*Trigger Warning* Anorexia, Suicide, Self Harm, Dissociation
It’s so much easier to judge ourselves than to judge others, for some reason everybody seems to hold themselves to a higher standard than others. But we’re all human, we all make mistakes and thank goodness for that or we’d never learn and grow as a people.
Next time you critique yourself stop a moment to question why you feel like that, question why this ‘flaw’ is considered bad in your eyes then ask yourself when you first felt that way about yourself, the answer may surprise you. Many of us have self stigmas that lead back to childhood.
For example the hating my body part of my story stemmed back to around age seven, I was bullied severely my entire school life for being overweight to the point that by the time I was 8 I wanted and even tried to end my life.
I hated myself for not having willpower, I hated myself for being too stupid and too ugly, I hated myself for not successfully ending my life. I believed I was hurting everyone around me by simply being alive.
Bel (one of our alters) tried to help, upon reflection I can see that, she just didn’t know how. She copied learned verbal assaults and physical attacks to try and encourage me to lose weight. She wanted me to be punished for eating “bad”things and if I was too chicken to cut myself or bash my head against the brick wall, she’d always find the power to hurt us for me.
I thought it was good for me, a firm dose of discipline was clearly needed for me to stop binging on food and she told me it was the only way I’d learn, it was “character building” and I believed her. I trusted her – she was doing this to help stop me from being bullied. I didn’t want to be hurt so this method would surely encourage me to lose the weight and thus protect me from the wrath of the bullies.
This went on for years, all through primary school and into high school. She’d encourage me to try harder and when I ultimately failed she’d teach me a lesson, exasperated by my stupidity.
One day in high school she took a new approach, she was sweet and encouraging all of a sudden and said this was it, it was time to change – We were probably 14, the age Bel is stuck at now. She told me if I let her take control for a while she’d fix everything, she said that unlike me she didn’t need food and she didn’t feel hunger, she could make us skinny and the bullies would have nothing to pick on us for anymore.
I was excited at first, we became vegetarian and she took charge of all our meals and worked out our exercise routine, she was smarter than me and determined. She memorised the calorie counter book and planned her responses to anyone questioning her motives well in advance. I think it made her feel powerful and she got off on power.
We started doing drugs around then to escape ourselves, to distract from the hunger, to try and fit in with some new skinny friends. Alcohol was forbidden- too many calories but we didn’t need it and still managed to put ourselves in danger time and time again. I think Bel was so desperate to feel love or something other than ridicule from anyone of the opposite sex that she just didn’t care what happened or how and we ended up in precarious situations where unfortunately We got hurt.
I always just let her take control, a door mat from the beginning I had no idea how to say ‘no’ at the best of times but particularly not to Bel – this was her show and if I objected in any way she’d surely punish me and I couldn’t control or stop her, I could only watch from somewhere next to myself afraid she’d hurt me somewhere visible and we’d be found out. If we were found out, we’d lose everything.
It’s funny, that time in our life wasn’t all bad you know? We collectively had friends, good friends and plenty of good times over this period. I intellectually know that there was laughter and music and it saddens me that I don’t have those memories, that they weren’t ever really mine to hold, the times when I was lost at the edge of my consciousness a phenomenon I now understand was dissociating, I could just see them laughing, talking to me but I wasn’t really there, I felt like a ghost watching on.
I certainly didn’t know I had DID then or what that even was, for some reason I can’t explain i’d always just accepted Bel as being there and hadn’t questioned who or what she was. I blindly accepted her as a seperate soul who lived inside me, I would never have referred to her as a “voice” although she had plenty to say, but I knew innately that I could never explain her to anyone else because they’d never understand.
So, We had friends they just didn’t belong to Bel or I, she didn’t care and I didn’t understand how friendship worked anyway, the friends I’d had had always hurt me, so we were trapped together Bel and I, stuck fast in our spiral of self destruction.
Our weight plummeted as fast as our mental health and those same bullies just kept on calling us fat anyway, until one day they changed it to ‘rake’ and Bel flipped it over the hypocrisy.
We were both so lost, so locked into the pattern of secrecy and disordered eating that everyone else fell away, at that point nothing mattered anymore, it was just her and I and Anorexia.
I rarely went to school anymore and never reacted to the taunts, they didn’t hurt anymore, I was too broken. Now my sole focus was losing more weight and hiding my intentions. I wanted to kill myself anyway, Bel told me I was spineless and that I may as well but I’d be lucky to fit in the coffin. She said she was my only hope but she too was going to give up on me if I didn’t finally reach our ever decreasing goal weight.
I became so deeply suicidal I lived only to lose more weight in order to die “skinny enough”. I’d recognised our fate of never being accepted or good enough and was more than ready to shuffle off this mortal coil but as anyone who’s battled Anorexia knows, there was never going to be a “skinny enough”.
The bullying finally stopped half way through year 10 at age 15 when in the grips of Anorexia so severe we finally reached psychosis, I thought water had been poisoned with calories by the government and Bel finally got so angry with me for ignoring yet another taunt that she screamed “fuck this shit” punched one of our bullies in the face, yelled at the principal and walked right out of the school and point blank refused to go back.
Shit got harder after that but in different ways, a whole set of different stories for another day.
When I look at a photograph of Us at age 7 now I struggle to recognise myself in the image. We were so young. I shudder because in all those photos I’m fucking smiling and my mother tells me I was “such a happy child”. But I wasn’t, happiness was just another mask to protect myself from my pain made necessary by the need to protect others, like my mother from my pain.
The memories from all that that self hatred is locked hard in my memory but the emotions are held inside yet another aspect of myself, one who hasn’t spoken out with our psychiatrist yet. She’s triggered out by people being angry with us and when I’m aware she’s out she’s always crying always wanting to die.
It must of been hard for her, fuck it must have been hard for all of us, it’s hard to grasp that what happened to her happened to me and Bel is part of us too.
The bullying and subsequent eating disorder was only one part of our story, so much other hard stuff happened to other aspects of ‘us’ before, during and after that time. I’m finally starting to understand why we needed dissociation as a coping mechanism and while I try to untangle the messy web of my life before I die, I am in a space where I am grateful for my brains chosen coping mechanism, grateful for Bel’s misguided attempts to protect us and grateful that I no longer hate myself.