Well, this isn’t scary at all. But, it’s something I’ve been meaning to share with you all for a very, very long time. It just hadn’t felt like the right time until now. In the spirit of my 2017 mantra “Let Go” and this being my first post of the year, I feel like now is the right time. But let me be frank, letting your guard down + choosing to be vulnerable isn’t an easy thing to do when you’ve been constantly trying to live your life with a shield of protection around you. “Nobody in, nobody sees me. We are safe here.”
But the more I’ve learned about this human life, the more I realized that we are all searching for meaning + connection: a chance to be heard, validated, and to feel like we aren’t alone in this world. And that human connection we long for, well, it can only be experienced if drop our shields, remove our masks, and offer our true selves. It’s effing scary.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you gotta air out your dirty laundry or dish all your secrets in order to find true connection–some things are meant to stay private between individuals, and the first thing that sours the spirit of authenticity is when it feels like someone is spreading gossip for the sake of attention.
I’m not about that here.
I’m here because N&N was born out of this long, exhausting + insecure story that is mine. One that is still being written today. I know without a doubt so many can relate to it, but it’s because being your real self is scary, that I haven’t had the guts to share.
Here’s the thing. Not even the closest people in my life know some of these details about me. Some may have suspected, but my family + best friends have been kept in the dark for so long because A: I didn’t want to be seen differently, and B: I didn’t want to burden them with something they can’t fix. So, naturally, it was easiest for me to carry it silently for the last 17 years. Don’t worry guys, though these next few posts may be hard to read, know that I’m ok, and I love you.
On the outside looking in, you would have never suspected that I’ve dealt with disordered eating patterns, negative self-image, restriction, obsession + abusing my body. I was never considered overweight, and never showed outward signs that represented the inward battle I was fighting. That’s because stories like mine are trapped in the mind, never meant to be shared or exposed. You get stuck in the in-between, thinking you don’t have a serious issue, but knowing something isn’t right.
I’ve made leaps + bounds since day one, but of course, there are moments where I feel like I am back at square one. Now it’s all about learning how to recognize when certain things set me back into that negative headspace, before letting false thoughts take over + breed there. My intention for sharing this is so that I can drop the shield, reach out my hand, and let you know that you aren’t alone. Because there is hope, and none of us should suffer in silence.
I’m not sure how many parts this is going to take, because I want to share as much as I can without writing one long saga that takes an hour to read. So, we will start small.
Let’s take it from the beginning. Here goes nothing.
For me, it started in elementary school. Sure, I noticed I was a little different than most of the girls in my class. I was the quiet tomboy. In 4th grade, I remember thinking if I could cut my hair really short, I wouldn’t have to brush it. Haha. Unfortunately, I found out that you still do. I was so excited when mom let me wear my favorite green overalls for picture day that year, instead of some stuffy itchy outfit that didn’t feel like me.
When I started dressing myself for school, I didn’t have much of a fashion sense, but some days I would try damn hard to get noticed. Does anyone else remember Limited, Too? God, it was awful.
How did that start anyway? Comparison, I suppose. What a sneaky, poisonous trap to get sucked into.
Anyway, dressing up would work for a moment, but I remember feeling like I was living in a fake skin. Shirts felt too tight, I hated the color pink (still do, sorry mom), and all I wanted to do was play tetherball with the boys or wallball in my old jorts (jean shorts, for those of you who don’t know the lingo), Old Navy tee (my fave was the one with the golden retriever on it) + my tall white socks with my New Balance sneakers.
Since outfits weren’t my thing, I got noticed for something else. By sixth grade, I was known as the fastest girl in school, and man was I proud of it. Energizer bunny is what they called me. I loved to run fast. The feeling of wind moving across my cheeks, and blowing my hair back enlivened me. In sprinting, there is an inner propulsion that drives you forward. Sometimes it would almost feel like my strong + powerful legs would leave my upper body behind if given the chance.
All in all I was a happy, quiet kid. Except for when it came to 6th grade history lessons…ugh, me and history were NOT friends (who can memorize all those dates + weird names, anyway?), so I just chose to chat with my close friends most of the time. #sorrymrschapman
That year at our field day, there was a special 400m race that only 5th + 6th graders could run, and the prize was this (what felt like to me) enormously stunning trophy that on the top, had a girl with wings as long as she was tall. “It’s mine.” I thought. At the sound of the gun, we were off, running the straights + leaning into the curves, chasing after the coveted 1st place finish. As my foot was the first to break the plane of the line, I was beyond excited. What an accomplishment. An honor. What a feeling to be noticed.
I remember it raining that day.
A week or so later, school was out. We had graduated from 6th grade, and the majority of the class was swimming at a local club pool. I remember as I was climbing out of the side of the pool, (you know, when you hoist yourself up over the edge and press yourself up?) one of the moms complimented me on how strong my arms looked. I was pretty proud of that.
During our lunch break, we all decided to sit in a circle and play the game “telephone” — the one where someone starts a saying and it gets quietly whispered around until it reaches the end of the circle and the last person has to say what they heard out loud? Yeah, that one. We went through several rounds of it, passing silly phrases to each other until it became my turn to be the ending mouthpiece of the game.
My best friend at the time, who was sitting next to me, started the phrase around the circle. People snickered + giggled, and looked at me like they couldn’t wait to see what would come out on the other end. I was excited. Normally, it’s funny because words get mixed up and things get lost in translation along the way. But this particular game definitely didn’t end with me laughing.
As the secret telephone phrase made its way around to me, something went terribly wrong. Either someone had changed the phrase entirely or I was publicly finding out that my best friend betrayed me. What came around to me whispered through giggles into my ear was the pure act of a mean girl:
“Look at Madison’s thighs. They are so big.”
Instantly mortified, I rushed to wrap myself in my beach towel, covering up the once proud image of my strength + speed, refusing to announce the final spoken words for all to hear.
“Who did this? Why did they do this? What is wrong with me?” I wondered.
I never wanted to get back into a bikini again. I was 11.
If you can relate, or are struggling with disordered eating patterns + negative body image, please don’t be afraid to reach out to someone.
Please email me or someone close to you if you find yourself stuck in an unhealthy cycle you can’t break, or a negative mindset you can’t seem to shake.
Telling someone is the first step to finding the best solution for you.