Month: December 2015

Apologies for my silence… and a Christmas prayer

Apologies for my silence… and a Christmas prayer

I am sorry for being away for many days and for being behind on replying to comments. The last two weeks have been very mixed. I’ve been blessed to have the friendship of a couple of very supportive friends local to me, who were so kind to me over the Christmas days. Also, I’ve had a struggle over this time as always, and a very upsetting event through which I felt I absolutely couldn’t go on.  Again I was blessed with a friend who could see hope for me.

I will write more at the weekend and catch up on everything once this busy week at work is concluded.

You are all in my thoughts. I’m praying particularly for anyone who finds this time of Christmas and New Year taxing and hard or painful, as I know so many of us do. All we cannot find or do or be can be all the more hollow and isolating round this time. Loss is more raw. I’m praying for tiny little lights and encouragements and the knowledge that you are good, can do good, to help you through one hour at a time.

In my belief, at Christmas Our Lord Jesus loves us so much that He came as a little baby to ask for a place in our hearts and He came right into our darkness and poverty. So we are with Him right now in the midst of all the hardships. He asks no great deeds of us, only love. We need not overcome all our weaknesses to be with Him because precisely in weakness He came to us. We only need to be still, with Him.

Advertisements
A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #2

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #2

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 2 – My History, 1 of 2 : ages 3 – 16

In this chapter, I’m going to tell you a bit about the history of my own eating difficulties, as an overview. I am not going to go into detail of my feelings and the reasons I started to restrict or overeat at each stage, as I will go on to that in subsequent chapters.

I have done my best not to go into any detailed description of the techniques I used to eat less or conceal how little I was eating and so on, as I understand that this can be triggering for people who are unwell with eating difficulties.

It has proved much more difficult to write this “history” than I anticipated. I think what lies behind each of the periods of my life is more raw than I had admitted to myself.

Although I probably did not meet clinical criteria for an eating disorder until I was about 15, my relationship with food and my body was distorted throughout my life from preschool age.

I first knew I was “fat” when I was 3 years old. I remember vividly sitting on the stairs. It was shortly after Easter. On Easter Sunday I had been given a chocolate Easter egg with my name iced on it, and some other chocolate treats. As a typical child, I guess, I delighted in the egg. I shared it with my Nana and my parents but probably not very generously! (Typically, again, for a 3 year old.) I remember that on that Easter Sunday, I was praised for sharing. But then that day on the stairs (I don’t know how long after Easter), my mother was calling me “greedy” and shouting at me for how I had stuffed my face with chocolate and everyone else just had a crumb. I remember so clearly and it hurts even now. I remember knowing I was greedy and bad, and FAT. How exactly I knew to make that link, I am not sure, but I knew it meant FAT, and BIG, and that was bad. Perhaps I had already absorbed some of my mother’s preoccupation with food and body size.

My mother began weighing me in secret around this time, and keeping the fact hidden from my dad. (My dad recalls this and has told me about it. I myself recalled it from when I was a little older, maybe 5 years old.) When my dad found out what she was doing, he told her to stop, and she agreed, but actually continued with increased frequency and forbade me to tell my dad.

From the age of around 6, she would regularly tell me that I looked “too plump” and would send me to weigh myself and report back to her my weight. She would not believe the figure I told her and would then have me get the scales, bring them to her bedroom or the upstairs landing and weigh myself in front of her. Then she would stand me, often undressed, in front of the long mirror in her bedroom and point out the bits of my body that were too plump and too fat. Then I had to go on a diet until she considered I had lost enough weight. She did not want my father to know so I still ate the main course of the evening meal, but the diet meant no snacks or biscuits (most of the range of sweets and chocolates children ate were banned in any case) and something like lettuce and rice crackers or a small amount of plain pasta for lunch. Not the most extreme by any means, but I didn’t like it. When I got older, it meant exercise in the living room as well, sometimes with exercise videos and tapes.

I did dance classes from the age of 3 or 4; two or three classes twice or three times a week. This was about the only contact I had with other children and the outside world (my mother taught me at home until secondary school age and almost completely restricted any contact with friends or wider family members). In my classes, I knew that I was bigger than the other girls. I think partly I actually was rather a fat child and partly I was very tall for my age and so of a larger build than the other girls. In any case, candy pink leotards and tights or white ankle socks were not the most flattering outfit, to say the least!

