When I was quite ill with anorexia, I presented myself as detached and invulnerable. Nothing could hurt me. I was strong…I was beyond human feelings…I was beyond human needs because I didn’t need much food/sleep/love that most humans required.
It was all an act. I was—and still am—immensely vulnerable.
I hated my looks while growing up. I was too thin, too flat-chested, and had crooked teeth. I vowed to fix the last problem when I grew up and I did, accumulating thousands of dollars worth of debt to pay for surgery to reconstruct my mouth and have braces put on.
I placed myself in a no-win situation. I started to develop and despised my breasts and too-round stomach. I was ugly.
The negative voices roared to life. I was stupid. I was worthless. I was a slut. I was…
The self-hatred would continued unabated for decades.
Throughout my twenties and thirties, I behaved in the most self-destructive ways I could find. I drank too much. I slept around. I found myself in an abusive relationship that ended after my boyfriend beat me up.
I did not report the assault. Nor did I tell my family what had happened. Why? Because I blamed myself for it.
If only I hadn’t yelled at him…
I felt vulnerable and scared and wanted to reach out, but I was unable to. I was locked inside myself.
Then I developed anorexia.
I didn’t develop anorexia because I wanted to be thin. I didn’t develop anorexia because of the plethora of ultra-skinny, beautiful models. This didn’t help my self-image, of course.
I developed anorexia because I couldn’t cope. I couldn’t cope with life. I couldn’t cope with reporting on soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan. I couldn’t cope with my failing marriage.
I couldn’t cope with being vulnerable.
Of course, anorexia made me more vulnerable. I was vulnerable and raw and hurting while I was sick, but I couldn’t speak of it.
So I starved myself. I think, deep down, I wanted someone to see my vulnerability and do something, anything to help me.
But no white knight came to save me. No Prince Charming could deliver the kiss that would free me from the bondage of anorexia.
I learned from therapy how to free myself.
Then there was a new vulnerability, one borne of the hard and intensive work of therapy.
It’s not that I hadn’t been to therapy before. But it had never been this hard, this vital, this…vulnerable, before.
This time I have opened myself up. I have exposed my fears and vulnerabilities. I am afraid of being alone. I am afraid that no one will ever love me again. I’m afraid I will fail. I am afraid that I will relapse and begin starving myself again. I am afraid I will not be able to cope with what life brings.
I am afraid of being vulnerable. That is the truth that still drives my life.
But I’m learning that thoughts and fears do not always equal actions, and that I can have at least some control over my life and my choices.
I am learning to not be afraid of vulnerability. I am learning to finally, be human and be free.