Monday, August 31, 2015
Of note: I wasn't sure whether or not I should publish this; I thought it was just an indulgence rather than something worthy of throwing up on here for all the world to see, but a friend convinced me to. Trigger warning: I talk about a suicide attempt.
At seven years old, I decided to kill myself. I knew what to do, I planned it out, I waited in excited anticipation for the perfect moment to give myself the gift, the peace and stability, the stillness and permanence of Death. I'd personified death into being a sort of magical spirit that could take me out of the mess of anxiety and chaos that was my life. At seven, I saw Death the way other children viewed the Tooth Fairy or Santa Clause, and was just as excited for its coming as my peers were about the arrival of their imaginary characters.
I sat on the edge of the tub; it was cold and pristine, my already-fat thighs stuck to it. I couldn't get the pills down- not enough of them, anyway. They were too rough and big for my seven-year-old body to swallow. I choked and gagged on them, filling dixie cup after dixie cup with water, trying to get them all down. Finally, I just chewed a couple, but the taste was overwhelmingly terrible. "I don't want to die with such a bad taste in my mouth," I remember thinking, frustrated and angry that things weren't going the way I'd envisioned over and over again: me elegantly swallowing the bottle of Clonazapam and slipping softly into Death's arms, the way other children slip into the water of a lake to float on their backs and stare into the sunshine.
I ended up just getting violently ill and sleeping all day. There wasn't anything romantic about it; there was no drama, no fanfare, no relief. No one even noticed. I was so disappointed.
People today view me as a body positive activist; someone who encourages people to love and accept their bodies as they are without qualifiers and exceptions. I post pictures of myself publicly, for the world to see and judge and critique. My fat arms, my cellulitey thighs, my fat ass are all out there on the world wide web, and I get emails and messages daily from people calling me inspirational and telling me how I touched their lives in some way by being so "confident and brave", to use their terms. I'm seen as a positive, smiling person who exudes confidence and self-love, and I am that, and so much more. My story is deep, and dark, and twisted, and private. As open as I am, there are secrets I'll keep caged up like dark birds in my chest, and their fate will be to die with me.
What my followers don't know about me is that I'm a survivor. I won't bore anyone with the sad and dark details of my particular life experience, but many things (and one person, two if I'm included) have tried to do me in, and I've survived it all. My sweet Death was within inches of me so many times, so close I could see It almost clearly whenever I closed my eyes, but It pressed its long, spindly, cold finger to my lips and whispered closely in my ear with the intimacy of a lover, "Not yet." And I lived. I lived, simply and with an impossibility that both under- and overwhelms me still.
I'm still here. That seems like such a simple statement; an obvious to you, but to me it's heavy and loaded, full of both impossibility and excitement. I've made it. I feel like I've been through it all and come out on top, the victor in a game I'd been forced to participate in my whole life. The page has been turned, and the future is blank. I can do whatever I want now, I've been freed.
I still feel Death tethered to me, but not closely; It is tied to me loosely like a balloon on a string, miles high up in a clear blue sky, a figure far away, full of helium and unknowability.
Having survived so many encounters with Death, how can anything like body image seem like a big deal? By being what others call a 'body positive activist', I don't feel like I'm doing anything exceptional or big and brave. It feels as natural as breathing, which is something I can finally easily do now that Death is miles away and I'm firmly planted on the ground. Now that I've overcome my former life, I don't get embarrassed, or feel silly, or let people's negative comments about my appearance get to me. I spent so much of my life dying that it's finally my time to live, and, goddamnit, I'm going to, without restraint or hesitation; unabashedly and fully.
I love myself because I was so unbelievably brave for being through what I've been through and surviving. I had to buck up, alone, and figure out impossible situations. I had to fight and claw and scratch my way out of a very dark place to emerge this person I've become. My life before was like an origin story, and now I feel like an unstoppable force of nature, having risen up from the ashes of all I'd defeated.
Mental health and body positivity are so important and so inextricably linked, and I want to continue to promote both so that people can feel even a bit like how I feel now: powerful, positive and secure within myself at last, though still full of faults. I can be cold, brash and indifferent; I can be demanding, impatient and elitist. I spent so much time hating my body and feeling inferior that I feel like I'm entitled to a bout of elitism or over-confidence every now and again; I have many years of hate and darkness to make up for.
Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed or worrying about trivial things, I remind myself to look at the big picture. I remind myself of where I've come from, of the battles I've fought, and that, cosmically, even those fights that seemed enormous to me are nothing. Life is too short and precious a thing to waste hating yourself and your body. Choose to live, instead.