Last week I got a new tattoo. Some tattoos I have simply because they are pretty or represent something I like. Other tattoos have deeper, subtler, often very personal meanings behind them.
This new ink involved the latter.
If you’ve been reading the blog, or know my story in any capacity, you’re aware that I have an eating disorder. I say have not had because even though I am doing much better now than I was say ten years ago, I am not cured. It’s a mental illness, and as such involves coping methods and ongoing recovery.
One of the ways I cope with ED is through cooking, by learning to love the ingredients, I have learned (/am always learning) to love my body. One of my therapists, very early on in my diagnosis, told my mom to keep me out of the kitchen. She said that it would further my obsession with food and nutrition in negative ways. She encouraged me to eat pre-packaged, processed food because it would cause me to “think less” about the whole eating thing. Turns out, it had the complete opposite effect. Not only was I given ready access to nutrition labels all the time, but I was also continuing to buy everything diet and fat free and covered in plastic.
This is not how I began to make peace with my body — that occurred many years later through whole foods, hours of experimenting in the kitchen, and learning to appreciate the taste of fresh, seasonal food that so many hands had lovingly prepared. This is food that doesn’t come wrapped in plastic with a nutritional label slapped on the back.
Yes, I’m vegan (I’ll write about the stigma surrounding eating disorders and veganism another day. SIGH.), but I eat more fats and proteins and carbs (and weigh significantly more) now than I did when I ate meat and dairy. It took over ten years for me to find out what helps me heal in my relationship with food and my body; for me, that’s being a cooking-loving vegan. That’s my unique recovery story. Yours might look completely different, and that’s 100% perfect. No one’s journey is the same. That’s why it helps so much when voices come together to share their mental health experiences. We learn that we are okay, and, even more than that, that we are going to BE okay.
And that’s the beauty of this simple tattoo, featuring a knife surrounded by culinary herbs. In addition to the obvious ties to cooking, knives also symbolize resolve and fearlessness. It’s a reminder for me of how far I’ve come, what I’ve conquered, and how far I’ve yet to go.
If you have a story about mental illness—whether personal or concerning a loved one—please consider sharing your experience, either by writing a guest post, or doing an interview with me. Even if you aren’t at a place yet where you feel comfortable disclosing your name, the church body needs your voice. Let’s shine a light on the darkness, together.