NOTE: This post deals with fat, food, eating, and body image. This is about me and it’s personal. This is not a political page. Be advised that any political proselytising will be immediately deleted.
I’m struggling with body image, food, weight… All of it. I’m worried about every bite. I feel like i’m eating too much. My body looks fat to me. I don’t feel comfortable in my skin. I’m back outside walking regularly, but the weather has turned chilly and i’m already in a chronic pain flareup. So, yeah… Suckville. I’m doing all the things that have worked before, but i’m not seeing any weight loss. In fact, i think i’ve gained.
My clothes say i haven’t. My doctor says i’m on track. My loved ones say i look as if i’m continuing to lose.
That means i have fat eyes again.
Fat eyes is the name i give the tricks my mind plays on me when i’m in a tough spot mentally/emotionally. The stuff i’m dealing with in therapy has me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Seriously. Everything is triggering memories. This guy looks like… This song was playing when… This smell brings me back to… I’m constantly on edge and it’s exhausting. Every little noise startles me. I wake up shaking. Random, banal things scare me.
And maybe because i’m dealing with the sexual abuse more directly than i have before, my body feels disgusting. I look at myself and think i’m dirty and gross. I’m even less inclined to have sex than i was before — and that’s saying something. The closest i can get to sex is wanting to want it. Between my dead marriage and working on accessing the split off parts of me that were raped as a child, i’m having trouble envisioning a future where i’m having sex.
Where does food end and sex begin? In my story, it’s hard to unravel. Food probably came first because my mom starved me off and on as long as i can remember. Maybe she fed me well when i was a baby/toddler, but i doubt it. Rewards and punishments were mostly food-centric. And let’s not even get into what school, bullies, peers, tv/movies, and fashion did to my self-image.
Suffice to say i’m drowning in self-loathing at the moment. I can suss it all out intellectually, but it isn’t helping me as far as what i see when i look in the mirror.
I know what to do:
– maintain soft calorie deficit eating;
– keep walking to no more than 15,000 steps or 10km;
– listen to body pain and adjust eating/exercise when necessary;
There’s nothin’ to it but to do it.
Y’all hang in there, and remember, sometimes, the brain lies.
If my brain wore pants they’d be on fire right now.
IMAGE: Pexels, uncredited
In My Cups
I’ve been avoiding writing about this for years. Over the last year or so though, i’ve mentioned it in a somewhat ancillary fashion. I think i’ve been testing the waters. If i’m going to share how my brain works and how i pursue the life i want, while juggling my particular set of issues, however, i would be remiss if i didn’t address it. It would be a lie by omission, and i do try to avoid those, here on my blog.
My addictive nature, and how that’s manifested in my life in general, and in my journey through mental illness and being neuroatypical particularly.
This will be a rough one for me.
I was raised to keep things hidden.
It was modeled for me that one doesn’t acknowledge one’s flaws, let alone talk about them. If one did, then various religions were the answer.
What i have learned though, is that people know anyway. Despite our best efforts, if we hang around with people for either long enough, or at the right moments – they’ll figure it out. (Not the biggest reason i became a hermit, but not a small one, either.) They may not know exactly what it is, but they’ll smell it on us. Something not quite right. Something’s gone off, and it’s rotting away inside.
For addiction, i have both nature and nurture. My mother ate her way up so high there was no scale at the time to weigh her. We’ve figured out ways in our current society to do so, but we’ve had to, because so many are afflicted with the problem. When my mom was super-morbidly obese, she was the fattest person anyone had ever seen in real life, everywhere we went. She’d always held food over me as a reward, and withheld it from me as punishment, and also due to neglect.
So i learned to comfort myself with food. I used it to numb out pain. It was a drug that filled me with a false and fleeting happiness. After a long and checkered history, i’ve learned enough about myself and nutrition to have found a way to handle my food issues.
Oh, but i have addictive behaviours, plural, and my relationship with food, eating, weight, and body image are well-documented in this blog already.
Food wasn’t the only thing that was used to control me as a child.
When you want her to like you, you start out with ice cream and candy.
When you want her to relax and lie still, you use alcohol and pills.
Abusers used pills, i was on pills to control my epilepsy, and when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia as an adult, more pills. That was when i began using the non-prescription codeine to help me cope with the constant pain. By the time i was diagnosed bipolar, i was going through a 250 count bottle of the stuff in less than a week. At one point, i was on 6 different medications at the same time to try and regulate me, and oh, did i mention that i’d started drinking?
For years drinking wasn’t a problem. Then i had weight loss surgery, lost over 300lbs, and slammed into my first full blown mania. The weight loss got me lots of sexual attention and a job in the entertainment industry. More social interactions with me as the centre of everything than i’d had to deal with since my school and church years in plays and vocal performances. I was dealing with no impulse control and sexual and social anxiety through the roof. I didn’t want to eat because i was thin and i loved the way people were treating me… I worked mostly in bars, so i drank.
Between booze and the male gaze, my mania became so severe i lost my job. Mania didn’t just amp me up, either. Between it, the weight loss, and problematic drinking, my DID became a cyclone. And then came the years of psych wards, detox facilities, recovery centres, an actual mental hospital, and LOTS of religion.
As i’ve written before, none of it worked. Eventually, as my husband desperately searched for help for me, he found the therapist i’ve been working with ever since. I long ago laid down the pill-popping, but unfortunately, the drinking behaviours remain. Not the partying all the time kind of drinking, which is good. But when i fall down the rabbit hole – i drink. And there are many parts of my system who will naturally gravitate towards alcohol, because it’s familiar. It wasn’t just that it was a part of our regular life.
It’s that it helped, you see.
It’s easier to slide and switch around with alcohol. It greases the wheels, so to speak. And when, in that first real mania, my system decided to properly introduce themselves to me AND return to full duty, so too, did they return to alcohol. I could go without drinking for long periods of time, but then i would switch, and find myself drunk when i was back in the face. Or viciously hungover.
