What Lies Beneath

Sunday, 20 May 2018

‘In the grand words of Jessie J - it’s ok not to be ok’ - a message from Ebs.

Anorexia; intwined in my history is the shadow of an emaciated girl who was told she would probably not recover. 

Maya; woven into my future is the promise of a woman who plans a life rich with my art, love and the deepest friendships, travel, music, a lot of dancing and hopefully a dog.  

But, what came between? It’s struck me lately that to many anorexia was basically just that time I got really really thin and sort of went off the rails a little (well, as off the rails as any nice girl from West London goes…sigh), but truly, anorexia was just the physical mess I created to shrink the chaos I saw in myself. So what was it? And has it truly gone away, because the story never does just go “once upon a time there was a nice little girl who went to a good school who was friends with the ‘right people’ who dated the right boys who one day woke up and thought: I am going to starve myself, that sounds fun”. Something strong fuels every eating disorder. For me, the overriding statement i’d probably choose is ‘I am not enough’. With every exam that I didn’t excel, every friend I saw as more beautiful (this felt very important back then), every time I couldn't fix a problem at home, every moment I measured myself and I came up lacking. But the main problem? I felt totally unable to express this.  

I spend a LOT of time worrying now, and panic over pretty much anything (panicker Pillay), I will fret and worry and massively catastrophize situations (even now as I write this I am thinking; Maya, you are showing people how weird you actually are, you are literally choosing to highlight your flaws, this is why you will die alone, having been blacklisted by every director in the land, with cats, even though you are a dog person). When I write it I can see it’s kinda absurd (I hope), but still. Don’t get me wrong, this tendency also serves as a good aspect of me, it means I work damn hard because basically in my mind, if I don’t, the World will probably end and it will be all my fault. However, it also nicely serves the little voice on my shoulder that will whisper maliciously ‘you are not enough’.  

I feel vaguely uncomfortable admitting to these doubts now, just like I feel uncomfortable admitting that I still cry over my body, I still hate parts of it. To me this feels like failure. I am supposed to be the strong one. Post anorexia I built an armour of ‘strong woman’ and try to live inside that as much as possible. Physically, this is a far safer place to be than in my cage of bones, but it’s probably not the best. Pre-anorexia I was also the ‘strong one’, but in a different way. Within certain aspects of my life I was the one who had her shit together. People still say it to me ‘but you were so happy’…yeah, you’re right, I was so happy I decided to try and slowly fade away to nothingness. No one happy chooses that path. Someone who is very good at hiding how they feel, yes. 

So, where am I now? Am I healed? Yes and no. I am no longer starving or living in the shadow World. There, I lacked any true happiness. My ability to laugh was stolen from me and the World resided blandly in black and white, with numbers hanging constantly in the air. Now I am here, attempting to adult. I laugh often and enjoy food. I still worry about what I eat and still worry about my body, but I am open. Those I love and who love me know the moments i’m having a wobble and now how hard some days are. I also now have the strength to be able to be there for them and I am as much as I can, I hope they know that. I love deeply, another thing that anorexia temporarily stole. I have the ability to speak to others and try to help them heal as well. I can be open about my journey. This year i’ve suffered deep loss and heart break, not in the typical or romantic sense, but in a way that has struck me deeper than any break up ever could. It was a sink or swim moment and if i’m honest, it’s challenged me. Starvation numbs pain. It also numbs joy. This year i’ve learned more than ever the value of those who have dragged me up, some i’ve known for years and some for a relatively short amount of time but whom I know will be in my life forever. I learned you need the pain to understand the joy. It taught me to be vulnerable (with a select few), I did not need to make my body vulnerable to show I was hurt. I swum, I am still swimming and in the moments it seems I can’t, I have the best life boats around.  

So, on mental health awareness week I just wanted to say to anyone who is suffering try not to mask it, you will learn from it. To those struggling with anorexia, trust the recovery process, nourish your body and I promise your soul will in time heal too. Mental ill health is not something to be ashamed of. The shame will only lead to things getting worse. Working on recovery will transform you into who you need to be. The pain will pass. The laughs will come. You will realise you are more than the gap between your legs or the cage of bones you have built. You are the stories you will tell, the lovers you will have, the ice cream you will eat, you are the adventures you will plan, the daughter who needs to be strong, the nights of hysteria, the tears you will weep, the people you will love, the home team who will drag you over the finish line, the days of theatre, the meals out, the meals in, the people you hate, the people you love, the repetitive man fuck ups that will cause your friends to groan, the moments of loneliness, the days of sheer elation, the success, the failure, the sparkle to your eyes, the passion over politics, the fights, the healing, but mostly the love. You are so much more than the gap between your thighs, just dive in and start to swim. 

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