Spoils of war

Writing this is arduous and physically painful. I’ve never been this persevering in my life because I’ve never had to.


I went out yesterday for the first time since August. Yup. August. I only went out 3 times this summer, and two of those were for doctor’s appointments. I’ve battled agoraphobia before, but that’s not what kept me indoors all autumn. It was body dysmorphia and depression. I felt so incredibly self-conscious that I could not justify going out. I thought everyone saw what I saw; that I was this hideous whale. I felt disgusting and the critical voice in my head blared till it almost crippled me. The interesting thing is, it had nothing to do with my body.Now, I’ve gained a lot in my 10 years of battling this, but even when I was ‘thin’ I had the same voice read the same script; You are so disgusting. You’re a hideous cow. See that person? They are looking at you because they’re judging you.

I just never picked up on it before. It was so subtle that I only felt the effects of this autobullying. The reason behind this disorder is a story for another day. It’s too complex for the scope of this post.

So I went out. Mind you, I’ve been physically inactive all this time that my muscles withered away. I’m very weak. I walked a distance of 100 meters and I had to stop three times because it was so physically taxing that I was about to collapse. My muscles weren’t getting enough oxygen. It felt like a marathon. But the worst part wasn’t that; it was the voice in my head inflicting physical pain with its taunt.

You see, for years I’ve had recordings of doubters and nay-sayers (including my parents) play back in an endless loop in my head. Every time I even thought about doing something, they descended on me like vultures and I had no idea what this was, so I’d flee in agony. Every single time. Till I feared ambition and action. I was so scared of that wrenching and depleting feeling of horror. It’d suck every last bit of hope I had and because I didn’t understand what it was, I couldn’t oppose it. So, for years I lived under this ruthless master. Until I realized not too long ago that this was self-doubt. That this was the legacy of all the trauma I’ve gone through since I was 5 and all the criticism that had eroded my very identity. I had my self-worth corrupted by this and I had no idea that the battles I was fighting weren’t mine. At all.

Upon discovery, I thought; well, then what is the opposite of this? What is lacking in me? Then hit me; intuition. That nagging voice that’d always rain on my parade of avoidance by telling me what I should do. It’s always been strong and this is the reason why I’ve always struggled. Because it prompted me to face my fears instead of hiding. It prompted me to take the road less travelled- the road much scarier/darker/untraversable. It prompted me to be vulnerable, to be honest, to risk, to dare, to apologize, to love. ❤

So yesterday I decided to put this hypothesis to the test; was this the answer? To tune in to this gut feeling/inner voice/intuition? I went out with my Nikon in hopes of snapping some pictures, but as soon as I stepped out into the surprisingly cool December air, I was bombarded with harsh chants aimed to get me back into the house. But I could have put my fingers in my ears, because that’s what I effectively did when I clung to that voice like my life depended on it. A storm of self-loathing stirred within me and unleashed a barrage of nasty words against me. I was pelted with what felt like stones, because I literally ( and I’m using this in the correct context 😛 ) felt pain! I felt this immense pain, as if I was going to be ripped apart or collapse. It was horrible, and had I not soldiered on and kept calm and mindful by not contesting the mental war, I’m sure that I’d have a panic attack. It was like walking calmly on a bed of hot coal. When everything in me said GO BACK! I calmly said, it’s ok. It’s not the first time these people see a hideous whale. They won’t remember me by the end of this day. It was amusing how collected I was. And sure enough, the voices died down, one by one. They withered because I refused to fuel them anymore.

Coming back from my friend’s place was even more agonizing, but only physically. The only thing that went on in my mind was how far I had left to walk, and how many days I’d be knocked out because of this. I was exhausted,red in the face, and my legs were quivering by the time I got indoors, but boy did I fight! I waged a war and I won. I won big time. I slayed ogres and gained courage as spoils of war. I’m still a bit tired, but what I did yesterday was the bravest thing I’ve done in years and that is something that is going to stay with me forever.

Last night, mum gave me the same ol’ speech designed to make me feel so useless as to realize I cannot survive without her. On other days it’d make me sad that she would not acknowledge any of my efforts. On other days it’d make me angry that her love was conditional and her approval hinged on impossible goals. On other days it’d make me blue, a little while past midnight.

But this day I realized my own strength, and I realized that I was stronger than everything I had gone through. I had my own back and that made me fearless, even in the face of my controlling mum. If I defeated those gremlins of doubt in my head with love, there was nothing for me to fear in life. Nothing.

3 responses to Spoils of war

  1. Well good for you! And once again, while I don’t feel those things as profoundly as you do, I can relate to a lot of it. Ever since I retired and no longer have to go out — except to buy food — I find myself “nesting” (or as you wrote recently: hiding) far more than seems natural for me. I used to go out a lot — sometimes just to watch people or enjoy the day. That now seems unappealing for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s definitely not agoraphobia — I love the outdoors and open spaces.

    I think it’s feeling brutalized by the world. Work, relationships, even friendships, have made me sour on the world, and I have this sense of “I’m done with all that.”

    Regarding the same health concerns as you, I determined to take my iPod for a walk regularly this summer, and finally got into the habit… just in time for winter, which pushed me back inside again.

    So I can relate. We just gotta ignore the demons and push through it.


    • Blues Fairy – Author

      Would you say that this socialization- exhaustion you feel is something you’ve endured and suppressed till you could retire? I mean the whole 9-5 cycle.


      • I don’t think so (but it’s so hard to truly know oneself). For example, my job allowed me, at times, to work at home, and I invariably found that after several days of that, returning to the social environment of the office was joyful and often involved long chats to reconnect with people.

        I think it’s a growing sense — an accumulation of “you’re so weird” input over a long time. In my youth I strove to be an outlier — to the point one high school friend once said, “You go out of your way to be different, don’t you.” (I thought that was one point of life, and I didn’t understand the obvious derision in her voice.)

        It sometimes seems I did too good a job of following the road not taken. Ah, well, I guess I’m stuck with me. 🙂


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