Being “evil”…

A couple of months ago, I agreed with Allison that it was time to focus on my disordered eating… Little did I realise, that by agreeing to talk about my eating, it would open the floodgates to my past. Almost as if the agreement was an acknowledgement, or the permission needed, to really start addressing what happened to me…

I’m still trying to comprehend what I’m learning… and it’s not that what I’m sharing in session is necessarily new information, but it’s from a different perspective… I’m not sure how to describe it, other than that there is an emotional connection to those events… That seems like a simple line to read/write… but it’s not… I’ve been left at the end of sessions reeling from the emotional impact of what I’ve just realised…

Some of the realisations are heartbreaking… like discovering that part of the reason I doubt my abuse, is because the different abuse survivor biographies that I have read in an attempt to understand what I experienced, described certain abusive events in a similar way… but, that wasn’t how I experienced them… The literature talked about “fearing death” during the event and provided enough detail that there is horror for the reader; but, it didn’t capture my experience… I wished for death… my body shook, no matter how well I managed to stop the tears, I couldn’t stop my body shaking… There was such confusion over the disconnect between what I read and what I experienced, that I took it as a sign that what I experienced didn’t really happen. I realise that if anyone attempted to publish a book with the details of an abusive event from a visceral perspective, that it wouldn’t be published… no one would be able to read it… the trauma involved in the act of reading the details would be too much…

One of the realisations that I’m really struggling to make sense of, is what it means for me to be evil. I was told from a young age that I was evil for making my abusers do these things to me… so young, that the word became part of my identity… I saw myself as being evil in the same way that I had blonde hair… But, whereas I could see and understand what having blonde hair meant, I couldn’t understand what it meant to be evil, other than it was really bad…

Throughout my childhood, I became more familiar with what being evil meant… Adolf Hitler, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Pol Pot… were all examples that I learned about at school. I’m still struggling to comprehend what that meant to my young mind, but I seemed to link the idea of being evil to the ability to “make” other people do bad things… This makes sense, from the perspective that I was “making” the abusers do things, seemingly against their will… I know it doesn’t cover so many other areas of logic, but I was young and trying to make sense of the world around me…

When the rather warped religious messages that I was taught about evil are added to the mix, a huge source of confusion is created… I now wonder if this is part of the reason that I slowly withdrew from people over time… Why I can’t touch anything that is clean, new, or “perfect”… Why I need to have a clean house… I know it’s not a simple cause/effect relationship, and that there is a myriad of factors which influence my actions; but, are these attempts to combat the dirty evilness that is considered to be within me?

In many ways, I see how I’ve attempted to reject the evil label from my identity, and that I don’t really see it as “fitting” with my identity as a whole… But, the label has been a part of me for so long, that it feels like it will be there forever… A part of me strongly identifies with the concept of being evil, and wears the label like a badge of honour…

This conflict seems to be driving so many of my actions and reactions within the context of my disordered eating… the need to rid my body of the evil… the problem is, I’m trying to rid my body of something that is considered to be part of my identity…

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Now playing: Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars – Safe & Sound

My world is crashing in on me

My world is crashing in on me, and no one sees. That’s ok, because I am one of many.

My world is crashing in on me, and no one sees. That’s wrong, because I am a person, and people are meant to matter.

Nine years ago today I wore red as I walked out the door to get married.  My future mother-in-law could barely contain her scorn at my attire.  I didn’t wear red by deliberate choice, but when you leave the preparations for the wedding until the day before, you get what you can.

Memories of the wedding are sketchy, at best.  We had a picnic the day before the wedding with the mother and two friends.  We did this because we were expecting my future husbands family to ruin the wedding day… they did.  One thing I remember clearly, is when the small gathering threw rose petals over us after the toasts, none of the petals went into my drink; so my mother-in-law picked some up off the ground, threw them into my glass, and made a smart comment about that being better.

Many weddings are about the expectations of the bride… mine were of dread.  In many ways, the wedding was not my own… my sister-in-law has such a dominating personality, that she overshadowed everything – my hair, the photography, directing people around, etc.  The sister, whom I hadn’t communicated with in over ten years passed sarcastic comments onto the mother about her not receiving a wedding invitation… yes, there was the double whammy of her sarcasm, and the mother’s need to inform me of that sarcasm… My future in-laws played games regarding whether they were going to attend, or not.  They only came because their other son paid for the entire trip.  Then on the day, my mother decided that her outfit was too similar to my only invited friends, so I had to help her find an alternative to wear…  Many of these things are run-of-the-mill issues associated with wedding days; but, they increased my anxiety, and therefore levels of dissociation.

