And So This Is Me

Once upon a time, there was a girl who spent every minute of her life thinking about food –

I am not sure where I am anymore.

From the moment she woke up, to the moment she went to sleep, it either dominated her thoughts or tugged at the edge of them so that, in returning to the thought, she realised she’d been thinking about it all along.

It has only been two years since I actively moved towards recovery, and the length of time before this is obscene.

She could not imagine a life without food, though this life of food was a slow kind of agony; nor imagine any other kind of relationship, though it was unlikely that the eating disorder was really her friend.

I was talking about recovery last week. About how I moved from one life into another. It left me shaken. I am unrecognisable, even to myself. I walked back towards the tube, after the conversation, and realised that I do not know, at the moment, who I am. I am not the girl who was paralysed by the thought of eating a piece of toast or planned her binges as she fell asleep, only to wake the next morning to start the whole agonising process all over again –

And yet for so many years this was me.

And so, I am stuck in this strange disjoint between a life characterised by

Fear. Please don’t make me eat because the fear is unbearable and frustrating because if you ask me to explain it I don’t know that I can

And

Loneliness. Because if I let people in, they might try and stop me; so I will reach out in desperation and then flinch if you come near, until I’ve worn you out and proved that I’m somehow made up all wrong

And

Despair. Because nothing else matters. Nothing else matters. And I will be okay as long as it is just me and the food.

And chocolate wrappers hidden in CD cases, and clothes smeared with food, and thick woollen tights to keep the cold out, and the rubbery squeak of hospital sheets, and the heavy shame that avoids eye contact, and the effort that every single moment saps, and the horrible significance of weight, and shape, and a quarter of a kilo either way –

None of this makes sense to me anymore.

And yet it was me.

I stood on the platform at London Bridge waiting for the district line. It was the tail-end of rush hour and, plugged into my headphones, the clashing of selves made everything, and everyone, seem unreal. It felt like, in the act of laying one life beside the other, I had slipped down the gap in between. I find it hard to relate to the old Melissa and yet there is an air of shiny unfamiliarity in how things now are.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense.

I don’t know if I can capture how incredibly different I am now, from how I was then.

Maybe there is a lag between shooting yourself forward and growing into where you have arrived? Maybe the transition from then to now took place emotionally, before it took place physically, so it feels like a sudden surprise but the clogs were slowly creaking into motion before the recovery begun? Maybe this is all normal, it’s just the extremity of the difference highlights the process?

Maybe we only find ourselves when we let go of the need to know?

Once upon a time, there was a girl.

Maybe this is part of the self discovery: a shift away from the need to define or find.

Once upon a time, there was a woman.

Maybe it is enough, for the moment, to appreciate that I am growing, instinctively and authentically, and still exploring who I am.

No longer defined by food. No longer trying to be definable.

And so this is me.

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4 Responses to “And So This Is Me”

  1. magicplum says:

    …”Maybe there is a lag between shooting yourself forward and growing into where you have arrived? Maybe the transition from then to now took place emotionally, before it took place physically, so it feels like a sudden surprise but the clogs were slowly creaking into motion before the recovery begun?” – This makes a lot of sense. And – “…there is an air of shiny unfamiliarity in how things now are.”
    I’m finding this ’shiny unfamiliarity’ really uncomfortable! – But maybe it’s meant to be?! If we could slip from one state to another with total ease – would that be a little too good to be true, a little false – if we feel no discomfort maybe it’s not taking root properly – just a surface change? I had a few ’surface changes’ before where I gained weight and felt ‘fine’ about it – but it was just a defence – i was numbing myself to the real meaning and inpact it had for me. And later it would hit me that i hadn’t been ok with it and lose it all again. Sometimes the gaining had been a cover-up in itself – to show all is well to the world, to meet other’s expectations – i had not really been ready for it.
    Once we learn to live with the discomfort it wears off I suppose. Just not sure how long that takes! The constant effort to avoid slipping is part of the discomfort too. Hopefully that effort gets less and less? x

  2. girlundscovered says:

    In making steps towards positive changes of my own, I think I sometimes tread in this nowhere-land of self. For example, this last couple days I have been ill. I decided to pass the day I would cut out all the pictures of styles I like from old magazines. Partly because the doing is relaxing and partly because I seem to be crippled at times with ‘I don’t know what I like’ thoughts.

    In looking over what I’ve cut – because I love the clothes, and not merely the models as I might have done in the past – it’s very different from what I thought was ‘me’. None of the black, leather, purple, shiny darkness of my teens. None of the short denim, acid colours of my early twenties. Not even the plain black cover-all clothes that had become ubiquitous post-anorexia and mid-BED.

    Something – someone – else is growing in front of my eyes. Other people only see snippets of this someone at the moment. My boyfriend comments on my being relaxed before a family visit for the first time and my self-awareness, but I look the same and mostly seem like the same me he’s ever known.

    But there are so many small differences, I wonder when – or indeed if – they will ever make something so radically different that it’s a clear new me. I’m not sure if it works like that… whether we become someone else, easily definable and easily removed from the old us. Or whether little pieces of the old us hang around, like shiny sequins, decorating the new us along with the new sparkles to make something really beautiful. And very complex.

    Or in other words – we’re a work in progress and always will be :-)

  3. Evan says:

    This is a very difficult place to be. A good friend of mine is recovering from her emotionally abusive past and is in this same space at the moment.

    I hope you have good support and enough time to let what is natural and important to you emerge. Sometimes we discover ourselves – we welcome who we are and surprise ourselves.

  4. James says:

    Really moving and it does make sense. Those moments where you look back into the past and think “that’s not me at all. I can’t relate to that because I’m a shiny new person!” but all the ‘newness’ sometimes freaks you out as well – I’m feeling that a lot, lately.

    As much as there are extremes and big changes, I guess it’s important to remember that we are always in motion/transition and that our identities are malleable – we don’t just go from one place to another just like *click!* that. Life is a journey of self-discovery and not just a step from one place to another. That’d probably be even more of an identity shock but maybe it would be easier in that there is no uncertain transition period.

    I’m rambling so I’ll close up by saying that I love Girl Undiscovered’s sequins image about the past parts that remain. Ultimately, Melissa, this post is great to read for me personally as I realise that I’m finding self-acceptance and working out who I really am.

    “No longer defined by food. No longer trying to be definable.” That’s a wonderful, liberating thought. Though change and the consolidation of the differences is scary, it’s also full of excitement. Here’s to self-discovery and exploration on the journey… :)