“Ally, where have you been?”
This is what I said to myself last night on the bus ride home. As I continued to ‘IPhone swipe’ between my inbox and Facebook every 20-30 seconds on the humid and cramped 381, I felt this huge pang of disconnect with myself. I had this overwhelming sense that I had become someone addicted to the next email or notification, concerned at the mere chance I may ‘miss out’ or seem too ‘delayed’ in my response to an email seeking advice or support.
Aside from passing my driving test (needless to say I haven’t been behind the wheel since I took that test), I have achieved very little that is tangible and real. I am not academic, I am not particularly good at boys or cooking, I can do a down-ward dog but never ask me to run a cross-country! That is until; I created the Sisters for Love MRKH Foundation in Australia. I found my calling and lives are changing. But in this journey, I have forgotten my story. My empathy is real but I have this niggling discomfort that I am becoming an administrator of my own diagnosis as opposed to a living and breathing example of how self-love and self-acceptance can be found.
So, I am choosing to travel back and remember who Ally was before happiness and peace came, if I am to stay close to the exact cause I write about daily.
I was a self-harmer for six years. Now, bit by bit and each day, I attempt to wear shorter and shorter sleeved clothes. At dusk, I even wear sleeveless, exposing the numerous scars! In my beloved yoga studio, it doesn’t even cross my mind, for I am in the place where judgement and imperfections heal. I grit my teeth on busy trains, whilst onlookers whisper “look at her arms!”
My thoughts simply affirm that we all have a past, and my past is documented in a slightly less than conventional way.
I was someone who counted 200 calories daily from the age of fifteen to seventeen years old. At the 200th, I would eat no more. I was hungry and cold most of the time, but this was my interpretation of powerful and accomplished. I then mastered eating 2000 calories a day, an apparent and well-known ‘flip’ reaction after the hunger became laborious and perpetually exhausting.
In turn, my self-loathing during the summer following my MRKH diagnosis left me with little desire to even brush my hair. I pretended to love heavy metal music whilst sporting black lipstick- it looked terrible. I couldn’t even master rebellion well. Some may consider this predictable and teenage behavior but I was looking to destroy my appearance on the outside to mirror that of my inside.
When I was diagnosed with MRKH, there was a lot of white noise. It was like spinning around rapidly, the way children do in circles and then trying to walk in a straight line, but all day, every day. Without compass and navigation, I would just keep looking down. Researchers have likened post-diagnosis to the symptoms and behaviors associated with trauma. I spent a lot of time after treatment, roaming from friendship to friendship, party to pub. I would spend many nights in busy pub toilets crying one minute, to then wiping the mascara off my face to find someone who would make me laugh the next. “Please, anyone talk to me, make me laugh, turn the music up louder, for longer!!”
It was so very erratic and dangerous. I was a broken girl.
When I became a little calmer and older, I did discover my ‘iron’ like work ethic. One thing I did well was work ridiculously and obsessively hard. The more hours I could work, the more powerful I felt. Some weeks, I would graft for ninety hours plus during my years of managing a student bar back home in Reading, UK. The work uniform was perfect for someone who could not relate to any sense of femininity-baggy jeans and t-shirts. My hair was swept back and oily, no make-up, my hands battered and bruised from beer kegs and deep fat fryers- I was in MRKH denial heaven! No-one wanted to know who I was; most were too drunk to care and I could finally immerse myself in blaring music and lock-in’s.
Since then, I have had two ‘proper’ boyfriends. They were quite normal relationships really; TV shows, food, holidays and clothes shopping. One is a best friend and the other is now married with a child who I only wish happiness and success to. But, one of my biggest revelations and ‘ahhh’ moments came during a writing and yoga retreat I attended one year ago.
I discovered that I chose these people as partners, because in essence, they were not looking for a typical ‘woman’. I don’t mean anatomically (I had taken care if that!), but in their expectation of my role as a girlfriend. I was not looking for anyone who challenged what lay beneath. They did not want a wife or ‘want to be mother’ and I didn’t know how to be either of those. Sure, I told them about the diagnosis but with as much meaningless expression and disassociation as possible. I think this was part of the trauma. It was awful.
And I look back feeling quite sorry for that girl who was so, so lost.
I write this blog now as a single woman – I have taken a pledge with a best friend to find one lunch-time per week where we are to buy one, simple ‘girly-gift’ for ourselves. Just for one day, we are to lay down our warrior gauntlets and nurture the repressed femininity and soften into our blonde locks and blue eyes without weakness or question.
My acceptance is precious. My body is precious. I don’t ever want to be that girl again. Acceptance has been defined as to ‘find rest in’ or to acknowledge a process without protest and if I could add, to simply find a way to look at the pain, and to follow up with love and forgiveness for being so hard on ourselves. Pain, then love.
I wish that I could be there for everyone’s diagnosis and steer them away any form of shame or self-hatred. I wish I could correct people’s stares and unwanted silences, however, we are not to judge those silences; people are doing the best they can with this unique information that we are choosing to share with them.
I do feel sad remembering what happened. But I am a girl with MRKH, sorry, a woman. And like I said two years ago, Becoming Ally was the best thing I ever did. And I cannot wait to see where she takes me next.
A word for all those who are sitting with this reality, never, ever settle!