Let them eat Cake!
Finding yourself feeling alone in a crowded room is scary and a little life changing.
This is exactly how I felt when I said goodbye to my daughter and financé on the day I booked into, let’s call it Hotel California. I knew no one, had no idea what to expect; I’d never done this before. I was stripped of my cell phone, laptop, anything sharp or cable like and a whole lot of dignity. My bags were searched, who knew you couldn’t bring in your own cleaning liquids?(I admit, I am a clean freak). I was shown to my suite (ward), which I shared with two other ladies and this would be my “home” for the next 21 days!
If you’re new to this series please click here for part one and two. Help give you some background on how I landed up at Hotel California.
“Hi, my name is Sylvia Rose and I have an eating disorder”…..all the group members respond, “Hi Sylvia”.
There were many areas of my life I tackled head on while I was on my three week sabbatical. But one of the largest beasts I took down was my eating disorder, AKA Lola.
Sessions with my therapist (let’s call her Dorothy), no reference to the Wizard of Oz, helped me pin point exactly when Lola took occupancy in my mind and how she would continue to play the leading role in this Broadway drama for many years. I remember now how each comment, joke and snide remark etched a corner in my mind and changed the course of my life.
The day in question, my parents were hosting one of their large and fulfilled parties. I was a little girl of five playing by the pool with my friends, the men were drinking beer, laughing and talking around the braai, the woman, as was typical of that time, were cooking up a storm in the kitchen sipping their perfectly chilled Chardonnay. My parents hosted parties like this almost every week end. However this one was special because it was a family get together, and I remember as life and laughter filled these occasions. For us children the best part was playing around the pool, lawn cricket and finding the most outrageously imaginative games to play and keep us amused.
While standing holding my plate of food that had been lovingly dished up by my mom (and my mom believed in feeding a growing little person), a family member commented on how “chubby” I was becoming, she laughed while pointing out that I shouldn’t eat so much, otherwise I would become a little fatty boom boom! She smiled, pinched my little cheek and winked. The comment was probably said in jest, but the seed was planted in the mind of my little five year old self. Many years later, those roots would take the Jaws of Life to remove. And so began a life long battle with food, weight, self-harm, body shaming and zero self-confidence.
At Hotel California meals are hosted in the banqueting hall with some 200 people.
My eating habits, I found out later, were being monitored and a daily report sent to my Dr, so skipping meals wasn’t that easy. But as people with any kind of disorder will tell you, hiding and lying are part and parcel of the disease. A way will always be found! Later I realized, I was only fooling myself…
On the third day of my stay, while sitting with Dorothy, she looked straight at me and asked me if wanted to continue playing the muse at 40, or did I want to remove Lola from her leading role and become the star of my own drama production? I left the session feeling confused, angry and hopeless. How was I ever going to remove Lola? She was me…
It took me an entire week of wrestling with myself, before I agreed that I needed help with Lola, I no longer wanted to live obsessed with my weight, hating my own body, and my fear of getting fat!
I spent years trying to convincing myself that I didn’t have a problem,’move on folks, nothing to see here…’ But that day I saw clearly; I was sick and owed it to my little five year old self to seek help, real constructive help, so for once she could rest, see her true beauty and potential.
Once and for all to speak openly about Lola in her rawest and ugliest state and hope to God there would be some kind of reprieve from the pain and driving fear. There was no guarantee, but I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. I was ready to try!
Shout out to my amazing therapist, who listened, comforted, gave assurance when needed, provided boxes of tissues and was willing to empower me with the tools to take back my autonomy!
I began to write in detail about the journey of Lola. How it all started, what kept her growing and the people who were key role players; at what points she was at her peak, how I managed through two pregnancies, becoming a mother. Feeling helpless, knowing that children are like blotting paper, they soak up everything they see. Learned behavior took on a whole new meaning. I am thankful, by the grace of the Universe, that all of my girls have a healthy love of food.
There was healing in mapping out my life journey. When you put pen to paper about your deepest, ugliest and darkest thoughts, you release them to the Universe, in doing so you open yourself up to the potential of accepting healing.
Now all of this runs the risk of sounding very airy fairy. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t happen overnight. Every day is a decision and it’s hard, but I would rather have the power to make the decision than to feel powerless and driven by fear.
Secrecy is one of mental health’s most powerful tools…In writing this article, baring my soul to you dear reader I have lifted its power. It no longer renders me helpless.
Chat to you in part four, two weeks from now.
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