I Think My Obsession Made You Feel Bad About Your Body

I’ve written countless words that have made their way onto the internet in a multitude of public to quasi-private forums. I’ve blogged for long stretches in three separate places. I’ve nurtured the social media outlets. I engage in as many safe-enough spaces for me to represent the most authentic view of myself, my family, my experiences with this whole crazy thing we’re all in together — life.

There’s a lot that it’s really tricky to say on social media. There’s a lot that it’s really tricky to say in person or via text or to the faces of people whom you love dearly. So things inevitably go unsaid.
Sometimes the unsaid things pile up and interfere with your life, happiness, ability to love, to connect, etc. That happened to me this past year.

One of the really vulnerable pieces about myself and my story that I’ve always shared is my serious and debilitating six-year struggle with bulimia in my teens and early twenties. A six-year struggle with stints of depression, self-injury, a suicide attempt, and eventually numbing with any substance that could make it all hurt a little less, or allow me to function just that much more normally for an hour or a day.

And then I met my amazing husband, got sober, got pregnant, learned to eat again, and started the long road back toward life (because it was easy-peasy like that, right?). I wrote and shared some about addiction and sobriety—what it was like to be in recovery (for all the things) in your early twenties—what that meant for us as a young couple, as a new family, etc. What the benefits were and how I/we navigated life that way.

I got real normal about food too. Normal. Whatever the hell that means.

I tried to show as best I could the process from a person using the system, to a person being schooled to work as a professional in the system, to a “professional” working in the system, to a person passing as a professional with a lot of privilege and some power in the overall functioning of said system.

All of this is to say, that when I “lost” my way, I put it out there.

I put it out there when I started eating Paleo—and how it made me feel like a million bucks.

I put it out there when I saw incredible changes in my body.

I put it out there when I saw improvements in my strength and fitness.

I put it out there when I began telling my story in that context too.

I put it out there when I got a tummy tuck, and when I got into incredible shape before and after.

I put it out there before I realized the cage of control was closing me in. Had closed me in.

I say “I put it out there” almost like it’s a somewhat passive thing that stops with me. I don’t believe that at all. We are all so inter-connected here. The ideas and thoughts and feelings we consume affect us. Even the messages and images we blindly scroll by infiltrate our subconscious. We are so bombarded daily. And I became a piece of the noise.

I was holding others up to the high bar I have/had for myself. I was short-sighted—and sometimes exceptionally long-sighted—in my priorities (i.e. over-prioritizing current body, or living in good health for 100 years) to the detriment of that which I actually hold most dear: family, connection, love, community (to name a few).

It was sometimes hard for me to piece out the inklings of uncertainty because our society appreciates so loudly the aesthetic. So loves the strong-willed and self-controlled and tends to get so damn quiet about the rest.

The problem with me specifically becoming a piece of the noise is that I have a strong voice. I always have. I think I have influence that I’ve never fully understood. And may never understand. It was a weight I felt but couldn’t articulate. It was a truth I ran from when things got hard.

It’s my use of that voice—and my projection of that life/body as both desirable and attainable—that has brought me back to a statement like this, over and over and over again the past few months. The more the realizations and eye-openings come to me, the more the urge inside grows until it starts spilling out, and I can hardly hold it back.

This needs to be said.

I was off track. I fucked up at the “recovery” I’d touted pretty loudly for a long time—and then got quiet about it. And loud about something else.

The truth I can share here is: I’ve been renegotiating what recovery means for me, with myself and those close to me, for the past 3–4 years (and just for the MSW/government employee that I am: this is in no way implying/admitting/acknowledging criminal or otherwise unethical behavior).

I’ve found it to be a process littered with outer messages I’ve come to carry inwardly and crushing but so frustratingly dichotomous societal/professional expectations.

I feel like when I was spinning in my shit, I may have spun up some stuff in other people. Maybe some feeling of not being enough, or doing enough, or having enough: will or motivation or time or resources or support. Or interest.

I think body dissatisfaction is contagious, and I’ve been sick for awhile.
And I’m sorry.
I’m embarrassed and hesitant and self-conscious.

I’m also unwavering in my knowing that the way forward for me is to share this. To own this. To show it, as much as I can. I’ve been immersing myself in Brene Brown. And right now, that means Rising Strong.

I’ve been doing it in pieces, but without this piece—without the opening up and the actual owning—it may as well be vague-booking. Ugh.

And I’ve come back time and time again to social media. It’s a strong piece of my story.

It always has been.

I posted my suicide note on Livejournal in 2001.

It’s a tenuous relationship, and I don’t always know how best to manage.

But I’m thinking no one else does either. We’ve never grown up on social media before. We haven’t gone from angsty teen to total fuck-up to gritty early recovery to the American dream to a breakdown in the emptiness of that (deep breath) in such a public—yet intimate—way before.

I don’t have to listen to the fear of those that think it will break us.
I choose to step into the bright spotlight of vulnerability and believe that the truth will set us free.

Photo Credit: Skye Suicide via Compfight cc

  1. Hey Ashley,

    Thank you for writing this. Thank you for admitting that the ways you began to control yourself again were actually out of control (or at least, that’s what I took from it), and that you realised you needed to change things rather than ‘spin shit up’ in other people. I appreciate your candour, and the way you bought into the message you were trying to buy out of, and how it proliferated. These are things I’m struggling with in a different kind of way, but reading your perspective was helpful.

    Hope things go well for you, onwardly.

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