I often feel ashamed of the pain I used to inflict on my own personhood.
I often feel ashamed of the person I used to be in general. I don’t like her, for so many different reasons. I don’t like the old version of myself at all.
But guess what? That old version of myself is still me, and she still deserves all the compassion that I now know I am worthy of.
Learning to love past versions of Ashley, however, is a hurdle I have been trying to jump over these last few months. I think I’ve only truly realized it more recently, but I have a lot of trouble reconciling who I am now with who I used to be. Skinny Ashley is sick. Skinny Ashley is fucked in the head. Skinny Ashley is hurting herself. I don’t want to be Skinny Ashley. These mantras are so very different from what they used to be (e.g. Skinny Ashley is pretty Ashley and the only Ashley who deserves anything at all), but they are still just as damaging. I equate being heavier with allowing myself to grow. Fat Ashley is mentally healthy Ashley. Skinny Ashley writes things like this:
“Looking at the pictures of other girls and their beautiful bodies makes me ache. It makes my heart hurt. Because I know I will never look like them. I will never be tiny or fragile or bony. I'm curvy and shapely and all there. It physically pains me to know that I can never have that perfection. I can do my best. I can try my hardest. I can get skinnier. And I will. I will get so fucking skinny. But I will never be tiny or ethereal or delicate. No one will ever look at me and wonder if they could break my bones or make me fall with a huff. But these girls in the pictures; they're like beautiful pieces of crisp, white, flimsy paper. Beautiful paper.
I will be skinny. Before I go to college I will have reached my ultimate goal. No excuses, no exceptions. I will be one hundred and twenty five pounds before the next school year is out. I have to be. I just have to be. I have to look like a piece of thin paper. I have to look like someone who could blow away with the wind. I must.
I want to be wanted. I want to be sexy and hot and beautiful. With each and every pound I drop I just get a bit closer. I must stick to my rules this time. And never go back. Never ever go back. I can't. I must be skinny.
I sound like a sick fuck. But I must be beautiful. I must be perfect. Never again will I be ashamed of my body or complain about wearing a bathing suit. I will never again be worried when someone tries to pick me up or my fat jiggling when I run. Never. Ever.”
There are so many things I could say about this piece, in retrospect.
But when it all comes down to it, reading this just hits me in my chest like a bag of fucking bricks; every damn time. I pity the girl who thought these things. And I shouldn’t pity her; I should love her just as much as I have grown to love my current self, even through all the self-hatred and clear loathing.
I wrote that piece during my senior year of high school; my tipping point. I tend to think of that year of my life as the beginning of the end. It was filled with shameful night binges and so much self-hatred fueled by so many different things.
I don’t like that Ashley. I pity that Ashley. I look back and think, “How could you have done that to yourself, Ashley?”
But then I remember that Ashley did those things because she felt she had to. Ashley did those things to protect her fragile insides from fracturing under the pressure of everything, surrounding her on all sides.
Just like I ask people to be understanding about the ways I chose to fix my brokenness, the ways I chose to cope with life, I must also learn to be understanding. I must learn to love Skinny Ashley.
This dichotomy of Skinny Ashley and Fat Ashley is a fiction, something that I have created in my head to compartmentalize my life and separate myself from the emotional pain I associate with those more unstable years. The line I’ve drawn between “her” and “me,” however, isn’t real, and perpetuating it doesn’t serve me.
The reality is that Skinny Ashley and Fat Ashley aren’t all that different.
We’re all just… Ashley.