Hunger-Roxane Gay


I have just finished ‘Hunger’ by Roxane Gay, and am feeling a plethora of emotions. I too have had a complicated history with food, created by trauma. I was on an eating disorder unit at fourteen, and rather than healing, I learnt a heap of new tricks to stave off weight. I chose to starve myself, in an attempt to deny the emotional pain of its sustenance. I also had bulimia. Some of my friends were frail, too weak to move out of bed. A few of my friends were at the other end of the spectrum, the weight providing a cocoon. One of my friends, Annie, had a complicated relationship with her abusive mother. A young woman in her twenties, she suffered the indignity of having to be weighed at the train station on their luggage scales. Her eyes were azure-blue, and boy, we had fun, making the best of a bad situation. She and I would have food fights in the day, and give each other facials of an evening. Annie was one of the most beautiful people I have ever known, taking this kid under her wing.

I learnt a lot about how it feels to carry extra weight, and the outrageous discrimination she faced. People didn’t really see her; they didn’t give themselves the chance to delight in the intelligence and compassion she conveyed in conversation. Over the months, the weight fell off her, but as we all know, the fight after the fight is the hardest of all. As she said to me, there was anger at those whom sought her out where once she had been discarded. It were as though they now deemed her worthy. The memories and emotions long suppressed, rose to the surface of her being, and now had to be dealt with. I lost touch with Annie after our time together, though think of her often.

As an adult, I have had friends who felt unsafe to sit in my dining chairs, lest they break, and I couldn’t blame them. I turned my chairs over, and noted that they were flimsy, a single bolt holding the structure together. I felt angry on their behalf. Life shouldnt be such a battle, and everything from airlines, buses, and cinema seating is so tiny, particularly when armrests are featured. I immediately replaced my seats, going to an op shop and buying a dining set made of solid timber. My guests can now sit and chat without being uncomfortable. Roxane’s book reiterates the challenges and judgements that befall a larger person. It shouldn’t be this way, not in this day and age. I long for the day when we really see each other and also our intrinsic worth.

 

Advertisements

Inside Out by Anastasia Amour is out now!


Inside Out by Anastasia Amour-VIP-Reviewers-Blog-Posts-Image3

I have just read Anastasia Amour’s 14 Day Guide. I well remember how it felt to torture my body as a teenager. My eating disorder was created by a combination of insensitive words, feeling out of control of my young life and a desperate need to be perfect. Alternating between bingeing and throwing up, and not eating at all. Exercising to the point of fainting. Feeling that death was less intimidating than shedding the demons destroying me. It’s time for us to loosen the shackles, to stop destroying ourselves in the name of some ideal that we can’t really define. Self-love has to start here and now! For our kid’s sake as well as our own. My weight has fluctuated throughout the following years, due to surgery, recovery, IVF and endometriosis treatments. I have had my weight commented on when I have gained pounds, and again when I have lost those pounds. When my face became rounder after several months in a spinal bed, it was remarked on. There was little I could do about my situation and it left me feeling awful. I look back at those pictures and guess what? I see a girl who is a healthy weight! How about we stop the commentary? Let’s put it into the basket of subjects one doesn’t bring up, alongside enquiring about someone’s fertility. Inside Out is a divine little book, consisting of a 14-day guide, which aims to change how you see yourself and your body. It contains many practical tools and exercises. Let’s redefine what it is to be you, and shake off the shackles of the dieting industry. You can’t improve on perfection! Anastasia’s book contains 14 exercises that will offer practical support whilst you kick-start your body-confidence.

Questions for Anastasia.

What concerns you the most about the media? Is it the images they use, the words, or a combination of both that is so harmful?

