Stripping on the Internet: A Mother’s Fear

When I started Style and a Story one month ago, I kicked it off with a heavy confession: I used to be anorexic. I was proud of my bravery to expose this part of me, but my mother was not; my mother – my protector – thought it was too much to reveal straight off the bat to the online world. And boy did my confidence take a pummeling.

It’s not that she wants me to ignore that “bad” part of my past, and it’s not that she’s ashamed of my history with an eating disorder, she simply hopes for the best for me, and fears that revealing that “yucky” part – though she also thinks anorexia was a blessing in disguise – will damage my future, predominantly in terms of getting hired once I graduate in three months.

She was staying with me in my studio at school when the conflict broke out. We had just finished watching Desperate Housewives, which, out of tradition, we only watch together, when she proclaimed, “You know, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to tell people you were anorexic; you better be careful because it may put off employers. I think it’s very silly of you. You’re being silly.”

I went silent.

I was taken aback.

My mother, of all people, should have been encouraging honesty, right?

She should have been proud that I was opening up about an issue that I once was so shameful of.

How could she insinuate that I’m “sullied,”  I thought.

I responded coldly with a deep and mumbled whatever.

I said she was being silly.

Mainly, I was upset by my mum’s semi- insulting word of warning because it made me second guess myself. And I hate second guessing myself. I already have a problem with confidence, so being told I was making a “huge mistake” was not emotionally boosting. Internally, I called her rude and, perhaps rather harshly, a bitch, but I was stung by her bluntness.

Blog posts revealing my past with an eating disorder were posted in “to be continueds” – I guarantee that years of mental illness cannot, and should not, be told in a solitary posting – and each time the writing experience was tainted with my mother’s stabbing words, you’re making a terrible mistake.

How dare she haunt me like this, I insisted. She had no right telling me how to present myself on my blog. She doesn’t even know that I “follow” bloggers who have suffered/ are suffering from eating disorders, so she is oblivious to my intent to connect with them through my truth. I itched with frustration.

I thought about my mum’s warning when I was running. When I was showering. When I was eating. It bothered me to the core.

But, with all this pondering, no matter how much of a “Debbie Downer” thinking about my “mistake” was, it made me step back and look at mothering, and, in particular, a mother’s perspective.

With this, there was change: I realized my mum was not being aggressive; she was just doing her job- looking out for me. My mum was thinking of my future – she often thinks about it more than me – and was worried that, as an aspiring editor, I’d lessen my chances of getting hired; mental illnesses pose a threat to companies. She was doing her parenting thang.

Rest assured, my mother’s perspective has not changed the way I blog- I still write about my experience as a sufferer of anorexia, but only occasionally.  The only difference is that I can once again write peacefully and confidently. Being able to adopt different perspectives, my friends, is key to emotional growth and wisdom. No pain, no gain, as the saying goes.

The biggest news of all is that my mum’s fear that I was setting myself up for failure by revealing something dark that may put employers off is now moot: my career path has switched gears, and I now want to be a self-employed therapist. Take that; the stripping will go on.

My mother and I... on a pleasant day... wink wink.

My mother and I… on a pleasant day… wink wink.

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