Sometimes in therapy, we touch on something and i know i’m going to drink over it. If i (specifically speaking) didn’t get some, i knew the issue was enough for me to switch, and then they’d just go get it anyway. There were times when someone or something would trigger me HARD, and i knew what was coming. Life would do what life does, and often become too much for me, and i’d fall down the rabbit hole. Crawling out always involves detoxing from a binge. I had to figure out a way to get, and maintain, some kind of control.
My therapist doesn’t really deal with addiction or bipolar stuffs, even. She focuses on my system, and helping me learn how to listen, address my issues, and build the kind of life i want. Problematic use of drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. is, let’s say rampant, with multiples. She deals with cause, rather than effects. When i first started seeing her, she would come to my house, because i couldn’t leave it. I’d have a mickey of something stuffed beside me on the couch, because i’d have needed a couple of nips to even be able to let her in the door, and i knew that after she left i’d have a couple more.
The more work i’ve done in therapy the better it’s gotten. I even stopped therapy for a few years because i thought i was done. When i found out i wasn’t, old behaviours began kicking in, like, i can’t control the face as well as i was, and this body work makes everyone want a drink.
I knew i had to figure out a new way to handle things during this time. I’m not going back to square 1. I know i won’t either, because my problem solving skills are rather fantastic. One of the first things i did is i stopped hiding the problem. My husband and my kids already knew, so be honest. Why have this undercurrent of tenseness for my boys, where i act like it’s not happening and they act like they don’t know that it is? Why make my husband complicit in the lie? These things aren’t healthy and they erode the trust and poison the relationships that i have with them, that i’ve worked so freaking hard to build.
Removing the hiddenness immediately calmed my impulsivity. My sons both accepted the behaviour and said it was okay. They understood, and both relayed to me that they’ve seen nothing but improvements in the way i’ve lived my life since my brain fell apart.
Hm. Maybe there’s something here for me to learn.
I told my BFF, and since the beginning of our friendship (it’s a couple of years old, now), she’s been nothing but supportive. I’ve never lied to her, and as our friendship’s grown and trust has built, i’ve let her in like i have never, ever let a friend in before. I can call her up and say, “I’m either gonna have a drink or 2, or i’m hittin’ the highway,” and she will come babysit me until my husband gets home.* I don’t bother hiding from her, because i know i don’t need to.
I’m seeing a pattern here…
I’m down the rabbit hole, right now. At first, i got drunk and stayed that way for a few days. The therapy i’m doing, plus this pandemic situation the world is in, summarily tossed me down there by the seat of my pants.
Down you go H, no choice.
But my kids kept loving me and telling me it was okay.
And my husband did things that he knows will maintain my connection to him.
Ah. I know where this is going.
So this time, my Angries didn’t come out and get belligerent. My highly sexualised parts didn’t come forward and demand more and more booze, until i was blacked out and became a parade of damaged Bits N’ Pieces that are very low functioning and can be quite troublesome (to put it mildly). In fact, i was able to slow down and even sober up for my therapy the other day. I’d been fine for a few days.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
~Tao Te Ching
I was ready when i first met my therapist. She taught me a great many things and then i left, thinking i had moved on. It was not so. I simply wasn’t ready for the next lesson. I humbly returned when i realised the truth, and i’ve been learning ever since. These lessons are more painful than the previous ones, and yet, tired as i am, i see myself listening more readily and learning faster. Now it’s more like, When the student is ready, the lesson will come.
Two weeks ago i connected to my therapist in a way i’ve never connected to another human being ever. I shared grief and pain with her, not with words, but with sounds of suffering that i’ve kept buried deep, deep down inside me, at my most broken place. And i let her hold me through it – something i have never allowed before, in the dozen or more years we’ve been working together to help me.
CONNECTION. A mother’s love in her arms around me, in her voice as she soothed me, in her tears as she cried for me.
I strongly suspect that the other day on the phone with her, i learned my most important lesson yet. I told her that shame is my driving emotion. The one that controls me at every step. Every thought, every action is somewhat shame-driven. She responded that shame isn’t bad; shame is just an emotion, a feeling. She said it’s the body’s response to the human need for connection to another human.
I believe i was ready for this lesson.
Yesterday, i was chatting with my husband after supper, and it just came up out of me. I said, “I think shame is the reason i drink – the reason we all drink.** I think what i really want is to be connected to myself, to be alive so that i can truly connect to another person. To you, to our children, to my friends… ”
I was ashamed to want connection, too. The messages that i internalised as a child were that i was filthy and disgusting and not worthy.
But all the work i’ve done has been slowly taking down this deadly razor-wire that my mother and my upbringing built around me.
It’s going to take more work, but i’m going to listen to what shame is trying to tell me, and i’m going to keep disarming the landmines around me. I will be fully alive and interactive with other human beings. I will be living.
As for the booze, i don’t know. It’s just a symptom, as destructive as it can be, and i live with multiplicity, which means i cannot (at least as of yet) always control what i’m going to do. And that’s okay, today. Sometimes i drink to cope. But it’s nothing at all like it was, and i believe with my whole heart, that it’s possible that someday it won’t be a problem at all. Today i’m neither hungover, nor am i drunk. Tomorrow may be something different.
But i’ll handle it.
I have no wise pronouncements to make on addictive behaviours. I have no solutions save the one i’m working out for myself. I won’t be bashing any of the other ways to handle such issues, because i don’t find it helpful or productive. This is me, and my way only. I share for my own continued healing and growth, but also to maybe give others hope that they can find their own way, too.
Just hang on. It’s the place where i started all this, and it’s where i return as often as needed.
Love and Peace,
*For those who are new to my blog, i run when i’m stressed or triggered. We live on a farm, and i’ll hit the highway and hitchhike into the city, where i am in immediate danger due to switching. I haven’t hitchhiked in a few years now, but i’ll still angry walk for many kilometres, in any weather, and have been in fairly desperate need of rescue a few times, just due to that.
