A Message to My Eating Disorder (Warning: Language)

Mental Health

Warning: Language is a poem written about and dedicated to my eating disorder. I’ve been told, by myself and others, to be small with my voice and small with my body: this is not that.

Fuck you

Fuck you for telling me that I’m worthless and useless

And promising me that I could be something great

Like I’m not that already

Telling me I need you

Like I don’t already know that I need you even if I don’t really need you

Fuck you for making me need you when I’m not supposed to need you

Your toxicity makes me worthless and useless

You make me worthless and useless

Just like you tell me I am

Fuck you for making me feel worthless and useless

Telling me I am nothing close to great without you

Like I could never be great, except for you

Like every sense of pride and joy I’ve ever felt were lies

Lies I tell myself to hide the worthless, useless, hurting

Toxic stop talking stop talking stop talking

Fuck you for making me the person who needs you

And telling me I need you

Promising me I want you

Making me feel that together we could be

Hiding any strength I have to fight back

I am not weak but I am weak with you

You are the one that I hate, and that I hate, and that I will never love but need

Because I am weak and any strength I have to fight back

Is hidden

By you

So fuck you

Fuck you, you fucking asshole that is every voice that tells me not to swear

To be quiet and calm, to fit your idea of who I am

To be small with my voice and to be small with my body

I am six fucking feet tall and god knows how many pounds

Because I’m not allowed to weigh myself because I’m too weak

Fuck you for telling me I’m not loud when I am so fucking loud

My voice echoes down halls and my laugh turns corners and I stand in front of crowds and I am fucking loud

I am vibrant and big and can be confident when you’re not there

Because when you’re there I’m worthless, worthless, useless

And small

Small for you.

But I am six fucking feet tall and god knows how many pounds

With limbs in all directions and a fucking voice that needs to scream sometimes

Not because you make me want to scream, and you make me want to scream

But because I have things to scream about that aren’t you

And I will scream

And fuck you for telling me this won’t work

I’ve read the words of anger from the people who aspire to write the words of anger that inspire people to be the people who write words of anger from a place of aspiration and inspiration and fuck you that can be me

I am authentic and imperative to my world and a force of nature that will destroy and create

Aspiring myself to be great, inspiring others to be great

I can change my world, the world, the world of others

Fuck you for telling me to be small 

And not do any of this

Because I have limbs that go in all directions and fat that stretches my clothes

And fuck you for telling me to be small when I’m anything but

I’m going to scream and change the world

I’m going to scream and change you

I’m going to scream and change me

Fuck you. You will not win. We will not coexist, happily or otherwise.

I will fight. I will scream. I will lead the charge.

I will never stop fighting, screaming, leading the charge. 

So, fight back, scream back, you fucking coward

Because you’re going to need to.

An Exercise in Vanity and Challenging My Eating Disorder

Mental Health
Photo by Chelsee Taylor, https://chelseetaylor.com/
Makeup and hair by Robin-Miranda Vince, @robinskivinski

This is me.

This is my body.

This is who I am.

I am more than the eating disorder that tries to define me. I am more than the stomach rolls that make me nauseous. I am more than the underarm fat magazines tell me they can help me lose.

I asked for these photos to challenge my anxious thoughts and intrusive self-hate. I talked to the photographer and makeup artist about wearing clothes I normally don’t wear, boasting makeup that accentuates my features, and posing to show off my body. Collaborating with positivity and talent instead of the deal I made with my eating disorder to hide my body, hide my curves, hide my fat, hide me.

The challenge was: there is no difference between me and the gorgeous models I see, accept a talented photographer and make-up artist. You can decide for yourself, but in my mind, we came through pretty damn well.

Because, I am also the stomach rolls that look so gorgeous in this photographer’s camera lens, the underarms that show off a classic style, and, whatever happens, I am the eating disorder I continue to battle. I am these things and the grief that consumes me today is the power that I can leverage to move towards acceptance tomorrow.

These photos were my way of taking charge of my own narrative and creating evidence that can debate the hate that consumes me. This is me, my body, who I am, and I can love it, accept it, and live with it.

Photo by Chelsee Taylor, https://chelseetaylor.com/
Makeup and hair by Robin-Miranda Vince, @robinskivinski

This is also me. I can be both.

I can be fabulous and awkward, fierce and anxious, beautiful and scared. I can choose some of the things that I am, battle against others, live with many.

This photo exudes the energy of someone who is sensual and confident and, honestly, loves their leg. Sometimes, it’s alright to stack the odds in your favour when you want to be something that you don’t feel. Book a photographer, organize the makeup artist, borrow that dress, and become everything you want to be.

