Significance and Stuff

I have just come back from yet another trip to the dump. I am finding this clearing out my flat thing hard. It’s not just the slight OCD-tinged tendencies towards hoarding that are so difficult to deal with; it’s the fact that so many of my possessions have been coloured by my past. They are throbbing with association and each wrench aches.

I guess this is normal.

The last trip contained a bag of clothes. Not the outgrown clothes that I still haven’t worked out what to do with; but a bag of paint-sprayed clothes that had come to signify the reclamation of my flat. After the first few months of not bingeing and once I was no longer focussing on just holding myself together, I re-painted every room. In an attempt to remove the associations and make it somewhere I wasn’t afraid to be, I washed over each food splatter and splash of vomit with Dulux Indulgence paint, ruining an old tracksuit and a couple of towels in the process.

I didn’t throw them away at the time because they seemed a lucky charm.

Some of the other stuff is less positive.

I have an envelope sitting beside me covered with Roger La Borde butterflies and mussel shells, swirled in deep reds and rich violet blues and slippery greys. It used to contain stationery, but now holds a few papers and photos that have, for me, become intrinsically linked with the butterfly and the mussel. See one, imagine the other.

I’ve had the folder for years, but now that I’m moving, I don’t know what to do with it. I never look at it, yet in some dusty dark corner of my mind, I’m aware that it’s there. I wondered if, by writing about it, I could smash some of its power; but, it has been hard enough to name the contents. A time-softened weight chart in old style percentiles; a card from the other kids in my first inpatient centre; a few photos of razor sharp cheekbones and hamster cheeks; some hospital bracelets; a rosy-cheeked child snapped just before she became ill.

I should burn it. I just can’t.

I also keep stumbling over notebooks where I have tried to write my eating disorder out. They are, typically, immaculately kept and severely edited, so the content is bland and unrevealing: lists of reasons why I should change and the advantages of going through the whole recovery process. Repeated references to just how scared I am – “I am scared of everything. My life has become this tightly ordered box yet I am even scared of the order. It scares me that I’m ruining my appearance and my finances, that I am wasting all the talents I have been given. I am scared of how I feel. When I feel tired and sick, I am scared. When I feel fat and bloated, I am scared. I am scared that I will stay the same and scared of changing.”

The words are dead. Some turn into lists of calories and foods – pages and pages of numbers, and prices, and intricate mathematical calculations, which was easier than writing through the fear. Some of them fizzle out after a few pages, so I am left with reams of blank paper, charged with all the things that I didn’t know how to say.

I have binned them, spare pages and all.

There are a few other bits that I’m not sure where to put. Some undrunk ensures from last year; a coat that reeks of the Royal Free; various ‘feeling diaries’ from daycare; Oscar, the teddy bear my Mum brought me when I agreed to supervision… When I am brave enough, I will probably throw them all, apart from Oscar. It will be bittersweet.

Part of me is saying that the next step is a blank canvas, a chance to start all over again. Part of me is scared of saying goodbye so finally, of really letting go and moving on. Another part of me is aware that I have a tendency to slash my ties with things; to cut out parts of my life when I don’t want to think about them – and I don’t want to repeat that mistake again. When I divorce from things absolutely, I always end up trying to get them back.

I haven’t reached a resolution yet. I think there will be a balance between keeping enough to remind me not to return and appreciate where I have come from; and letting go of enough to move on.

I hope that I’m not tricking myself into making it okay to cling on.

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4 Responses to “Significance and Stuff”

  1. James says:

    A really affecting and stirring post – not in a bad way but because it resonates and really touches the deep bits inside and all the heartbreak of letting go and moving on – both in terms of EDs and the rest of life.

    It takes so much willpower and resolve to confront the memories and when they’re tied up in physical objects and there taunting you, reminding you and calling out to you it’s difficult to deal with. Given the chance to get rid of them, then you get into traps of indecision and triggers on OCD-ish hoarding and tendencies to ’slash and burn’ ruthlessly. If you struggle to find a happy medium and oscillate between extremes (yeah, that’s me as well) then the tension of the whole thing is even worse.

    I struggle looking at old photos – it’s a headtrip of different appearances, mixed nostalgia and disgust and it’s confusing and fraught with regrets and shame. As for all the notes, journals and bits of paper with various medical paraphernalia all over ‘em – looking at them is too much to bear. Revisiting these things is too painful at which point you think “chuck it” but then will you lose the appreciation of where you’ve come from and the crucial things you need to remember and cling on to – all you’ve learned, experienced and the affirmation that you’re still here in spite of some horrible ordeals and hurt.

    It’s intense and there are no easy answers. All I can say is that I admire your strength and determination Issa. Strength and best wishes as you go through it all and remember that in spite of the past and the painful memories, the future is full of memories waiting to be made… :)

  2. Evan says:

    Hi Melissa, my partner is going through a major re-orientation at the moment. Sorting through the past can be very tricky.

    One thing that set off alarm bells for me was your feeling that you ’should’ get rid of stuff.

    In my experience this process is necessary, unavoidable and can have great results. It can set us free for a much better future. I hope you can find some enjoyment in the process as well.

  3. WG says:

    Truly, truly awesome.

    I’m so excited for you Issa, I know there are great things ahead for you.


  4. I have had problems letting go of things in the past too. Memorabilia, keepsakes, and so on. Reminders of events and people past, both good and bad. But I finally realised that I needed to let go of those things and look to the present and the future, I had been surrounding myself with history and letting myself be distracted by it. I am no longer the man I was back then, for better or worse, and I need to concentrate on becoming and being the person I am now.

    I am glad you have managed to let go of so much, and I hope it lightens the load and eases your travels into the future :)