(I started writing this post with the last few paragraphs in mind, I wanted to speak to you about my strange attitude towards my own body’s physical aging process. But I had to keep going back to set the scene. So this post is all over the place, and covers many topics. It is a long and hard read. Be warned, there are some graphic and hard to read pieces. Don’t read if fragile. Drug abuse, miscarriage and loss mentioned. I also want to say that this is about how I feel. About my body. It has absolutely nothing to do with what I think of you, your body, about society’s view on any of the topics I have covered. If your reaction is ‘if that is how she feels about herself then what must she think of me’, then you have not understood my post. Because this is how I feel about myself. It has nothing to do with how I view you or anyone else. Ok?)
I have a strange relationship with my body. I don’t hate it; I don’t abuse it, not any more at least. There have been times when I have been embarrassed by it, and there have been times when I have been proud of it. And there have been times when it has let me down terribly.
When I was young, I hardly noticed it. It was merely a mechanism to physically express the needs of my will. But as I got older, and more socially aware, things started to change.
When I was a teenager at school I was terribly embarrassed by my body. I was so painfully shy about my thin legs that I used to sit long after the bell had gone to end break time just so that I wouldn’t have to walk past people with my thin thin thin legs. I hated them. I hated been tall, standing out. I felt tall, gangly, ungainly. Ugly.
Then, when I was a young adult, I felt terribly self-conscious about my boobs, they were so big. I walked hunched over so that people wouldn’t notice them. One of the best things I ever did for my self-confidence was getting a breast reduction for my 21st birthday.
As a university student, away from home for the first time, I found my new found freedom intoxicating. I drank too much; I slept with far too many men. I had no respect for my body.
Then, at an unusually late age, my late twenties, I discovered new and more dangerous ways to push my body to new limits, I discovered the rave scene. I was in heaven and I embraced it like a religious follower at a cult meeting. It was a sub-culture that I loved being part of. I loved everything about it, the music, the dancing (I love dancing), the feeling of belonging, the drugs. Oh, the drugs. The drugs were an amazing discovery for me. A dangerous discovery.
I was part of the ‘cool’ drug crowd. We were social drug users, and while some of us, me, were addicted (although we would deny this vehemently) we had certain parameters, boundaries if you will, around our drug use. There were some drugs we would never use. Heroin. Using heroin meant you were a drug addict. We foolishly told ourselves that we simply used drugs like E and coke, we weren’t addicted. We all kept our jobs; we never stole money or sold our little sister’s bicycle for drugs. We were cool, we were hip, we were ‘high class’ addicts.
Ecstasy was our drug of choice. Raves are all about ‘E’. No matter what anyone else tells you. The problem is that the more you use Ecstasy, the more you need to use to get the same high. So from using one pill a night, it went to two, then three, four… The of course the more you use, the harsher the long term side-effects. And the harder it is to socialize without it.
I loved Ecstasy, I loved the way it made me feel. For many people Ecstasy is about the ‘loving’ feeling. You feel so happy, loving, at peace with the world. You just love everyone. It is a kissy, huggy, massaging type of drug.
The thing I loved about E was the physical feelings E gave me. When you ‘come up’ on E (when the drug kicks in), you start ‘rushing’. It feels as if you can actually feel the blood rushing through your body and you whole body becomes one big sensory zone. If I brushed my fingertips lightly against my arm I could feel every single nerve ending, every hair follicle. It felt amazing. I could feel the beat of the music against my skin. I could feel the beads of sweat on my back as if they were magnified and slowed down. Every thing is heightened. I loved the feeling, I felt as if I was my body’s conductor, playing the most amazing piece of music ever. I pushed pushed pushed, took more drugs, skating the slippery line between being in control and crashing over the edge.
People said it was bad for you. I didn’t care.
I got into coke for a while and that is a dangerous drug. That is an addictive drug. Thank goodness I somehow managed to escape that dark pit.
I got thin, very thin. I was about 10 pound underweight. I was skeletal, and I loved it. I never considered myself an addict, although looking back it is obvious I was. But at the time I was working, function, hell, I even did my MBA while drugging. And passed, well.
And then I met Marko. Actually, the night I met Marko, a Sunday night before a work day, I had taken half an E. Enough to give me a buzz but not enough to make me spaced out.
