Lying in bed earlier this morning and feeling somewhat grotty (I seem to have picked up OH’s bug), an image of me aged about 19 popped into my head and triggered a whole range of emotions. This vision of me that appeared from out of nowhere was slim and carefree, dressed in a monochrome outfit, my hair in a bob and on my way to some do or other. I remember what I was wearing clearly – everything from my white Morgan handbag of which I felt extremely proud down to the black pumps – but it was my mood that I recalled most strongly this morning and which caused me to lurch with sadness at how the years seem to have taken something away from me.
On that day I was with my ex-boyfriend and despite being held fast in the clutches of an eating disorder and simultaneously abusing alcohol during that phase of my life (not a fantastic combination; drinking a bottle or two of red when you haven’t eaten for a few days is an excellent way to pass out very quickly, if that’s what floats your boat) I do remember possessing a light sense of freedom from responsibilities, of not knowing enough about the world to have any real worries about the future, and having a lack of awareness of the true implications of my frequently self-centred actions which in actuality hurt people far more than I ever knew back then. The world appeared open to me, full of possibility.
I suppose I was living in a bubble, protecting myself from reality by obsessing over food and living for my social life, frequently drinking myself into oblivion at wild parties and exciting trips away, and never staying sober long enough to think about the things that mattered. This morning though, I momentarily wished for that sense of freedom back again, the feeling of having nothing to worry about other than how to fill the day ahead – a sense of being young.
I saw a therapist a few years ago who told me I had been emotionally frozen in my teens as a result of my various addictions. I think he was spot on. In the last couple of years since stopping drinking I have grown up fast and it has been a bumpy ride; I’ve raced through years of emotional maturation in a very short space of time and now it’s as though things are finally slowing down and I have been able to look around and see where I’m at for the first time in years.
That image of me in the black and white dress is an illusion; the floating cloud I lived on back then was nothing but a figment of my imagination and was therefore unsustainable as a way of spending the rest of my life. The real world is much more, well, real. There was no sense of freedom for me back in the mid-1990’s, weighed down as I was by zero self-esteem and addictions that had grown up around me as a way of coping with a deeply-engrained self-hatred.
I’m tired (up in the night with baby again), feel ill and therefore, for just a moment, I fell into harping back to days gone by and seeing only the good – it’s the rose-tinted glasses phenomenon, the nostalgia trip that rewrites our pasts blotting out the bad bits. Twenty years from now I will more than likely look back on my life as it is currently and eliminate the sleepless nights, the not-enough-hours-in-the-day feeling I have during large chunks of my daily existence and will remember instead only sunny skies, wonderful times with my family and how grateful I was to be finally out of the drinking trap.
Which are really the only bits that matter.