The drama didn’t end at the ceremony, but continued through to mix-ups with the billing of the hotel room for the wedding night… We met several very nice police that day…

Did I mention that I didn’t want to get married?  I didn’t.  The only reason the marriage happened, is because he needed to marry.  He needed that security.  Later, as the marriage was falling apart, he often said that if we separated that it would be the end of us both… that I would commit suicide, and that he would be devastated with grief as he returned to the comfort of my mother – note, that he was wanting to gain comfort from my mother, not his.  That sentiment alone indicates his level of dysfunction, pain and confusion…

Marriage was never my thing.  During school, when introduced to the concept of debating, I was on the affirmative team arguing that marriage was an outdated institution.  It was rather amusing, as we drew a picture of marriage as a physical institution… the teacher changed the wording for the debate the following year.  We did get an A though…

I’ve usually seen marriage as a tie to someone who would hurt you.  My marriage didn’t dissuade me from that opinion.  Saying that, I have seen happy marriages… marriages where a combination of compatibility, hard work, and a variety of other factors, have meant that everyone involved has grown in positive ways…  At times, I wish I had that… But, I know I’m too broken for such things.

So yes, my world in crashing in on me… I have failed to work with Eating Disorder Services because I couldn’t meet the directives they established… I have failed at creating any sort of working relationship with my new team leader, and am now building a reputation as being difficult within the workplace… My continual poor communication skills have resulted in my withdrawal from my support system, and causing hurt to those who have braved staying around… Allison is left in the dark as to the reasoning for my behaviour, as I continue to withdraw and become less communicative… Then, earlier this week, the final straw, this chain email from the mother…

I remember the cheese of my childhood,
and the bread that we cut with a knife,
when the children helped with the housework,
and the men went to work not the wife.

The cheese never needed an ice chest,
and the bread was so crusty and hot,
the children were seldom unhappy
and the wife was content with her lot.

I remember the milk from the billy,
with the yummy cream on the top,
our dinner came hot from the oven,
and not from the fridge in the shop.

The kids were a lot more contented,
they didn’t need money for kicks,
just a game with our mates in the paddock,
and sometimes the Saturday flicks.

I remember the shop on the corner,
where a pen’orth of lollies was sold
do you think I’m a bit too nostalgic,
or is it….I’m just getting old?

I remember when the loo was the dunny,
and the pan man came in the night,
it wasn’t the least bit funny
going out the back with no light.

The interesting items we perused,
from the newspapers cut into squares,
and hung on a peg in the outhouse,
it took little to keep us amused.

The clothes were boiled in the copper,
with plenty of rich foamy suds
but the ironing seemed never ending
as Mum pressed everyone’s duds

I remember the slap on my backside,
and the taste of soap if I swore
anorexia and diets weren’t heard of
and we hadn’t much choice what we wore.

Do you think that bruised our ego?
or our initiative was destroyed
we ate what was put on the table
and I think life was better enjoyed.

I realise that she is reminiscing about her childhood… But, she also knows that I experienced sexual abuse within the environment that this poem glorifies… Oh, and yeah, she knows about my eating disorder too…  The irony is that her childhood wasn’t perfect… if it was, she wouldn’t be this unaware of the potential impact of this poem on me…

So yes, my world in crashing in on me…  Oddly enough, I don’t think it’s going to hurt.

—————-
Now playing: Audioslave – Doesn’t remind me

Purple Death

Distraction… that’s all I’m about lately.  Distract from the reality of my experience, and the emotions it generates.  One simple example of this, is that after I wrote the title of this post, I immediately started looking at the prices of slow cookers… To put that into context, I don’t cook.  So yes, distraction has become a way of life…  But, to distract from what?  That’s the million dollar question…

I’ve started to get hints as to what the distraction is about… Early last year, I experienced a long period of intense suicidal ideation and intent.  While feeling a constant level of ideation is not unusual for me, there were significant changes in how it was addressed… When I reached out for help, there were consequences in the form of being placed in the Police holding cells as part of suicide assessment procedures; in a separate incident, I was subjected to a rather traumatic psychiatric assessment; and there was also the ACC privacy breach.  These incidents had a profound effect on me… the most dramatic being that I stopped seeking help.

