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Practice makes imperfect

Guest Author: Natalie

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

My favourite movie as a child was “Mary Poppins,” who was “practically perfect in every way.”

Fitting, since by three years old, I had learned that perfection would earn me awards and gifts and praise. My life would be filled with singing and dancing and laughter, if only I performed perfectly.

I had no concept of who I was or what I enjoyed.

However, despite my perfect appearance, inside I was a ball of anxiety … not that I could voice it, but my control over what I ate — peanut butter and honey sandwiches every meal for 15 years — was evidence enough. I was a vision of loveliness, approved by many, but I had no voice … an empty shell of fear. I had no concept of who I was or what I enjoyed and the fear of failure kept me rooted in bitter obedience.

But fail I did, and it nearly destroyed me. At 18, struck with my first major disappointment, my ensuing depression resulted in weight loss … and compliments? I felt I could do nothing right, yet I learned I was good at something that gained back the approval I had lost. My body became my new obsession, and my talent of food control “helped” immensely. It wasn’t long before I was in full-blown anorexia, eating little and exercising six hours a day, graduating pharmacy school as a skeleton. A new pharmacist, with top honours and awards,  a resource on health and wellness … and I was killing myself with starvation.

And much of me wished for that end.

Death would stop the voices. Death would stop the shame. Death would free others from worrying about me. I would no longer be a burden, a wasted piece of humanity.

But then someone came into my life. I couldn’t explain how or why or even what made him care so much, but nevertheless, this man’s patience and support, even when no one was on his side, was ultimately what would prevent the ending I had imagined.

 I felt freedom in knowing I had opinions.

Fast forward eight years, through a wedding, our first anniversary spent in a rehab centre in the desert, amenorrhea and infertility issues, liver failure, robberies while working in the pharmacy, osteoporosis and leg fractures, time off work where I wrote my memoir … as I wrote, I began to discover how I had ended up where I was, and what needed to change. I felt freedom in knowing I had opinions, I had values, I had a purpose. And I was entitled to them. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that with this realization, 14 years of amenorrhea was resolved. One period later, just prior to starting in vitro fertilization, I learned I was pregnant.

Our son is now six years old, and I see the world through his eyes everyday.

I encourage him to learn from his mistakes, explaining things to him, showing him how important it is to share his feelings. He is at risk because of the addictions through generations of our family, but if I can help it, he won’t live the painful battle I have.

I will never be completely free of the anxiety that has filled me, but I force myself daily to make time for myself, to let things slide a bit, to see my imperfections and be grateful. I have received the gift of faith, our son, and my husband who is the one who has been there unconditionally, loving and supporting me. I am definitely no Mary Poppins, but there is singing and dancing and laughter in my life again. I am alive for a reason, and I will spend the rest of my life in gratitude, fulfilling my purpose of helping others.

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