It has taken me the better part of 28 years, but I'm finally beginning to untangle the web of lies you told me.
I've learned, recently, that just because my body was once a frequently topic of conversation - the length of my legs or the size of my chest were seemingly central to my very existence - does not mean now, as an adult, that it is on the forefront of peoples' minds today. I am no longer disproportionately tall or top heavy. I do not draw stares when I wear bathing suits at appropriate social gatherings, nor does the revelation of my age provoke looks of confusion from innocent inquiries.
Today, at age 28, 5'4" (+ a half), a size 4, and a 32DDD, I'm actually fairly normal, maybe even statistically average.
In a room full of women of childbearing age, the very fact that I have my period is not something about which I should be ashamed. No one has ever once asked me how old I was when I began to menstruate, nor asked me to chronicle how the day unfolded.
I've invested so much energy in believing that you were my defining characteristic. That you spoke for me, without me, over me - that your language was louder than the words from my tongue. I profoundly believed that the very there-ness of my flesh overpowered anything I might think or feel to the contrary. Because my body, unlike my words, has never lied.
So I hid my words behind this vessel - this body - convinced she could do the talking for me. I lost my ability to feel along the way.
What are you feeling? my therapist would gently ask?
Nervous. Sweaty, Shaky.
But those weren't feelings, she reminded me. They were my body's reactions. My feelings, she explained softly, could not be described using the same vocabulary.
Say you're anxious. What does that feel like?
Sweaty palms. Rapid heartbeat. Flushed cheeks and fidgeting.
See, she says. That is your body's physical response to the emotion. You are not feeling sweaty, nervous, fidgety. You are feeling anxious.
And slowly, the untangling began.