Old Habits Dying Hard
Chowing down a healthy lunch at The Ledge last week I was approached by a beginner climber asking me what I cut out of my diet. What did I eat on a weekly basis? She then proceeded to tell me she thinks she needs to lose weight. Obviously, something about my appearance was something she was striving for.
That moment has stuck with me for over a week and I often come back to think about it. It makes me feel melancholic when I reflect on it. I felt like I was talking to myself 2 years ago.
Firstly, from the ages of 12 to spent most of my teens and early 20s hating my body. Not eating enough. Eating too much. Making up for it with excessive exercise and purging. The cycle continued for a long time.
I think self-loathing is a normal, even natural human condition but when it affects your day to day functioning it’s hard to enjoy anything in life. Life is painful but suffering is a choice.
2013 I was in my third year at The University of Sydney. Studying and running 20km a day, plus weights. I was also at my thinnest. The thinner I became the more work I booked. 2014 was much the same until my hair started to fall out. Only with the visual fright of that did I started to back away. Far away from an industry where my appearance was being judged on a day to day basis.
My body couldn’t keep up with the damage I was doing to it. Those habits returned with a veracity in 2015 during a horrendous encounter with a man with a suspected personality disorder. I have never hated myself or felt as low as I had being caught up with them. I returned to old habits to cope with cycles of idealisation/devaluation until pins and needles were once again an everyday occurrence. I had little sunshine left. After that, I chose not to suffer anymore. No one would make me feel that bad anymore. Not even myself.
Initially, I used a lot of anger to fuel training. Anger can be useful. But quick burning. I started to feel a vast amount of pity towards the person I was so mad at. So rather than climbing, I spent a couple of months questioning why I started climbing in the first place. Those few who know me realise I had been belaying my friend Liz at The Ledge since 2012 and never really had much of an interest in climbing myself until 2015. Climbing was the only break I had from a turbulent 2015. It entered my life at a time where I needed it most. The thrill of pushing myself kept me going. And having to focus on the climb itself rather than the thoughts buzzing around. Since then it's changed my thought processes and how I deal with stress. Increasing my resilience.
Now my obsession with climbing allows me to enjoy physical activity and keep a tighter leash on my Black Dog. A new approach. Like many women, I was slaving away because I feel obligated to do so. Now I train because I’m in love with my sport. This makes that need to train to simply ‘stay in shape’ or as for the woman last week, ‘lose weight’ completely irrelevant to me now.
The desire to excel at climbing to continually push my limits is greater than any desire to achieve some aesthetic goal, fueling a shallow ego that needs constant refueling. And I like it that way.