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melissa black

Guest Posts, Young Voices

Becoming

July 21, 2015

By Melissa Black

You can find out a lot about yourself when you pay attention to what makes you cry.

Sometimes I’ll see something or hear someone say something that literally hits me so hard I break down right there, with no warning and no immediate explanation. I just start to heave, tears pouring down faster than I can make them. I start sobbing because something in me has been recognized, something that I’ve probably been ignoring or swishing away with my hand.

I watch and listen to a lot of interviews. There’s something almost addictive about listening to other people talk about life and how they live it; I want to know how people overcome themselves and learn to be alive without driving themselves crazy. Other people, particularly older and wiser women, seem to be infinitely capable of handing me pieces of myself that I didn’t know I’d lost. During one interview, the first I can remember that made me sob fiercely and unexpectedly, a phenomenally successful women shared with the audience what she would’ve shared with her sixteen-year-old-self if she had had the chance: Don’t worry, I’ve got this. You’re too young to be worrying about how it’s all going to pan out. Go have fun, go live, be carefree. I’ve got you. A powerful sadness erupted from me. I’d wished in that moment that someone would say that to me and mean it.

In a different interview, another woman expressed the most significant thing she had yet learned, she shared with us what she would have shared with her younger self in all of those years of searching: That voice in your head that tells you you’ve not done enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not enough of this or that, isn’t God. It isn’t Divine. It’s the critic in your head that never can tell when things are good and when a possibility of peace and self-compassion exists. I covered my eyes with my hands and I wept.

The most recent incident regarding this intense and sudden emotional outburst wasn’t from an interview, but from a lecture. This woman is so inspiring to me that she’s become intimidating – she’s like a phantom of a personal guru, always there to kick my ass into shape when I’m off chasing the tails of my fears. She spoke about forgiveness, belonging, home. My eyes are welling up at the mere thought of these words, the inner movement upon me before my fingers finished typing them out. Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, healing

Nesting In Transition.

November 19, 2013

Nesting In Transition.

By Melisssa Black.

I suppose it’s time to use my carefully sculpted sentences and succinctly selected phrases to talk about pain, because contrary to my desperate belief, cutting its vocal chords doesn’t kill it and shoving it in the bottom drawer doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I have come to adore the phrase “I used to feel” to describe my floundering around in pain and overwhelm and vague stagnancy. The thought of my path being unclear and my actions frozen and my past writhing inside of me existing right now is enough to send me away from myself, back into the shackles of the disciplinarian I bowed down to for far too long. Essentially I have been attempting to fool myself in hopes that I’ll believe it’s all decaying underneath my footsteps, and that belief will manifest my salvation. But it’s still swimming.

An atrocious amount of time is still spent in front of mirrors, searching, determined to find ugliness, something to improve, some red flag or blemish or untoned muscle that will justify the uneasiness in which I seem to place myself. I still put my conscience to sleep in acts of cruel hatred inflicted upon my own body, waking only to find fingers pinching flesh on my hips, gagging at every angle I can position myself in. While brushing my hair, my teeth, putting on lipstick or glasses, old fiends scratch on my windowpanes, reminding me of every flaw and unrelentingly tossing in images of the tiny body I had not even a year ago like rocks through the living room window. These rocks sink to the bottom of my every attempt to hold my head high and make it out of the grasp of my past.

Eating disorders are an ugly reality. Even uglier, for me, was the depth of the issue, which extended beyond wanting to be beautiful enough to be valued and into the realms of a crumbling identity and empty well of self-worth, which perpetuated into every fiber of my being until I realized I couldn’t escape the notion of “not enough.” It followed me everywhere, and it ate me alive from the inside out until I discovered myself one horrendously grey winter afternoon in Idaho Falls on my yoga mat, mid-crunch, heaving and blubbering the same question over and over: “Where have I gone?”

I had not laughed, I had not connected, I had not felt an inkling of substantiality since I decided that to be thin meant to be disciplined, to be disciplined meant to be good, and to be good meant to be loved by God. After so much unrelenting torture, more emotionally than physically, I had constructed my own make-shift light at the end of my self-imposed tunnel. This work, this dis-ease, this inferiority wasn’t for nothing; I would soon walk through one of my blessed days as a perfect human being and be awarded the love that my ego was promising me. That day never arrived, even when I had enough willpower to sink under 100 pounds and fail to menstruate for a year and a half.

I have healed significantly since then. I surrendered into the unconditional love of my mother’s arms and I opened my eyes and ears to the swarms of friends around me, willing to help and restore the girl that they missed. I turned eighteen and decided it was high time to quit fucking around and declare my own worth and beauty and value, regardless of the ideas I had previously allowed to possess my fragile mind. I wasn’t going to take my first steps into adulthood as a victim, shrinking away in a rotting corner under the pressure of the world’s and my own outlandish expectations. I have kissed my own wounds and I have grown. But I think I have let the virtue of strength possess me just as I had let the fantasy of perfection.

When I start to consider that I may not be exactly where I believed I was on my highest highs, when I spent romantic nights with Bob Dylan and impasto and poetry, indulging in the fantastic beauty I had every right to see in my own reflection, I start to panic. I begin to implement my new methods of beating the sadness out of myself, disguising it as unyielding tenacity. But I don’t want to be proud of my own feet on top of the vulnerability that it takes to express a long-lived sadness. I no longer want to pretend that being unaffected is strength personified. If something hateful is still squirming within me, it is not my job to condemn my own weakness for not having completely overcome it yet – those were some nasty demons and I am and always have been a sensitive girl.

I still see them when I silently beg with every action to be praised by people I don’t particularly like, or when I allow the dark matter of my mind to convince me that if I didn’t burn 400 calories or write a perfect paper, I have lost myself to unworthiness and sloth. I see it when I manipulate people in my cravings for affection and when I whisper stories to myself about others to battle my own insecurities, to extinguish the coals that are still burning within my anger of not having yet reached perfection. These things still trickle up, no matter how impossible I believe it to be in the blissful, fleeting moments of yoga, meditation, or prose fluidly leaking from my fingertips. But the intensity of my highs and lows is so staggering that it’s almost theatrical. Rest, now, is my only option.

I will no longer grapple with my past. I will no longer succumb to guilt. I will no longer condemn myself of ridiculous and fictitious offenses. Instead, I’m choosing to place myself in the ethers of flagrant honesty, and wrap that girl into arms mimicking my mother’s and let her know, with a kiss on her shoulder, that no matter how far she slips back down her own timeline, she is nevertheless welcome home in every moment.

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Melissa Black is currently a student in Littleton, CO, pursuing a career in writing. She is on the road to recovery from anorexia and has found peace through yoga and meditation, and purpose in serving others through prose, art, and random (and frequent) acts of kindness. She aspires to give all that she has gained through her journey inward to those who struggle with eating disorders and poor self-image, and believes connection through writing is a powerful force for reaching out to those in need with compassion, understanding, and unconditional support.
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