#MyBodyStory is a weekly series of reader submitted pieces about what it’s like to live in your body.
If you have a story to share, please send it to : [email protected]
Remember, every body has a story.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in #MyBodyStory articles are the writer’s own.
And now, without further ado,
Here is Paige’s story.
When Dana asked me if I wanted to write a #MyBodyStory, my immediate response was…YES!
Let’s just say I have had a crush of sorts on this woman for years. A friend crush. A lady crush. A Goddess crush. I’m not sure how to categorize it. We shared many mutual friends in the days of our early twenties in San Francisco. I had admired her from afar, affectionately peeping her social media and coveting her hair, lips, body, and incredible sense of style. I had regarded her as one of those cool socialites that I was close enough to where I could say I knew her, but far enough removed to feel uncomfortable talking to her in person.
But years later when I was working as a server in San Francisco, Dana came in to eat. What I remember most about this interaction is that the old me had set up the expectation for all pretty girls to be bitchy. My own insecurities always had me on the defensive when I was in the presence of beautiful women (because I was obviously not like them). So when I noticed her, my immediate internal response was, “Ok Paige, here we go, play it cool and pretend like you don’t know her.” The old me had such debilitating fear of being rejected, that my conditioned way to deal with that was to hurt them before they could hurt me. Or show them how fierce I was with my coldness.
Since I didn’t love myself, I couldn’t imagine that these women could love me, let alone want to be my friend.
And yet, as I began serving Dana, my heart melted. My heart melted only in the way it can when warm souls come together. All of my failed efforts in coldness disappeared immediately because Dana was kind to me. Instantly, and without question or hesitation, she showered me with the sweetness of her being. Well shit, I thought, guess I’d better reveal the sweetness of my being too.
This is immeasurably cute, you see, because I’m a Capricorn (so is Dana). We Capricorns are known for our iron fortresses that guard the soft bellies of our hearts. Imagine a steel clamshell, locked tight, that opens slowly only to the tune of the perfect song, to reveal a softly rotating blindingly white pearl. And this perfect song, in our circumstance, happened to be compassion. Two sisters, having done (and still doing) years of ancestral healing from demonizing ourselves and our fellow womankind, coming together for a brief moment, seeing each other as equals, and honoring each other as sacred feminine. We were able to see past any conditioned bullshit and meet on a plane of shared empathy and understanding.
Sounds a little intense for a casual lunch in San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon. And I’ll say that I had no realization that this was occurring on that day. I may not have realized it until just now, as I wrote this. But in hindsight, that brief interaction was an instrumental building block to my falling in sister-love with Dana. It was an experience that gave me permission to be a beautiful woman who was also kind and loving, even if I couldn’t, wouldn’t, see myself that way for many years. It was a pebble tossed into a stagnant pool, creating an infinite network of ripples. All of this to say…it is an incredible honor to write alongside her. And without further ado…My Body Story…
Rent is due and I got called off of work today, thank God.
As I wake up and try to enjoy my coffee, my brain whizzes one thousand miles per hour. My fingertips fondle the keyboard of my laptop, bouncing back and forth from Facebook to my horoscope to my bank account to my work schedule to Facebook to Soundcloud and back to Facebook. This day is no different than any other day… I woke up feeling sick to my stomach, bloated, depressed, and swimming out of a nightmare; an actual nightmare. One that I can’t recall details of except for the feelings it left me with…shame, regret, remorse, and self-loathing.
I binged last night.
These words roll through my brain waves and off my tongue like liquid silver into a mold.
I have what Western Medicine calls, Binge Eating Disorder, and I sometimes repeat these words to myself, rehearsing what it would sound like if I ever made a public confession to anyone other than my Mom.
I have an addiction.
I place my hands on my lower abdomen. The physical side effects are familiar and harsh today, and the details aren’t pretty. The details which I don’t like talking about, because while I’m a strong, brave, powerful woman; a woman in the process of healing, and a healer herself; a musician, an artist, a dancer, a Goddess; a Witch and a Medicine Woman; I have my darkness.
The physical side effects are bloating and puffiness in my face. My fingers are swollen and I can’t take my rings off. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but I feel hungover. I’m emotionally defeated, and looking like I was slapped around the night before. Oh, and gas. Lots of it. And with every release, a double heaping of shame…regret.
Why did you do it, Paige? Can’t you just not do it, Paige? Just for one night, Paige?
Disgust. Disgust. Disgust. My digestion is a constant reminder of my current state of spiritual and emotional health.
In case I’m not being clear here, this is the deal:
I’ve been “overweight” my entire life. At least that’s what I had always been told by my mother, my childhood therapist, and the kids at my elementary school; not to mention society and the media. So naturally that’s what I’ve been telling myself since forever. Being overweight has become my story. My ingrained identity.