I wanted to be little, thin and tiny. I wanted to be the smallest, not the biggest. From as soon as I could start to read (which was early, around 5 or 6 years old), I would go through my mother’s Prima magazines whilst she was asleep (there was a big stack of back issues beside her bedroom mirror).  I’d look at the pictures of the women there and, as I got older, read the diet features where you were supposed to live on grapes, yoghurt and hard boiled eggs. I remember in particular, one picture of a woman in a sparkly red dress. This was the late 80s when the extremely thin, emaciated look of models was popular, perhaps even more than it is today. I had pretty much uncensored access to these magazines whilst my mother slept. (My dad would go to work but my mother frequently would not get up until a good 2 – 3 hours or more later, during which time I’d play by myself or read books and magazines that I could find lying around.)

My mother, meanwhile, was very concerned with her own weight. She was convinced that she was fat (she was not). Her morning toiletry and beauty routine took an incredibly long time. She would spend a long time on extremely precise application of a lot of make up, then in front of the mirror looking at her body. One of her delusions with her schizophrenia was that she was being bitten by insects or that there was poison under her skin, which she would try to scratch out in front of the mirror. Her eating patterns were very irregular. She would eat nothing at all during the day and instead smoke a vast amount and drink coffee and later, wine. She would then eat an evening meal (except during the terrible arguments, when she might not even eat this). I thought that was how grown up women ate and waited for it to happen to me that I didn’t want to eat any more during the day. I didn’t have enough contact with anyone other than my mother to know that this wasn’t normal. I thought something was wrong with me that I still ate breakfast and lunch.

Food was also a big focus of my mother’s ill thoughts and actions. Arguments often started during the evening meal. If the argument (her shouting, crying, threatening and so on) had already gone on all the day until she suddenly went away to bed, it would resume over dinner on my father’s return from work. When I was older and had been out to school during the day or, rarely, elsewhere, dinner was the time for her cross-examinations about what I had done, what marks I had got, who I had seen, what conversations I had had, what I had said and what the other person had said, usually followed by a rehearsal of why that was not good enough and exactly what I had to say the next time and what the  other person would say in response.

During dinner she would watch me intently, observing in minute detail how I held cutlery and crockery, commenting and criticising and even accusing me that particular mannerisms or movements were done to punish her or because I was “pretending to be a little girl” and knew it would upset her. My father and I had to give effusive praise of every part of the meal if she had cooked it. She had a rotation of elaborate dishes. Not liking something was not acceptable. Other times she would completely stop cooking at all for months on end. The food had to be set out in dishes in a particular arrangement on the dinner table. She would eat with particular precisely repetitive actions that on top of everything else, just raised the tension to absolute boiling point. If she was eating yoghurt from a bowl (it had to be decanted into a bowl, never eaten from the pot), she would circle her spoon twice clockwise and twice anti-clockwise round the bowl, then tap it three times on the top of the bowl, before taking each mouthful. As a result, she ate incredibly slowly. My father and I had to sit still until she had finished. (Even writing this my anger is boiling!) If she was angry, or going to accuse me of punishing her in some way, her actions became more elaborate and pantomime-like. It was frightening and the spring that lived in my stomach around those years coiled tighter and tighter waiting for the explosion that came no matter what I did, anyway.

By the time I went to secondary school aged 11, having been taught at home by my mother from 4 – 11 years old, I was probably a completely average weight. I was still tall although not quite as extremely so as when I was younger. I was not particularly slim but I was not fat either.

At school, able to choose what I wanted for lunch and with some spending money for break time, suddenly I was away from my mother’s intense scrutiny of my food intake. She would always watch me extremely intently if she was sitting with me when I ate. At dinner time I hated the feeling of her intense gaze. It was strange. In other ways she almost ignored my food – for example, I got my own breakfast (unless my dad did before he went to work) and lunch from the age of around 6 years old. After her hospital admissions started I often cooked all or part of the family evening meal, when I was around 8 years old. But when she was present, she watched intently, worrying and judging and controlling.

So with this new-found freedom at school, I wanted to try all the foods my friends were eating which I had not been allowed. I wanted to eat sweets when they had them. I was hungry with the busy school schedule. The result was I did definitely have too much candy and sweet food in my diet. I ate it in secret from her, fearful of what her reaction would be.