**We means me and all my parts. My system.
When i was crying in therapy yesterday, my therapist asked if i wanted the weighted blanket. Instant Nope! because i hate that thing. Then she asked if she could come closer and help me feel better. To maybe put her hands on my bouncing knees. No thank you, because touch is too much. Then she helps me find something i can do to honour and respect how my body is reacting. It doesn’t matter how small, she says. All i can muster is 1 foot, up on its heel – a sign. My body is saying Stay away.
I know i’m not saying stay away to her. I know i’m saying it to people who’re long gone from my life. She stands in their stead for me, knowing how much i need to say No, and I don’t want that, and You can’t do that, and Don’t touch me.
My foot, saying Do not come closer. Stay back.
My knees, bouncing. Let’s get the fuck outta here.
My eyes, always glancing between the window and the door. Avoiding her gaze. But it’s not her read i’m trying to hide from. It’s other prying eyes. Eyes that looked into mine and read me to use me better. My mother, reading every book, attending all the conferences, learning how to get more of what she wanted from people through subtle manipulations. People wanted to open up to her. They wanted to give her what she wanted.
I always opened up to her and gave her what she wanted.
Even my brain was hers to poke around in.
She purposely made some of the parts that live here with me.
So i look away from my therapist and calm myself by looking at the door i can rush out of, or if worse comes to worst, there’s always the window.
She doesn’t take this personally. She lets me set fear-based boundaries because it’s symbolic. It’s healing and empowering for me to say No! and set limits, even unreasonable ones.
Don’t touch me.
Don’t talk to me.
Don’t look at me.
This is the beginning of learning to soothe and comfort and care for myself. And this may be the hardest thing i ever do. (Yeah i know i keep saying that, but JFC, if you could “Strange Days” my current experience you’d understand – this shit keeps amping up!)
I was born to be a receptacle for pain, frustration, rage, sickness, filth.
I was taught it was my job.
I was also taught that i deserved it.
My therapist looks at me with care, her eyes are watery.
She says, “I could wind up and smack you across the face as hard as i could, and you would probably be able to handle that more easily than my offer of kindness and care.”
She asks me questions about how i’m feeling, and all i can come up with is a head shake and an I don’t know. But that’s not quite right. I have thoughts and feelings all jumbled up inside me, and words want to come out, but there’s so many i can’t isolate any one thing in order to make sense. It would just be a big, soupy spew.
So i demure, frustrated, and full of vitriolic froth.
This is my life right now. It’s therapy. It’s my absolute #1 priority. I mete out my spoons, Scrooge-like, becoming more miserly with each passing week.
I cannot care about this right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot share space with this person right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
I cannot deal with this situation right now; i need my spoons for therapy.
This is gonna have to wait.
YOU are gonna have to wait.
I NEED MY SPOONS FOR THERAPY.
I’m curating my life like i learned to curate my social media exposure.
I won’t be making any new friends or any big decisions (hell, even small decisions).
If there’s something not working in my relationships or my daily routines, it’s all getting stuffed in a junk drawer for now because i’m constantly exhausted and stressed dealing with this stuff and there is no room for anyone else’s feelings or issues or problems.*
There’s a baby in my brain. She’s in a frilly bassinet and i have someone that watches over her. Other parts are allowed to go and visit her, but only if they’re in a good place – or at least good enough not to cause trouble. I’m sorry to say she’s not alive, but she is beautiful, and perfectly preserved. Behind her is a vault, where i keep the toxic waste. I thought that was the best place to keep it, locked to all but me. I’ve been gathering it over the years – slurping it up into tanks in my hazmat suit. Hiding it behind metres of steel and locks only i can open. It’s the stuff that killed me as a baby, and poisoned the rest of us. I thought it would stay there, safe and untouched, forever.
But now i know it’s got to go. And i know how to do it, too.
I made a door at the back of the vault. It opens like a big metal one in a scifi show. There’s an episode of Star Trek: TNG, where the ship accidentally travels beyond space and time, “Where No One Has Gone Before”. Beyond my back door lies this place. It will swallow the tanks and they’ll no longer be capable of bringing harm to anyone. They’ll be timeless, formless – existing and yet, not.
I’m preparing to dump them overboard.
*There are exceptions, for instance my kids, or if someone isn’t asking for too much from me and i want to give them some. “Want to” being the important part. Drama is the onion on my pizza right now – and i pick that shit off, man.
I was getting groceries yesterday, and a lovely woman i know commented on my appearance, and asked me how i’ve accomplished my weight loss. I told her, “I changed one thing about the way i eat, and i did that one thing until it became a part of me. And then i changed one more small thing and did it again.”
And that is exactly how i’ve been chipping away at the 100lbs i’ve been struggling with since around 2009.
Yes, 10yrs. Yo-yo-ing the same 30lbs or so, over and over, with diets and food plans and shakes and pills.
But that entire time, i was learning things. About myself, about food, and about how i used food and how i relate to food, and how all of that is affected and shaped by who i am as a person and the trauma i endured growing up.
So while it may have looked like i was stagnating in my 100lbs-overweightness, i was absolutely not. I was tearing myself down to my foundations and building myself back up: Better. Stronger. Faster. (Like Steve Austin, except i’m Jamie Sommers.)
Yes, it’s taken years. That’s okay with me, because i know that i’ll never be obese, morbidly obese, or knocking on the door of super morbidly obese, ever again. My weight might still fluctuate on occasion, but i have infrangible confidence in my ability to handle it, should a problem arise.
As i’ve moved through therapy and learned about who i am and how i work, i’ve been able to tweak what i eat and how i eat. I no longer become despondent when something doesn’t work. I just try something else. I know that i’m in this for the long haul and i can trust myself to stick with it, and everything… Well, everything is gonna be okay – or at least some version of okay that i can live with while working towards a better okay. Or –what the hell– why not try for better than okay?
