A day of clarity

It feels as if I woke up this morning with a sense of clarity and grounding that has been missing for months…

In some ways today has felt no different – there are still urges for disordered eating, and there was a dissociative panic when I went out for a walk… But, in other ways it has all felt very different – I’ve managed to resist those urges to engage in disordered eating, and I went for a walk during the day (I usually walk at night so no one can see me).  This may not seem like much, but it’s so different from what has been happening over the last few months.

I know that one of the reasons for the clarity, is the passing of Christmas and New Year.  These holidays are particularly difficult for me… they’re associated with triggers from the past, and societal expectations in the present day.  That potent combination has meant that for the last few months, I’ve been a dissociative mess.

Adding to my anxiety, has been the knowledge that I would be staying in my home-town for Christmas…  For the last few years, my mother has come up to stay with me for Christmas and New Year; but this year this somehow got reversed, and I travelled to her.  I know that when I made the arrangements, it was with the thought that being in my home-town would be safer than being alone.  I say “safer”, but I realised that the balance between the safety provided by being with someone during the holidays (with all of the associated structure that provides); and the potential triggers of being in my home-town, were debatable.

It was an “interesting” visit home… being around someone else for such long periods of time provided a stark reminder of how much I dissociate – for example, I apparently went for a walk at 2am one night… I found that if I didn’t sit in the aisle seat at the movies, I become so anxious that I basically shut down and nearly fall asleep… I proved to myself that I could go for days on end without one form of disordered eating; but there seemed to be a trade-off to other forms taking over… When I did engage in the disordered eating, I hit new lows – something that I’m not proud of, but am trying to learn from… I found that I could cope being in my home-town, as long as I didn’t visit the satellite town where I spent most of my childhood… I found that I liked the peace associated with living in a retirement village – although the residents do tend to be in everyones business! … I discovered that I could sit with my aunt and mother, and we could talk about real issues…

In the past, my relationship with my aunt has been strained… She seemed to see me as this “perfect” person, who never did anything wrong, and resented me accordingly… considering how much I strived for perfection, I find this rather ironic.  But after we’d been to see the movie Quartet, we had a rather raw and honest conversation… my aunt was in an abusive relationship for several years, and my mother was married to my father (enough said).  We didn’t talk about the respective abuses we experienced; but instead talked about its effect on us… how my aunt tried to encourage her abuser to take responsibility for his abuse, by forcing him to pay for the plastic surgery on her face after he pushed her through a pane of glass… how my mother has purposefully forgotten chunks of her life, just so that she can cope with it all… how the abuse caused all of us to doubt ourselves, our truth, and devastated our self-esteem… and one thing that my aunt observed, was how much my behaviour is defined by my abusive past.  I found my aunt’s statement to be interesting, as she is not aware of my childhood abuses, just my marriage.  It was also a little scary… is my dysfunction that obvious?

As for my relationship with my mother… well, that had its ups and downs.  She was incredibly accepting of my odd habits, and even suggested ways that I could do things in a similar way to I did them at home – I’m still not able to do simple things like hang clothes out on the washing line.  But in other ways, she showed how unaware she was… I was talking to a friend via video on Skype when she came home, and she basically took over the video call.  My mother can be larger than life, especially when she’s trying to impress someone – and she was trying to impress my friend.  I get so overwhelmed by her personality when she is like this… I become this small, vulnerable being, who is unsure of how to react, except to play along… So I smiled, laughed, and played the game… anything to make sure that my mother doesn’t get her feelings hurt…  The call ended soon after my mother walked away from the computer… but what was interesting, was that while my friend also played along, and interacted with my mother; they noted my distress… a distress that I wasn’t aware of showing. They asked me how I was, and I admitted that I was close to tears… it wasn’t that I feared my mother trying to “steal” my friend, but that I felt so overwhelmed by her personality, and became so lost as a result… who was I???  I no longer knew…

Despite these ups and downs, I do think that my visit home was a positive experience.  I learned new things, made connections (internally and externally), and was able to keep promises that I’d made with myself – including attending Midnight Mass…