Unfortunately, when I was around 12, my physical health problems started, first from an ankle injury and then a serious knee injury, following which I was on crutches for a long time. I have a mild form of joint hypermobility which did not help.

Not able to continue my dance classes or to join in sports or move around so much whilst I was on crutches, my weight started to go up. I yo yo’ed for a while, restricting severely when I was on a diet (drinking only fizzy drinks during the day at school and eating nothing) and at other times eating far too much sweet food. My physical health problems did not really get any better from this age and I was in constant pain in my legs and back (apart from a brief period when I was about 14).

By this stage, my mother was going into hospital with increasing frequency. When she was at home, she seemed the more angry with me. I was starting to challenge more her world that was wrapped up in the schizophrenia and closed in at home, I guess. She became angrier with me for my weight. The weighing had become less frequent but she would still call me to stand in front of the mirror and undress for her to show me what was wrong with my body. I was plenty old enough now that I did not want to do this in front of her.

Nevertheless, I did want to lose weight. I still wanted to be the thinnest, the smallest, the youngest. Over the summer I was 14, turning 15, I started to diet in earnest and this was probably the start of the longest period I had yet spent on a diet. I also started cycling into the next town, swimming, then cycling home. I had gone from being fairly inactive to doing a lot of activity. My stamina had increased and I pushed and pushed myself. I would swim 30 – 50 lengths of the 50 metre pool and cycle 5 miles there an back. Though I hated my body at this time, looking back I can see I was strong and fit for perhaps the first time. All I saw was fat, and my mother ensured that it stayed that way and commented constantly on my food combinations and portion sizes and if I went down a clothes size, would say it was ridiculous and I could not be that size, the clothes were sized wrong and I was much bigger. Nevertheless I enjoyed my swimming and cycling. It gave me some freedom to get away from my mother and out of the tiny village where I grew up. I was free of her whilst I was cycling and swimming and it was something she couldn’t take over.

When I went back to school that autumn, I was pleased with the comments on my weight loss. I continued to further restrict my food intake and fill up on fizzy drinks. I would skip breakfast, hiding it from my dad, and eat only vegetables sometimes with a tiny bit of potato or pasta at lunch time. I was in a musical production with my school, which I also loved (plus more time staying at school for rehearsals equalled more time escaping my mother). I was losing weight very rapidly now and by the time the performance came, the costumes that had been ordered to fit to me a few weeks earlier were hanging loose and had to be pinned in. I collapsed from exhaustion on one day and was so very cold and could not get warm. Although nobody appeared to notice at the time, and I certainly did not acknowledge it, I was probably entering the underweight range at this point.

I then took my dieting further and further and could not stop. My memory of this time is really not at all clear so it is hard to write about. People started to express concern – teachers and even other children at my school who normally hardly paid me any attention at all. I hated the concern and attention and was angry inside. I didn’t want anyone to notice me. I didn’t want anyone to stop me. I was fine. They should leave me alone, I thought. Nothing was wrong and what right did they have to try to reach me. They didn’t understand.

I kept on going swimming in this time, but my energy was now wearing out fast and the distances that I could swim were reducing. It was as if a switch flicked. For weeks I was able to push myself on, swimming 50 or 60 lengths of the pool despite being underweight, determined to go further and further and wishing I could keep going forever. That was safe and everything else stopped. But then within a couple of days, the power had entirely gone. I was so, so cold in the water. It was hard to move. I was being dragged down and it was so so very cold. Everything was pain and not being able to breathe. Even getting changed and getting into the pool took longer and longer and I could see the teachers watching me now. Suddenly it wasn’t where everything stopped anymore – I was being watched there too. I can still remember the last day I went swimming and the cold I felt then somehow seemed to get right inside me and I could not warm up and the feeling did not leave me for years.

I was still dropping weight and by now experiencing physical effects. Downy hair grew over my arms. I was shattered all the time. I caught a cold and cough that I could not shake and would cough over and over in the mornings waking up. It hurt. My skin cracked and split and didn’t heal. I was freezing cold and even basic things like washing and changing became painful because I could not bear taking my clothes off – partly from hatred of my body but a big part of it was the intense cold. I bruised easily. I injured my toes in a fall and the bruising did not clear up for months. I started losing bladder control, often barely making it to the toilet in time. Moving anywhere was such an immense effort and I walked more and more slowly.

