Ask Polly: Lightning Round!
Heather Havrilesky

Dearest Heather,

I’ve followed, excerped, and re-read you since the Awl. The unholy mess, the broken heart, the Shit We Carry, the sharp disgrace, the radish, the volcano, the vulnerable fuck all anthem of being here. The personality, frantically turning tricks. The well-phrased raw nerve prized for one’s way with words, verbal wizardry, well-placed authenticity in service of being emotionally validated. Grief, death, redemption, screaming growth. I’m picking up what you’re laying down, furious Fury Polly.

I’m 34 tomorrow. It’s a good life. I am loved, I’m in therapy, I have callings and passions and the scary belief that I’m getting brave enough to live them, braver all the time.

Here’s my question: how do we stop punishing ourselves for being human? Where does self knowledge and (dare I say) spiritual growth and the love that stays — where does it start transforming the big old shit? How do we stop doing this shame circuit that kept us afloat but never taught us how to fucking swim??

To be specific: I’ve got 20+ years of highly functional anorexia under my belt. So relentlessly functional that I just admitted about a year ago that I’ve never learned how not to punish myself for being left by people. Mostly men. That this body shit is my baseline, runs my life, is the thing that is determined for me to be small.

It’s not just a body shit question though. To be a woman in this culture is to have utilized a lot of toxic collective language to hurt ourselves. This is a symptom, and I know how to live with it. But I don’t know how to thrive.

What to do when you’re smart and awake, but can’t hack the damage? How do you reach the parts that don’t respond to words and fuck yeah vulnerability anthems?

How do I make peace with being so goddamn left? How do I forgive that little girl for still being so needy and broken? What makes self love, and what makes it penetrate enough to be ok?

Rock Bottom Never Hit

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