The current state of the media is so problematic, and you’ve nailed it. We’re a visual culture and there’s no questioning our saturation of digitally-altered images and ‘flawlessness,’ and when you combine these with language that’s absolutely littered with ideas of fear, guilt and shame- appropriated as marketing tactics…well, you’ve got a very dangerous cocktail. In many ways, I strongly doubt that we’ll move away from the current media format anytime soon-but that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me most is the wide reach that the media has now, particularly to young people. Somewhere along the way, we’ve started to blur the lines between advertising and soft porn and we’ve widely accepted the notion that “sex sells,” to the extent where ad exececutives feel it compulsory to use female sexuality as a commondity to sell everything from cars to boxes of cereal. This is concerning on multiple levels but the biggest issue I have is the age at which the exposure starts. If grown women struggle to not internalize these toxic media messages about worth, sexuality and body image, what hope do young girls have? Girls and teenagers blossoming into women are confronted with more than ever before, and the implications of this are truly terrifying.

The diet industry is more powerful now than ever before. Why do you think this is?

Its simple-because the diet industry have so craftily set themselves up to grow bigger, better and stronger with age. When you set up your consumers to not only feel a perceived demand of their own accord but to experience that demand from your actions, you’ll always have the benefit of being a supplier. That’s well and good, except its not-not at all. This isn’t just selling pens or printer toner…this is screwing with people’s mental health. This is creating insecurities, blaming and punishing people for experiencing those insecurities and then offering them a magic solution to fix the very insecurities that the diet industry itself contributed to. It’s immoral, it’s unethical and it’s damaging so many lives. What the diet industry doesn’t want us to know is that those who are overweight and need to lose weight to keep their bodies healthy don’t actually need the diet industry at all to do this. Diets and fads don’t work. They might help you shed a few kilos initially, but they do nothing to keep you healthy in the long term. Ultimately, we’re building a culture that searches for shortcuts and hacks. When we take a quick-fix approach to our mental and physical health, we’re treating the symptoms of our conditions and not the root cause. This is a huge part of why diets fail to create sustainable, positive lifestyle change-they help you to minimize the symptoms of your condition (excess fatty tissue), but do nothing psychologically to tap into the emotional issues around your relationship with food and your body. That works out just fine for the diet industry because they get the illusion of helping you whilst simultaneously ensuring that you remain a lifetime customer.

Why did you write Inside Out?

Having experienced anorexia and bulimia, I know what it’s like to loathe yourself in every way. Whilst counselling can be helpful, I also know that therapy isn’t for everyone and that many individuals prefer to educate and empower themselves on their own terms-I’m one of those people. Through my personal experiences, studies in psychology and mental health and via my own research, it’s my goal to provide sound and practical advice to women who prefer to do their own introspective work, or who don’t have access to a counsellor. ‘Inside Out’ is a resource that I wish I’d had access to at the lowest points of my self-esteem and body image. There are a lot of self-help books out there that fill your mind with “fluffy” advice on one end of the spectrum, and then highly scientific, psychological textbooks that are delivered in an inaccessible manner on the other end of the spectrum. Inside Out isn’t just for those diagnosed with eating disorders and body image issues. The techniques that it breaks down are applicable to all women who’ve ever had moments of body-loathing. Inside Out is my love letter to the reader. It preaches empowerment, validation from within and fearless body confidence-things all women deserve to experience!

Finally, how can we affirm young girls and help them to seek self-love, rather than praise from outside themselves?

The way that we affirm young girls is symptomatic of our cultural values and often, we end up forcing these ideals onto children through conditioning and selectively complimenting only the “acceptable” traits. How often do we see little girls encouraged to pursue maths, science or sports? How often do we see little boys encouraged to explore the full spectrum of their emotions? Instead, we encourage notions of femininity and masculinity as mutually-exclusive concepts-we compliment little girls for being pretty and packing up their tea sets, and we compliment little boys for being smart and rough and strong. We can make a great start by complimenting young people based on all sorts of positive traits, regardless of their gender. I believe we can go further by encouraging young people to set their own compliments and praise themselves, rather than relying on those around them to tell them that they’re pretty, smart and capable. This starts with setting an open and encouraging dialogue within the family where each member is celebrated for discussing their positive attributes. We’re all happier and more productive when we’re enabled to choose we want to be, rather than being pigeonholed into someone else’s idea of what we should like about ourselves.