Somehow this did not stop me or shock me. I brushed everything off. Nothing mattered because it was all obscured by the need to become smaller and disappear and shrink. The drive not to eat was overpowering. It was a desperate, driven, angry need.

My parents were late to express their concerns. I had done quite a good job of hiding from them what was actually going on and how much food I wasn’t eating. The illness made me nasty and devious. I did not tend to wear revealing clothes anyway and wearing more and more layers against the cold hid how thin I was.

When they did express concern I was furious. It was probably the one occasion on which they both, eventually, when I was severely anorexic, expressed unified concern for me. This stunned me. I hated inside that I was hurting and worrying them. Yet, starvation was stronger.

It was my dad who got me to admit to having a problem with my weight. He spoke to me one morning before my mother had got up and there was something in the distress in his eyes that finally shocked and scared me. I admitted that morning that I had a problem. I was 15 years old.

There were still many months before I actually began to regain the weight. During this time I suffered a serious back injury from which I still have disc damage. I was painfully helpless and I think this made me start to hate the disorder. I was walking with crutches and could not get up from a chair or out of the bath without help. The starvation which had previously protected me now threw me into far more intimate dependency on my mother than I could stand.

Nevertheless, I received very little medical input or help. My memory around this time is again very very poor. It was a really distressing time and I can remember arguments I could not cope with and immense sadness and fear and anger. I know now I was causing my parents a massive amount of hurt and pain and I feel terrible guilt for this.

My mother, in her illness, was adamant that I should not have help from the GP or specialists. My GP wanted me to attend a centre nearby for children and teenagers with eating disorders and to go to therapy and group sessions there. My mother did not want me to have this. She told me what to say to the doctor and what to hide so that I would not be sent to this centre. As she had done with the threats of her, my dad or I being sent away when I was younger, she made the idea that I might be sent away to a hospital into a terrifying thing that would destroy her and mean I was sent away from the family permanently.  She coached and rehearsed me on exactly what to say. She said that she had to be in complete control of my food.

For some reason, her power over me was so great that I went along with what she wanted me to say. For some reason, the doctor believed it. For some reason, my father did not know what was really going on.

So I didn’t get the referral. I didn’t see any specialist. I saw the GP for monitoring a few times, where I’d be weighed and spout the rehearsed sentences that would make it clear that I did not need any help and supposedly was completely in control.

What realised a few years ago, when I was working in an eating disorder service, is that at this time at the age of 15, my BMI was about 13 (I will not share my weight as I know that this may be sensitive and triggering to anyone in the midst of struggling with anorexia). I had Anorexia Nervosa so severe as to be considered life threatening.

When I realised just how unwell I was when my mother had done all she could to prevent me from getting help, my view of her started to change. I believe now that she prevented me from getting help from a specialist because she knew that if I was seen by a psychiatrist, the abuse she was subjecting my dad and I to might be discovered.

A physiotherapist I was seeing for my back injury realised exactly what was going on, I think. My mother hated her. The physiotherapist urged me to try to get more help. I was too much wrapped in my mother’s constructed world to understand what was happening to me. I could not speak outside of what she had told me to say and pretend was true.

I started to gain weight and I could walk again, but just as she said, she got complete control of me again.

This is the first time I have written about this period in my life. It is very very hard and it feels incredibly shameful. I am not ashamed of having had an eating disorder and/or still having eating difficulties. I don’t know exactly what it is. Somehow telling the story seems scary, unreal and I think part of the problem is knowing it won’t just be hidden inside anymore now that I’ve written it.  It hurts much more than I thought it would. However, I think it needs to be said. It’s almost as if the purpose the starvation served is lessened as I tell it. That probably doesn’t make sense right now but in my later chapters I hope it will.

Doughnut Day

I can’t remember where I first stumbled across this term. I think it may have been on a mental health community Facebook page. “Doughnut” was used to describe the feeling of being hollow and empty inside – the feeling of a void that won’t go away.

Today was a doughnut day. I felt as if I was walking at work frozen. I don’t know why this should particularly have been today. I had a nice day on Saturday with a very good friend whom I hadn’t seen for quite some time. Yesterday I was ill with a virus but I slept a lot and caught up on rest.

