I’m struggling, fam. I find that when I get sick physically, it’s a drag on my mental health as well. I know it’s a truism that the body and mind are connected, but I used to believe that my body was nothing but a meat sack for carrying around my brain. My soul or essence or whatever didn’t even come into the equation. I dismissed it as negligible at best or bothersome at worst. I valuedd my brain above and beyond everything else, and I didn’t much care about my body. To be honest, I abused it terribly, though not through the usual avenues of drink and drugs. I have a history of eating disorders ranging from anorexia to bulimia to binge-eating. I think it’s more a question of control (or a lack thereof) than a matter of food. I felt I had little control over anything in my life, so food was an easy target. Also, I wanted to whittle my body away to nothing because I despised it so much. I also self-harmed with cutting and cigarettes, but I haven’t done that in years if not decades.
I have four tattoos, and they were my way of reclaiming my body, though I wouldn’t necessarily have phrased it that way at the time. I wanted a tattoo for many years before I got one, and true to my nature, I got one on a whim when I finally decided it was time. My BFF and I went to the only tattoo shop opened at midnight, and unfortunately, the tattooist was the nephew of the owner, who was still in training. In addition, Asian skin doesn’t take to ink in the same way white people’s skin does (didn’t know this at the time. There are many things that Asian people don’t react to in the same way than do Caucasians, but that’s another post for another day), so by the time he was done, it was puffy, blotchy, and definitely not the black yin-yang in a sun that I requested. To make matters worse, it was on my chest, so it’s not like I could avoid looking at it. PSA: Don’t get a tattoo on a whim. Fortunately, I found an excellent tattooist years later, and he did a representation of Kali (the mother/destroyer goddess of India, grossly simplified) right over my navel, with suggestions of flames. I was so pleased with it, I commissioned him to do a cover-up tattoo on my left breast. It’s a massive purple and blue lotus blossom engulfed in flames, and I adore it. I got my third in San Francisco–a bracelet of red thorns with flames as ‘charms’ on my left forearm. My final one is from my local artist, and it’s a bracelet of flames and waves on my upper right arm with a yin-yang pendant. Originally, I only wanted flames, but my tattoo artist suggested waves to balance it out and match the yin-yang. Brilliant!
I love my tattoos. I’d say they were the first step in me accepting my body. First, grudgingly, and then, in a matter-of-fact manner. I can’t say I love my body because I don’t. In fact, I would still like to lose weight (and, yes, I have a number in mind), but because of my history of eating disorders, I’m worried about going down that road. Any time I try to diet sensibly, it spirals out of control. For that reason, there are several ‘sensible’ dieting tips that I absolutely can’t follow. One is counting calories. The first time I slipped into anorexia/bulimia, I did this obsessively. I can still tell you what the calorie count is of the foods I used to eat regularly. That’s another thing I tend to do–eat the same thing over and over. It’s part of my OCD tendencies, and it’s partly because I get overwhelmed by choices.