I have a vivid memory of sitting with one of my therapists. Her name was Ronit. She favoured loose cut sundresses and brown leather sandals. She was probably only in her mid-thirties, though seemed quite old to a seventeen-year-old girl. She also seemed unfamiliarly comfortable in her own skin.
I was struggling with an eating disorder, hovering on the edge of a safe weight. So I was ordered to see her by my parents. This dynamic became the groundhog-day hamster wheel over the next few years: concerned parents; seeing a therapist; not much changing other than minor fluctuations in my weight.
So Ronit turns to me and says, “Why can’t you just be like me? Look at me! I have curves and some meat on my bones”, while pulling at what looked like copious amounts of blubber to me at the time, but was probably no more than a half-inch of skin. “Just be happy being normal.”
Normal? That was the last thing that I was looking for!
And so my quest for being special continued. It became my holy grail. And in my contaminated mind full of innocent misunderstanding, I perversely thought that being ultra-thin would make me feel special. I would finally have an identity that did not fade into the background. My anorexia meant I was noticed.
I tried desperately to hang onto my “specialness” – and despised those who seemed to want to take it away from me. I am a little heartbroken as I write this and draw on the memory of this time in my life.
It was exhausting. The endless undercover trips to the pharmacy for diet pills (I have no idea why they kept supplying an obvious waif-like minor with highly addictive diet tablets week on week, month on month); the deception, the skipping meals, the hiding food and the purging. It was relentless. Not to mention the roller coaster of moods as I constantly assessed if my regime was working or if I had shown weakness and put “too many” calories into my starved body. It was a nightmare ride of self-loathing and drug-like highs.
I realise now how alone I felt as I lived in my own vice-like grip of body and food obsessed thinking. I was stranded on my own isolated island of trying to remain special. My friends, parents, doctors and therapists, all of whom tried to talk sense into me, became my enemies, my deserters. I thought they wanted to steal my “specialness” – my treasure – from me.
I was looking for a feeling. A deep feeling of belonging. Some may call it a feeling of acceptance. A feeling of inner peace. A feeling of self-love. A feeling of fitting into this world. A soul feeling.
I never found it in starving my body. Instead, I found myself wedded to superficial feelings that fell well short of the mark which I thought were an indication that I hadn’t yet reached the perfect weight.
These superficial feelings are the kind we feel when we mistakenly think that outside factors can magically put a God-like feeling into us. The way I looked could and would never make me feel special. But I never knew this back then.
Fast forward twelve years. I am in my bedroom. I have been going through a roller coaster period of recovery from the “Great Depression” after an 18-month psychological marathon.
And then I have a moment. An experience that I cannot adequately articulate. It always sounds a little hollow when I try.
I experience a moment in time of bypassing my intellect, bypassing my thought system, bypassing my personality. I touch something divine – my soul. There is an instantaneous and powerful resonance of exquisite beauty. I fall head over heels in love with this divinity. And am stunned that this divinity is in me. This specialness. I recognise it is not only within me. It is in all of us. I am astounded by the question my experience has generated: Is that what makes us special, not that which is different, but rather that which is the same in all of us?
How did I miss this?
And suddenly I have a thought that brings the past into the present. Ronit, my therapist, is suddenly in the room and she is magnificent. She was right. I had misunderstood. She is radiant. Her soul is beaming and she is beautiful. So normal and so special. For the sound of the soul is replete with deeper feeling. It is just how it works.
I have had many challenging – even dark moments – since the day I unexpectedly met my soul. But the power of that first meeting is etched in my mind: it informed my future understanding of where “specialness” lies for all human beings.
The quest was finally over. My mind and body were no longer at war with each other. It had been a wild goose chase. I had not known that we are born special by virtue of the fact that we are of a divine nature. I had overlooked this fact and searched outside to find a resonant tune that I could play into the world.
Yet I didn’t know that all the while my soul was softly singing together with Ronit’s soul and every other human soul on the planet from the beginning of time.