Sometimes I have a hard time knowing who I am. This is pretty classic in Borderline Personality Disorder, and in that case it’s called Identity Disturbance. While I don’t have the same kind of flip flopping of actions, values, or thoughts that some people do, I often have a hard time figuring out what I care about, what I want, who I am, whether I’m good enough or not.
And sometimes it feels like I just forget myself, forget who I am or what I want. I flip flop between caring about my own health and wanting to self destruct. I forget my larger goals, or why I want to be healthy. I’ve gotten a little more stable, but there have been points in my life where I can flip from wanting to restrict for a week to feeling committed to putting food in my body in the course of a few hours.
In the movie Memento, the main character has amnesia and reminds himself of important facts about himself by tattooing them on himself. His name, phone numbers, facts about his life. All are branded on his skin as a way for him to learn about himself again each day, each time he comes back to consciousness with a blank slate.
Sometimes I feel like that’s how I remember who I am. My first tattoo was of music, a dotted sixteenth to remind me that I like to be unnecessarily different and a little offbeat. My second was the eating disorder recovery symbol, to remind me as often as possible that I am committed to recovery and that my health is important. My third was a compass to remind me that I can explore, but always find my way home. Each of these are things that I lose when I get too wrapped up in myself or stress or my to do lists. They’re things that I forget, or that I question, despite knowing that they’re important to me.
For people who easily have a strong sense of self it might seem ridiculous to brand your skin with your values or life choices. I know people who ask “but what if you don’t like it anymore in five years?” Well for your information I probably won’t like it in about five days, but that’s the point. The point is that I want to remember what it felt like when I got it, why I chose it, what was important to me in that moment so that I can come back to my values later in life, or later today, or whenever it is that I feel as if my mind has turned into a foreign influence that is pushing me in ways I don’t understand.
Sometimes I don’t know why I ever thought that being healthy was a good thing. I don’t remember that I did. It feels as if that was always some sort of outside influence that didn’t want what was best for me. Until I look at the tattoo of the recovery symbol on my hip. I chose to spend the time, money, and pain to have that inscribed on me. It was no one else’s decision but my own. I wanted to remind myself every day that recovery is one of my values.
It is proof that I thought differently, that I can think differently again. It’s proof that I have good days. It’s proof that I do value things that are not perfection or thinness or rules. The more reminders I have, the more stable I feel. It’s as if I’m building a new body for myself that tells me who I am.
The permanency is the point. It’s the only thing about me that seems to be permanent.