A couple of weekends ago I went food shopping and, along with the other groceries, I bought a big bar of chocolate. When I picked it up in the store I had done so with the intention that I would eat it over a few days. But then I got home and ate some of it. And that some of it had left me craving some more of it and then some more, still.
After that I stopped and put the bar away. But not before I’d had a moment where I thought to myself “Well I could just eat the whole bar and then make myself sick”.
Damn you, old habits. Why don’t you just die already? Bulimia, we broke up remember? Why you calling me?
It’s like a script that I know word by word. A dance that I know move by move. And it doesn’t mean I’m going to stick to that script or make those moves, but there’s no point pretending that I don’t know them by heart.
I won’t pretend because I know that there is danger in denial.
Sure, I could lie and say that I never have those kind of moments, that those thoughts belong to an old life and an old me. I could say that I put that kind of temptation out with the trash years ago and oooh look at me now, aren’t I just so fabulously together, eating my quinoa and kale and never thinking about binging on biscuits and then purging every unbearable bit of evidence out of me.
Or I could just acknowledge the emotions and deal with the demons.
I used to keep my demons in a box. I had to be sure they’d stay contained so they couldn’t hurt me. I’d sit on the box to keep them from escaping. But it gets wearisome after a time. Sitting on boxes of demons. Have you ever done that? It’s uncomfortable and lonely. You don’t get to join in the fun with everyone else because you’ve got this big cumbersome box that you have to keep sitting on.
Every now and again I’d check the contents of the box, hoping that perhaps the demons had given up and shriveled up. But there they were, still going strong.
It was then I realized that they were determined to talk to me. And for the first time ever in my life, I let them.
They introduced themselves to me. They had names like Shame and Fear and Ugly. They were smaller than I’d imagined and I was surprised at how uncertain they were once they were out of the box. I noticed that they didn’t seem to know exactly where to go or what to say. I remember thinking “I feel like that sometimes, too”.
There’s something I’ve learned about demons: mostly they just want a little bit of reassurance. They need to know that they’re not really the bad guy. They’re looking for a bit of love and affection, same as the rest of us.
I felt exposed and vulnerable with all my darkness out there in the daylight. But I also felt strong and capable. It was as though I was letting the world see me in 3D rather than the selected angle that I’d previously thought would only ever be acceptable.
I got rid of the box after that. I replaced suppression with expression. Instead of striving to be flawless and presenting myself as a perfect person, I decided to paint a much more realistic picture of who I was. Using all the colors. Not just the rainbow ones. And I found out something really, really cool – I liked myself. A lot.
I found out other things, too. I discovered that befriending Shame, Fear and Ugly meant that I was able to take some of the stories I’d written about myself and tear them up. Bulimia was one of those stories.
And yes, sometimes that story comes back into my mind and catches me off guard.
Sometimes other stories come back. When that happens I know I need to get together with my buddies, the demons. I have a chat with them and find out what’s up. I listen. Sometimes we have cocktails. Hug it out. You know, like friends do.
Maybe your demons look like mine. Maybe they have different names. Maybe you feel fear-full or shame-full.
Maybe you’ve written stories about yourself with titles like I Don’t Deserve Love or I’ll Never Be Good Enough or that old favorite, I’m Broken and Worthless.
Maybe you’ve stuffed a box full of your own scared secrets and you’ve been sitting on it for too many years, not knowing how on earth you’ll ever get up.
Know this. There is no part of you that isn’t deserving of love – not a single cell in your body. Every tiny molecule that makes you up is good enough, the darling parts and the demon parts. Being friends with all of who you are is the key to your own liberation. And square-cut or pear-shaped, those demons only add to your own beautiful worth, so stop shutting them away.
Also published by Not Salmon