Anastasia is offering my readers a very special deal! When the book launches on November 14th, this link will go live. On that date, go to the shop and enter the code below to get 15% off! This is a book that will help redefine what it is to be you, far away from societal pressures.

Inside-Out-by-Anastasia-Amour---VIP-Reviewers-15%-off-Code-BEYOU15-2

For more info, go to Anastasia’s website.

Here is Anastasia’s bio.

Inside Out by Anastasia Amour-VIP-Reviewers Social Media_ebook

 

If I Had my Time Over…


I would tell my younger self to hold on tight. As a teen, I had to fight to retain my sanity, my heart and my life. I refused to put up with nonsense, nor manipulation. I would walk away, and if I couldn’t leave, I would fight. Fight for the right to live my life in the way it was ordained by the moon and stars before I had even arrived. When one is having continual operations and intensive periods of rehabilitation from such surgery; when one can’t work because of the above, you find yourself vulnerable. Grateful that people are willing to chat briefly to you, grateful for a lift or an invitation to dinner. My boundaries were blurred and I was overwhelmed by any crumb of kindness shown me. I would say to that girl, ‘honey, you can trust your instincts. You have a right to leave any form of cruelty, and run from any lack of empathy. It isn’t worth the pain you will suffer by staying. Trust your first impressions, and measure the benevolence or otherwise in a person’s conversation. It’s laid bare on the table, and your ears aren’t deceiving you. Years of your precious life will be squandered on trying to understand the intricacies of toxicity if you don’t run.’

Groups will be disbanded, and you will move in new circles. People not meant to be in your life will leave,  not before offering a few sharp scratches to your already scarred psyche. As you grow older, you will tolerate less nonsense, and savour the real people. Those who weep with you, hold your hand, laugh with you and are present. They want your company for no other reason than that they celebrate you. No masks required.

I wish I could erase the memory of the walking wounded who caused you more pain. I wish you had turned away, no explanation needed nor offered. You didn’t, and its okay. You have resurrected that teenager, the one who was selective about who received the key to her inner world. You have given out multiple copies of the skeleton key. Happily, those who have received this gift unconditionally love you. There is no more hurt to be had. You have yourself, first and foremost. You can love the whole world, without letting it all inside the inner sanctum. Some will appreciate the chandelier, the candles, the frankincense oil, the violet walls, the poetry and art, whilst others would only try to disassemble the sanctuary.  Careful with yourself, young woman. You have to firstly love yourself in a manner that will then mirror how others love you. You have yourself forever.

Anastasia Amour


P1090391

Anastasia Amour (pseudonym Stardust), sent me a little package of affirmative stickers. My daughter was very excited when I said Stardust had sent us a gift. Her little face fell when she searched the empty envelope. “Where is the stardust?” she pouted. I told her it was invisible, imbued on the stickers.

P1090393

Words have such power. You know, these days its cool to be disaffected and sarcastic, caustic and negative. Its easy to cut the groove in the rotating vinyl record inside your head. Doing Anastasia’s ProjectPositive changed my world. I felt connected to a vibrant group of people doing life, endeavouring to work out the snags. I learnt that I am worthy of love just as I am. I examined what beauty and self-love actually is, and what it isn’t. I was humbled and my self-talk was certainly transformed. Not only are her sticker’s embedded with Stardust, but Anastasia is as well. www.anastasiaamour.com

#ProjectPositive, September 28th. Never Again.


Never again to put up with cruelty  masked as sarcasm or humour. Never again enduring cruelty, the sort taking low blows and lifting up the other whilst grinding me into the dirt. No more shame or feeling ashamed. I have been on  a twenty year odyssey to reclaim the life they tried to take away. No more. I will not have it and it will not do. Never again to find myself within a game I didn’t want to join, and haven’t been told the rules to. Never again to do too much and exhaust myself, leaving my body reeling in agony. I have put up with a lot, too much. Never again.

 

Leaving it all behind for her.
Leaving it all behind for her.

