Two Voices

I was on Facebook looking at my “On This Day” memories and came across a video I’d posted of me playing guitar and singing 3 or 4 years ago. This was at a time in my life when I was very VERY unhealthy but also skinny.

As I watched the video I noticed things I’d never noticed before. My arms were skinny, probably the best they’ve ever looked, my shoulders were cut and defined, my collarbones stood out like razorblades erupting from my flesh and my cheeks were sunken in harsh squares, a clean right angle from jaw to chin.

There are two voices in my head watching this video.

The first was horrified. Initially she’d admired the arms and shoulders, but the face so startled her that she drew back in the realization that she’d been admiring careful starvation. The video was in what I’d always thought of as my “recovery period” but I was so painfully underweight that, today, I’m thinking I may have overestimated my recovery. Or maybe, I just had a long way to come back.

The first voice wants to know how I had DONE that to myself. She wants to know how I could have missed the lank hair, the pallid face, the painful angles my skeletal structure made protruding against my skin. She remembers all the hours spent at the gym and wonders how I had “worked out” when I so lacked muscle, when I was skin and bone and not much else.

The second voice reminds me that fifteen more pounds and I’d be nearly in that range again and fifteen pounds is easy. A couple weeks of nothing but juice and an occasional handful of almonds and that face in the video could be mine again. My abs look like the after photos in BeachBody ads and yet I have this second voice telling me I could starve my way back to a thigh-gap.

This is the reality of eating disorders. They never go away. Even if you’re eating normally, and you feel in control. Even if you’re happy with the way you look. There is something in you that CRAVES starvation, purging, overexercising. The desire to punish yourself, mold yourself, shrink until you disappear never goes away. You just learn to ignore it.

I learned to get angry at it.

Probably not the most healthy reaction but finally I think I’m at a place where I can yell at that second voice to shut up. I can tell it it’s stupid and I’m fine as is, and that I do still have a couple pounds I’d like to lose, but that like the other 60 I lost, I’m going to do it the right way, so it stays off. So I can maintain. So I can eat cake on my mom’s birthday and sushi on a mini-vacay with Jo and not feel bad.

This is what being in control really feels like. I don’t know how I mistook hurting myself for control, but I did. Over and over again I took a backseat to my disorder.

I won’t do it again.

But this is today. There is always the chance of backsliding. The second voice doesn’t leave. It is patient. It waits for moments of weakness.

This is why we need to be kind to each other.

This is why media giants like Cosmo need to avoid posting unrealistic beauty goals like back and shoulder contouring.

This is why we need to remind our friends and family of the ways they are beautiful.

In hopes that it will help save others from this confusing pull in two directions over something that should be shallow and unimportant.

No one should have to choose between health and image.

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Leave Brittaney Alone!

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This came up in my feed today on Facebook.
(If you don’t feel like reading: her bf controlled her and told her what she should look like until he left her and she wrote an open letter reclaiming herself. Seriously, just go read the article.)
More than one person I know, a couple I’m related to, posted it along with something about how it’s terrible but WHY would she even STAY with someone like that. WHY would she try?
Let me tell you a story (wrought with oversharing -you have been warned).
Once upon a time a man I was in a relationship with a man who said the following things to me:
“You’re cute, but you could be thinner. You’ve got fat here, here, there…”
While I was consuming 700-1000 calories a day and working out a minimum of 2 hours a day to be skinnier for him. “Your shoulders are so wide, you REALLY don’t want to get too much muscle in your upper body.” Laughter “I don’t want to be dating a MAN!”
“I don’t like your hair so short, but there’s not really anything we can do about THAT right now, so I guess it’ll do. Just don’t cut it.”
“A couple implants and you’d be PERFECT.” Followed by many separate instances where he tried to convince me I could swing plastic surgery and it was going to change my life and his. He might MARRY me if I had tits.
Scathing tone. “You don’t wear, like ANY makeup, do you?”
“Not too late for Invisalign” Because MY slightly recessed right lateral incisor is so much worse than his crooked smile and skewed values.
“You’re wearing THAT to dinner? Wear this instead.” Followed by the makeup critique.
“You love when I help you.”
In the end he cheated and I was left with an eating disorder exacerbated to extreme proportions and the entirely irrational, unreasonable, conviction that if I had just put more effort into looking how he wanted, lost a few more pounds, taken more supplements to grow my hair, got more creative with my push up bra game, that I could have kept him.
I could fit my hand up under my ribs when I scooped my stomach with how thin I was. I’d go out with friends and never pay for a drink from other men vying for my attention. I could have had ANYONE. But I wanted him and tried to be better for him. I was SO focused on being better, I didn’t notice how absolutely sh*t HE was in general.
He HIT ME and I stayed. He tore my calf muscle with his TEETH and I stayed. Telling me he’d leave me if I got fat was just the baco-bits on top of the sh*t salad of that relationship.
Staying with someone who thinks you’re ugly is easy. Especially if you believe it.
Brittaney is SO MUCH STRONGER than me. She got out while the getting was good. She reclaimed herself. And she’s strong enough to tell the world. I can’t post this on Facebook because my mom might see.
An ugly little part of me is still ashamed that I stayed.
The very few times I’ve spoken about my past in relation to domestic violence, bullying, body shame, and other related campaigns there is ALWAYS someone who says something truly hideous to me about how what was done to me was my fault.
A woman on twitter once tweeted me this gem in regards to the same relationship: Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 12.32.44 AM
I couldn’t bear if one of my friends or family responded like this.
So I’ll say my bit here, anonymously for the most part.
I’m willing to stake lives on the fact that most victims feel like they’re at fault for their own situation without anyone else shaming them. So if we could stop saying things like “why did she stay?” that would be great. Obviously there were reasons.
I had my reasons.
I was sad.
I hated myself.
I thought if someone else was hurting me and hating me, I could stop doing it to myself.
I was wrong.
If you know where to look, the ringed scar on my calf muscle is still visible under the skin where his teeth went in like a shark’s. It’s never going to heal completely. It seizes in the cold. I will NEVER be free of the decisions that linked up my life and that assh*le’s. I don’t need anyone else reminding me how bad I screwed up.
Neither do people like Brittaney. No one who has been abused, physically or emotionally, needs an extra “how could you” in their life.  We’ve got enough of our own.
Brittaney we’ll probably never meet, but I think you’re awesome. Your red hair is hot! That Shakespeare tattoo is poppin’! I want to high five and hug you. If I could I’d punch every idiot disparaging you of social media STRAIGHT in the junk, I would.
My idiot family members included.