This may seem counter-intuitive; but, my trust was shaken, and all I could see were the negative consequences of asking for help.  As I struggle with asking for help anyway, these incidents were fodder to that old belief system that no one is to be trusted, and that I have to do this alone.  Practically, this has been shown by the less frequent posts here, less frequent communication with Allison via email, withdrawing from friends and family, etc…

This withdrawal becomes a habit that snowballs so easily… it’s fed by my anxieties and my already isolated existence.  Also, if I’m withdrawing from everyone, then I don’t need to talk about things… I don’t need to face them… I can hide… I can focus on my lack of connection, rather than the reason for the lack of connection… It’s something tangible that I can hold up as a problem to those that I do try to connect with… it’s also easy to explain away when someone asks me why I’ve been more distant…  The line “I’m sorry, it’s nothing personal, I’ve been withdrawing from everything…” has become a bit of a mantra.

But, a distraction from what?

The first hints came a few weeks ago, when I was showing a friend around my house, and showed them an old bottle of Purple Death…  I’ve carried this bottle of alcohol with me for nearly 30 years.  I’ve never had any intention of drinking it; but instead have said that I’m carrying it around because of the funny label…  But, when I look at the origins of that bottle, I doubt that reasoning.  I was given this bottle by one of the sisters boyfriends… a boyfriend whom I idolised, and abused me.

I remember him being charismatic… he seemed so mature to my 10-year-old self.  Looking back, I can see that he was very good at paying just the right amount of attention to me… that is, just the right amount to manipulate the dysfunctional relationship between the sister and I.  He alternated between tolerating me, and showering me with attention.  As I was starved for attention, I lapped it up…

Looking back, I can see his actions fairly clearly… What does me in, is that the mother suspected something was happening between the sister’s boyfriend and I; but, her focus remained on the sister.  The mother knew he was bad for her, and tried to stop the relationship… but, it was all focused on dealing with the sister’s increasing levels of acting out.  Any concern for me was a very distant afterthought… I was the “good one” after all…

It is this dynamic that I often return to when I look at the past… all concern for me was swept aside by the worries for the more dysfunctional members of the family.  When I look at the sisters behaviour, I can understand that intellectually… she was quick to adopt a sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll existence.  But, it also generates a “what about me” feeling… I feel so pathetic and attention seeking writing that sentence… Like I’m whining, and just need to get over it already…  But, I also know that the feelings generated by that dynamic and message, have major impacts on my life now.  It taught me that others are more important than me; that people can, and should hurt me without consequence; and that I am worthless… the ultimate mistake at the end.

The shame associated with this dynamic are immense… But, there’s also anger… How can someone chose one child over another?  What drives that decision?  The sister was already acting out, so what would the consequences have been if the mother had chosen to protect me?  Just… WHY???

I said that there was shame and anger… well, there’s also sadness.  Sadness for that little girl who was so starved for positive attention, that she willingly went to an abuser…  Describes both the sister and I, doesn’t it?

Sad.

As for the bottle of Purple Death… I threw it into the trash on Monday.  If only the emotions and memories were as easily discarded…

—————-
Now playing: Powderfinger – My Happiness

Hurt and go

As a warning, the following poem could be triggering because of abuse and suicidal ideation related themes.

I’ve had a few rough weeks – visiting the town where my ex-husband lives, work related stress, inconsistent messages from the Eating Disorder Service, and an emotionally traumatic assessment by the Eating Disorders psychiatrist… It has stirred up so much in me, that I’m barely coping. Well, to be honest, I’m not coping…

Hurt and go

Hurt and go
Hurt and go
Hurt and go
That’s all they ever did
Even when they were smiling
Hurt and go

It was worse when they smiled
You knew it was going to be bad, real bad
They wanted you close
Relaxed
Then
BAM
It was all on

They taught me my worth
No matter what anyone else says or does
My worth was proven long ago
Everything since that time is an illusion
A pretense
A play on words and thoughts

I am nothing
No, not nothing
A thing
An object
A toy for amusement
An aberration
Disgusting
Stupid

If I was anything else
They wouldn’t have done those things

If I was anything else
It would’ve mattered

If I was anything else
It would hurt so much I’d rather be dead

Oh wait, it does.

Never a child

This is the start of something written last night…

I was never a child
I never played
I never laughed
I never talked

I only watched
I only hurt
I only played
I was never a child

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to write, reflect, or do anything artistic… as soon as I try, anxiety hits, and I doubt myself.  I think that the main reason for this, is the continued compartmentalisation, and disconnect that I’m experiencing… On the surface, I appear to have everything “together”… yet, I’m struggling with feeling so overwhelmed, that I’m again in the suicidal abyss.

