(10 points to the theatre geek who can tell me where this post’s title comes from)
Again, I’m kind of sucking at posting. So much to say, but it’s stuck in a web of shame and fear.
Last summer, while working my last shift at the store that (unofficially) fired me for my eating disorder, a girl came in with a charm on her bag that I loved. It was a tiny birdcage, door open, with the bird on the outside. It was such a powerful metaphor of everything I wanted, and birds have always had a special meaning in my life (hence why one is tattooed on my skin). I got my own, and put it on a necklace.
Nowadays, I feel like I’m back in the cage, door closed, chained to the perch. Not the same cage that my eating disorder had me imprisoned in, but maybe the cage that contributed to my eating disorder in the first place. It’s the cage that makes me clap a hand over my mouth when I’m upset, turning me into a solo “Speak No Evil”. It’s the cage that tells me that nothing I could possibly say would result in anything but ridicule, judgement, and hurt.
I learned at a really early age to keep my mouth shut. The quieter I became, the safer I became, the “better” I became. That behavior became so ingrained that I couldn’t imagine doing anything different. I became really good at keeping secrets, at hiding who I was, at hiding what was destroying me. Nobody would understand, people would judge me, people would leave me, people would hate me as much as I hated myself.
In recent months, I’ve learned to let people in – a little. I can let out hints, jokes, paraphrased versions of my stories. It isn’t much, but it’s terrifying. Now that I’m charged with the task of changing my patterns of the past, I find that I don’t want to take the risk. I can let people see anything of the “illusion” of me, but if I have to let them see anything real, I will kick and shove as hard as I can to get them away.
I think I need to learn to say “Not ‘no’, just ‘not now’.” I need more baby steps before I take a flying leap. Until that time, I’m pulling my cage door shut and locking it from the inside. I know it’s not right, I know it’s not helpful, but it’s the best I have to offer.
I know I’m not the only one to ever feel this way, so if you have any suggestions beyond the popular refrain of “just do it”, I’m all ears. Still holding on – to the bars of my cage.