Never again to doubt myself, and ignore my gut instincts. I know what to do, and how to do it. Never again to hurt this body with diets and starvation. When I have a treat, such as my beloved cinnamon rolls, I will enjoy it, and refuse to feel guilty. Never again to put up with deceit, and people who don’t have my best interests at heart. I work hard and try my very best, and that is enough. I am one person, standing alone. Never again will I feel that it is not enough; that I am not enough. Never again to have my wings clipped, my voice muffled, my body broken, my mind assaulted, and my integrity questioned. I am free and the list above shall not recur. Never again.

#ProjectPositive, September 22nd. Flawed.


Oh dear! I have plenty of these! Some can be blessings and have kept me glued together, such as my stubbornness. On the other hand, I can be a huge pain in the butt! I wont yield once I have made my mind up. It’s fun having my daughter reflect it back onto me!

See what I mean?!
See what I mean?!

I have been engineered to be a solitary creature. If I am dealing with a problem, grief, pain or depression, I will not seek out other people. Years of isolation can do that to a lady. I remember at one of the hospitals I was in, right before I was taken at fifteen, I looked wistfully on visitor’s day at the friends and family assembled. Bernadette, a hardened old boiler, saw me looking at the visitor’s. She took my hand and said, “never expect people to be there for you, honey. Be your best friend, and you will be happy.” I took her words to heart and shut down. I pretended it didn’t hurt when I was in the spinal unit for all those months, and I would see other patient’s with their visitor’s. I got used to sorting things out by myself. It collides with my stubbornness, making life pretty hard at times! I don’t want to bother people; I want to look like I know what the hell I am doing, even though I don’t. I can’t drive far, as my right leg seizes up, and the pain in my right arm and spine becomes unbearable after a while, so I do accept lifts sometimes. When I have reached out, I have chosen some dodgy characters. They have either gossiped about me behind my back, hurt me, or left me. It made me afraid to ever let myself be vulnerable again. I have to allow myself to be vulnerable, so I can teach my child that its okay to reach out. I heard her say to her friend the other day, “I know you are soft, and that’s okay, ’cause I have a soft heart too.” The young are so wise! I am not alone now. I just need to know my heart is in safe hands, and relay the information caught in my throat.
Image from Swimming In Bubbles
I loathe phones. I received hundreds of death threats, and developed a real phobia about them. I don’t like the feeling that most of the time you don’t know whom is on the other end. The unknown doesn’t do much for me. I much prefer texting and emails. That is where my comfort is. For a whimsical character, I don’t go much for the unscheduled and unpredictable. I am always ten minutes early to everything, and have my calendar filled a month or so in advance. I really need to chill out! Yes, chill out. I do need to chill. To allow myself more silliness, more free time, more relaxation. I need to speak out more, using my actual voice, and not hide myself, nor carry my burdens alone. It is time to let go. Flaws are fantastic for reminding you how far you have come, and what needs to be rescinded.

#ProjectPositive, September 21st. Beautiful.


To me, beauty is:

Friendship
Friendship
A child with a caring heart.
A child with a caring heart.
10270139_750293921671122_1990180875_n
Sydney
10489653_793081947392319_4688436137394943390_n
Art found by accident

I was always told I was pretty, and it meant nothing to me. How could it? Every day I was being abused. Somebody thought I was so beautiful that they were intent on destroying me. I would rather have a beautiful life. I have worked hard to obtain such a life. Beauty is what leaves you gasping. Beauty is when my daughter held a dying man’s hand in palliative care when she was three years old, and bowed her little head as she said a prayer. You can’t script such a beautiful event. She just did it. Beautiful is how you feel when released from a body cast and have bathed your battered body. Beautiful is how you feel when someone compliments you and beautiful is how it feels when a friend embraces you. My child is an artist, compassionate, an animal lover, an environmentalist. She has a beautiful heart and a beautiful mind and a beautiful spirit. She would not like to be reduced to being “a pretty little girl,” and I am not awfully keen on reducing her! Beauty comprises so many facets, like a diamond. It is not one-dimensional, nor are we. I have a beautiful life, and that makes me feel beautiful indeed.

#ProjectPositive, September 20th. Love Myself.


