Today, standing in the kitchen, I realised that if I were a man that most of the damaging things that have happened to me most likely would not have happened at all. In fact, scrap ‘most like’, I am sure they would not have happened. In the early stages of eating disorder recovery feminism played a big role for me, it taught me to get angry. I realised that the relationship I had been in had been abusive, and I got angry. I realised that I hadn’t just woken up one day and decided to stick my head in the toilet, that it was a reaction, a product to a succession of events and a context that acted as an ED incubator that had gotten me there. And I got angry. Standing in a different kitchen, four years ago in a North Melbourne suburb, airboot on one foot, orange and black patchy bob and a skirt slowly becoming too big again, I told an old school friend of not one but two incidents where boys had assaulted me. A year ago, age 24, I actually learn that a forced blowjob is actually, legally rape, not ‘just’ assault, and I’m stunned. And then I’m angry.
When I think of the real catalyst, an anonymous bullying shitshow, it would be easy to fall into the girls are catty, girls are the real bitches here, sure boys tease but girls can hurt trope. I’m bored of that. The group of girls in question, spearheaded by someone who this summer tried to add me on LinkedIn, seemed to have walked out of the OC, with eating disorders and self harm issues to boot. The way they felt about themselves, the things they said to me, were as much a product of tragic self-esteem and forced narcissism as they were internalised misogyny. I am sad for little me, in her too tight clothes, rolled skirt waistband and poorly applied eyeliner. I was the easiest target in the world.
The need to be thin, the need to be liked, the need to be desired, the need to be just right. This has been the first summer in 12 years where I haven’t tried to lose weight. The last two weeks I’ve powered through More, Now, Again and Girl, Interrupted, and re-read Wasted. All I want to talk about at the moment is the injustice of being a woman, and its effects on my health and my wellbeing and my sense of self. The concept of ‘woman’, was so completely alien from my 19 year old identity (and it was a proud identity) of ‘bulimic’, but they are so obviously connected now. Too much, where the boundaries of my body blurred and I poured myself into the world and the world poured itself back into me. 17 and pokey bones, in love with how poetic I was and how creative it felt to very slowly set myself on fire, for everyone to see. I’m pissed at the literal years I wasted, but I’m more pissed at how much I still want to be back there.
I’ve typed out a tweet, it’s just sitting there, world mental health day now technically over, and it reads: this has been the first summer in 12 years where I haven’t tried to lose weight. that’s my happy #WorldMentalHealthDay for you x. I can’t figure out where it comes from, am I showing off? If I’m showing off why do I feel ashamed. I’m embarrassed to have not attacked my body. I’m reflecting and trying to find something to call myself out on. Last summer I was vegan and in the gym for almost two hours a day. Summer of 2010 is one of the more memorable, I discovered the world of pro-ana and consciously tossed myself into a 16 kilo-loss, lanugo-filled, friendless pit. 2008 I’ve started throwing up properly again, the dresses I got for a wedding are too big and I’m pleased. 2006 I come back to school and the girls who sent me paragraphs on who I was a bigfatslut are in the changing rooms telling me how good I look before we go to PE.
The pride women take in how little they eat is disgusting. I came home and played with the idea of going straight to bed, 8pm, with no dinner. Boyfriend at work, no one to know or ask. I played with how good that made me feel, I imagined waking up in the morning and feeling emptier and my stomach flatter, any feelings of fullness, of substance, gone. I made the conscious choice to have dinner. That’s recovery, to be honest. You can spend years and hundreds and it boils down to standing in the kitchen pantless and alone making a small but very important choice. I get to make that choice several times a day. Sometimes but rarely it’s not a choice, in that walking out the office I find myself in the Co-op, and I am pleased to find that my choices are not eat or not eat but falafel and hummus or a ploughmans or maybe an all day breakfast because fuck you I’m not vegan anymore. That’s a cool day and I don’t think anything of it at the time. That’s recovery too. You let things go and you don’t sit in bed at almost 1 in the morning writing a blog post about your Choices afterwards (oops).
Hornbacher’s right you know. Recovery is this place, it’s not an end point and then you’re done, you’re in this weird place bopping around. The intensity of every day is turned up just a lil bit because if you’re not in the zone where you are capable of choosing which sandwich you would like then you have to force yourself into it. The mental energy required is astounding and exhausting. It is tiring to make good choices. It’s tiring to feel sad about making ‘good’ choices. I have the right to starve if I would like but I don’t think I have the capacity anymore. A friend once said “I don’t hate myself enough to do that anymore”. The we said “sometimes I wish I did”. I wish, sometimes, that I hated myself enough to not eat. Why. Because, I think, I am a woman. And again, now I am angry.