On the one hand, I have a label: narcissistic mother. I read books and visit websites while tears roll down my face and my childhood pain gets validated. Those tears drop into buckets of Reese’s ice cream before I ram my fingers down my throat, battling bulimia into its second decade. My eating disorder mimics the emotional landscape I grew up in, therapists tell me: We’re holding it together for appearances before ducking behind closed doors and exploding.
It’s easier to battle refined carbohydrates and suicidal levels of purging than it is to grapple with the wound that won’t heal, that one that nobody wants to talk about: the mother wound. I’m sorry, I want to say. I know I shouldn’t name this. It’s impolite. Who am I to accuse the woman who gave me life? Believe me, it’s been my life’s work to forgive...
...because on the other hand sits the human that I literally owe my life to. I’m an entitled millennial who was handed most things on a silver platter, not by butlers but by hard-working immigrant parents. I can’t fathom their battles. I’m not a parent. I fail at times to take my dog out to pee when I’m couch-bound with depression. One night of unprotected passion, and I could end up in the same role that my mother took seriously enough to give us a home-cooked meal most nights of my upbringing.
Her food tasted like grandma’s love strained through a cheesecloth of resentment. We ate homemade Brazilian staples that warmed my soul: arroz e feijão com farofa, bife à milanesa, salada de tomate com azeite e vinagre. The meat was overcooked and the flavors harder than they should be. But those meals grounded me, unlike the North American processed junk that comprised our breakfasts and snacks, those drugs that would later become the weapons of my addiction (cereals, pastries, and so many other names for flour and sugar).
My mother loved—imperfectly. So I sacrilegiously unstitched her from her assigned role. I had to in order to thrive. Her bullying could have suffocated me, if I’d let it. Her webs of approval and rejection, love and denial, sustenance and neglect, could have left me in a pool of bloodied soul, if I’d allowed it. (I didn’t.)
I’m sorry. I’m not trying to tarnish your name. I’m healing. Besides—you are not these dysfunctional patterns any more than I am mine. When we heal, we get to discover the diamonds that we are beneath whatever it was that wounded us.
I had a mother, I had too much of a mother, I had not enough of a mother (I had food, I had too much food, I had not enough food). Thank God, I’ve healed. Like her, I’ve survived. Recovering from disorder, I feed myself fresh vegetables, avocados, and organic, pasture-raised meats, food that fixes my gut and brain. I continue to chip off anything that isn't love.
Nina Ferrari is a writer and activist based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She can be found at https://writerbio.wixsite.com/ninaferrari/writerbio.
Bife à Milanesa (Brazilian Fried Steak)
(low-carb and gluten-free)
1 lb. grass-fed beef (knuckle, tenderloin, or top sirloin)
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 eggs, beaten
almond meal or coconut flour, to taste
Season steak with salt, pepper, and garlic, and set aside.
In a deep dish, beat eggs until smooth.
Coat steak in almond meal or coconut flour.
Coat steak in egg mixture.
Then coat steak again in almond meal or coconut flour.
In a frying pan, fry steak in hot olive oil on both sides until golden.
Place steak on paper towel to absorb excess grease before slicing and serving.