10313120_790507070983140_7507958722583255091_n

It’s rather interesting when a lady who has had eating disorders-and been abused in every way possible-becomes a mother. I had to have strategies in place for when this child came into the world. From a very young age, she was watching me. She adored me, and wanted to be just like mummy; say and do the things I did. Hmmm… I had to make it worth this kid’s while! After having her, I was hopping on the scales quite a bit. They had to go. I judged my weight on how my clothes fitted me, not on numbers. We go on nature walks, and work out our bones. Exercise and weight loss is never mentioned. We don’t comment on other people’s weight, nor our own. I found the terminology I used would have a direct impact on her. I jokingly remarked after finishing off a dessert, that I would get a pudgy tummy. The next thing I knew, she had a pincer grip on her stomach, evaluating if she was getting the same. Such responsibility lay on my shoulders. She asks why I wear makeup, and once again, I have to give a thoughtful response. “It’s not because mummy feels like she’s not good enough without it sweetheart,” I say. “I wear it because I love colour, and I see my face as a canvas.” Intent is everything. I affirm my worth in the mirror, and now she does the same. When you have a reinforced sense of self, society will find it hard to puncture you.

I can be a fashion disaster, and well, a disaster on many fronts. I love that about me too! I know that I am trying my best in every aspect of my life. What more can I expect? My purple hair is fading out, and I am going back to my natural colour. I felt a bit daggy regarding the tone of my hair, when a lady shrieked, “I love your hair! Who did it?” I smiled and relayed an $8 tube from the chemist. It’s all about perception isn’t it? I love the parts of me that get angry and self-destructive. I love the “flaws” in my body that make it unique. I have to convey this every single day so that by the time she is a teenager, my daughter will have it ingrained. If she wants to wear heels, dye her hair, put makeup on, I will always ask why. If it is to please herself, good. If it is to feel good enough for this world, I will whisper in her ear, “it’s unnecessary. You have already surpassed good enough.” As have you.
10381108_765773116789869_1552903489_o (1)

#ProjectPositive,September 15th. The Biggest Thing I’ve Overcome.


The biggest thing I have overcome is…

I don’t have a personal favourite. Each time I overcame trauma, it was humbling,  surprising and wondrous!

Child abuse. Being told that you are a slut, being labelled as stupid and being hyper-vigilant. A pleasant occasion, with cordial conversation and laughter makes such a child tense up. You sadly know it is a harbinger, ringing in screaming and fighting. As a result, I grew up extremely aware of my surroundings. I can tell you who is standing in the next paddock after a quick sweep of an area. Sensitive to noise and environments. There were times I wanted to die. Times when I felt I would never recover, nor feel whole. I went back to each place of trauma, wrote about them, took pictures. I was in fact saying that I was here, and I survived. Throughout this period, I learnt  a lot about myself and why I respond the way I do to situations. Don’t like loud knocking at your door, nor talking on the phone? There is a reason for that and its  a perfectly normal response when given your history. Need time alone to process and unwind after a social function? Again, perfectly reasonable. When I started to understand why I am the way I am, with my little “things,” I began to heal.

Being told I was stupid. I lost so much time at school in primary and high school, due to being drugged or being  in hospital. I was told I was stupid and wouldn’t amount to anything in Year Seven. When you are told often enough, you tend to start believing it. They were wrong. A kid who isn’t clever couldn’t have survived the years that followed. I left school at fourteen, when I was put in the clinic, and was extremely nervous when I was signed up to Distance Education by my surgeon when I was fifteen years of age. I was in my rotor bed when the first pack of lessons arrived. To my astonishment, not only did I enjoy it, but I was also good at it. The teachers were encouraging, and I knew I had been lied to about my intelligence and ability to learn. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to find out. Don’t believe them when they label you, please don’t absorb it!