Photo by Chelsee Taylor, https://chelseetaylor.com/
Makeup and hair by Robin-Miranda Vince, @robinskivinski

And this, this is also me. I am more even than these photos. I asked for this photo, chose this proof, and love very breath of it.

An orthodontic surgeon once told me that I smile with too much gum and that, while fixing a scheduled dental issue, could fix this as well. My parents brushed off this request and moved on. I suffered for months with the first real opportunity to change my body. Eventually, I decided that although I didn’t love my smile, it was my smile. I see it in the mirror and use it to greet friends. It’s the first impression I offer and how I laugh. I may not love it, but I don’t hate it…it is simply, me.

I asked for this photo because I wanted to see me. In case these photos became something more and I lost sight of my every day me, I wanted one photo that I could connect to. In the end, this photo completed the set. It is perfect, just like me.

So, here they are. Three of the photos that I booked, posed for, selected, and now own. They are gorgeous and fierce and joyful and make me want to write, which is the ultimate sign for me that I can be passionate about myself. This was an adventure of self-indulgence, vanity, and decadence. I could not be more proud.

Blog featured image

Photo by Chelsee Taylor, https://chelseetaylor.com/
Makeup and hair by Robin-Miranda Vince, @robinskivinski

Accepting Mental Illness as a Journey, Not a Quest

Mental Health

Growing up an aspiring fantasy author, I studied the many paths my characters could take. An adventure is a trip without a destination. A journey is where the trip itself matters most. A quest is a trip to accomplish a specific task. I dreamed of romantic journeys, wild adventures, and life changing quests. As a character in my own personal epic, mental illness was just another quest: something to overcome and move past. I did not just reject the idea that mental illness could be an ongoing journey, I completely ignored any consideration of it.

I have worn many labels in the form of my diagnoses: generalized anxiety, major depression, panic disorder, and, most recently, bulimia nervosa. Each label is a new quest, a new challenge to overcome. A series of quests to the “perfect mental health”. That was true, at least, until I sat down to an online mental health seminar titled The Imperfect Recovery.

My goal in attending this seminar was recovery: to beat bulimia and move past it once and for all. This workshop was aimed at” “imperfect recoveries”, and recovery was there in the title and thus essential to the plot. My quest was already laid out for me.

I closed my computer barely minutes in when the realization of the true title hit me. The Imperfect Recovery: they were talking about adventures, journeys…not quests. Accepting an imperfect recovery meant that the story might not end as nicely as I had hoped. A potentially never ending road of battles and…I closed my computer barely minutes in.

An imperfect recovery simply did not compute with my own, deeply held, need for perfection. Never properly analyzed, I still have no idea what this perfection meant. What is “perfect mental health”? The absence of mental illness? A never ending tirade of smiles and happy days?

As a health educator, I should have known that “perfect mental health” did not exist. As a health educator, I often describe mental health as being similar to physical health: there are good days and bad days, temporary injuries, chronic conditions, and sporadic pains. I held conversations with others in order to help them come to terms with mental health being an essential part of wellness, to overcome the burden of stigma, and to explore options for support before they were inevitably needed. I held the conversations, designed the posters, hosted the events, and yet still held on to my own internalized stigma. I would not accept good days and bad days, for I was on a quest for “perfect mental wellness”; mental illness would never be chronic, not for me.

As I battled with my latest diagnosis, bulimia nervosa, The Imperfect Recovery hit on deeply held beliefs that I had never fully acknowledged: my need for perfection and my consequently internalized mental health stigma. Although not all mental illness will be chronic, I had never properly considered that mine might be.

If perfection is defined as the complete lack of mental illness (which I would argue it’s not), we are setting ourselves up for inevitable failure. It was gently pointed out to me by my therapist that, like physical illness, the complete lack of illness is sometimes impossible. For someone with Type 1 Diabetes, this would require a new pancreas. For me, a new mind. Perfection is an impossible quest.

But, the loss of perfection does not mean the loss of joy. Similarly, accepting a life with mental illness is not giving up. It is accepting just one battle in your life, one opportunity to fight, one story where you strength will shine. It is the first chapter of an epic saga.

I can try to find joy in progress. I can celebrate every small accomplishment and search for room for innovation in every setback. My imperfect recovery with mental illness will include trials and tribulations, good days and bad, and I can continue to grow through each and every one. I can accept this journey that stands in front of me. This is not a quest that I am failing at because I have not reached the end – this is a journey where the trip matters most and a set of adventures to explore. Perhaps I will never reach my destination, but I can find joy in the constant innovation and creativity that it takes to move forward each day. Acceptance is not done – I will have to practice it every day. But, I am on the journey and that brings me joy.