Complete separation of church and state / who is the mind and who is the body?
I used to get so angry at my (imagined, fat) body for not representing me (my mind). How could it! How dare it. Deviant and unruly body, as if it could be bent and moulded into shape (it seemed like it could). A project to make myself (body) representative of myself (mind).
The things I valued about myself (mind) were intelligence and empathy. I could not imagine an intelligent or empathetic fat body as being reflective of these qualities. I demonised fatness and tried to embody a cold anorexic logic: desensitised, abstemious, focused and driven, self-sufficient.
Recovery is recovering selfhood. When you’re that young you do not know about identity because you are developing and growing, by embodying values that equate thinness with success (goodness) and fatness with being limited (badness) you ingrain this and drill it into you. If you’ve grown up in a fatphobic house it’s likely this has been ingrained and drilled into you from childhood. You drill it in more with an eating disorder. By the time you’re in your mid-twenties you are left with no clue as to who you are because you are no longer eating disordered (a livelihood), you are no longer thin and you are doing desperate detective work to uncover what you want, what you like, who you like, how you want to be perceived by others and by yourself, and any other vague fundamental of personalhood.
I do not actively think thin/good fat/bad anymore. Now it is more subtle. The eating disorder is easier because it is underdeveloped black and white thinking. Now I congratulate myself for moving my ‘goal weight’ on my FitBit app up by five kilos (a fairly substantial amount, to tell you that the goal weight I had before was both silly and unattainable through any ‘healthy’, and I mean healthy for me, method. It had been set to that weight for a long time.) but why have a goal weight at all? Can’t I get rid of that feature on the app? Why haven’t I opened the app to have a look at if I can do that? I probably can. But I haven’t looked.
In maybe February I went out for dinner with a friend. Some days I am great (feisty, loud, outrageous commentary, very but daaaahrlings) but this evening I was not great. I was a tightly wound ball of anxiety for no good reason, trying to be daaaahrlings but missing the mark, shrill and not keeping it together. I had been overwhelmed by feelings and thoughts of leave, leave, escape, leave the country, move abroad, live alone and expressed this as “I’m considering going away, maybe a gap yah to find myself, ya know?” My friend laughed and said, along the lines of, you don’t need to do that! I don’t? No, you have such a sense of self, you seem to clearly know who you are! I was desperately overwhelmed by “please tell me who you think I am”. Please. Ready to beg, I must know – who do you think I am, who am I presenting, who is she? Because I do not feel as though I have a clue.
At the start of lockdown I redid my Myers-Briggs, we all did, sat around the kitchen table and then conferred with each other and later with friends. I had been an INTJ (I was very proud of this, very ‘I’m not like other girls!’ of me). On reflection, the pride may have come again from that anorexic logic: decisive, rational, private. Now I am an INTP (the personal growth is not being too disappointed about now being a slightly less rare personality type). Reading about my personality type and feeling understood but then reading some bits out loud and having friends go “I don’t think you’re like this!” is frightening. It makes me want someone to do the test for me, I can sit at their shoulder and explain my answers. It frightens me because it makes me question if I know myself, if my ‘true self’ (i.e. my thought process in choosing answers) is reflective of who I actually am or is just trying to fashion some kind of interesting or ‘best case’ personality, and then, who is this person my friends know?
This whole ordeal furthers my recent reflections on why I choose to research and learn about and surround myself with eating disorder literature. Does it come from a place of complete insecurity? Have I signed up to do a PhD just to try and ‘find myself’? Some people go to Thailand for a month and I commit to three years of inquiry. Personal inquiry, at that? At every stage I’m getting closer to unpicking this apart, but I think as a whole could be a dangerous game. The joy is learning about and seeing other academics do this, finding methodologies where they’re able to bring in the “I” and “me” and engage in what is valuable, reflexive work. But I wonder, for me, how much of that is framing – what is my real intent here?
Anyway, I don’t know. I have so many thoughts and have not been able to string a coherent sentence together for weeks now, so am glad that I’ve sat down and knocked this out. I feel very baggage heavy, a little bit lost at the moment.