No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Isn’t that how the saying goes? But what about when it’s not just one but many, and the message is so constant, so powerful, so overwhelming that you didn’t even conceive that it wasn’t true for 10 years or more?
Write your pain in sand and your joy in stone.
But how? How? The painful words are already carved so deeply in my heart — they were so often repeated that I began repeating them to myself, in an effort to silence my pain and invalidate my own experiences. In an effort to conform to what was expected so maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much anymore.
Perfect love casts out fear, and you are loved perfectly by God.
Then why am I still so afraid? Why won’t it go away? I don’t want to be afraid.
Just ignore her, she only wants attention.
What’s so wrong with attention? Does my wasting body not tell you about my wasting soul? Do the scars on my arms and legs not tell you about the scars on my soul? For the girl with the words, the girl who was going to write books some day, I never ever had the words for the pain. And I still don’t, even though I’ve long left the starving and cutting.
Why so downcast? Put your hope in God.
But I cannot see Him, I cannot hear Him, and my understanding of Him makes me afraid and confused and angry. I do not want the abuser God, and I cannot see this God of love you tell me I should already know.
It’s not a big deal; you need to let it go.
But how? How can I let it go? I can’t even get a grip on it for long enough to let it go. If it’s not a big deal, then why does it all hurt so much? What the hell is wrong with me that I can’t stop the hurt?
I remember the counselor I went to when I was 14 and anorexic. She was short and thin with blonde wavy hair — beautiful, well-dressed and poised. And I was tall, fat, with a mess of brown curls and second-hand clothes that I hadn’t picked out, awkward and gangly and untrained in propriety. She was all I wanted to be and couldn’t. She introduced me to protein shakes, and I would be so anxious after seeing her that I would eat nothing for days, just drink those protein shakes. I’d be lucky if I could eat a meal or two before my next visit with her, when the cycle would start all over again. I remember so much shame, hiding it all from her smiles and attempts to bring me out of my shell. I told her what I thought she wanted to hear. We had intellectual discussions, but anytime we got close to what mattered, to what hurt, I couldn’t share with her. You’re being paid to care about me, I thought to myself. And besides, I’m not allowed to think what I think and feel what I feel. I can’t trust you.
I’m too much. Too much. Too much and not enough.
You don’t need to be afraid of the things that scared you when you were five.
Everyone needs to hear this, of course. It’s true. But how? How do you stop?
I remember when food would turn my stomach. My dad, unable to understand what I was unable to articulate, would push food at me all the time. Bowls of popcorn on movie night — if I couldn’t finish the bowl, he was upset. Second helpings at dinner. He thought he was trying to help. I had to take notes with me in my lunch box from my mom, notes that my friends had to sign saying I’d eaten my whole lunch that she had packed to the brim. I was thankful for the few friends who would split my lunch with me and sign the note anyway. They must have seen my silent panic and despair every lunch hour. The few friends who seemed to understand what I couldn’t articulate.
I have no wish to be a woman of valor. I have no wish to be strong. I just want to not be afraid anymore. I don’t want a single word or a single phrase or a beautiful experience of a friend to trigger such fear and doubt and pain. I don’t want to. I don’t want it.
Food isn’t a problem so much anymore, aside from fear of new food and fear of eating in public. Tonight, for instance, I shall enjoy a feast with closest friends. And I will smile, and the pain will lessen and life will seem a little sweeter. I’ll feel like the teenager that I never got to be.
But the panic. The depression. The sadness that I’ve spent my whole life fighting, always fighting.
I still don’t have the words.