Breaking the wall

Whoever says liver flushes put you on a path to losing weight must have a very different experience from me. Unlike them, I suffer from uncontrollable cravings for starch, which not only make me feel physically ill but also destroy any semblant of self-image. I wish I could prevent them but sooner or later, I will cave, and all the anger, fear, self-depreciation will come bubbling. Presently, it is twice as hard – although it always is – like I am caught between a rock and a hard place.

On the one hand, there is the guilt and the shame. What I am realizing at present is that they are tied to all the moments in my life when I acted to please others or to protect myself (which are really one and the same thing). Instead of allowing myself to express my uncertainties and my weaknesses, I pretended I knew what I was doing. I was a fake. I gladly would have sent someone else to do the job for me but social and professional etiquette required I be the one to do it and that I do it according to pre-established codes that were not mine. Hence the awkwardness.

On the other hand, there is something much deeper, which I have identified as disgust. I am reliving feelings of self-loathing I did not know were possible. They have to do with my sexual organs, intercourse and Man. The voice that takes over when I look in the mirror is: 'I'm disgusting, I'm so fat, I'm repulsive, I'm ugly.' What I feel is like vomiting. And yet, surprisingly, I eat. That is the paradox with disgust: while I am rejecting both myself, the human body and by extension food, food is also a source of comfort and gives me a place to hide. Since crawling out of myself to escape the unbearable sensation of being covered in slime is not possible, I compensate – drugs would probably be more effective but for some reason they never really attracted me. I go for starch, starch and more starch (although some grease to go along with that never hurt.)

Maybe there is a way not to face the memories and the emotions. In fact, had I not gone for a massage last week-end, I probably would not be in the awful state I am in. How I know is that everything my masseur told me after the massage correlates with my realizations ever since. He warned me about the disgust, the confusion between sex and love, the layers of protection I surround myself with…

What he did not warn me about is that the wall around me is only partly mine and also inherited. It is a protection mechanism I internalized to fend off feelings of intrusion that caused me profound disgust towards myself and others. After all these many years of self-development, it is only yesterday that it became fully apparent, when the simple act of taking a bath transported me all the way to prenatal memories.

It is disquieting to understand who your mother really is, what her defense mechanisms are, how, like all of us, she lies to the world and to herself. Over recent years, I have come to see her stripped down to her most disavowed flaws, shortcomings and insecurities. It awakens anxieties, frustrations and anger, but it also somehow brings along tenderness. It is actually reassuring to realize that essentially I am not the only one with problems, and that all the nasty defense mechanisms I have been trying to rid myself of over the years are not only my own.

The good news is that if I am touching on something this deeply tied to my mother, I must be on the right track. Therapists always like to remind me how working on one's mother is at the core of any self-development journey – or at least mine. Indeed, prying into the woman whose body you have shared means, like no other experience, taking a good long look at yourself in the mirror. And that is the really tough part. 'Cause I do not like what I see. But since that little voice inside of me tells me to persevere, I guess there is really nothing else for me to do than be patient, take it slow and take good care of myself. It is all temporary anyway.

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