This self-loathing around my body and my weight accompanies me everywhere I go.
In high school I had English right after lunch break. I always showed up stoned; high on whatever I could get my hands on. My teacher, Mrs. Smith, was a kind, confident, and cool thirty-something who for some reason or other, took a liking to me and never reprimanded me for being high in her class. I remember her pulling me into her office at the end of the year close to graduation, when my substance abuse had become a daily occurrence. There she told me that she too struggled with addiction, but that her addiction was to food. Stoned at the time, I laughed out loud, thinking that she was making a joke. But she just looked at me with soft, steady eyes, and I realized immediately that she was serious.
At the time, I didn’t know what to make of her words because it would take many years for me to connect my binge eating habits to my drug and alcohol use.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I got sober. I quit drinking and smoking and doing drugs. But with nothing to numb my feelings, my food issues surfaced and I finally became aware of my habitual binge eating that I was using as a tool to escape my emotional state.
Fast forward to last spring, my year of transformation. Plant medicine and a spiritual community found its way into my life and things started to become a lot better. I could feel myself healing. I was happier and more motivated. I was expressing myself more freely, writing music for the first time in years, and experiencing heaping amounts of joy.
A lot has happened this last year.
I went to Burning Man for the first time, where I discovered that I loved to dance. I was able to shake off the veil that had previously imprisoned me and kept me from expressing myself fully. I discovered that the dance floor was a place for me to dress and move the way that I wanted without worrying what other people thought about me.
I was still bingeing, but it was becoming background noise.
I felt completely liberated and reborn, and yet…
Fast forward to now.
What if I told you that I have never been in a more frightening place with food in my entire life as I am right now? What if I told you that one month ago I found myself in a binge spiral that kept me from leaving my house? What if I told you that I am fighting a constant battle with myself; between radical self-love and self-loathing? The truth is, I’ve been hiding my eating disorder for years.
I know that there is a void inside of me and it doesn’t matter what I fill it with.
Anything will do: alcohol, drugs, money, work, drama, sex…food. Like a game of Whack-A-Mole, as one demon head is destroyed, another one pops up unexpectedly.
It has always been there, sometimes seemingly dormant; only to reveal itself at any given opportunity. It can appear when I’m tired, or sad, or lonely, or I don’t feel seen. It can appear when I feel uncomfortable, or slighted, or when I’m being hard on myself.
The reasons might change but I always binge because I’m feeling something I don’t want to be feeling.
This is more crystalline and visible than it was in my early twenties, when I could blur these facts out with alcohol. And while my eating disorder is clearly something that needs to be addressed, I am actually grateful that I can see it now for what it is. I can piece together some understanding of it, rather than to continue recklessly and blindly with my behavior.
Is all hope lost?
Nah. I don’t live like that! I am a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted, infinitely fractal-ated human being. It is completely reasonable for a person to simultaneously be suffering and healing at the same time; facing severe challenges while also evolving; and seemingly backtracking and failing, all while steadily moving towards the light. As I write this, I’m trying to pull together some semblance of advice for anyone currently suffering from an eating disorder. In my dreams I envisioned this piece of writing ending on a high note, telling you all some revelation that I’d had, or how some mentor came into my life and healed me, or even a WeightWatchers success story! But the truth is, I am a work in progress…or as my dear friend Terry likes to say, a work of art in progress.
I am still suffering, but I am also working on myself.
And I’m okay with that. I have to be. Because self-shaming is just thick icing on a cake of destruction. This bingeing is more than enough for one person to handle, and I don’t need any extra baggage; I’ve got plenty.
I think the most positive thing that I have learned from all of this is that I’m not alone.
I never was alone, and I never will be alone. My journey of self-love and self-discovery has had a lot to do with humbling myself enough to ask for help. Sometimes that looks like actually asking for help, and sometimes it looks like breaking into tears in your friend’s car out of nowhere, and just allowing it to happen. Allowing someone who loves you to hold space for you.
I have told a few women (and men!) in my life who know about my relationship with food. Whenever I need them, they listen to me, comfort me and console me. Sometimes they have advice, sometimes they don’t. Some of them have done nothing but hold me and let me cry. Some of them have shared their own body image and food issues. But the unanimous message from all of them was clear:
You do not have to do this alone.
Let it be said that I don’t think I will suffer the fate of binge-eating forever. I can’t think that way. I won’t think that way. In my experience, I have learned that even if I want to change, I can’t actually change until I’m ready. Really, really ready. And most of the times when I thought I was ready, I wasn’t actually ready.
I take responsibility for my life and for my actions, but I also believe in something greater than me. An unimaginable force. And I think the outcome of my life is nestled snugly between my own free will and the grace of all that is. And I’ll be done when I’m done.
In the meantime, I think I’ll keep on healing without shame.
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