A few months ago Cosmo contacted me and asked if I'd care to pen some words about my body issues for a compilation feature called 'The Secret History of My Body'. Editor Bronwyn McCahon had picked up on some sentiments I'd expressed via the blog and her features director, Caelia (a good friend of mine) set about sensitively broaching the subject. The story is in the September issue, on sale today.
I was extremely impressed with the care taken in commissioning and editing the piece, as it represents a sort of "coming out" for me via more mainstream media (on that note, I really feel for celebrities like Home and Away actress Jodi Gordon who might not have an opportunity to explain themselves – or fashion a first-person piece about their struggles – before the tabloids get wind of a controversial story).
Of course, it's hard to articulate a very complicated matter in 500 words. There's no opportunity for contextual background information – family history, medical history, life experience – so what you get is a digested part of the whole story: my annus horribilus, if you will (and one GIANT photograph – gee, thanks, Cosmo!).
I was and am VERY wary of the potential impact of the piece. Having criticised "eating disorder stories" in the past for their potential "enabling" content, I didn't want it to be "thinspiration" for girls teetering on the edge. Thankfully, the story is more geared towards the impact the disorder had on my life and my recovery (a W.I.P) than my whacko behaviour, though I still question my introductory reference to the size of my skinny jeans.
The story might go some way to explaining my hyper-sensitivity about diet, health and food stories – as well as the countless images of "thinspiring" models, celebrities and fashionistas – in magazines. It's also why I applaud editors like British Vogue's Alexandra Shulman, former Cosmo editor Mia Freedman and any magazine brave enough to eschew the diet story standard in favor of more wholesome, nourishing editorial (Cosmo included, as well as Dolly and Girlfriend – Dolly, I do think you're doing great; you've come a long way since I started reading in the '80s!).
While I represent the extreme end of the disorderly eating scale, I'm fully aware that many women exist in a world where restriction, guilt, compensation, treadmill devotion and calorie counting are a daily reality – particularly in industries, like media and entertainment, where there's pressure to look like a picture of control and perfection while you're climbing the ladder. Anyone, or any glossy, who does something positive to counteract this mentality and suffering is a winner in my books.
Like Sarah Wilson, whose body story also appears in this issue, I've had to learn to be kind to my body, or, as Gwyneth would say, "nourish the inner aspect". I'm actually really grateful to have experienced the disorder, though it wrecked havoc on my life for a year (strained relationships, a stifled career, not a lot of smiling or laughing or new experiences), not to mention my body and, superficially, my looks.
It's taught me that I need to feel at peace, rather than in control; that I don't have to exercise like mad to maintain a healthy weight; that variety in food and routine is the spice of life; that focusing your energies on others is the key to liberation; that solace cannot be found in the pantry; that good friends will stick by you no matter what; that a good Husband won't run the second the going gets tough (and sex dries up); that family is everything; that sometimes you have to ask for help; that your brain cannot function without adequate nutrition; that self-inflicted punishment is not redeeming for a troubled soul; that suffering leads to perseverance; that God is gracious and forgiving even when you suck; that if you mess up and 'fess up, a new day awaits; and that it's more than fine to indulge in a little cake.
And, on that note, what a treat it is to be a finalist in the blogger category, alongside Mia, Sam and Helen, in the Cosmo Fun Fearless Female Awards! I'm like the Jodi Gordon/Jackie O of the bloggy bunch! While I admire Sam and Helen (you go, girls!), I'd really like to praise Mia for her amazing support of GWAS, especially during my annus horribilus (when I was anything but a fun, fearless female), and truly excellent blog (which has an active and passionate commenting community to rival Jezebel) and would be super-happy to see her win. Go vote!
"If people are bound in chains, suffering for what they have done, God shows them their sins and their pride. He makes them listen to their warning to turn away from evil. If they obey God and serve him, they live out their lives in peace and prosperity. But if not, they will die in ignorance and cross the stream into the world of the dead." Job 36: 8-12
Girl With a Satchel