Grace Moloney

I’ll Bite the Hands that Feed Me

The memories that pierce through me with the most clarity are those that can be found scattered around waiting rooms and surgery theatres. The sounds of my high-pitched screaming and scared sobs linger in the silent swing of the double doors labelled EXIT. I have been trying to figure out where my shame sutured itself to my body and to my brain and I believe that I have found it in the stacks of medical files that feel heavier than the weight of being alive. The files show that there is a distinct pain in growing up, and growing into, a half-formed body. The files are proof that becoming aware of my own disembodiment acts as the hungry scalpel that threatens to bite into the skin.

It is unclear to me where and when the shelf of myself began to dismantle from its own composition. All I know is that somewhere along my beaten path, my eating disorder and I began to share a mutual animosity with one another. All I can see clearly in the dull darkness of my own universe is where my eating disorder would eventually begin to kiss my mum goodnight and sleep on the other side of my bed. I can see that I am slowly reaching into myself but never carefully enough. I had never been one to keep my elbows off the table. The glass of my body broke somewhere between the table salt and the grief. I would hold my shattered body up to the breaking light, as if to say, “Here. Look. Look at what I was able to mend back together when the pieces of myself flew apart from one another, as if in a dream.” I cannot see the way my hands burned from holding onto all of that grace. My knees buckled under the pressure. No prayer could keep my body from splitting apart in the middle of the night.

I cannot see which parts of myself got lost and hidden amongst the stitching. I cannot tuck myself safely away from the hurt under the folds of a barely bleeding heart. Mostly, this feels like a body falling apart. It feels like all of the times I spent falling into the mirror, straining and aching to catch a glimpse of myself while I performed surgery on the garish reflection of my own heart which was trying to eat its way out. Margaret Atwood says, “if you get hungry enough (…) you start eating your own heart.” Mine ate me. What does that make of this hunger? It was here where I began to play with the idea of an eating disorder. I would hold this new found notion up to the light and let it bleed through my fingertips.

No one in their right mind will willingly dive through the deadly depths of an eating disorder for the fun of it. But for me, at this point, my brain was barely tethered to my body. My sense of self had already been radically distorted from living in a culture where I felt my body was viewed as defective rather than whole and it only made a terrifying amount of sense to slowly chisel away at my body until it was seen as something deemed worthy.

For me, an eating disorder was my way of reacting to a culture, to a body, to a self. An eating disorder was the one thing I believed would keep me contained and whole. As I tried to protest against the cultural demands that ultimately distanced my disabled body from itself, I began to separate from myself with such severity that I can still feel the ache. It was a painful process and one that I believed would keep me alive. I believe that I developed an eating disorder as a means of satisfying a culture that correlates beauty and thinness as a sick state of social status. An eating disorder can also be fatal. I did not know that. I could not have cared less. Instead, I fell head first into illness and did not re-emerge for a very long time.

But here, now, I am holding onto a moment that has stretched itself thin to the point of breaking. It is in this moment that I want to know how it feels to devour life. To be torn and then healed by it. I want to take a mouth full and let it bleed into the bone. I want to know how it feels to be so full of life that I have no choice but to embrace a fullness that I do not feel I ought to rid myself of out of fear of feeling too much. I hunger for the insatiable need to be wholly alive. I have spent what could have been the better parts of my life escaping from my own body, perpetually afraid that all of the light I was dying to protect would slowly seep out of the seams of the self that I had shakily stitched back together with my own fever and faith. Here, I am attempting to spill clumsily out of myself and into another.

This feels like a confession. Like a betrayal against a body and a mind. It feels like a confession that opposes everything that my eating disorder has led me to believe. But I have spent far too long under the assumption that my eating disorder would allow me to obtain an almost tangible sense of identity. An identity that I could take hold of and show off to everyone. To give proof that I was something. That I could be someone. Anyone. Instead, my feet have been bloodied and bruised from the journey I took as I plunged through the vastness of my own self. My body ricocheted against my mind only to be met with the broken pieces of my distorted body image staring back up at me. I have been stripped bare of myself, save for the sad identity of illness.

I am learning how to begin a new day where the pain I swallowed in the ache of the night is beginning to come to terms with its own embodiment. I am hit in the head and the heart by want. It is a want that chases me through the crowds of half-eaten smiles as I try to choke back the day old despair of having never quite known myself. I have been a medical file titled ‘triplet no. 2,’ a ‘patient x,’ a rare condition, a case study, a serial number, a “full name and date of birth please,” a statistic, a hopeless condition and a chronic case before I have been myself. I have been impatiently waiting and aching to become something much more than I already am.

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About the Author

Grace Moloney is a multi disciplinary artist from Australia. Her arts practise focuses mainly on her relationship to her disabilities. She is 25 years old and is currently studying and working in the disability sector.