Then it hit me. I’ve done the exact same thing with my mental health.
It’s been 15yrs of looking my diagnoses full in the face and working on living with my abusive childhood, all to achieve a better quality of life. I’ve lost treasured relationships and i’ve abandoned even more.
I’ve been judged, whether unfairly or justly, to be too fucked up to associate with by many. I started out being devastated by this, but eventually i learned it was their right, and kind of not my business.
Then i thought i could avoid this by starting each new friendship with a serious, candid warning about how i can be a lot, so honest, open communication is helpful…
Sometimes that’s worked and sometimes it hasn’t.
I must’ve seemed like a freakshow that derailed a train.
Well, i know i did, as some people were kind enough to tell me so. /s
I wasn’t any of that, though.
I was tearing myself down to my foundation so that i could build myself back up with better materials, in a style that suited me. Me. Not them. ME.
I was a bit of a fixer-upper, yes. And the renos have taken a loooooooong time, yes.
But i’m no money pit.
And no, i’m not on the market. I do the odd showing, but most people will just have to admire me from a distance. I’m private property.
I’ve been tweaking myself like i’ve been tweaking my diet and my lifestyle and my relationships. I’m just finally starting to reflect on the outside, all the work i’ve been doing on the inside.
And also, How about that, eh?
Love and Peace,
I’m having trouble writing.
It’s not because i’m going through a bunch of crud and i’m waiting for it to be done so i might over analyse it and package it up prettily, replete with a spiffy bow for your easy consumption. I’ve shared before that i struggle with this – i hesitate to share when i’m in the trenches, because it can get so damn dark and cold down there, and i’m trying to bring a message of hope. But i’ve learned that the truth can bring hope, even if the truth is ugly. I’ve also learned that it’s not my responsibility to save the world. As all my children are now grown, i’m no longer responsible for anyone but myself, and my dog.
The best i can do is throw life buoys in the water. They’ll keep you afloat for a while. Allow you to rest. But i can’t make you swim over to it, or grab onto it, or keep holding on. I hope you do, though. I want us all to make it.
I’m having trouble writing because i’m tired. The effort it requires for me to stay present in my body and resist dissociation is maximal. I don’t seem to have much left over for anything else. That’s okay, because i’ve tailored my life to accommodate this kind of thing. I have a very supportive partner, my kids aren’t kids anymore, and i live on a farm. I enjoy private space all around me, and the people in my life all know that “just popping by” is not an option.
So yeah, i’ve got an excellent setup for the work i’m doing, and i’ve settled into a groove. Well, it’s less groove than zombie-shuffle, but i’m gettin’ through it.
Except life has this way of happening, and life has gone and done happened on me.
My life has absolutely and utterly changed. To what extent, and whether for good or ill i don’t yet know, but i’ll never be the same.
It’s not appropriate to talk about it yet. I’m gathering information and sitting with it for a while, first. It’s not a diagnosis; i’m not sick. Well, nothing has been added to my current laundry list, and nothing has intensified or become life-threatening, at least. And my primary relationship is solid. So for any of my readers who’re inclined to worry – don’t. It’s a big deal, but it’s not bad. It’s just BIG. I don’t have any energy left over for anything besides functioning in the day-to-days, listening to my body and trying not to dissociate.
But life isn’t a consciousness. It has no feelings or intents or plans. It’s not trying to mess with me. It’s not laughing at me. I’m not a rat in its maze. Life just lives until it doesn’t. It doesn’t care about timing. It isn’t concerned with how many spoons i have in my coping drawer. It just rolls along and happens. And oh boy, has it ever happened.
What i’m going to do here is just update. Just mention some things and check in with how i’m doing. Living stuff. Coping. Processing. Thoughts and sundry.
My physical health is okay. Not great, but manageable. I’m learning to live with osteopenia (low bone density, not severe enough to be classified osteoporosis) by taking prophylactic medication and the right exercise. The result has been a reduction in pain, and far less of the “crunching” that i was hearing by late afternoon. The pain wasn’t terrible, but the noise was quite disturbing. I’m currently working on bringing up my fitness level. I started with walking.
Walking is something i’ve been doing a lot of, since i was able to do it. When we lived in cities, my mother would send me to the corner store for snacks and cigarettes, and out to panhandle. One of the best ways for me to escape from my home life for a while was to be outside, so i was outside a LOT. Whatever the weather, and long after other children had gone home, you could find me outside. When we moved into more small town living, we tended to live far away from the school. We were a wrong-side-of-the-tracks sort of family, so there was usually a few miles between me and the school. Another thing i did to stay out of her hair/way/path (although i didn’t see it that way at the time), was to join clubs. I was in lots of clubs growing up: girl scout type clubs, choirs, drama troupes, sports clubs, military clubs… I didn’t do too much school oriented after school activities, because bullies, but other clubs seemed mostly populated with nerds and misfits like me, so i didn’t get picked on much.
Walking is where i come closest to a quiet state of mind, too. Meditation is beyond the capabilities of many multiples. My brain is never silent, even when i’m dreaming i can pick up background chatter if i’m lucid enough. After decades of having professionals and non alike tell me that meditation could fix a number of my issues (even cure my anxiety, tap into my deeper intellect, and become a spiritual giant!), i finally found a therapist i could work with, who told me straight away that my being unable to meditate at even the most basic level was not at all uncommon for those diagnosed with DID.
Walking is also my system’s response to extreme stress. I was programmed to “go home” if i got in a bad spot, and it’s still a hard reflex inside me. I’ve taken off hundreds and hundreds of times, and probably logged thousands of kilometres.
All this to say – i can walk, honey.
So i’m walking, and it’s good, and i’m good at it, and it’s good for me.
