This month marks the fact that I am 33 and 1/3 years old, or 1/3 of the way through my life – well thats assuming I live to 100 and I think we all know the chances of that are pretty slim statistically speaking, actually statistically speaking I am probably well over half way through….
But I digress… I was having a conversation the other day about getting older and not recognising people I hadn’t seen in a long time and my mother commented that I “hadn’t changed at all” since I was in high school.
This was me in high school:
Okay, in my mums defence she may be thinking of later on in my high school life, this photo was taken in year 7 at age 12. Despite the smile, I was actually suicidally depressed at that time. I was being bullied relentlessly for my weight and was going through the awkward hair regrowth phase after manically shaving all of my hair off a few months prior… It was still a few years before I would fall victim to the devastating world of anorexia and eating disorders.
The reason this particular photograph comes to mind when I think about my sordid youth is that it is one of the few images I still have left of that era. Mum gave it to me a few years ago along with a few others that she had sensibly hidden after I stole most of the photos of me between the ages of 8 & 14 out of the album and burned them one day in a fit of eating disorder fuelled “I look so fat” rage.
When I look at those remaining pictures now, as me, the person writing this, I have trouble connecting myself to those images as a memory. My mother tells me that photo was taken the day my best friend from early primary school came to Australia from England to visit, but while I am aware it happened, I don’t remember it.
I am detached from many memories in my life that I only know occurred because I have photographic evidence of them. Some events I don’t recall at all, others I know the storyline – like my wedding day. I can give you a rundown of the events of my wedding day but I don’t feel like I was actually the one who experienced it, when I imagine it in my mind I only see images of the still photographs I have in the wedding album, I don’t have any memory of thoughts or emotions connected to the day – that leads to a lot of guilt.
Seeing that photograph of 12yr old me now gives me mixed feelings, a little part of me is annoyed at my mother for letting me get so fat, another part feels guilty for allowing myself to get so fat, somewhere in there, part of me wishes that I had burned that image too but mostly I think I just feel sorry for that young girl who just wanted to fit in and didn’t know how.
That little girl who grew up with more emotions than she could possibly understand or cope with and spent her time frantically trying to please everyone at the expense of her self-worth.
I don’t think that I really started expressing my own opinions or even learning how to form my own opinions until at 30yrs old I woke up in a hospital bed after trying to end my life; then I was in many ways taken over by other stronger parts of myself that had laid dormant for so long.
My life has been plagued by varying degrees of mental un-wellness, chaos and confusion. There has been bullying, depression, sexual assault, eating disorders, teenage pregnancies, financial struggles, mania’s, psychosis, family alcoholism, physical un-wellness, spiritual awakenings, suicide attempts and of course there is trying to understand ‘the others’ – those arguably helpful versions of myself as well as some entirely separate entities that share my mind and body yet hold different parts of a shared experience, different histories, souls and beliefs.
*Sigh*, yes, it’s been a busy 1/3rd of a century alright, many life times worth. But despite the pain and the hardships along the way, I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. I have learned so much about the myself and the world, about humanity, spirituality and acceptance, the importance of giving and sharing as well as taking time for myself and letting go. I am still learning more every single day and I am grateful to you guys for coming along on the ride!
How do you feel looking back at photographs of your younger self?