Losing the illusion of control

Please note that this post will discuss self-injury and disordered eating.

Control is a tough subject for many survivors of abuse… I desperately search for control, as it feels as if my life has been so out of my control for most of my life. As I grew up, I thought that if I could just get control of things and make everything perfect, then the abuse would stop. In my world, control and safety became intertwined… if I had control, then I would be safe… but, I could never gain the level of control needed…

I’ve often thought that my disordered eating has been about control… this is supported by the inner dialogue that accompanies it – an inner dialogue that has mentioned traits such as strength and cleanliness. But, the events of the last week have shown me how little control I have regarding my eating…

It started last Thursday, and was triggered by a number of stressors… extra workload; a minor conflict with a co-worker; November 18 is my ex-husband’s birthday; and a psychiatric assessment with the Community Mental Health Services (CMHS) on November 20… All of this left me feeling overwhelmed, and as if there was no way to escape. It also coincided with the idea that my weight was now “ok”, that I didn’t really need to lose any more, and that I needed to start stabilising. This last thought about my weight was seen as “weak” and a threat against the drive to control things through the weight loss, and towards the “end number” that comes from the disordered eating thinking… So, in what I now consider to be an addictive, self-injurous move; I started to binge.

I became obsessed with food. Periods between binges were consumed with planning the next episode… I binged at work… I binged with the curtains pulled… It felt so shameful and disgusting; but, this is what I thought I deserved… what I needed…

Looking back, it all seems so surreal. I can see some of the actions as making sense – as a response to the stress… but, so much of it was senseless.

I mention that there was a self-injurous aspect to it, and this was evident in the foods chosen… all of them were ones that were previously seen as “treats”. It was this “treat” aspect of the bingeing that gave me a clue as to the motivations behind it… As part of my early experiences of abuse, I was often given a treat afterwards for being a “good girl”. These treats were usually food. The treats were given to one in the system who was/is unaware of the abuse, so they were always accepted with a smile… Meanwhile the ones who had just experienced the abuse were there, watching the treats being gladly received…

This negative aspect of being given treats and presents is one that I’ve mentioned in therapy before… But, I only talked about it in a detached way, and only from the perspective of how “awful” it was to be given treats after the abuse… What I failed to talk about, or even acknowledge; was that in order for the treat to be given, something horrific happened before it. I failed to connect those dots in a meaningful way. I’m still not sure that I really have connected the dots… but, I’m more aware of them. I’m more aware of the ones within the system who hold the abuse…

I don’t think it’s any co-incidence that the final act of bingeing happened with potato chips and raspberry fizzy drink… It was like a final assault, and it worked…

On Tuesday things began to shift… I stooped to what I considered a new low, when I binged at work. Then, by Wednesday there was starting to be more internal communication about the bingeing. Since the previous Thursday I hadn’t been out walking, but decided to make an internal agreement… if I finished the walk by 11pm then another episode of binging was going to be allowed; but, if it was after 11pm, then I would draw.

The walk was “interesting”… internal chaos, at times walking faster to try to beat the 11pm deadline, at times walking slowly to make sure that the deadline passed…

I arrived home right on 11pm. It was agreed that this meant that 11pm on the dot had passed, and therefore drawing was the agreed upon plan of coping…

Abstract drawing

It’s been so long since I’ve drawn anything! I always think of it as being too messy, and pass judgements about my ability… I forget about how connecting and emotional it is…

On Thursday there was still a desire to binge, but instead I went out and took photos… meaningful, healing photos…

Ones representing direction…

Direction

Others representing the system…

Roses

It was emotional, positive, and what I needed to try to ground myself in the present. I’d become so immersed in flashbacks, that I’d lost all track of time, place, and location… These seemingly simple acts of creative expression eased that feeling… It was hard work, but worth it.

It’s now three days since I last binged. The desire is still there, but it’s manageable… The problem, is that the weight gained by the bingeing has ramped up the need for my weight to keep dropping… In the space of a week, I’ve gone from thinking that I might be able to ease the weight loss to a maintenance level, to having weight loss goals again. I know that this was going to be a possible reaction, but I still feel at a loss as to what to do…

So yes, the illusion that I had control over my eating, has been destroyed…

—————-
Now playing: Brooke Fraser – Scarlet

Fragments

Fragments… just bits and pieces flying around inside my head.