Except for the fibro flare it’s causing, of course. That’s the crap part of it. I’ve been living with this chronic pain since 1995, so i’m fairly educated on my condition, and i know this is to be expected. The key is to increase gently, with long periods of status quo in between. I’ve also taken up some beginners yoga stretching, which i’m finding calms me rather nicely, while warming up my muscles for the distances i put in during the day.
(This is where my dark and twisty sense of humour comes in handy, because it’s just so **ME** to be working on my fitness and pushing through the resultant uptick in pain, while also trying to cut back/eliminate dissociation. I have this built in ability to distance myself from pain, and i can’t use it. I mean, i can, but i choose not to. Ah well, the hard way is just a way in the end, amirite? Heh.)
My diet is good. I’m calorie restricting for weight loss, but i eat soundly. My FitBit is helping with keeping me mindful of what i eat, although i don’t use any of their programs – that stuff can easily trigger obsession in me. I’m just logging my calories so that i can keep track. Sometimes i weigh and measure just to give me a better idea where my calories are being spent. Sunday i take the FitBit off, i don’t exercise per se, and i have a slight cheat day, food wise. I don’t go all out cheat though, because i find that hard to bounce back from sometimes, and i need the momentum i’ve built up to cruise me through while i’m dealing with this overwhelming exhaustion.
Socialising is hard for me right now. It happened suddenly, but that’s not out of the ordinary. I don’t want to go out and i don’t want to see anyone, but it’s slightly different now; i’m less extreme. In the past, i would hole up in my Little Crooked House and just hermit. No phones, no answering the door, no leaving the house except when unavoidable. Now i can see someone if i need to, for instance, i know a lovely woman who’s helping me with eyelash extensions while mine grow out after nuking them and my eyebrows in the Burning Barrel Incident that i mentioned a few posts ago. She’s softspoken and very kind and low key, and i don’t want to scream when she touches my face. If only there were eyebrow extensions. <insertruefulexpressionhere>
A dear friend invited me out to supper last Saturday and i said Yes. When i got there, my body and brain started acting up immediately, and i knew i couldn’t stay. I did a quick negotiation with my Peanut Gallery: Yo, if y’all will just STFU and let me touch base with my friend, i won’t stay any longer than an hour. So i ordered my food to go, and had a nice chat with my friend while it was being prepared.
That’s some gold standard problem solving for me, right there.
I think what i’m seeing is, i can do one-on-ones, but i’m finding any more than that quickly saps what little energy i have. I love humans and enjoy their company – except when i don’t, and these last couple of weeks i’ve occasionally felt almost misanthropic. That’s a neon sign that my stress level is high.
I don’t like ending on a low note, but yeah… As i mentioned to my online group of friends yesterday, i’ve gotta look up to see dirt. Depression is seeping in, making me sluggish and mopey. These last couple of days i’ve felt sad and alone. There’s some self-pity there, sure. I can hear the sad trombone. But i’m going to allow myself a bit of ass-dragging, because i’ve learned if i don’t acknowledge what’s happening and just let myself BE™, a little, my condition will just get bigger and bigger until i pay attention. I must give it some space to breathe, and move, and act in accordance with my emotions (scared, mad, sad, etc.) and sensations (pain, ache, emptiness, etc.). I must listen to what my brain and my body are trying to tell me.
I haven’t been this down and heavy in my bones for a long time.
I can hang on until therapy tomorrow. Little goals.
My body is heavy and slow, so i do a few things around the house, with long breaks of doing sweet fuck all in between. My brain is foggy and fuzzy and full of low thoughts, so i read for entertainment only, and limit who i share space with, and i curate conversations to avoid topics that will feed my depressive feelings. I’m watching emotional stuff that helps me cry, because tears want to come, but i have trouble crying for myself. I can always cry for someone else, so sappy movies it is. I start crying because The Fisher King or RENT, but i keep crying because holy shit am i ever going through it right now.
This work is hard and it’s taking everything i have to do it. And life just has no heart, no mercy, no grace for me – it just keeps doing its thing and that’s just how life does things and i’ve gotta get with the program, man.
I’m plodding along, but it’s forward.
I’m doing the minimum, but i’m DOING.
I’m standing here on the shore as the tide advances, lapping at my feet, then swirling around my knees, and now it’s pulling me out, out into the deep…
And i’m letting it pull me.
I’m treading water for now, but i’ll get to swimming at some point.
You watch me.
Love and Peace,
Inside My Skin
There is a part 3 for I’m Not A Bitch, but today i’m posting a little blurp-up on how i’m doing right now.
Last year i had a schedule, with routines, regimens, and rituals aplenty, and i was hummin’ along like a vintage car that’s still with and well cared for by its original owner. I was as functional as i’d ever been in. my. life. and i was proud of what i’d accomplished and excited for more and better in my very near future.
That was when my body started poking my brain and saying, Ahem? Ah, excuse me?
I need some help.
It’s a little on the airy-fairy side for a firm atheist like me, but i have come to believe that it’s possible that it’s not just my brain that houses my memories, but my body, as well. Like, when i feel threatened, i can feel it immediately in my feet, my calves, my knees – the urge to run, to get away. The memories of being trapped by my abusers and unable to leave might be there, i think. Nestled in there with my muscles and tendons, lying dormant until a situation triggers old thoughts and feelings about the past and my fast-twitchers spark awake, GOGOGONOW!
I recognise that this may not be measurable in a scientific sense as of yet, but that’s okay. I’ve been working on getting down into my feelings,
and the deeper into them i get, the more i experience how connected my thoughts and emotions are to my physical body, when i feel safe enough to allow it.
