I’ve been feeling generally better over the last month. I cut my hair short and have been expressing my gender in more neutral and androgynous ways. It feels lighter and more authentic. I waited a long time to cut my hair and I don’t regret it. It’s a pixie style cut and since I got it I’ve felt less self conscious and physically awkward. I’ve had some days where I felt more confident, less hesitant and less full of self doubt. It’s felt good.
Since getting custody of my children, after a four year long court battle, there have been slow positive changes. My kids are happily settled into new schools. I get to spend more time with them. Their mental health is generally more stable.
It’s Fall, the leaves have started changing and the world around looks beautiful.
But today I woke up with an intense and familiar feeling: that I’m taking up too much space. The desire to take up less space is tightly bound together with my battle with anorexia. The feeling of wanting to disappear or be invisible means that I’m more comfortable when my weight is lower. I feel internal pressure to be thin, thinner or eat less, not because I care so much what I look like, but because the sensation of taking up too much space becomes unbearable. I don’t feel like I deserve to eat enough to take up my full amount of space. Restricting food and controlling weight symbolically feels like taking up less space. I’m not sure how to describe the feeling. Worthless? Shameful? Self critical? Useless? Annoying?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. It feels awful.
Over time I’ve noticed that there is a pattern to the days I feel this intense desire to take up less space, hide or disappear. Days when my body feels wrong, too big…too much! These feelings are linked to trauma and abuse, to my boundaries being crossed and to me pushing myself, challenging myself to do more (i.e take up space).
I posted on facebook today about feeling like I was taking up too much space. Someone I know referred to it as a “vulnerability hangover” and they were exactly right.
Yesterday, I took on a piece of very personal advocacy work. I attended a mediation meeting with an organization that has not played a positive role in my family’s lives. I was scared. I felt alone. I felt threatened and scared. And yes, I felt incredibly vulnerable. I’m not able to write very much about the meeting, because it was confidential. But it lasted many hours and I left feeling disassociated and numb. I wasn’t upset, but I wasn’t fully present either. I didn’t really want to talk about it. I just wanted to sleep.
I woke up this morning and I felt like I was taking up too much space. I wanted to hide and disappear. I felt like crying through most of the day. I felt irritable and angry over tiny things. I felt stupid and useless. I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to do a good job at anything. I was doubting my abilities.
The familiar feeling of not being important was racing through my head. Feeling like nobody likes me, that people merely tolerate my annoying presence. Like a buzzing fly which someone feels too guilty to swat dead. I felt too big. Too much.
It was incredibly helpful for this person, who I don’t even know that well, to point out that the strong feelings were likely related to how vulnerable I was yesterday. How exposed I felt.
So, today I have a vulnerability hangover. It feels awful.
But I’m hoping that the advocacy was worth it. That it was more effective and healthier than staying silent. I’m hoping it makes a difference in another family’s lives.
I spoke my truth. It was risky and terrifying, but I did it. I wanted to run away, but I didn’t. I faced some fears and came out the other side in one piece.