Denise Ann | Blogger & Advocate, Where I Stand
Someone walks by and can’t help but notice what is in front of him. He examines it closely and can see that it was not built in a day, a week, a month or even a year. He probes aloud, “Why is this here?” I sit with my back pushed flat against the wall, my hands wrapped around my knees. I gaze into nowhere and respond –
The wall is an accumulation of moments, experiences, life events and deep-rooted emotions. From its inception, the wall acts as a physical boundary that separates me from others, from connections, from friends and from family. Each brick provides a layer of protection so that I do not feel the consequences of my actions or others actions.
He stops walking, leans on the wall and glides his hands over the bricks. He wonders, “What exactly are these bricks made from? They appear to be incredibly strong, durable, and maybe even permanent.” I rock back and forth. His question requires vulnerability. I hesitate, breathe, and speak –
The steel grey bricks embody anxiety and worry. The muted yellow bricks are filled with low self-esteem and poor body image. The crimson red bricks contain deep rage and anger. The azure colored bricks are comprised of sadness and loss. The dull sienna bricks encompass self-hate and shame. During, the last 15 years the burnt orange bricks developed. They range from restricting food to restricting spontaneity, to compulsive exercise, to isolation, feelings of unworthiness and self-harm. That section has a missing brick, something that is no longer needed. It too was the orange of the eating disorder, but drinking, bingeing and purging exist no more.
There is silence until he questions, “What has happened to you? What led you to build such an extreme boundary?” I sigh, “Life happened, it is my past that is hiding behind this wall.” My eyes fill with tears, my voice is barely audible –
A sacred trust was broken when I was young. Boys teased me, hurt my feelings pointing out how different I was – short, underdeveloped. A mother and father protected me, reassured me, loved me unconditionally and presented the world as safe, but from what I saw, what I see, it is not. Still, I perpetuated the belief that life was a fairy tale, building my life on the trust and love from my parents. Then it happened, a date rape. Never did I think someone would do such a heinous act without asking, he assumed it was okay. It was not. College was filled with attention – attention based solely on my appearance. Afterwards, I met a man who on paper looked perfect and was for the first two years, until one day he wasn’t. We married and instead of having a baby we had an eating disorder…together. Through the years he isolated me from friends, he manipulated me with rules and his words, and he decimated my self-esteem and my self-worth. For the longest time I thought our relationship was normal. Then I realized I was no longer in love with him; in fact I despised him as I saw him for what he really was. He was my husband I trusted him and he hurt me. I wanted out. We divorced. Yet, even without contact old wounds remain open through an existing trauma bond. The past five years, I’ve lived behind this wall, compartmentalizing my relationships keeping people at arm’s length. I have set boundaries that keep my emotions safe from ever feeling pain, loss, and rejection – to me those are intolerable. I’m sure you wonder if I experience joy and true happiness. I do, it is just limited. So you see, behind this wall is my story. It is the hurt, the disappointments, the anger, the pain, the rejection, the feeling of abandonment and most of all the intense moments where trust was breached that I built this wall.
He begs, “You have to let go; move forward. Don’t you know what is in front of the wall? Can you see what is in front of the wall?”
I know what is in front of the wall – deep meaningful connections, love, hope, a future, the freedom from an eating disorder, a quieter mind, happiness, and light. It is a life I deserve and a life I want if I could only push myself. If only I could dare myself.
He interrupts, “Push. What you describe is a story of heartbreak, but that does not mean you can’t start anew. How can you get to the other side?” I ask him to follow my footsteps, to walk along the wall with me. We stop in front of a latch, a latch that could open a barely visible door. As I rest my hands on the latch, unable to move, I whisper –
This is fear, the heaviest, laden bricks of them all. Each brick, charcoal in color is a different fear – fear of change and the fear of feeling the pain of a broken heart and shattered hopes. It is the fear of anxiety overrunning my life and the fear of feeling rejected due to my appearance. It is the fear of loneliness, the fear of letting go and actually moving forward. It is the fear of never finding happiness and the fear of despair. It is the fear of falling, failing without the eating disorder to catch me. It is a lack of self-trust that leads to a fear of killing myself if I can’t handle what is on the other side. If I could see beyond these fears, then perhaps surrendering would be easier.
I hear his breath on the other side. There is nothing he can say or should say. I know he is waiting for me to take that leap. I pause, glance at my hand resting on the latch, look at the sky…and I cry.
My Name is Denise and This is Where I Stand