When you fix something with sticky tape, it’s only temporary. It’s not the solution because the sticky tape will, well, lose its stick. You could just keep replacing the sticky tape with a new piece, but it’s still not going to change the fact it’s just a quick fix. The problem is still there. It’s still broken.
And that’s what I’ve realised. I’m just wrapped up in sticky tape.
I’ve never been good at just showing people who I really am. Even when I was a child, my mum would take me to a dance class or swimming lesson but because I wasn’t up to the same standard as a dancer from a west end musical or had mastered the backstroke within the first session, I wasn’t good enough. I just had this feeling that in order to do something, I had to do it really well, otherwise, I shouldn’t do it at all. Maybe others would think that about me too? So, I fixed it with sticky tape by not taking part. Even though I wanted to dance and swim, the anxiety of what others thought of me as they witnessed my failure wasn’t worth it. Or was it because of them? The same situations continued to repeat themselves through secondary school. I just never felt good enough.
If you know me, I’m sure you’ve seen my face and neck suddenly flare up with fire. I think my arms and chest have also turned bright red before. Maybe I should be proud of my party trick of turning into a chameleon; changing colour to reflect my mood. Whilst red indicates panic and danger, and since I’m not usually in a great deal of danger by talking to someone, I think it comes from the fear of what people will think of me. But why? It all seems to come back to the same thing. The thing that creates doubts, unlikely situations and who bullies me. The perfectionist. Rexi.
I think Rexi (anorexia) realised a few years ago that I didn’t want to live by her rules anymore. But she wouldn’t just let me leave. She tried everything, including pushing away my friends and barricading the door with depression, but then eventually she passed me the sticky tape. It was her way of saying ‘fine’. But by doing this, she made me think that I was okay, that she was no longer in control, that this is as good as it was going to get. When in fact, even though her grip had loosened, that sticky tape still allowed her to have a hold on me by never letting me heal.
For me and everyone else around me, the sticky tape was being discharged from hospital, no longer being underweight, going out for meals, eating around other people and no longer weighing myself. And they were big achievements that needed to happen in my recovery. But deeper into the cracks that the sticky tape fought to hide, I discovered that even after seven years of being diagnosed with anorexia, Rexi was still there. In my eating habits, the way I saw myself when I looked in the mirror and in what I believed about myself.
“You aren’t good enough. You’ll never achieve anything or make anyone proud. You’re a failure. You have no purpose. Everyone’s better off without you.”
The sticky tape doesn’t always have to be bad, it’s how it’s being used. In my case, Rexi handed it to me. She isn’t actually the tape itself. Although her intentions were bad, I can turn it into something good. Like running for example. I know running definitely helps me. But it’s also not going to solve everything on its own.
I need to dig deeper. So that’s what I’m going to do.
As it’s World Mental Health Day, I want you to check yourself over for sticky tape too. Is there anything you’ve temporarily fixed? Even if it might seem like a positive fix, why isn’t the tape strong enough? You can’t expect to hold all of your pieces together whilst trying to peel back the tape, so make sure there is someone else there to help you; your team of builders. Your community. Some pieces might fall apart slightly in the process, but it’s your chance to fit them back together even better than before. Remember that you don’t need to change the pieces that are broken, you just need a more solid solution to secure them all together.