It’s easy to list off the things that are causing me to feel overwhelmed… it’s more difficult to address them.  My ability to verbalise anything during therapy is near zero.  I’m constantly assaulted with images of graphic self-injury, as I sit in silence…  What torture the mind can put you through, never ceases to amaze me.  A combination of my worst fears, horror movies, and flashbacks are now a regular Monday morning occurrence…

In theory, I know that the inability to write, speak, and the compartmentalisation, are all symptoms of the overwhelm… but, I’m very aware that I’ve been like this for a long time now.  It seems as if my “good moments” are further and further apart.  When people ask how I am, the only words I can say are “I’m ok”…  I’m not able to say anything that would explain what’s happening in my head.  Part of this, is my continued need for invisibility; but a larger part is that nothing I do seems to connect with reality.  In so many ways, I seem to only exist in the moment… not in a positive, mindful way; but in a space where I have no sense of anything as being real… I’m just “there”, with no connection to anything.  Intellectually, I know this isn’t good… it’s always been a precursor to serious bouts of self-injury… but, I’m at a loss as to how I can ease it.

Allison also seems at a loss as to what will help.  Considering how little I’m able to verbalise what’s happening, that’s understandable.  Last week, Allison had assumed that I’d put her back in the “useless” basket… but, I know that she can’t work with someone who can’t talk.  This is all on me, not anyone else.  In case you hadn’t noticed, my self-loathing and intolerance are at new heights…  But, I know that unless I can start to communicate, I’m going to continue down this negative path.  I need to stop isolating, and reach out… I need to start caring…  I need to stop playing the game…

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’ve reverted back to the dysfunctional behaviours of the past… outwardly appearing fine, and hiding the chaos.  The piece I wrote last night was about never being a child because of that disconnect… if I’m not able to make any positive changes soon, I’m not going to have a life because of that same disconnect.

The new fat

Note: This post may trigger due to issues regarding food, weight and body image being discussed.

I’ve lost, what is being described as, a significant amount of weight in the past year.

Just typing that line seems so attention seeking. I immediately think that anyone reading those words will react with a sarcastic “oh, poor baby, you’ve lost weight, huh?” In my mind, I then think of the person finishing that thought with some reflection of their own weight struggle… “lucky bitch, I wish I could lose weight”, or “I wonder how much, and if I’ve lost enough”, etc.

Weight and body image is such a personal, yet public, issue. It’s part of the first impression we give about ourselves; and is one of the things that the beast called society, judges us on. In theory, campaigns such as healthy at every size, is helping to change that societal pressure… But, when you hear the criticism of such movements as being fat acceptance, it’s a little disheartening. Just using the term fat, makes it difficult to hear. Fat is such an emotive word, which is usually used in such an insulting way; that it makes it difficult to see it as being anything positive, or accepting.

It’s been my experience, that society is quick to call you things like big, large, fat, etc.; and just as quick to praise you for losing weight. Recently, I’ve been told that I “look good”, and am a “skinny tart”. But, I’ve also been told that I’m “wasting away”; that I “wasn’t recognisable” from the person I was a year ago; and am “committing a slow form of suicide”. It’s really difficult to hear any opinion on my body, so hearing any of these statements makes me run psychologically… The words were all said with the best intentions, but it seems like there’s something in my brain that can’t comprehend them. It was Allison who said my actions were a slow form of suicide – one of her attempts to try to make me look at the situation in a different way… but, all it did, was make me wonder what all of the fuss was about.

As with so many aspects of my life; my weight, and body image, are both totally disconnected, and an obsession. I swing between the two extremes, depending on what is happening around me… I rationalise away people’s concern about me, as them over-reacting; but then, in the next moment, will worry if I can ever stop the drive to lose weight. In both moments, my thoughts seem totally rational, and based in reality.

As I write this, my mind races… justifications for the weight loss, and for losing more, come through in a rush… I don’t meet the criteria for any of the eating disorders, so it’s not serious… people wouldn’t say I look good, if it wasn’t true… even the doctor said the weight loss was good – and she didn’t want to weigh me, so isn’t worried, so I don’t need to worry either… just another [x number] kilos, that’s all you need to lose… my BMI isn’t even low, so there. is. no. problem… you’re such a drama queen!

In typical form, I hear those last words in my mother’s voice. My mother was a nurse, and she would sometimes come home and talk about the “manipulative young girls” that had to come in for their weigh-ins. She talked of having to check their clothes for weights that they had added to try to cover their weight loss. She talked with such disdain… Part of me hates her for her lack of understanding, and other parts hope that I’ll never be seen with such disdain, but I know it’s already too late…

I can’t write any more, this is too difficult.

