The following is a guest post from amazing Creative Team member Vanessa Oliver-Lloyd. Today she is sharing a deeply personal, incredibly inspiring project in her State of Me album (see her previous post here).
Project 1 – Paper Doll
[trigger warning: eating disorders]
I have been working in my State of Me album again. I have to say how much I love the Basically Bare album (from the Find Your Voice Main Kit). It’s really helping to inspire me to use my stash differently.
There is a story behind what I’m sharing. The other day, I was doing a pen test in one of my notebooks, to see which pens (if any) were bleeding through the paper. I shared a photo of this on Instagram and innocently tagged it #pentest. I usually follow the hashtags I add to my photos, just because I’m interested in what other people have tagged in this way. When I checked that hashtag, I was so surprised to see that some young women were using it as a thinspiration test.
Thinspiration is any photo that will inspire a person who has weight issues or an eating disorder by showing thin bodies or focussing on certain body parts.
It’s no secret that I struggle with anxiety issues. I used to use eating disorders to help me deal with these issues. For a while it was anorexia. I would not feed my problems. Then I went the other way and used bulimia to purge my anxieties. This was when I was in my early twenties. I am forty now and I have children, including a daughter. I haven’t been actively dealing with my problems in this way for years, but I am and always will be an emotional eater. That is my refuge and my curse. But I have strong coping mechanisms, I reason with myself, I try and be stronger than those reflexes, I am surrounded by supportive people.
When I saw those pictures, I completely and utterly fell down the rabbit hole. Within ten minutes, I was jotting down fad diets, calorie-counting and meal planning for the next two weeks. I was writing down stupid tricks to help you lose weight fast. I was oooing and aaaing over collarbones and ribs peeking through. I was lusting after those flat stomachs and those beautiful protruding hip bones.
I was reading these young (so young) women’s stories of not wanting recovery and just wanting to be thin. But after a while, I was also seeing how thin they really were, how ugly it was to see this when I used to only want to look like that at all costs. I saw the disease. But I also saw inspiration, motivation and my younger self. After a while I physically had to come out of the dark hole. I erased the hashtag right away. But that feeling, that temptation to go back there, to resort to my old tricks, stayed with me for the next few days.
So I needed to journal it. Get it out of me. Resist the temptation to go down that trail. I’ve done it before and it hasn’t ever given me something positive. The only time I was happy with my weight was the most miserable time of my life, after I found out about my ex being unfaithful many times and through that awful dragged-out breakup. I was never happy throwing up my misery and stress.
I started with the above stream of consciousness (that term I learned from another Awesome Lady – Lauren Blood) that I wrote directly on the transparency page that comes with the album. Remember, this is my Lady Journal. The one for me. The one where this kind of ugly thing can become beautiful. But also a place for honesty, for authenticity.
Under that page I made an envelope by cutting a paper from the 6 x 6 paper pad that came with the Find Your Voice kit and running it through my sewing machine. I chose a paper with affirmations because I am in a fragile state.
In keeping with the Paper Doll theme, I drew some clothes for me on Dura-lar, that I slipped in this pocket.
These clothes illustrate some of the elements on my mind. First, the bone dress. Bag of bones, Big boned. The Lovely Bones.
Then the ‘Live fast die pretty’ t-shirt. I hate wearing t-shirts with writing on them because I feel my breasts deform the writing and it looks awful. I can’t help but think that clothes fit better if you are flatter chested. For the same reason I can’t wear button up shirts or blouses because they always fly open.
I designed the perfect dress, the one that would fix what I don’t like about my body.
I used to collect paper dolls as a child and even as a teenager. I loved doing this. There are a couple more dresses, but I think you get the idea.
The final image sums up what I think about it all. I feel a bit ashamed that this is my big problem in life. I feel like this is a first world, privileged person’s problem. Like it’s nothing compared to what others are going through. I am able to find that perspective most days. But last week, I lost my way; and that deserves to be documented too.
Ps: the red image of me turned out that way because I ran out of colored ink in my printer. I kind of liked the effect, so ended up using it anyway.