As a highly dissociative human, i put distance between emotion and sensation and thought, because they have historically been too much for me to cope with all at once. I also never had a person safe enough and knowledgeable enough to teach me how to process these things; the why-am-i-like-this and the how-do-i-fix-it. Now that i do, when she (my therapist) suggests that my memories are not just in my brain, but in parts of me that exist in real time below the neck, well…
I experience, observe, and exist consciously in those moments when i sit down in the armchair by the window in her office, and my girl parts are buzzing like they’re covered in a thousand bumblebees, and she asks how i’m doing today, and my vagina starts to burn, like the bees are stinging me, so she has me take a big pillow and hide myself behind it, and wrap my arms around that pillow and pull it in tight, hugging my genital area, protecting it with a soft, warm barrier and my loving arms, and she asks me,
“How does that feel?”
And i roll my teary eyes and say, “I don’t know. Weird. Better… I guess. Good.”
Or how i pull my legs up onto that armchair, fanning them out alongside me because if i put them on the floor, they’ll start bouncing like corn popping, wanting to run. I feel safe with her in her office, and i come ready to be conscious of my body and be in it in real time. But other people that live in my brain, especially those that exist in a painful moment from the past, come wide awake and all they feel is trauma, and they want it to stop, so badly; they want to get away, nownownow. So my therapist has me put my feet back on the floor and bounce my knees and flex my feet and sometimes i’ve even placed the bottoms of my feet on the bottoms of hers and pumped my legs, HARD, like i’m riding a bicycle away – away from pain, away from danger, away from evil.
And i’ll be damned if it doesn’t help. I think my body is purging the memories of all the terrible things that were done to me when i was little. When i was with my mother and dependent on her for everything – helpless and unable to get away from the things that she did and allowed to be done to me.
It’s like i’m shedding “psychic” pounds.
I know, another metaphysical word coming from me, but i use it as a poetic description of what i’m experiencing, rather than an actual, tangible thing that exists.
What i mean is, i feel lighter in my feelings and my mood and my outlook on life, when i do these things –when i directly address the sensations in my body, and act out the movements it seems to be itching to do– i feel better.
So this is what i’ve been doing. Learning to tune in to my body, rather than distance myself from it. Letting my fists ball up, kicking my legs, covering my breasts, my belly, my nethers, with blankets, pillows, honouring the need for a barrier. Pulling my big dog into my lap and wrapping my arms around her, burying my face in her neck and feeling her warmth, her weight, her protection.
And walking again. Not taking off. Not getting away.
Recognising and honouring the need of my feet, my calves, my knees, my thighs, to move. The memories of wanting and needing so badly to get away from what was happening to me all those years ago and being unable to, all trapped there in my flesh and fascia. Pumping it out of me with each determined step, the pain and the fear pouring down into my toes and out, like i’ve lanced an infection and i’m draining the pus, leaving a trail on the dirt road behind me.
Lighter. Healthier. Cleaner. Freer.
It’s constant work but i don’t mind. I can see and feel the benefits. Unlike the brain work, where i slogged and slogged through the muck, such slow-going. Putting in so much time with little to no change, but hoping. And then seeing that which had been unravelled, ever so slowly knit back together.
The body work yields refreshingly immediate results. They don’t always last, but i can do it again, and the good stuff lasts a bit longer each time. One day, it might just settle right into my bones and that will be that.
So here i am today.
I’m sober. I’m not doing anything to numb myself, neither brain nor body. I’m living my life as simply as i can so that i might teach myself to be present and feel it all. To make conscious, thoughtful decisions on how to handle and cope with the day-to-days, and those times when life just happens. I mean, i wish it wouldn’t do that, but even to have the presence and awareness inside this skin sack in real time to think, Geez, Universe, now why’dja have to go and do that?! is a priceless gift.
I’ve lost the booze bloat and the grey cast to my skin. I’m back to managing my food choices and eating at a calorie deficit, nutritionally sound and designed for slow and steady weight loss, my goal of a single digit clothing size before summer hits is doable.
I often wear my clothes a bit on the tight side because:
1) I like having my business held in, hugged, and smoothed out;
2) It boosts my self-esteem and motivation to be wearing smaller sizes; and
3) It keeps me consciously in my body, that tight squeeze, that occasional escape of flesh over the top of my jeans.
Understand, this is not a shaming technique. I’m proud as heck of what i’ve accomplished, and any shame i carry about my body is due to childhood stuff, which i’m working through, tyvm. I’m also not suggesting anyone else do what i do for my weight, my body, my brain, my relationships – none of it, period. What i’m doing is sharing my process, in every way and on every level (save sexual and spiritual, although that may come some day), not so that you can do what i do, but so you can see that it can be done.
I’m 52yrs old, and there’s no shame in that, either.
I am not who i was born to be.
It’s taken a lot of hard, intense, terrifying work to get where i am today.
Nobody could do it for me and a lot of it i did alone because i couldn’t find the right person to do it with me. But i persevered, taking little nuggets of wisdom from this place and that person, knocking on door after door, taking class after class, asking “professional” after professional? for help.
(That word though, what a loaded word in this particular field, heh.)
I got disheartened, led down wrong paths, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, ignored, unfairly judged, and many times, told i was Just fine! and/or Highly functional! because i was so willing to open up and do the work, and already had so much self-knowledge and personal insight and i’m clearly intelligent and have a large vocabulary and i’ve never been arrested or lived on the street, so… What’s your problem?
With such narrow definitions, it’s a wonder anyone gets any, let alone enough help, but some of us do.
If you have stuff inside you that needs work, i want you to see that i’m doing it, and so maybe you can, too.
If you need help with that work (and who doesn’t?), i want you to see that i found some (FINALLY!), and so maybe you can take heart and keep trying until you find that good fit: that person, that place, that program, that system -whatever it is- that clicks with you and helps you get your feet underneath you and walking forward. Or running, swimming, flying – however it works for you to figure your shit out and get through it. Whatever gets you moving towards something that you’ve always wanted for yourself.
I did it and i’m still doing it.
I should be either dead, or locked up, or completely non-functional, or just a shitty, awful human. I am none of those things.
