Florence and the Machine's latests album is teeming with soul-bearing realness and truths that really hit home for me. "Hunger", the second track, reveals the artist's experience with what I assume to be Anorexia Nervosa; she describes starving herself as a method of masking loneliness. Her next line is what really grabbed me: "We all have a hunger". I take this to mean that we all have something we use to mask or hide from unpleasant realities.
When I was 15 I thought my worth as a person was quantified by a high level of self-control and discipline. I thought that the only way to live a meaningful life was to be in constant deprivation in order to prove... I don't even know what. My thought process during that time was horrifically skewed to begin with, even before it was completely hijacked by the demon, ED. When he took over, a disturbing clarity set in... nothing mattered except shrinking my intake and increasing my output. I was driven by a burning desire - no, a desperate NEED to be reduced. To get rid of any excess and just be what I thought I needed to survive... organs, bones, and a little bit of muscle. No fat. No water weight. The closer I got to this perceived unencumbered state of being, the farther away it felt. This was the dirty secret that ED never told me... I would never reach that feeling of completion. Of accomplishment. Of relishing in my new body comprised of the absolutely necessary flesh and my pure, human essence. ED wanted me dead. And I almost was. But, thankfully, I was saved by a group of angels. My mother, father, sister, grandmother. The ICU doctors, paediatricians, psychiatrists, dietitians, nurses. And then it was a blur of 5 years post-discharge recovery and now I'm here. 22. Old. Young. Excited. Mostly scared. Those years of recovery were hard... trying to rebuild myself physically and mentally while finishing high school and doing my best to make the most of it. I think I did. Thank you to all those who made that journey more than just an act of survival.
But now I'm recovered. Or close to it. ED feels like a distant memory although remnants of his rampage still live inside me... the chronic depression and recently resurged anxiety (yay). Or maybe they were here all along and ED just recruited them to fuel his homicidal mission. Either way, there is a black hole inside me. It lies dormant most of the time, staying almost shut and leaking only occasional streams of all-consuming darkness. But every once in a while, it opens up completely, and I am swallowed into a pit of bottomless sorrow; for what, I can't even begin to comprehend. The incredible depth of this sadness is overwhelming. In these moments of bleak hopelessness, I feel as though this sadness must have followed me from a previous life, for there is no way I could have amassed this gargantuan suffering in my relatively short lifetime. After these moments pass and the black hole retracts, I am left reeling for days. Weeks. I work to rebuild my inner dialogue and establish a sense of self after it was ripped away by the gaping darkness. I start to feel good. And then it opens up again. This may sound like a futile battle. I used to think it was, hence my desire for the ultimate escape. But each time I emerge from the darkness, I look down at my hands and I'm holding another piece of the puzzle. If it even is a puzzle... for all I know, it could be a giant, sparkly statue of an elephant but hey, at least I'm closer to knowing. This is why I don't give up. Well, that, and the promises I've made to stay in this life no matter what. I don't break promises. That was a lie. I can be flakey sometimes. Which brings me back to my point... we all have a hunger. A coping mechanism. And, quite often, that mechanism prevents us from being our best selves. I smoke pot. Sometimes I'm okay admitting that and sometimes it fills me with shame. Lately, I've been trying to be honest... with myself and with those in my life. And now, apparently, with you. I've "quit" numerous times, after adverse effects (lung troubles, anxiety spikes, disrupted hunger cues (which I worked so DAMN hard to recover after ED took them away), tiredness, apathy) lead me to believe it did more harm than good. Lately, I've been cutting down. Not using it as an escape, rather, as a treat when I have the time and space to enjoy it. This seems to be serving me well, although I would like to be without it completely one day.
Once again, circling back to my point; I have come to realize that only once I recognize and come to terms with my coping mechanisms am I able to do something about them. Whether it be drugs, booze, work, exercise, sex, isolation, instagram, food... being honest with ourselves about our mechanism is the first step in doing something about it. Like Florence says, we ALL have a hunger. This is important to remember whilst confronting the mechanisms and the demons they mask so that this potentially painful process is not amplified by a perceived feeling of loneliness. Suffering does not make you special; it makes you human. Use it to find more pieces of your puzzle. Or sparkly elephant. Whatever.
All of my love,