“Are you really still hungry?” he asks.
I am once again leaning into the fridge, assessing the treats inside. It’s become one of my most familiar exercises: pudgy hand on door, slight muscle strain in the flabby arm as it pulls at the handle. Door sucks itself away from the frame and there it is: that bright, harsh, comforting light, illuminating my treasures.
“Yes,” I mumble, trying to conceal my irritation at the question. How dare he interrogate my intentions, my feelings, my state of being! My attention goes back to the contents of the fridge. Well, kind of.
I want to explore my treasures, think about the tastes I am about to introduce to my tongue, savour the excitement of packets ripped and fingers licked. But there’s a part of me, a tiny, light part, that knocks. That’s all it’s been doing. Knocking.
I’ve been able to shut it up, that relentless knocking, by drowning it in grease swamps and trapping it in sugar castles. But it is persistent and the knocks gradually, patiently, keep reappearing. I am relentless too, though. And hungry, always hungry, always ready to build more castles surrounded by swamps.
And so I manage to eat myself into a 230 pound mountain of rebellion. Always, always, fighting against that pushy knock, trying to shut it up—thick fingers around its throat, squeezing, digging nails deep, sweating until there is no more resistance—at least for a while. I do this over and over and over again. Every day, another murder, just for the sake of silence.
Our bodies are marvellous things, aren’t they? What they do, endure and create for us.
My big body, so courageous to blow itself out of proportion, just for me. It didn’t care about the judgmental glances, it didn’t care that I couldn’t cross my legs or couldn’t see past my bulging stomach anymore. It hugged me, always, every day. It protected me, built a wall of lard around me to keep me safe.
My body was my weapon. It helped me make excuses, gave me the ability to say “I can’t” and it made it believable. It gave me the chance to be ugly to people, push away loved ones, estrange myself from friends. My body reaffirmed my most powerful belief system: I wasn’t loveable anyway.
But if you think my body was great, you should have met my mind! My mind was my hero.
It siphoned unwanted emotions into hunger. It helped me fool myself into believing that I needed to eat that last slice of pizza even though I was full. You see, that full feeling—the peace it spread into every part of me, silencing everything else—it was heaven. My stunning, strong mind that kept convincing me, day after day, that I wasn’t worth it anyway. My lovely mind that allowed me to understand that if people didn’t like me, it wasn’t because of me—it was because of my size.
I loved my body and I loved my mind, as a damaged woman loves her abusive husband; violent but in love, out of control but sorry. Bruised, battered, confused and convinced that this is what love feels like. It’s not their fault, they loved me too. They didn’t know any better, you see. They did their best. And they promised that they would change.
It continued like this for years—trapped in my cumbersome body, self-abusive mind and venomous state of defeat. I was lost in my misery and stuck in my life; the only release found in my little treasures, packets ripped, fingers licked. And so diets came and went; as did exercise regimes and health goals.
But still, that knocking, that incessant, infuriating knocking just would not stop.
Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to convince ourselves of a reality that sweeps us into a claustrophobic confirmation of our belief systems? If a part of you believes that you are worthless, chances are your world will reflect this, too. If a portion of you knows that you are a failure anyway, you’ll get confirmation of it every single day. And if you are convinced that you don’t deserve love, you’ll be right, because you are so good at creating realities that crush any hope—a mortar and pestle, grinding resistance into dust.
And so I existed next to myself, mouth filled with food, eyes filled with tears…empty, sad and broken.
But then, slowly, day by day, the knocking got stronger. No matter what I did to dull them, the knocks turned to drumming, echoing through every one of my cells, shattering the sugar castles surrounded by moats of grease.
Banging, knocking, drumming ripping cracks coursed through that vial belief system. Earthquakes, violent and uncontrolled, crashed through me, punched my foundation out from under me, yanked me out and set me free.
And then there I stood—unprepared, alone, floating.
Alone and free and so lost in a world I hadn’t been in, for what felt like centuries. Alone and free, a tourist in parts of my mind I had never touched and curves of my body I’d never ventured to. Alone and free and light, wildly powerful, the after-shock turning into anticipation and gratitude.
Gradually, that knocking has morphed into a voice. This voice, the voice that saved me, was a gentle whisper in the beginning and I had to strain to understand it although I could always, always hear it. Sometimes we misunderstood each other—I would mistake an insecurity for words spoken by the voice, they sounded the same now and then.
It has taken a while for me to speak its language and I am still learning. It asks me if I am sure that I want to believe everything I think each time I drop into a destructive thought-pattern. It reminds me that my belief system is a choice and I always have the option to make different beliefs. The voice also tells me that everything is as it should be. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry and most importantly: it makes me face myself.
Not as the person who is convinced that they are unworthy of love, but as the person who asks where these beliefs comes from. Not as a person who confronts their body with distance and distrust, but as someone who kneels to it, thanks it for its power and its patience, even if there are still things to change.
Had I listened to that knock earlier, opened the door and welcomed it immediately, it would have reprimanded me for what I had been doing to myself. It would have told me to pack my bags and leave the unhealthy relationship I had been trapping myself in for seven years, governed by a broken, controlling man. I guess I wasn’t ready and I was still so convinced that it was the only life I deserved, ruled by the belief that “nobody else would love me anyway.”
It was a friend stuck in Cairo, in a similar situation, who took on the role my inner voice couldn’t at the time. Over Skype one day she reprimanded me. Her wording shook that internal knocking of mine into new energy and her tone caused the beginning of the crack in my poisonous belief system.
Yes, it is amazing how we can fall into dark depths, reaffirming ourselves as failures, slobs, disappointments or fools.
But what is more amazing is that no matter how thick your wall or deep your swamp, if you listen closely, you’ll hear that knock—the one that won’t ever give up, will keep on knocking until it turns into an earthquake, shattering the foundations of faulty belief systems. This knock that, when you allow it, turns into a voice, gentle and kind, full of strength, made of love and made for bulldozing those dark self-affirmations into tiny, harmless pieces.
I can’t tell you its name, I think everyone calls it something different. I also can’t tell you what it sounds like because this too is unique. I can tell you, though, that it is there. It’s there, waiting for you to free it and all you have to do is listen.
In the beginning it might feel like an intrusion because it will possibly want you to get out of the unhealthy relationship or go and get that dream job or have a baby even if you don’t have a long-term partner. You might still be stuck, safely suctioned onto the “I can’t” or “I don’t deserve it anyway.”
Your voice knows you better than anyone in your life. It knows what you are capable of, and it will keep knocking until the cracks start to show in your belief systems—if that’s what it takes.
Fast-forward six years and minus more than 50 pounds. I could lose more weight, sure. But it doesn’t really matter. I left the unhealthy relationship a few months after my voice broke free and it brought me to a freedom and a sense of self that I never would have imagined for myself. Also, turns out, I’m pretty damn loveable after all. My body and mind love each other, really love each other and I am revelling in it.
And when I lean into the fridge these days, observing its contents, a gentle voice, clear and strong, makes itself heard and understood as it asks me: But my darling, what are you really hungry for?
Author: Maike Soutschka
Image: JD Hancock // Flickr
Editors: Sarah Kolkka; Emily Bartran