Every time i blog it’s for me first, because it’s been very effective.
But it’s for you, second – because i want you to hang in there. I want you to find help, answers, love, success, happiness. All of it.
I wish i could do more, but i’m a lot of work, and this is what i can manage.
So far, anyway.
I’m pluggin’ away. It’s what works for me. I go through some tough, scary shit, but i just keep plodding along, learning about myself and how i work and doing the work that’s in front of me.
Then there are moments, beautiful, transformative, life-affirming moments, where i can see, not only how far i’ve come, but the depth and the breadth and the weight of what i’ve been able to achieve. It may not look like much to the rest of the world, but that no longer matters to me. What i’ve been able to do with my brain, my body, my life, is incredible and amazing. TO ME.
I hope that i can inspire others to just hang in there and keep trying. Stop and rest and feel how hard it is when you need to, you deserve that, but as soon as you can muster, try some more.
Love and Peace and So Much Thanks,
Image: Reclining Nude (c1887), George Hendrik Breitner
Content/Trigger Warning: This deals with food and weight issues, and references childhood abuse and neglect with regards to food, as well as indirect referral to childhood sexual abuse as it relates to such. Take good care.
It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you.
~ George Orwell
I’ve struggled with food my entire life, and with my weight since i was around 8yrs old. I’ve tried every diet, but gradually starved and binged my way to around 230lbs in high school, where i stayed until i Grey-sheeted (Overeaters Anonymous’ suggested eating plan) myself to 180lbs when i was 27. For a 6′ tall female, that wasn’t half bad. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long because i went and fell in love for the first time in my life, got married, got triggered massively by the whole thing, and ate my way up to an all-time high of 465lbs.
In the early aughts, weight loss surgery became a thing again. There had been a craze of “stomach stapling”, but that hadn’t been easy to come by for many years. People would overeat, pop their staples, and some even died. Doctors weren’t too keen on it, and the idea that weight loss is simply a matter of the right diet and some willpower was still the overwhelming attitude of many, if not most.
Then along came Carnie Wilson, daughter of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys, and member of the 90s pop group Wilson Phillips, and she not only got herself a new, better, safer-than-stapling weight loss surgery called a Roux-en-Y (RNY), it was filmed and released for public consumption. I saw my doctor immediately, got a referral, lost enough weight that he okayed me for surgery, and went from 367 to around 150lbs.
Cue my first major Bipolar mania. And just for fun, cue my multiplicity run amok. What followed was more chaos than i’d ever endured as an adult. It had me searching, once again, for a therapist that i could work with, someone who would help me gain control of my runaway brain that was making an absolute train wreck out of my marriage, my mothering, my life. I did some decent inner work on my own, but without help to understand how my brain worked, my system derailed me, over and over again. My doctor diagnosed the bipolar and i went to a psychiatrist, got medicated, and regained around 100lbs. I’ve struggled with it ever since.
When i started working with the therapist that changed everything, the one who helped me save my life, the one i’m working with again today, i finally had a painfully clear and complete picture of why i had such issues around food.
Her abuse of me started soon after i was born, and based on others’ recollections of me as a baby, feeding and food was likely an immediate issue. My earliest, clearest memories that i can confirm start when i was around 4yrs old. I remember her showing me how to prepare a roast with a package of onion soup mix, and how to turn on the oven. She also showed me how to peel the potatoes and carrots to go in with it, the dexterity of which was tough for me to learn, and she’d smack me across the head regularly for not doing it right.
I remember her locked in the bathroom, threatening to kill herself, screaming about getting fat and being alone. I remember wailing and banging on the other side of the door, begging her not to do it.
I remember staring at my face in the mirror a short time later, holding a bottle of some pinkish-orange liquid (Mercurochrome?) with a skull and crossbones on it, thinking i could kill myself too, if things got too bad. It’s the first time i remember a soft switch.
I also remember her leaving me alone, sometimes for days, and there would be nothing to eat in the house. I became quite resourceful. I’d put ketchup and mustard on saltines and pretend they were fancy appetizers. I ate food out of the garbage. I ate frozen food, spoiled food, anything i could find.
Sometimes when she came back she’d bring treats for me.
Sometimes she’d beat me for eating things i wasn’t supposed to, and feed me frozen food or garbage as further punishment.
When times were particularly lean, she’d taught me to shoplift food – to stuff my coat with meat, cheese, chocolate. She taught me to panhandle, as well. Sometimes she’d buy me a treat if i made enough money to satisfy her, but mostly not.
As her relationship with the man i think was my father (not a story for today) began to deteriorate, she ate more and more, and there often wasn’t enough money or food for both of us to eat. I was always the one to go hungry.
All my life she would buy salty and sweet snacks for herself, and only take them out after i’d gone to bed. I could hear the bags crinkling and her masticating and watching television. Sometimes she’d even cook, and i’d be laying in bed, hungry and tortured by the delicious smells wafting under my door.
She also used food as punishment and reward with regards to the sexual abuse, as did the people with whom she associated for such. When she was happy with me, her face would be lit up and she’d make us an incredible meal, or even take us out to dinner at a sit-down restaurant. I remember her regularly being complimented for my behaviour and etiquette out in public – she’d incline her head to the side slightly and nod as if it were her due. If i got too much attention, she’d beat me when we got home, and forbid me to eat for a couple of meals.
This abuse and willful neglect shaped me into my school years. I learned to sneak food from anywhere i could: school, friends, friend’s homes, any place where my mother would farm me out.
I rarely brought lunch to school, and at best i’d have a peanut butter sandwich and a carrot or an apple, all of which i’d have scrounged together myself. She never made me a lunch, even though she quit working when i was 10 and laid around the house watching tv all day after that. So when children threw their lunches into the trashcan at the front of the classroom, i’d wait until everyone was gone and root through, smuggling whatever i found into the bathroom, where i’d sit on the toilet in a stall and pack it all into me in a frenzy, barely chewing it enough to swallow without choking.