P1050090

Eating disorders. I had no control over anything in my life. I couldn’t make sense of schoolwork, as I had lost so much time. Where to find a modicum of control? I would alternate between bulimia and anorexia. I thought if there was little left of me, I could disappear. It was harsh and brutal. Walking for hours with an empty belly. Swallowing vomiting tinctures designed for victims of poisoning. Being happy when getting my stomach pumped as I would lose a kilo or two. It was savage and hard. Learning to love and appreciate this body took years. It was hard to look at food in a normal manner again. This is why I don’t hop on scales now, and make myself eat regularly.

Endometriosis. This one brought me to my knees. After having survived such darkness, I wanted a baby with all my heart. It was the carrot I clung  to. Since age eleven, the pelvic pain had been agonizing. A proper diagnosis got left behind in the pressing need to stay alive. I was only officially diagnosed in my twenties. Hospitalized regularly, I was always placed in the maternity ward, a cruel and unusual way to be treated. The years of drug treatments and surgeries were tough. IVF was beyond hard. I went to ground, shutting off completely. That it eventually worked, was astounding to me. I had wanted more children, and nearly lost my life in the attempt. I grieved for quite some time, before finding peace.

30441_128528053847715_2013184_n

Surviving it all! I am still amazed by the dawn of each new day. Amazed that I am here to see it. To have survived is extraordinary. I have my medical notes, and at times, the prognosis was grim. Here I am, an intelligent woman in her thirties, who smiles more than she frowns. Who plans for the future, and has left the pain behind. There was no magic secret I uncovered. It had to do with giving myself a break, understanding myself on a deep level, and kindness. With self-love and kindness, the healing begins. You define who you are, not them. xxx

 

 

#ProjectPositive. September 14th. My Best Physical Feature.


My best physical feature would funnily enough, be my backbone. I was young and invincible when it was shattered. Man it hurt! I learnt I have more backbone than I gave myself credit for. Laying on the ground that night, I was still thinking of ways to get away from him. Violent men are cowards, and he ended up running away, after dragging me across the ground and hearing some of my bone’s snap. I learnt I would need a huge operation, and I remarked that  I simply wouldn’t allow it. The surgeon looked at me incredulously. I was pumped full of morphine which I believe gave me more bravado. Having to lay still for months terrified me. I couldn’t wait to run. Run from this nightmare. It was too risky to move me, so I had to stay in my rotor bed during the surgery. They could flip me over with safety inside this wondrous vessel. It strangely arrived the morning of my fall, and hadn’t even been unpacked. The staff had to watch an instructional video before I was placed on it. I wasn’t  a Catholic, but the one who was with me before and after surgery was dear old Father Spencer. He had a soporific voice which soothed me. I wish I had recorded his voice for posterity. I had a dear Scottish lady, named Veronica in the bed next to me. After a few months of catheterization, she hollered with great excitement, in her thick Scottish brogue, to the men in the next room along, “the lassie took a piss by herself!”

photo 3 (1)

By seventeen, my spine was so caved in that I couldn’t breathe properly, nor digest food. I needed more surgery to save my life. They went through the front, somebody holding my heart in their hand. They carved up my ribs to “prop” up the scaffolding. Flipped over, they installed the hardware. Body casts followed, as did a big recovery once I was out of ICU.

 

My caved-in spine, before the life-saving surgery.
My caved-in spine, before the life-saving surgery.

Falling over and breaking my back (again), in three places five years ago, that blew. My little girl and I performed a clumsy dance throughout my recovery. I gave her “koala bear cuddles,” her weight distributed evenly, thus saving me pain. She was a champion. This back  has been bludgeoned, collapsed in on itself and had all manner of egoists and healers in there, doing their thing. It is a short spine, inflexible (stubborn), like its owner. You should see me try and do yoga! Its adorable! I pray my knees never go, as I use them and my hips to move and get down (and up). My daughter loves my spine, and is intrigued by its scars, which we have named. Harry is named after an eccentric artist I knew, and he winds his way from my stomach to the centre of my spine. Louie is the scar where they did work on my lung. Marilyn is the scar on my hip bone, and the wide scar along my back is Raphie. Defiant Raphie. My backbone has been reinforced, so woe betide any villain who approaches! Woe betide indeed!

ICU at seventeen.
ICU at seventeen