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

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Expressive Arts Carnival: Core belief

The theme for this months Expressive Arts Carnival, is:

Using only a regular pencil (not colored), make a simple shape on the page that represents a core belief that holds you back. Then draw (using the same pencil) around the first shape to represent support for change of that core belief.

I went into this months carnival unsure of what was going to happen.  Connections have not been my strong suit lately – either internally, or externally; and this exercise really needs those connections.

It’s possibly for this reason, that I ended up with two separate versions of what my drawing means…

  1. The square in the centre represents the square peg that I feel like… I’ve never quite fitted in, and feel quite separate from the rest of society – like a square peg in a round hole.  The triangle doodles in one section of the square, are very similar to ones that I did while in high school.  I’m not really sure what that, or the other sections mean, but they were important to add.  The surrounding squiggle represents that I can fit in, and can move towards being less rigid in my thinking and behaviour.
  2. The square represents my internal structure.  That structure is rigid and unyielding.  The surrounding squiggle is the barbed wire that is going to keep everything, and everyone, out.

Quite different interpretations, aren’t they…  When I was drawing the square, it felt more like the first interpretation was true; but, by the end of it, the second felt more accurate.  The first fits with this months Arts Carnival, but the second doesn’t.

It’s been some time since I’ve done any art, so I wonder what part that played in the conflict regarding the design and interpretation.  It’s possibly a sign that I need to get back to Art on a regular basis…
—————-
Now playing: Damien Rice – 9 Crimes
via FoxyTunes

Protected: After stress, comes the crash

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Expressive Arts Carnival: Hopes and dreams

The theme for this months Expressive Arts Carnival is:

Through drawing, painting, or any other visual means, create an image that incorporates your personal hopes and dreams.

I’m not sure why, but I found this activity really easy to do.  This, of course, makes me incredibly suspicious… did I not think it through properly… did I focus too much on the happy, cheery aspect of it all… did I do the exercise when so dissociated, that it will make no sense in an hour/day/week… That sort of self-doubt is the kind of thing that I hope to one day not live with so strongly.

When I was thinking of how to sum up my hopes and dreams visually, my immediate thought was to have an image of a woman confidently smiling into the camera. This is my ultimate hope… to be able to look people in the eye, with a smile on my face, and without the need to dissociate in order to accomplish it.  Because, if I can do that, then I will have confidence and a sense of self-worth; and I won’t be living under the cloud of shame that envelopes me and directs so many of my actions.

The problem with this, was that it was based on having a photo that could represent that feeling/image.  I can’t put an image of myself on this blog, and I felt uncomfortable finding a representative image.  I’m not quite sure why there was resistance to doing so, but I think it was because it would be having someone else’s face represent my hope for the future.  As a result, I purposefully moved away from images, and instead created the following Wordle

These are my long term hopes… so closer to the 10 year, rather than 5 year time-frame.  Some are about where I want to be physically (healthy and by the ocean), but a majority are about my mental health.

In many ways, my hopes and dreams are about possibilities… just daring to have hopes and dreams is about the possibility for a future.  Then, to have that future possibly be better than what I currently experience, is another possibility.  It is possible, because anything is possible.  Add to that my determination to have a life worth living, and I definitely think it’s possible.

Solitude within the storm

Some days, you just want the world to slow down… preferably stop.  It feels like you’re being swept along on a tidal wave of noise, anxiety and demands from others… but all you want to do is stand still and ask it to stop.  The thing is, it will never stop… our only hope is to change the way we deal with those feelings.

The past few months have been a fairly constant series of tidal waves, dragging me under and tossing me about.  This has come to some sort of head this week… my mother is visiting for her 70th birthday; the Rugby World Cup starts tonight (the hoopla associated with such an event has been intense); Winnie’s health is failing; and I was offered the position of team leader.  Being offered the job seems to have been the last straw.  As soon as the offer was made, an internal cacophony erupted… “Yes” … “No” … “$%^# NO” … “What?” … “YES” … “I’m scared“…

Possibly because there was so much confusion, I didn’t do an immediate people pleasing response of “Yes”.  They gave me the weekend to think it over, but it feels like I’m running on a mouse wheel, going nowhere.  I already struggle to cope with work, so why would I want to increase that stress?  My manager and current team leader say that I am ready for the move… but, am I?  Is someone who needs fairly major doses of sedatives before they can teach, really be able to lead a team?  I’m already showing physical signs of the stress, so would this push me over the edge?

It feels like I’m being pulled in all directions.  It feels like the only way out is through the old coping mechanisms.  To say “Yes” and take the punishment.  Be a good girl, and play the game.

You always have to play the game, no matter what.

...

I just want to be alone… alone and clean.  I feel so dirty and disgusting.

—————-
Now playing: Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
via FoxyTunes

Amazing Grace

It’s considered to be one of the most recognisable songs in the English-speaking world.  It’s also the only song that is almost guaranteed to make me cry.

If you’re not familiar with the origins of Amazing Grace, it was written by John Newton, an English poet and clergyman, and is a song of forgiveness and redemption.  It is considered to be a Christian hymn, and is sometimes played at funerals, often by a solo bagpiper.  John Newton was involved in the slave trade; but on a particularly rough voyage, he began his spiritual journey.  Amazing Grace was written for a New Years Day service in 1773; and has been known to be sung to over 20 different melodies, as it is unknown if the there was any music to accompany it on début.  It’s now most closely associated with the tune “New Britain”, and can be sung acapella, with music, or as an instrumental.

What I find interesting about this song, is that despite it’s Christian overtones, I still strongly identify with it.  I don’t believe that I will ever be forgiven for what I have done, or that I will ever be redeemed; instead, for me, the song is about grief.  It’s about pain and releasing that pain.  It’s about death.

There are many versions of the song available… some of the more popular ones on YouTube are by the Celtic Women, Elvis Presley, British Airways Pipe Band and Hayley Westernra (a fellow kiwi).  One of my favourite vocal versions is by LeAnn Rimes…

I’m unsure about the reasons why I am seeking this song out at the moment.  I’m still in a very bad place, and this is one of the songs that I want played at my funeral – another is by ABBA, just to make people laugh.  So am I adding to the pit that I am in by listening to this, or am I releasing the grief and pain that I feel?  I’m not really sure.

There are so many thoughts floating through my head, that it’s difficult to make sense of them.  I know that I’m sucked dry.  I’ve been running on empty for about four months now, and it doesn’t look as if it’s going to improve any time soon.  I know my safety is a huge issue, and I was expecting Allison to send me to hospital last week… instead there was a misunderstanding, and I shut down.  Any glimmers of trust that were starting to be built, have gone.

I’m trying not to be reactionary, but it’s difficult.  After the session on Friday, I created this Polyvore set…
No one is perfect
What’s interesting, is that the rabbit is looking in a mirror… is the set saying that Allison was at fault, I was, or we both were?  Is this about me seeing the reflection of my dysfunctional behaviour, and not liking it?  Or is it a cute graphic about no one being perfect, no matter how hard we try?  I wish I knew…