Marko is very anti drugs. I obviously didn’t tell him in the beginning that I was using drugs, although he soon found out. But by that time I was using much less and never with him around. He had never seen me on drugs. It became once a month, then once every second month. But I couldn’t stop it completely. It was my little crutch.
And then one night, the girls and I went on a big binge and we were going to meet up with Marko and his friends later. I had taken an E but it had not kicked in. So I did a few lines of coke. Still nothing. So I had a tiny bit of speed. Nothing. And then I smoked a joint. And everything kicked in at once. I was completed stoned out of my mind. And Marko saw me. Stoned. For the first time ever. He looked at me and said ‘if you ever do that shit again I will leave you, in an instant’.
It was August 1999, I was 30 years old. It was the last time I ever used drugs.
It was hard stopping. It was only then that I realized how addicted I was, and how much part of my life drugs has become. I have a very addictive personality. Very. But I worked through it and I am obviously very pleased I have stopped. (This is why as an ex-smoker I can’t even have ONE cigarette, because if I have one, I will have 30)
And then, in 2000 my infertility hell ride started and my relationship with my body took a whole new turn in disappointment, disgust. My body let me down terribly. I felt embarrassed, angry, betrayed by my body. My body was poked, prodded, injected, operated on, cut, scarred. I put on weight, I lost weight. I got pregnant, I miscarried. My body fatally failed my one son, failed to provide him with whatever he needed to live, and he died within. My other son was cut out of my body, ripped out too early, and then died. I was left with leaking breasts and a raw wound. And no son. Needless to say, infertility did little to improve my relationship with my body.
And now, now that all of that is behind me, I have for the first time realized what a complex, and often unhealthy, relationship I have with my body.
What has brought this to the fore is that for the first time I am noticing physical signs of aging in my body. I hate it. My reaction to it scares me, Perhaps I was too wrapped up with the infertility stuff to notice, or perhaps it is just more noticeable now. But I am aging. My skin is getting wrinkly, soft. My face is getting lined. And I have to force myself, over and over, not to give in to the disgust I feel about my body.
I also do this stupid stupid thing. I hate that I do this, and I feel completely dickhead’ish even telling you, but I look at my kids perfect, beautiful faces and I feel sorry for them that they have this old, ugly mother. They should have a beautiful mother, not this one that looks so lined, splotchy, tired.
When I blogged about the Botox thing a while ago there were a few of you who said that you loved your aging body, you loved the softness, the lines. You said you felt proud of the history your body told. And oh god, I am desperately trying to find some of that in myself.
Instead, I look at myself in the mirror and I feel disgust. Not all the time, but if I don’t stop it, I will get waves of disgust at how I look in the mirror. I look at my thick middle, the c section scar, my boobs, my butt. And I shudder. And then I tell myself to STOP DOING THAT.
Doing the Botox was a mistake I think. My sister jokingly said at the time, ‘you know that Botox is the crack of cosmetic surgery, once you start you can’t stop’. OMG, she was right. I want so badly to do it again. It is calling me, the Botox. But I can’t afford it, I can’t justify spending that amount of money. If it lasted, fine. But having to spend so much money only to have it wear off? I don’t know. And yet, when I stare at the lines on my face I keep thinking ‘but it is only X number of dollars/Rands….’ But I really can’t afford it now. I can’t justify dipping into my savings account to inject poison into my forehead because I hate my few lines. Pity!
I know this is an unhealthy attitude, and I am very VERY aware that passing any of this shit on would be so damaging to my kids. I also know that we pass on stuff subconsciously, and that without realizing it, I could, if I am not careful, pass on my unhealthy relationship on to my kids.
And so, for my children’s sake and my own sake, I need to stop this disrespect and flashes of self-loathing. I need to somehow forget the past and accept that this is the best body I have and it is going to have to carry me to my old(er) age and so I better respect it and look after it. I need it to be around a while longer so that I can take care of my kids. And that is my biggest motivator of all.*
I need to learn to love the skin I am in, no matter what has happened in the past.
It is not going to be easy though. Old habits die hard.
*Funny, I tried to stop smoking for so many years, and I couldn’t. The health warnings had absolutely no affect on me. Yet, for my children, I can, and will, do anything. I stopped smoking instantly. They really are my biggest motivator.