Recovery; it's more than okay to be okay.
Yesterday, for the first time since having a baby, I went out to buy some new clothes.
In the shop there were so many beautiful things I loved and I actually felt excited about clothes and looking fabulous for the first time in a very long while. As Juno was fast asleep in her sling, I couldn’t try the clothes on, so I just bought them anyway knowing I could return them if needed.
Fast forward a little and I’m home in my bedroom by myself (which is a rarity these days) enthusiastically taking my new purchases out of the bag. I try my favorite one on - which is this sapphire blue jumpsuit in a gorgeous paisley pattern. I love it!
The legs are wide and it is stretchy so I haven't considered the fact that it might not fit. As I pull the final strap over my shoulder and turn to look in the mirror I am confronted with a reflection of myself that doesn’t marry with the one mind was expecting. In particular, it clings to a new bit of fat I have on the side of my arse. I continue to look and my mind also notices (not for the first time) that my arms have more fat than they used to and my hips are also wider.
So this is the situation. What happens next is what I want to talk about because it’s remarkable. I want to make it known to the darker part of myself that I carry around with me - and to you - just how remarkable it really is.
Let me take you back to a former version of myself. I was in the throes of a very dangerous and potentially life-threatening disease; bulimia nervosa. There’s a lot I could say about this and I do plan to, but for now here is what Bulimia would have said to me upon looking in the mirror yesterday:
You’re disgusting. That fat on your arse is disgusting. Ditto for your hips. And that new bit of fat I’ve noticed on the inside of your leg just above your knee - WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? It’s bad enough that your inner thighs are fat and jiggle and touch each other when you lie down because they’re THAT flabby, but now they’re dimply and that is just so disgusting I can’t even say. You are disgusting. You should feel it. You shouldn’t be this way. You need to do something about this. You need to take control. And you also need to punish yourself for letting it get to this point.'
Disordered inner dialogues such as these used to be the norm. Following these, a predictable and seemingly unstoppable series of events would have taken place...
I would have felt so powerless and ashamed of myself that I would need to numb the pain at the same time as take back control. A good binge on whatever I could grab and as much of it as possible would suffice. The giving into my addiction would provide me with a rush of dopamine and help to numb the feelings of shame, and then the total evacuation of my stomach contents would provide me with the sense of control I so needed to regain. Of course, I would then be left in a mental war zone plagued by an intense feeling of guilt and self-loathing and, ironically, a feeling of powerlessness so great in its magnitude that the only thing to do was to gain more power….And so the cycle of addiction continued. This is the same for the heroine user as it is for the alcoholic as it is for the binge eater. Addiction wears many different costumes but underneath she's the same.
Now let me tell you how that conversation yesterday actually went...
Okay, so this jumpsuit doesn’t look quite how you hoped, does it babe? But really, it is very pretty and you still look pretty hot. You're beautiful. And yeah, you do have a little extra fat on your arse and thighs and yeah there is a new little bit of fat just above your knee but it’s OKAY.
It’s so absolutely OKAY that there is absolutely NOTHING you need to do about it. Other than smile at how OKAY it all is.
P.S I hope you keep the jumpsuit.
P.P.S I hope you wear it.'
Anyone who has ever suffered from an eating disorder or body dysmorphia will know just how remarkable that was. The remarkable fact of not really giving a shit and the even more remarkable feeling of not needing to do anything.
I want to express something really important;
My healing doesn't depend on being able to say that I think my body is exactly how I want it to be or that I have completely overcome any body hang-ups AT ALL. My enlightenment about my disease lies in the fact that it’s okay for me to simply be OKAY. It's okay to live amidst imperfections. I don't have to dissociate from my body because my diseased brain can't handle the truth that PERFECTION ISN'T REAL. It's an escape. A warped form of self-protection. A maladaptive form of COPING.
From a physiological/biological point I know my body is amazing! Look at all the miraculous things it does and continues to do every single second for a reason no one can explain...LIFE is AMAZING and in this sense I know my body to be. But from a purely physical perspective, there are things about my body that I would change. I would get rid of that fat on my arse if I had a magic wand and I’m not going to feign being so super well-adjusted and unwaveringly body-loving that I wouldn’t. That’s not real. It's also called overcompensation and it's heavy. But the thing is (aside from the fact that, erm..I don't have a magic wand...) - the real magic - is that I can think all of this, and yet it doesn't impact on my sense of self-worth because it is no longer tied up in my physical appearance. It doesn't make me feel LESS THAN. (Of course, it was never about my body anyway. Or food. But that's another article).
Standing in front of the mirror yesterday made me reflect and realise just how far I have come. Even saying that to myself hasn’t always been easy because in admitting that, I have also to admit the place I was in before - the place I needed to travel away from. That’s been hard; to own that darkness in my soul when a large part of me wants to run away from it and never stop running. But we need the darkness to balance the light. We need to respect our darkness, not run from it.
It also made me realise how easy it is to just carry on and forget. A sad place turns into a happy (or at least, un-sad) one, pain loses its' weight, stormy seas calm. It can be as if the new destination was the only one. We are impatient to forget. The journey becomes abandoned and lost and so we forget to pay respect to the place that gave us the fruits we now carry.
Remembering is bittersweet. Like the fruits of our suffering.
So today I am remembering, with a little smile, that it’s more than okay to be okay.
And that imperfection really is a gift.
I think we could all do with this reminder. Progress not perfection.
(Perfection isn't even a thing).