Let Go Of Fear: I Didn’t Want to Be a Body, I Wanted to Be a Mind.
So many people over the years have asked me about my eating disorder.
So many people don’t understand, but have good intentions and wish to. It kills me because I can’t explain what it meant to me or why.
Some people ask because they themselves are struggling and just want to know what to do, and every answer I give seems inadequate. There are many programs out there teaching proper nutrition and positive body image and many of them truly are wonderful. Though they are life-saving, they infuriated me because they are so surface-level.
I know that my body needs carbs, protein and fats, and that throwing up food could ruin my esophagus and teeth, but why does it matter, why does any of it matter?
I just need to be raw for once. I’m writing this in my bed at midnight, when my mind is always at its most unforgiving, so I’m sure you will read more run-on sentences and bad grammar than the profound message I wish to send.
The first 25 years of my life have been vastly consumed by fear. I used to lie in bed all night grabbing my bones and just praying that my flesh would waste away. This wasn’t because I am a Caucasian middle-class female. This wasn’t because I was selfish. This wasn’t because I would look at Kate Moss and other thin models and want to be them.
This was because I could sense the vastness of the universe and could not help but wonder why the fuck I was alive in this wretched body, why any of us were.
I didn’t want to be a body. I wanted to be a mind, to have knowledge and be above the worldly desires.
Some people choose alcohol, drugs, sex, whatever. I chose food, scales, and mirrors. My eating disorder was my passive suicide because half of me didn’t want to live, but half of me was still holding on out of curiosity. How long could I last?
I would read about the lives of my favorite intellectuals and ascetics and I would come to the conclusion that their madness was their genius. Saint Catherine of Siena ate nothing but the Eucharist, Sylvia Plath stuck her head in an oven, Jesus Christ himself went into the desert and fasted for 40 days. I could not stop searching for answers in literature, religion, psychology, philosophy or medicine.
But in finding art and poetry, movement and stories, I couldn’t help but begin to fall in love with life and this world. There are so many cities to visit, so many people to meet, so many books to read.
What does one do when they simultaneously wish to die and live? In my case, I figured death was always something I could keep in the back of my pocket for later, whether it came naturally or by my own decision. I stepped into the fear, into the light, out of the madness… mostly.
People must believe that I’m recovered, right? I tell people I am. I have become a functional part of society; I am a mother, have a job, eat my proper calories, and get appropriate exercise every day.
But here is the part that I have never actually told anyone (because of course everyone just wants to hear the good part about love and flowers and growth and bullshit): the eating disorder/depression/anxiety/panic will never go away.
It will never go away because it is part of existence for many. And honestly, I am at peace with that. I don’t want people to look at me and wonder at the size of my arms or if I refuse an offer of food and why. I want people to look at me and just understand. I question my sanity daily, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
For those of you struggling currently with a disorder, who’ve read those last few sentences and lost some hope or feel cheated, I guess here is how I wake up each morning and put one foot in front of the other and keep food inside of my stomach:
Don’t let the complexity of the world terrify you. Let it inspire you. Because it is you.
It is your eyes and heart and lungs and thighs. All you have to do is look at your body, which is the same substance as the entire universe and all things beautiful and holy, and you will know that it doesn’t really matter where you’re going or how you will get there, but just that you exist and you are and you always will be.
You can raise awareness, political movements and money, but don’t forget to raise your eyes to your own reflection every once in awhile. Look into the depths, find the shadow, and lie down in it for awhile. The darkness will reveal to you your purpose, if you let it.
Then you will return to the light, because that is where the learned lessons are lived and your path made manifest.
Find your own salvation. The first step is becoming aware of your self as a human being who has the privilege of not just having a body, but being bodily.
Once you realize this, the fear will give way to love and it will be beautiful.
Olivia Reddick is a mother constantly in search for meaning and healing. She can often be found running, reading and exploring the backyard with her son. She shares her writings at I Am Olivia Marie whenever inspiration strikes.