What it's Like To Have a Life Crises at Any Age - Part 1

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3 years ago

The quarter-life crisis, the midlife crisis...we can't predict when we'll find ourselves at a turning point or what will happen next.

what it's like to live through crisis?

The Beginning of all Crises

I didn’t realise my first crisis was a crisis until a year after it had happened. I was in my late teens and, afterwards, I remembered the incident with a split lens. I remember the first moment it happened: looking in a full-length mirror and seeing a sticker from a piece of fruit that had managed to plant itself on the bottom of my T-shirt.

Glancing down to peel it off, I could no longer see it, but back to the mirror, it was there. Breasts grow slowly, but the revelation that I had them was sudden: an exhilarating, fearful Oh! Until then, I had never thought to pay much attention to my own body. But after this, there were two of me: myself, and the body I inhabited.

Those moments grew, training my eyes to look back at myself as well as out: a strange man saying something I didn’t understand as he traced the line of my newly curving figure with his eyes; boys at school insisting that girls must earn the right to sit at the back of the classroom by undoing the top three buttons of their shirt when the teacher wasn’t looking.

Years later, I would read John Berger’s Ways of Seeing and come across the lines: ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.’

I read this passage and was grateful. This was the double-sight! Being inside your body while feeling outside of it. I thought a lot about these moments in the aftermath of realising I had been raped. I recalibrated my own memories: not just recognising that what I had considered aggressive, unwanted sex had been rape, but about all the times I had seen double.

After this, there were two of me: myself, and the body I inhabited

Those moments were tiny but added up. I had layered over reality since puberty. Sometimes it was a coping mechanism, other times it was an anxious reflex telling me to fear the worst.

These layers wouldn’t have been such a problem if I hadn’t kept them a secret. But during puberty I wasn’t old enough to deal with my own body. And besides, it didn’t feel like mine. I didn’t know how to articulate feelings I’d never had before.

Somehow, I knew shame already. I would watch my hips grow, my boobs swell, my face grow longer, and I’d stay quiet. Where was the magic of becoming a woman? I wanted my eyes back inside my head, I wanted to return to not being looked at.

Later, after I had been raped, I knew the pattern. What was the easiest way to handle the experience? Which way would not affront the man who had done it? There I was, outside my own body. Silent. Thinking not how I could help myself, but how I could make things easier for the man who had raped me.

When I confronted that, lots of other things began to make sense. I recognised the narratives I had built; the way I had often detached myself from my body. I realised I’d prioritised other people’s relationships with my body over my own.

Now, I am better at recognising how my mind and body play tricks on me. The realisation that I had been raped was in some way the resolution. It drew me back into my own body. Once I had realised it, then it became a crisis I could speak about.

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