“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie.
“That’s why they’re monsters.”
Kids, when told to clean their rooms, will often shove all the crap in the closet. They do this to make things look good without having to do the work. Parent pokes their head in and gives a cursory glance, everything looks great. Nothing to see here. Can I go outside and play, now?
Some of us continue this tradition well into adulthood when it comes to our emotional crap. Perhaps that’s where the idea of the monster in the closet came from- that tidy little room with a door where we store all the awful, heavy stuff we can’t bear to look at. Keep it contained and in the dark- ideal growing conditions for monsters.
I’ve been fine lately. I mean, there’s a lot going on. I have a lot on my plate, but who doesn’t? Some biggish things, though. Some things that have me waking up panicky in the middle of the night. I’m tired. I feel stretched a little thin. A little overwhelmed. A little weighed down, but fine. Honestly.
When things get heavy, when my heart gets heavy, I decide I need to be light. Not as in, ‘travel light’ or be ‘filled with light.’ More like, ‘lose weight’ light. ‘Get thinner’ light. Disappear light. Not be quite so anchored to this earth kind of light.
I didn’t have dinner last night. I had a snack at some point yesterday, but you probably couldn’t call it lunch, per se. I had a lot on my mind, I have a lot on my shoulders right now.
I woke up this morning really hungry- and then it happened. I had that feeling of satisfaction. Not because I ate- not the healthy satisfaction of an appeased appetite. A darker sort of satisfaction. The satisfaction of deprivation. The satisfaction of control.
That probably sounds bizarre to anyone who has a healthy relationship with food and with their body. You get hungry. You eat. You’re full. You stop.
I’ve read about that. It sounds delightful.
I’ve struggled with food for most of my life. In my childhood I experience scarcity. From that, I learned to eat what you can while you can. I eat far too quickly, and I have a hard time correctly assessing when I’ve had enough. When I am happy, I tend to eat more than I should. I eat for pleasure. I eat mindlessly.
When I am stressed, I tend to not eat. Sometimes I lose my appetite, but more often than not it’s intentional. The world is blowing up around me and I might not be able to control any of THAT, but I can skip a meal. Or two. Or three. In times of real struggle, I get myself into trouble. It becomes a constant negotiation in my head. If I eat that I’ll feel fuller even though it has less calories. If I’m going to have fat it needs to be early in the day so I can burn it off.
I’ll wait until I see spots before I consider putting food in my mouth. And when I get to that light-headed, spot seeing place? I feel highly successful.
That’s just so completely messed up. I know.
I currently weigh more than I ever have in my life, excluding when I was pregnant. I haven’t been HAPPY about that, but I’ve sort of been at peace with it. I’m older. I haven’t been able to exercise the way I want lately due to a back injury. I stopped drinking- and a girl can’t give up EVERYTHING.
I say that because people who haven’t struggled with eating disorders tend to think it’s all about weight. It’s not. I mean- it AFFECTS your weight, and people in the throes of anorexia and bulimia tend to fixate on their weight- but that’s not the core of it any more than the core of alcoholism is about being drunk, necessarily. When I drank it was an attempt to run from pain. It was anesthesia.
It’s pretty much the same thing with my eating. When I don’t eat, it’s an attempt to regain control when I am scared or feel helpless.
It’s so annoying. I spent far too many years not understanding why I did that, why I starved myself. I’ve done the work, I know why- so I sort of feel like it just shouldn’t happen anymore, right? I know it doesn’t give me any measure of control over my stressors- so why, why, WHY does my brain still do that??
I guess the good news is that I recognize it now. I take it seriously. I listen when that liar in my head starts whispering to me- and most importantly, I SAY IT. I am finally learning to cut the “fine” crap. At great peril I have learned this to be true: the story I’m not giving voice to runs the board. The thing I keep inside, the part of my life I deem unspeakable is the one in charge. I say it all the time, either you own your story, or it owns you. Period.
And I am serious- I believe it’s true for everyone. No exceptions. Whatever the thing is that you least want to talk about is the very thing you need to say out loud. Doesn’t need to be in a public venue, doesn’t need to be your status update- but identify your person. The body in the woods person. You know- the person you could call and say, “Meet me in 15 minutes and bring a shovel and a tarp…” and they’d COME? That person.
Call THAT person.
Say the thing. Call out your liar. Drag your heavy truth into the sunshine. You know why monsters thrive in the dark? Because they are TERRIFIED. They are hiding because they’re scared. So turn on the light. Size up your monster- and then maybe hug it. Then maybe everything really will be fine, or closer to it.