That’s what the last week has been like.  Nothing tangible to hold onto.

The only constant are feelings of disgust.  I feel dirty, disgusting, sub-human… unclean.  I don’t think the layers of filth can be, or will ever be, removed.  It is part of me as surely as the colour of my eyes.  It is a part of me, and I am a part of it.

I think I could handle it, if all of the fragments flying around my head were of horror.  Horror has the ability to sweep you away in a dissociative haze of lost time.  But when there are everyday scenes intermingled with the horror, it makes you pause.  You pause and look.  You turn the fragment around, inspecting it from all angles.  You look into the heart of it, and only then do you see the horror.  The unmitigated horror of seeing how brazen and normal the abuse was.  In those everyday scenes, you see the range of emotions on the faces around you – discomfort, curiosity, embarrassment, and the knowing smiles.  What they don’t know, is that they are being manipulated.  This is part of their entrance exam into the Old Boys Club.  They all pass.  Even the ones who question the young girls presence in a place she shouldn’t be, with their joking protests quickly turning into silent observation.

It was the perfect scenario.  There was no obvious abuse, but it was implied.  Every person in the room probably knew that something was wrong, but there was nothing tangible that they could take to the authorities.  It opened the door to silent consent, and they walked through.  They became accessories; and in order to ease their own conscious, they will stay forever silent.  They didn’t see anything, after all.  Just a young girl with her father walking by the shower room.  He might not have known that the team were in there.  They’re both hearing impaired, after all.

It changed the way those men looked at me.  Some of them turned away more quickly.  Some saw through me more readily.  Some smiled, and beckoned me over more often.

Then the memories of horror draw you into their grip.  Grounding techniques are lost in the wave that overwhelms and batters your mind.

But still, you force the smile and talk inanities to the person asking about patron upload problems.

You pack up the box of horrors for another time.  Stamp down the lid and push it backwards.  You hope that you never have to look at the box again.  But, you know you will.  Not because of the memories in the box, but because of the emotions it evokes.  There is anger at looking at the horror, and anger at looking away.  In a world of no-wins, I walk the minefield of navigating the present, while trying to understand and heal from the past.

It’s all done in the hope of having a future.  My father took me past the shower room in order to have a future that he wanted.  I walked past that shower room because I had no concept of choice.  Despite often losing my way, I do have choices now.  I have choices based on experience, education and understanding.  The only thing more soul-destroying than the abuse, is seeing how I seem to make choices which encourage, or perpetrate self-abuse.

I know that there should be a positive note to the end of this, but there isn’t.  I sit here at work, looking at the huge pile of work that is expected of me.  I feel the effects of the medical problems which I was told yesterday will require minor surgery.  I feel the dissociation starting – the slight fuzziness at the back of my head which is creeping forward steadily.  It’s difficult to find that positivity, when the layers of stress in the present, add to the layers of horror from the past.  Your head becomes a maelstrom of emotions, and the only relief is dysfunctional coping.

—————-
Now playing: Tracy Chapman – All that you have is your soul
via FoxyTunes

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Confessions of a confused child

Confessions of a confused child

I get confused, between the then and now.

It’s easy to fall back on the familiar, because that is all I know.

They say I’m trouble, but all I’m doing is following the rules.

They say the rules have changed.

I’ve been tricked like that before.

—————-
Now playing: ‪Chopin Nocturne Op.27 No.1‬‬
via FoxyTunes

Do you realise I'm real?

I'm real

Do you know I’m real, when you say those lies about me?
Do you know I’m real, when you call me names?
Does it excite you to turn others against me?
What is your game?

—————-
Now playing: Mad World – Gary Jules
via FoxyTunes

Confused religion

Please note that this entry might trigger due to the issues of child abuse and religion being discussed.

Over two years ago, I wrote the post Religion and Karma.  In it, I shared some of my confusion around religious concepts.  Since I wrote that piece, my confusion has, if anything, deepened.  Conflicted and distorted messages about religion, and my self worth, have driven much of my dysfunction over the last two months.  I have been bombarded with messages about being evil and not worthy of being here, or of this healing journey.

