A Story About My Eating Disorder
I am going to tell you a story, a story that isn’t to make you sad or pity me, a story that has no purpose really other than to offer insight into this confusing, contemplative mind of mine. It’s a story that takes place over many years, my whole life actually, for it is the story of how I came to understand my body.
Twenty years ago I was born and when I was born I had no recollection of myself, of my thighs or my cheeks or my arms, nor does any child. Those first years are years of discovery. Discovering the fascination of smiling, laughing, running, clapping, things the body can do, things I could do. I don’t remember these years, but I can paint a picture for myself that looks similar to any other small child I know. In these first few years, my body was learning and during this time I like to think that my body and I were friends.
Now time passed as it should and I grew more aware. Not just of the things my body could do, but of my surroundings, of things said and not said, of the tones in which things were said, of how my family interacted and how they didn’t. During this next stage, I learned from my parents two things: thin was good and our house was unpredictable. My body was no longer a thing to be discovered, but rather an object that never seemed to operate in the ways it should. My body was too slow to run away from my dad when he got that dark look in his eyes, too weak to push him away when pinned down under water or under a cushion or wherever else, too mute to call for help, too scared to cry. My body was too fat to finish all my food, too big to fit into clothes, and too ugly to look in a mirror. Grade school consisted of constant confusion and random outbursts of tears. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong, why I couldn’t look the way I wanted to talk the way I wanted or act the way I wanted. I felt unpredictable just like my house. I was a time bomb ticking, about to burst into loud tantrums and screams at any given moment. I was angry, impulsive, and rubbed many people the wrong way.
More time passed, middle school approached and I had learned how to silence the discomfort I felt inside my body. I had learned the skills needed to numb those outbursts of mine, to become a silent observer no longer subject to my dad’s temper and yet completely submissive to my mom’s enthrallment. A person touched me when it was unwanted, changed me when it wasn’t asked for, hurt me with words, silence, and actions. I was mute because it was during these years that I began the detachment from my body. I didn’t want to know it. I didn’t want to feel it. I didn’t want anything to do with it. So I didn’t give it food, I worked it too hard, I slept too little, I did everything opposite of what it wanted. I was cruel and I ended a short-lived relationship with the housing of my very existence. But as I look back, I find I am sad for this middle school self of mine. I am sad that an eating disorder became her only friend, her only way of numbing from the things around. Couldn’t she see that what she had was herself? Why destroy the one relationship she could obtain?
Anyways, middle school came to a close and high school began. Not much changed. I remained a numbed, subdued, zombie of a person. Throughout the years I would occasionally wake up and come in contact with my body, whether on the stage opening night or diving into a cold pool or running into the wind, but the awakenings only came in the most intense of body encounters and those moments were fleeting. Other than that, I was numbed through the pain and trials of the next four years. My body seemed to be nothing, certainly not mine. It belonged to people around. People who slowly captured my sense of self and safety. The disconnect between myself and my body grew deeper, the awakenings grew fewer, my existence grew darker. All I saw when I looked in the mirror was a shell of a person, one who only cared about the size of her thighs or the thickness of her waist. This person staring back at me didn’t feel anything that had been done to her or said to her or heard by her. No, she just wanted to be thin and she believed she wasn’t so by the end of high school that left this body as the enemy. Never would it be what I wanted. Never would it act how I wanted.
Onto college and the persona continued even when I didn’t want it any longer. In college, I vowed to do things differently. I vowed to take care of myself, to eat, to make friends, to talk, and be a person. But when I looked in the mirror and finally said to my body let’s be friends again, something deep inside me violently objected. That eating disorder that I had been feeding the past eight or so years was now more a person than I was. The eating disorder had taken ownership of the body I had chosen to abandon. Quickly my body got sick and I could do little to combat it. Why? Because by this point I had nothing to combat it with. I had no sense of self-worth, no capacity to deal with my emotions, no skills to cope with my pain other than self-destruction. So, like I said, I got sick.
Then the turning point comes in the story of how I understand my body. It is at this point that I start to build knowledge of why I coped the way I did, why I hated my body so much, why I couldn’t see food as just food and not a means of numbing myself. This is the point when I start to re-nourish my body. This is also the most terrifying and trying point in the story. It is the part where the dead line that had been my existence for so many years starts to become a wide range of mountains and valleys, of emotions jumping all over the place, of memories coming to light, of confusion, of pain, of years of silence being brought to voice. Yes, this is by far the most terrifying part of the story. It is the journey to reattach my body with myself. It is the process of me mending, by hand, the ties I severed in the first place. And let me say, it is a fucking hard one. Connecting with my body is like trying to reel in a thrashing shark with your bare hands. Nearly impossible, and one in which you will cut up along the way. But a shark can’t thrash forever; even that powerful animal grows tired and will fall limp in the water. So for me, it is about holding out long enough for my body to surrender itself back to me. It is about turning away from the critic in my mind and starting to lead myself into a life completely separate from the one I knew. A life where it may begin again with those early years of body discovery. A life where I may look at my hands and find fascination again or look at my legs and find peace with them. A life not clean of the past hurts because no one can go back and change what has happened, but a life moving in an entirely new direction, a life 180 degrees from the path previous.
Morgan Blair is the Founder and Creative Director of Unpolished Journey. She is the older sister of Emily Blair, who is now Co-director at Unpolished. Morgan is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied writing, video, and art therapy. After struggling with an eating disorder for over a decade now, Morgan created Unpolished Journey with the intention of forming a community where recovery and life could coexist. Through her own recovery journey, Morgan has learned that no matter what passions she pursues in life – whether that be her affinity for scuba diving, her love of art, or desire to help others – recovery must hold a firm presence in all her affairs. Morgan can be found on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.