QUICK SIDENOTE: this is the busiest week of busy weeks, a non-souffle of trying to get my health-game back on track, helping my mom plan for a move to Chi-town-not-my-town, overbooking myself with friends to make up for sucking at friendship in the last few weeks, that whole finishing my damn education thing, etc. So bear with me as posting is super spotty. This is a piece I had floating around my desktop aimlessly, and so–in lieu of this hectic week–I figured, why not?
The act of being bullied or insulted during adolescence is practically a rite of passage into adulthood. Everyone endures it on some level, and though certain scenarios are more extreme than others, these seemingly minor punches can bruise us for years to come, and in most cases, they remain tender throughout our lives. It would be easy to brush these aside as situations that “help build character” – you know, the old “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” spiel – and perhaps they do. But by leaving them at that, we fail to really unload this emotional baggage, instead letting it stew in the pits of our stomachs waiting to pop up (or, more likely, explode) later in our lives, dressed as something totally different.
When I was first diagnosed with anorexia, I couldn’t imagine finding a silver lining within a disease that robbed me of both my best qualities and, oddly, my worst, but also nearly took my life. In my doom-and-gloom state of mind, everything looked irretrievably fucked up, and I found people who tried to justify their setbacks with sayings such as “everything happens for a reason” to be overly-optimistic, and thus delusional. Eventually, with my more nourished body and soul (though the struggle continues), I’ve been able to step away from the boiling point for a bit and reflect on it with a more realistic and relaxed eye. Rather than avoiding the truths that lay beneath the surface of my developing an eating disorder, I’ve been able to unearth them and acknowledge them honestly. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to accept previous existential slip-ups (on a good day, of course) and look at the various ruptures of my past with a tenderness that, prior to this disease, was held hostage by a combination of what you might call denial and inner-rage.
Middle and high school tend to be breeding grounds for the insecurities and setbacks that will haunt us (if we let them) for the remainder of our lives. I was certainly hoarding plenty of shame myself throughout those years, but I was not strong or smart enough at the time to explore it. I refused to stare my demons in the face, so instead they built up inside me waiting for a later date to show themselves. I covered them up with a faux-confidence that often bordered on being obnoxious, determined to convince others that I was totally comfortable with myself and that they couldn’t bring me down.
I think it is common for people in their teens to want to push their damages under the rug, hoping that they’ll disappear. As I’ve grown older I’ve learnt that the most interesting, well-rounded people tend to pull them out, stare them boldly in the face, and eventually move on. They never really go away, but I’m convinced that wholeheartedly accepting them is a necessary step if you want to change your perspective or alter your behavior. People, of course, will spend years trying to change whatever their flaws might be, or to erase any bad memories from their brain-bank, but in attempting to do so, most of us will end up back at square one, realizing that such a task is impossible.
So, because Tuesday just isn’t real enough, I’ll leave you with this: What are you ashamed of? Who hurt you in the past, and how? Which version of yourself do you try to deny having ever existed? I recommend inviting them back into your party-cum-life before trying to move on to the next phase (or five). As Queen D (nee, Joan Didion) once wrote, “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.” In the long run, your prior insecurities enrich whichever character you’ve become today—better to admit and acknowledge them then to dabble in the dualities of a regular Patrick Bateman.
Note: It is not always necessary to hit rock bottom as a means of driving out your inner demons, so rather than attempting something extreme a la starvation, do try something with a bit more rationality (although I recommend involving a strong drink and a friend who’s already seen you at your worst).