To give a bit of background as to where much of the distortions come from, my father is Roman Catholic and attended a Catholic school.  It was a strict (or traditional) school, with his left handedness being beaten out of him, and intimacy a taboo subject.  In contrast, my mother based her religious affiliations on which church had the best outdoor basketball (netball) team – Baptist won.  When they married, my mother converted to Catholicism and regularly attended church.  My siblings, and myself, were all christened, and my brothers confirmed.  The families pathway through Catholicism ended after my mother had me.  She was advised that if she had any more children, she would probably die in childbirth.  When the church heard of my mothers decision to use birth control, she was asked not to return.  As she was the driving force behind our going to church, this meant that none of the family returned.

This is what I now know of the families leaving the fold.  But, as I was growing up, my brothers told me that we were asked not to return to church because I screamed too much during the service.  Being a sensitive and trusting child, I took those stories, and internalised them.  I became convinced that I was the reason that the whole family was going to go to Hell for eternal damnation.

Later, I had several encounters with religion…  My sister attended an extremely devout and divisive youth group… I attended religious camps during the school holidays; where, along with John 3:16, we were taught Matthew 25:46 – my sensitivity meant that I took both as signs that I was a sinner…  I later joined Rally (similar to Girl Guides), which had a strong religious basis.  It was here that things became very confused, as I was old enough to be aware of the messages and expectations, but failed to live up to them.  I was told that I needed to pray for God to come into my heart, and I would know that this had occurred when I felt a warmth and peace.  Well, I was so disconnected by this stage, that there was no way I was going to feel any warmth in my heart, or anywhere else.  This was the final blow, and I turned my back on any further attempts to connect to a higher power.

Throughout all of this, I was being abused.  Some of the abusers used phrasing with religious connotations as part of the abuse.  I now realise that this had nothing to do with me, but I still internalised it at the time, and took it as further proof as to why God had turned his back on me.  I was evil and a sinner.  I was beyond salvation.

One of the system, W, has great problems with anything religious.  I had never really understood why this trigger was so big, when I had never been abused by a religious figure.  Then, last Thursday, Allison asked W what her role was within the system… her answer “to pray”.  To pray for forgiveness.  To pray for help.

When I was eight, I was abused by some teenagers in the school grounds.  The location of the event is significant, because on the rise, about 50 metres away, was a church.  About 3 metres away from the structure I was being abused in, there was a thoroughfare for pedestrians and cyclists.  It wasn’t busy, but there were usually some people walking by.  As I was being abused, W was created within my mind to pray to the church on the hill… to the God she had heard about… she prayed for help from the people walking by… she prayed for salvation from what was happening.  When no one answered those prayers, she saw it as proof that we were evil, and therefore not worthy of God’s help.

I was never really exposed to the positive side of any religion.  It was all doom and gloom… damnation… selfishness, and selfish acts.  My God was a very fearful, vengeful one, and he wasn’t pleased with me.

As I learned about God, I was getting hurt, as were millions of others in the world.  That didn’t seem fair, or just.  I never liked the overly simple explanation of free will.  I still don’t understand how such evil can be in this world.  Then, if you have evil, then surely there must be a counter balance to that; and what is that counter, if not a God?

As you can see, I’m still very confused.  I initially made this private because I don’t know if I can handle comments on this issue.  But, after a couple of people read what I wrote, I realised that maybe I need others reading this in order to challenge my thinking around all of this.  I still don’t know what I need to help me understand all of the distorted and confused messages in my head, but this post was one step in trying to sort it through.  I don’t know how much help Allison is going to be on this, as when she was questioned last week, there was a sense that she wasn’t firm in her beliefs, so therefore can’t be believed.

I do know that they seriously effect my self worth.  The messages about not being worthy of being here, are tied to the messages about religion.

I finish this post, not knowing why I wrote it, let alone published it on the blog.  Maybe to show you how bad I really am.

—————-
Now playing: Sarah McLachlan – Angel
via FoxyTunes