How Mental Illness Recovery Is Making Me 'The Ever Stronger Woman Warrior'
Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.
There is a shift happening within me. I have been moving towards this for many months, but now I feel it has great speed. A shift to a higher vibration and a more authentic self. A shift, as I honor the person I have been and the person I am becoming in this place of possibility and light. I feel my strong woman warrior. She lives within me. She speaks my truth in ways that are new and wondrous.
But she is not the only one who lives within my walls.
There are others, dark and full of pain that shudder my body, play havoc on my mind, break my spirit and torment my soul. They are — in order — Judgment, Confusion, Self-Doubt and Disconnect. They are the demons that beckon me. I hear them call me, a collective orchestra of sadness and longing. And I lean into them, for they are familiar and I am afraid to let them go.
Judgment speaks in whispers. She nestles into me and kisses lightly upon my neck. She is familiar. For she has been with me since I was a girl. She sees in pieces. Just my breasts or only the back of my thighs. Fragments of the whole, isolated so that she can focus in, to make me aware. She notices minute details only I will struggle with. And she points them out to me, rhythmically and coldly. She sees the age from sun and time, and does not let me remember the softness of my skin. She holds up that extra fold at the base of my belly and refuses to listen when I say my babies were there. Her favorite phrase is, “not good enough,” and she sings it softly until I dance to this melody.
And so I wrap my arms around Judgment and I hold her small body against my heart. For she was so very young when first she found her way to me, and has not yet learned it is OK. That we are not flawed, but real. She cannot understand the paths on my body are where I have been, and have helped me to reach this place where I am now.
Confusion speaks in tongues. He muddles my mind with different voices, different tones and keeps me guessing his intention. He does not let me focus. Just as I get a handle on where I am and what I am to do, he throws another image into my mind and I turn. Forgetting where I just was, and not quite sure where to go to next. He mocks my intellect — “It cannot save you,” he says — and fights me when I calm myself. And when, by chance, I find I am clear for just that moment, he sits back and laughs, for he will have another day to play these games with me.
I tell Confusion I admire him and compliment his sense of humor and cynical edge. I laugh along with him, and my mind joins too, in this banter of wills. For Confusion challenges me to expand each day. To learn new ways to process and proceed. And for this, I thank him.
Self-Doubt speaks in rhyme.
She knows that soon in time,
She will break down self.
Compare to someone else.
Her goal is to destroy,
The things that give true joy.
She inhabits many places,
Darkens all my spaces,
Till light can not get through,
And days are not born new.
Judgment is her friend,
Together they do blend.
I ask Self-Doubt to join with me in loving Judgment truly. I tell her compassion and kindness for this younger version of herself will heal her own deep pain as well. I sit and watch her pull back, a step away from where I am. And I send her words of daily affirmation. Over, and over again. A mantra of wellbeing and peacefulness, that someday, will heal her, too.
Disconnect will not speak to me, but I know she is there. She isolates me from those around me, and from my higher self. I know she questions my beliefs and the strength of my convictions, for I feel her twist away from the goodness that I seek. And when I turn to embrace my truths, she drapes thick cloth over my eyes and wraps tight rope around my heart. She sees my tears and forces me to wipe them dry and close my door to those who will care for me. She does not let my boundaries down. For she wants me to be — not a part of the great whole — but by myself, alone.
And so with Disconnect, I sit in wordless meditation. I call from deep within myself, that collective wisdom I call spirit. I sing in silence, that only she can hear, of the songs of dirt and sky. I breathe deeply the morning air and pass it into her so that she may too feel the coolness of my breath and the wonder of this day. And I promise to nestle her in close, as this world unfolds for me, so that she will know, being part of this greater place is good and right and is what is.
And so I wake each day. The ever stronger woman warrior.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
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Thinkstock photo via MistakeAnn.