Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Age 40

I battled with anorexia for many, many years. It is an illness that controlled every moment of every day. When I finally asked for help, I found healing. I still have dark moments, but continue to work on me. Along the way, I learned that beauty is within and radiates throughout…no matter how old…no matter your size. I am happier and healthier.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Age 30

My Body - these words reverberate through my mind like buckshot searching for clean, unmarred flesh. My Body - two little words that hold such power over my feelings of self-worth and right to participate in society. How much longer will I continue to berate myself for wanting food, not exercising 4 hours per day and wearing clothes that fit me, not the media's version of what's right? How many more hours of pinching fat on my stomach and wishing I had the courage to induce myself to vomit? What amount of self-loathing and flagellation will be enough to convince myself that I am not disgusting and irredeemably ugly? I yearn for the days when I starved myself into a body devoid of all indications female - a stick-like body that allowed me to ignore the joys and pain of womanhood and sexuality.

My body has been the enemy for the entirety of my remembered life. It is something to beat down and suppress into submission. It is never to be acknowledged, except to criticize its shortcomings, and especially unworthy of celebration. It is outside of me and yet, I can recognize the self-defeatism of tying self-worth to something as ephemeral as physical appearance. Even so, here I sit, hating myself for not being taller, thinner, prettier, better. I sometimes fleetingly daydream about what it would be like to wholly accept myself, but in truth, the word "self-acceptance" has no tangible reality for me; it is a word on a page that applies to other people, never me.

Growing up in a household where no product or technique was too dangerous in the quest to take up the smallest amount of space - a whittling down curbed only by skeletal dimensions – a paradigm of self-denial was created that has stalked me to present day. I can remember at the age of seven scrutinizing my reflection in the mirror, searching for affirmation of the thin ideal propagated by mother's words and actions. For a time, all was right and good with the world - I projected that ideal. Of course, when weight gained on the heels of my parents' divorce created a chubby child and adolescent, the condemnation and judgment of my family and peers was immediate and relentless. Constantly being scolded for my food choices, clothing size and weight led me to believe that somehow I was worth less in this bigger body.

I learned to associate a sense of shame with my appearance that remained even after I starved myself into psychological numbness and physical insignificance. Morphing into a body that fit the vision of cultural acceptability made me hate it even more. Now, instead of being vilified and scorned for being too large, I was applauded and lusted after for being so small. When did my body become public property?

I am tired of only seeing a chubby, mushy, worthless girl that doesn't deserve to eat or to live. I am tired of feeling slightly sick every time I look in the mirror, terrified of what I may see. Can I tolerate the image reflected back, or will I cry and decry the need to face the world while appearing so broken? I don't want to be stuck, forced to choose between subduing my body into a weak, unnatural shape and nourishing it so I can be free to move and run.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Age 16

Unlike most kids, I’m happy summer is over. Bathing suit season is done and I don’t have to make up excuses on why I can’t join my friends at the beach or pool anymore. I hate bathing suits. Or maybe just how I look in them. I feel so exposed. All of my friends are skinny and pretty. And me? Well, I’m just average. I know I’m not overweight…but I am not as thin as them. Not as pretty. I feel like I’m being judged when I am around them. I would like to be able to say I wish I were more comfortable in my own skin…but the truth is, I don’t want to be comfortable in MY skin. I want to be pretty. I want to be skinny. I don’t want to be average.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Age 44

Growing up, I hated my body. Schoolgirl competition certainly got the best of me. I compared myself to my classmates, wanting to be thinner, prettier and well-liked…just like the girls others admired. This obsession continued when I entered college, only my self-loathing intensified. Bulimia became a way of life.

I was always disappointed with the body I was given.

At 39, I was diagnosed with cancer and thought, once again, my body had let me down. This was the ultimate betrayal.

But what I discovered in the months that followed my diagnosis was that I was strong and ready to fight…and so was the body that I abused and tormented for years. We were in this together – and finally on the same page. The body I hated for so many years quickly became my biggest ally. I wanted to live. We wanted to live.

I fought back.

My body fought back.

I am now 44 and cancer-free. A survivor…and thankful for the body I was given. I’ve learned to treat my body as a friend, and not as an enemy. I am strong. I am healthy. And I am so happy to be alive.