Btw… the title of this post comes from the thought, that every new number I see on the scales, is my new fat weight.
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Now playing: Silverchair – Ana’s Song (Open Fire)
via FoxyTunes

My dragonslippers

Four years ago, my abusive marriage ended.  I thought that the passing of four years was long enough, and that I would be “over it” by now… I was wrong.  Over the past couple of months I’ve been swept up into flashbacks, as well as experiencing anxiety and dissociation for no apparent reason.

The other day, I was feeling good, and thought that the storm had passed… but now, it’s back with a vengeance.

The good thing about the four years since the marriage was over, is that I can more clearly see how we reacted to each other to create the disaster that was the marriage.  It’s easy to say that I walked into the marriage because of old patterns… one therapist told me that I married a man just like my father, after all.  But that’s a nice square box to place the experience in… the reality is so much more complicated.  My childhood was my training for my marriage… it taught me how to ignore my own needs in favour of others, to consider myself worthless, and not expect to be treated with respect.  His training involved systematically having his self-confidence destroyed; suppressing his anger, to the point where it exploded without warning; and thinking that domination equated to power.

He needed control, but didn’t want it… and I didn’t want control, but needed it.

That one line is possibly the most accurate summary of the marriage.  How it presented was sometimes funny; but more often than not, painful.  Now that I’m a little further away from the situation, I can see the links between such things as his jealousy and my actions.  The best example that I can think of to describe this dynamic, is my fear of going outside – he once commented that one of our male neighbours always seemed to be going outside when I was; which was a huge red flag to me.  It meant that something was wrong, and that something needed to change, as anything that bothered my husband, meant danger.  I couldn’t stop my neighbour from going outside, but I could.  So began another layer of my social anxiety.

There are lots of little examples like that…

Reading this, people will wonder why I stayed with him for so long.  It’s a perfectly reasonable question… I lived in fear of him for eight years; he abused me regularly, and was constantly in trouble with his employers.  But that chaos echoed both of our pasts, so it seemed normal.  I didn’t go to work with visible bruises, and he acted almost childlike in public; so I would often be seen as the bossy one.  No one looking into the marriage would say that anything was wrong.

Probably the most obvious example of why I stayed within the marriage for so long, is shown by his reaction after his final attack on me…  The attack happened on a Sunday afternoon, and after his panicked phone call to my mother, he settled down as if nothing had happened.  When I went to get medical treatment the next day, he accompanied me into the examining room, where he laughed about the injuries and how he had caused them.  He repeated this laughter when he dropped my medical certificate into my workplace to say I wouldn’t be in for at least a week.  It wasn’t until later that day, when my brother arrived that any sort of reality started to creep into his awareness.  He hid the chair broken during the attack, and tried to pretend like nothing had happened… but my brother took him aside and said that he needed to move out for a while.

When my brother went home, and my mother arrived; there was a further dawning of awareness for him… he was always desperate for my mothers approval, and that was obviously missing.  Suddenly he couldn’t cope.  This is when the twisting of the story began in earnest.  Two nights in a row he took off in his car… on one night he threatened suicide, and on the other night he threatened suicide and then told that police that he was too scared to return the house.  This showed how he could act when faced with a situation he didn’t like.

On Valentine’s Day, he left me to return to his family.  It was then that his twisting of the truth became more obvious… suddenly there was no attack, but instead, I was making it all up.  I broke the chair and caused the injuries to myself.  This version of events is what he was going to defend the Protection Order with… thankfully, I had the medical report detailing the attack, and all of his documentation which included a letter to a former supervisor apologising for assaulting him…  When his lawyer saw the documentation, the Protection Order defence was withdrawn.

When I look at this incident, I can see why I doubted so much of what happened within the marriage.  I was dissociative, so often doubted my version of events anyway; but he encouraged me to doubt things by twisting them back onto me, and playing a totally different role in public.  This situation reminds me of a quote from the book Dragonslippers: This is what an abusive relationship looks like:

‘You know, it’s interesting…work…politics…. It’s really so easy to control other people. You just have to cause dysfunction. Once someone feels insecure, you can do anything you want with them.’

This was said by the abuser within Rosalind Penfold’s relationship.  I entered the relationship with my ex-husband already insecure… all he had to do, was to keep me in that place and he could do whatever he wanted.  That’s why my attending therapy was seen as such a threat, and why he enjoyed my dysfunction so much.

I’m glad that I’m now physically free of him… I just wish that I was psychologically free as well.

—————-
Now playing: Headless Chickens – George
via FoxyTunes