up, it all comes to feel extra confusing.

    I see old photos and I’m disgusted at seeing chubby cheeks but end up sad when I see all the smiling faces and great experiences. We remember things with rose-tinted specs and think that everything was great when it wasn’t – in terms of food issues I know that I hated being a small child with baby fat who got pushed around and struggled with confidence.

    That said I know that I was a happy child with a sense of humour and fun. As for what foods I like, I’m going through the whole reassessment phase right now. Do I like certain foods because they’re safe and ‘healthy’? Have I convinced myself that I don’t like particular things because they were ‘bad’?

    It’s all confusing but I’ll work it out over time. Acknowledging past hurt and realising that upset and sense of inadequacy doesn’t have to carry on into the future is really good advice. It’s important to go back, but even more important to go forward.

    Thanks as ever for a thought-provoking post!

  4. Ciara says:

    I have just found your blog & I wish I had known about it sooner! Its so fantastic, practically everything you say I can identify with.. Especially this post! Its so reassuring that Im not the only one with these thoughts and feelings.. Im just going through another recovery phase and I was just getting fed up of the whole thing but your blog has given me the inspiration I need.. Thank you so much & Well done

  5. Mallory says:

    “I need, I think, when I’m feeling a bit braver, to go back and acknowledge that it hurt (that I felt I was different); and reassure, my younger me, that it was nothing to be ashamed of (this taking up of space). To explain that sometimes feelings, are just feelings (and not the reality); and unstick this person, who is still a little stuck –

    Because I’ve probably been carrying this childlike sense of inadequacy around for a very long time -”

    could have written that- well i did in one of my prior posts but i need to be reminded :) … did you ever sit down and think back on it?? i dont know how to get the “take up space’ outta my head…

    i am trying to find my way through you story and blog but i keep getting lost and confused… do you have a re-cap by month posts thing??

  6. Melissa says:

    It doesn’t really go in a logical progression I’m afraid – I started writing before I put the blog up and have been to-ing and fro-ing a lot. The Site Structure page kind of explains how I meant it to be set out (Losing Melissa and Lost focus on the illness; Finding Melissa and Getting Better focus on recovery; and there’s a bit of sense making in between), so I hope that kind of helps.

    I don’t know about the ‘take up space’ thought – I think it’s really subconscious for me, and it just kicks me – and then I have to force myself to let it go. I imagine that the more I feel okay in myself, the softer the kick will be – but I’ll find out as I go!…

    Wishing you luck on your journey. xx