For a very long time in my late teens and early twenties I thought I had a perfect childhood. We spent 5 of those young years, living in Hawaii and sailing around the world and among other things, trying not to live anything close, to a normal life.
The idea that I had had a perfect childhood, came to an abrupt halt when I had to confront my eating disorder as it spiraled out of control in my twenties.
In therapy, I said ” I’ve had a great life, you just need to help me stop throwing up”
They said ” well, we think, that when you spend so much of your life with your head in the toilet, maybe there is something wrong…..? “
Ok, so that was a good point. Wow.
I am not going to go into a long dissertation on why and how my eating disorder started, but I will say, that I know finally what it did for me.
When you binge and purge it makes you numb and when you are trying not to feel your feelings it can be quite effective, not unlike most addictions.
What was I numbing from? Lots of things I am sure, but I remember well, the first time I decided not to feel goodbyes anymore.
We were leaving an island in the Indian Ocean called Rodrigues. At this point, we had visited so many different countries and left so many people and places, my heart ached knowing we would do it, again and again. I decided then, to switch that ”goodbye” feeling to - OFF.
I was the kind of kid who felt enormous amounts of love instantly when I befriended people, I would become them, adopting their culture and community completely. Leaving, felt like an infinite, incomprehensible, loss that would last forever. No internet, no FB, there was no such thing as even calling these people, they didn’t have phones.
The human heart is not really capable of just turning feelings OFF and ON. It wasn’t until much later, that I realized intellectually that I was supposed to feel something, when indeed , I felt nothing.
I had so successfully disconnected my head from my heart, that in therapy they gave us a page full of faces with feelings listed beneath them, we had to look through them, to try to GUESS what we might be feeling at that moment.
I often think now, having lived many years in recovery from my disordered eating, that I am making up for the loss of those years, by feeling my feelings, on a grander scale. Anger and fear often top that list, however, I can gratefully say, I do feel love and empathy deeply.
Now, for me, the idea of leaving loved ones and a life and community I have built, triggers that deep childhood wound, sending me into to a nauseous pit, of fear and anger.
The difference here, is that, I feel it , I own it, and I know, that on a cellular level, I can heal it. Friendships can survive moves and changes, and a normal life can include love that lasts.