And if your heart is starving, even paradise turns into hell. Believe me, I’m Swiss.
Now, nods all around, Switzerland is the land of plenty in the snug embrace of the inexplicable beauty called “The Alps”, massive foundations of rock standing together, kissing the sky. Where slightly weird-talking creatures stir their forks in cheese-soup.
So, great, here I am, in the heavenly haven somewhere in the middle of Europe.
How come I got kicked out of this holy garden?
How come I never got to enjoy that sweet bliss of a melting piece of chocolate on my tongue without feeling guilty?
How come I didn’t ski, didn’t sail, didn’t explore that paradise of mine?
How come I never skinny-dipped in those pure indigo mountain lakes that manage to be cold enough to take your breath away and still make you feel like you just exploded into pure sensuality?
How come I was lonely, when I was surrounded by smiling people?
How come that the more successful I was as a national radio host the emptier I felt inside? How come I never quite felt like a real woman and never felt at ease when naked or feeling watched?
How come I felt uninhabited, like a head was stuck to a vehicle it didn’t like?
How come my smile, my whole life, became nothing more but a waxy facade?
I felt I wasn’t enough.
And oh boy, was I busy trying to make up for all that I thought I was lacking!
Mind you, the message I got when I grew up was clear, so clear that I never questioned it: “You’re a burden and need to be fixed.”
My inner voice reminds me of this all day, yelling: “Get your sorry ass moving already! No one wants to see a failure!” I was so used to not having needs, and to whiteknuckle it through, that I eventually lost the connection to my real self.
That’s a pretty surefire way to kick your own butt out of any holy garden.
The kicking out itself, of course, began very early.
I grew up in painfully dysfunctional circumstances where alcohol, violence and rejection were daily business. What turned out, quite interestingly, to be the thing that eventually, much later, brought me to my knees was the diet my mother put me on when I was five (and slightly chubby at best.)
In puberty, shortly after my mom passed away, and I could finally eat without being shamed, I started to gain weight. At 20, the demons were back, body shame kicked in full on. I freaked out and did the one thing I knew to do: I went on a diet.
That, of course, started out pretty harmless and worked amazingly well in the beginning. Wow! Suddenly, I got noticed, I got compliments, I finally felt like I belonged.
But as diets go, they never work long-term.
To keep the weight down, I had to steadily increase the amount of exercise, and steadily decrease the calories I ate. Seems like I have too much discipline for my own good, because, I took this way too far. No matter how much (or how little) I actually weighed, I never once felt “good enough”. To be clear: we’re talking DECADES spent with various combinations of calorie counting, excluding food-groups, fasting, inevitably ending up stuffing my face and, of course, punishing myself with daily exercise to the point of sheer exhaustion.
In the meantime, a whole shitload of issues started showing up (—surpriiiiise!):
Loss of period, loss of libido, anxiety, insomnia, depression, injuries…
As I saw it, those were the body’s fault, too! Wasn’t IT to blame that I never got anywhere?Because, goddamnit, if only this stupid thing were perfect, I’d finally have a LIFE!
I figured that I had to go at it even harder.
Well, suffice it to say that my life started to resemble an existence in a tiny prison cell. My creativity was out the window, spontaneity was not a thing anymore, and I felt completely lost and desperate. Compulsions and obsessions bloomed, the body went numb, my anxieties skyrocketed, my whole existence was soaked in shame. I was afraid of everything and everyone, didn’t trust myself, let alone my body.
It was then, when I was at my long-dreamed-of lowest weight in my life, that I felt literally dead inside. Sure you’re still dreaming of being thinner?
So now what?
*everybody waiting for the final happy sentence*
I wish I could tell you that all of this was years ago and that I made it safely to the other side of all these fears and compulsions. But no. Bummer. Sorry.
I’m still in Messville. But I’ve learned a few things already.
I’ve learned that demons of that kind can only be battled with self-love and self-compassion (read: words that sure as hell didn’t exist in my previous vocabulary).
So, these days, when my inner critic turns up the volume (“Look at yourself!!”—You’re letting yourself go.”—”Clearly, your mother was right. You’ve got NO control whatsoever.”—”That belly! Yuck!!! Forget cookies and get your ass down to the gym.”—You know, the old yaddayadda…) and I want to go with war with myself, I try to consciously remind myself of my skinniest days and the fact that no skinny body will ever fix anything.
Did you hear, dear?
No skinny body will ever fix anything.
Only self-love will do that.
And self-love doesn’t sound like starvation.