I’m not sure how long this clarity will last… but, I’m glad I experienced it…

And now for a random photo I took while away…
Sweet pea against the sky

Now playing: Tracy Chapman – The Promise


10 thoughts on “A day of clarity

  1. I love your clarity and groundedness (if that’s a word). I think you’ve done an amazing job getting through Christmas – not just Christmas and NY, but Christmas AT YOUR MOTHER’S PLACE. A few short years ago that was something you could never have even contemplated. I’m so proud of you. 🙂

    The conversation/s with your aunt and mother sound fascinating – both in terms of their own experiences, as well as normalising your own. I hope they were interesting and helpful discussions, and not too triggering.

    Your mother is your mother is your mother just as my mother was my mother was my mother. My perceptions of mother-daughter relationships are completely skew-wif at the moment, so I won’t comment further on this. Besides, I’m too busy being proud of you for getting through Christmas, NY, a visit with your mother, a crazy year…. so much stuff!!

    ((hugs)) please take care.

    • Hi Kerro,

      You’re right, I would never have even considered a trip like this a few years ago, so that is progress 🙂 There was lots of good things, as well as a few bad… But, that’s life, isn’t it?

      My relationship with my mother will always be complicated, and I’m learning to accept that. She’s not going to change, and I also accept that. What will change are my reactions to her, and that will largely come from my ability to understand her. The only way that I can gain more understanding, is to interact with her, and have more of those conversations like the one with my aunt… That was a good conversation, because it didn’t dwell on the triggering part of the abuse, but focused on the aftermath. It was interesting to hear our similar reactions to things – validating and empowering in a way…

      Thanks for your support 🙂
      Take care,

  2. I am glad you can take the “bad” part of your trip for what it is and navigate your way to focus on the positive. This post seems not only hopeful but also progressive and mature. I hope you will remember that there are these moments of positivity and clarity and this will carry you through the times when life makes it less than easy.

    I am curious about your experience at the movies and the need to sit on the aisle. You mentioned that if you aren’t able to sit on the aisle seat, you shut down and fall asleep. Do you feel that sleeping is part of the dissociative experience?

    We’ve been through times of dissociation where we have fallen asleep and could not be woken, and it wasn’t because we were tired. Is your experience similar?

    Take care.
    Sending safe hugs.


    • Hi MIS,

      It’s good to hear from you… I hope you got through the rest of last night ok…

      Yes, the sleepiness was definitely dissociative – I wasn’t tired going into the movie, and I wasn’t tired as soon as I left… but, while sitting in the movie, I found it almost impossible to keep my eyes open. I’ve experienced this before when I’ve been overwhelmingly stressed and been unable to find another way to escape, or cope. It’s almost as if my mind decides it’s had enough so says “lights out time”…

      I’m not sure if your experience is the same, but it sounds pretty similar…

      Overall, the trip was positive… Yes, there were rough parts, but there are rough parts everywhere. It’s another step in the whole “healing”/life thing 🙂

      Sending positive thoughts your way…

  3. Hi CG,

    Well I was going to try and make my comment mature and meaningful but that would take weeks so I give up. 😉

    You show an incredible mindfulness in this post and I found myself staggered (in a good way) by your ability to see both the good and the bad that came from the trip.

    The way you were able to sit down with your mother and your aunt and have a frank conversation like that is brave and amazing!

    You also managed to fight urges to engage in disordered eating, wow! It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t 100% perfect, just the fact that you did is so freaking awesome!

    I hope you come back to this post any time you need to remember the success you’ve had and can have in the future.

    I’m so, so proud of you! ((warm, safe hugs))

    • Hi CI,

      I like you, for *you*… so any comment you make is appreciated – it doesn’t have to be “mature and meaningful”, I just like to hear from you! Saying that, I do think your comment is mature and meaningful 🙂

      Thanks for your support… I really appreciate it. Things weren’t perfect while away, but they aren’t perfect anywhere… the main thing for me, is that I got through the holidays, and took some healing steps along the way.

      Take care and (((warm safe hugs))),

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