When i began babysitting outside the home, i’d make up for the $1/hr we were paid in my day by eating the couple out of house and home.
And when my mother married and started popping out other children, i began brazenly stealing food from her; my fear of starving was so great it even overcame my fear of being beaten, as i inevitably was, every single time i was caught. I think i saw my new siblings as competition for what little food was in the house.
I think that’s exactly what she intended.
One might ask, how could i be starved as regularly as i say and still be the fat kid?
The years of regularly starving and being withheld food had made their mark on me. Not just emotionally either, as i was to learn much later in life; my body would hold onto calories as fat in anticipation of the next period of starvation that would come. Once my mother was married and had morphed herself into a (somewhat) different person, my fears were set, and my behaviours ingrained.
Eat whatever i could when it was available.
Food was comfort. Food was reward. Food was a stimulant, and made me feel euphoric. Food was like an opioid too, numbing the pain and fear. And food tamped down my anger, which i was never, ever allowed to display, let alone express. Food and my system worked together so well i didn’t even know i was angry.
And once there were other people in the house living with us, her behaviour changed.
She no longer earned money, gifts, and favours using me.
Her mask had begun to slip, she was gaining weight at an alarming rate, and she slowly became a shut-in, rarely going out and almost never socialising.
She continued to put food above everyone else around her. She used her much younger, new husband to procure food for her, which she consumed whilst her children with him were skeletally thin.
I was young and didn’t see the way things had progressed, naturally. I think my subconscious mind processed things like, the bigger i got, the less i was being molested. And i’d found that food was the closest to love i could get. I thought that if i was eating, i must be okay. So food became my metric. For everything. For love, for happiness, for safety.
Food was my currency.
I probably don’t need to tell you what that cost me.
How the fat kid is guaranteed to be bullied.
How people assume the fat kid is indulged rather than neglected/abused because clearly i was getting enough to eat.
How the fat girl gets preyed upon by sexual opportunists who think we should be grateful that anyone would want to screw us.
Any potential as an adult that i had was always at least partially marred by my fatness. The unspoken assumption that i was lazy, slovenly, even pampered. That i had no self-control. No determination, no gumption, no tenacity.
When i’d finally done enough inner work that i could look back and see all these things (all these things that i’ve shared about food and yet i assure you there is still so much more) i was set free.
I now understand why i love grocery shopping so much, and why no one else gets to unpack and put them away. I now totally get why i become antsy as soon as my fridge or my pantry doesn’t look full, when i get low on things. I know why i’m curious what foods other people have in their kitchens when i visit. I know why i have such trouble throwing out spoiled food, or food that just doesn’t taste good, or food that i’ve burned or overcooked or over-spiced…
I know why when i’m doing well and feeling good i want cake, and when i’m doing poorly and feeling bad i want cake.
And i know why i don’t want sex when i’ve overeaten and when i have great sex i’m not scared to eat when i’m hungry.
I know why i gained almost 200lbs when i fell in love and got married.
And i know why i went completely batshit when i lost all the fat and was a healthy, normal weight.
I tried a dozen different times to write about how my mother’s sexual abuse factored in to my issues with food, but i don’t think it’s necessary for this piece – neither for me, nor for anyone else. Perhaps another time, but i’ve agonised enough over this. It was hard to write and even harder to come to a decision about whether or not to post. I prefer glossing over the abuse and focusing on how it affected me and how i’ve coped.
But being fat since i was 8yrs old really, deeply hurt me. It’s held me back from so much living, so much that i might have achieved, because all i could see was my weight. It seemed like it was all anyone could see, honestly.
You could have this if only…
You could be this if only…
You could do this if only…
Relationships. Sex. Body image. Food.
I’ve spent my adult life trying to take these things back, and it’s taken everything i have, and it will continue to do so. I have to examine all of it, and it’s deeply personal and drenched in secrecy and shame.
I’m so fucking tired of it.
This is not my shame to carry – not my embarrassment to bear.
It’s ugly because SHE made it ugly. Because she was so terribly ugly.
I’ve learned over the years that eating and food and weight issues are rarely a matter of willpower coupled with the right diet. I’ve found it to be intricate and complicated. Skeins of moments and messages woven together in a tapestry of pain and fear, unmet needs, loneliness, dashed hopes, and hunger beyond the belly.
This is painful and intensely personal for me, and i’ve cried through a lot of it – but i see how i got to 465lbs and i see how i got here, sharing this piece today. I don’t weigh myself anymore, but i have enough experience with my body to be able to tell you that i’m likely less than 50lbs from where i’d ideally like to be. I took a hard look at my past, a harder look at who i am and how my brain works, and then puzzled over how those 2 things are related with respect to how i see food and eating.
I now know myself so well and have amassed enough knowledge about diet and nutrition (h/t to Registered Dietitians – where i go to get the most accurate information), that i’ve been able to tailor-make my own way to eat to lose weight and keep it off, finally, for good.
I make small, sustainable tweaks to how and what i eat.
I comfort and feed the parts inside me that hunger for much more than food.
My body physically manifested the wrongs that were done to me as a child. I wore it in pounds of fat.
My body is becoming evidence of the good and kind and right things i’ve been doing for myself.
Starving for love, starving for food. These things are so intertwined for me.
These knots inside me are being untied, these constraints inside me are being unbound.
I’m trying to help anyone reading this to find hope in however your own childhood struggles may have expressed themselves in how you do or don’t eat, and how much or how little you weigh.
This piece is disjointed and choppy AF. I did my best. I think it’s been super hard to foment into something consumable because it’s not just mental, this stuff is inextricable from the physical. It’s visceral.
I hope this was helpful.
Please take care of yourself and talk to someone if you’re stirred up inside.
I Wish You All Love and Peace,