I felt so dragged down by this aching emptiness that I was exhausted. My brain would not “go” properly and I felt as though I was fighting through water to speak to anyone. All I wanted was to go home and hide and curl up under my blanket. I desperately wanted a hug and someone to tell me it would be alright.

I was angry with myself because the slightest task should not seem so hard and because I should just be able to get on with things, and because trying to fight through the water was making me irritated. I don’t do irritated, or anger, without punishing myself.

I’m really missing someone I care for very much, who I think no longer wants to know me. Perhaps that’s part of it.

Ginny xx

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #1

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #1

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 1 – Introduction

I’ve been talking with a couple of people recently about eating disorders, eating difficulties and weight. Also, a kind reader commented that it was of interest to read a previous post in which I discussed some of the ways in which eating / not eating was (and at times still is) a coping strategy for me – a harmful one, but nevertheless a way of coping with something even more terrible to me than the eating disorder itself. I’d been planning to write more on this at some point and these comments have encouraged me to post on this topic now.

There are a couple of points I wish to make clear in this introductory chapter and I would be very thankful if readers would visit here before reading any of the other chapters in this Series.

Firstly, I want to make it explicit that my intention in this post (indeed any post on this blog) is not to promote eating disorders, food restriction, purging or any of the actions or thought processes that form part of them. This post and this blog are not “pro-ana”, “pro-mia” or for “thinspiration”. These terms are painful to me to write because I know just a little of the raw emotions and suffering that go along with them, for those struggling and their loved ones. I hope that there is nothing in this post that would come across as promoting starvation. Though it is something we may use to try to cope, it does immense physiological and psychological harm to us and I really, really hope that readers suffering in this way are able to get regular, face to face, professional medical and psychological help and support. I know how hard it can be to access that, both because of how hard it is to ask for help and because there may be so little specialist treatment available, with such limited criteria to access it. This is really painful and it’s a topic I will write on during the course of this Series.

In these posts I discuss and share my personal past and current experiences and feelings. Almost certainly they are not the same as those of the next person who has/had eating difficulties (although some of the themes I’ll explore I have heard other people with eating disorders talk about as well). I think it is important not to be afraid to discuss the reality of eating disorders and how they affect someone across their life – that is, across all areas of their life and often across many years as well. I think part of not being afraid and being able to find a way to recover from disordered eating is acknowledging this impact and the factors which may have been involved in the disorder taking hold and continuing.

Part of this process, for me at least, involved admitting that not eating, purging and so on and the state I attained through these things, did serve a purpose. Perhaps that is horrible and shocking. Possibly it is no longer as horrible and shocking to me as it might otherwise be, because I have gone through years of difficulties with eating, weight and body shape myself and I have also known many people with severe eating disorders.  However, I do know, and share the feeling in myself, that it is a very sensitive topic.

I hope that acknowledging the purpose and even “need” for something that the disorder gives in a sufferer’s life, is a way to begin to understand the person and what will help them best to heal and walk the path of recovery. I believe that unless we find another way of reaching what the eating disordered state provided, or an alternative means of living, it is completely impossible to break out of the disorder to continue to exist without it.

The second thing I want to make explicit at this stage is that by talking about a “need” for something the disorder gives, I do not wish to imply any blame on the sufferer (or anyone else) or that it is anyone’s fault or choice to be ill. I state vehemently that it is my belief that nobody with an eating disorder chooses to be ill or should be blamed for it. I believe we are incredibly hurt in a way even deeper and harder than the disorder itself shows.

It is cruelly true that whilst there is no choice or fault in the illness, great strength is needed in the sufferer to contemplate breaking out of it and reaching for another way of living.

I am not yet sure quite how long this Series will be and I am open to any questions or comments readers may have. I would love to hear from you. Especially as this is so sensitive a topic, I would really appreciate you asking any questions on things that are not clear or you sharing your own experience and thoughts, which likely will be very different from mine.

Please do leave messages or questions in the “Comments” section. Sometimes I am slow to respond to comments because I have poor internet access and I am very sorry for this. I am not deliberately ignoring you when it seems that I take a long time to approve a comment or reply. I do read all you say and I am very thankful that you take the time to visit this blog and to write. I hope that soon in the New Year I will be able to set up better internet access and thus reduce these delays.

As always, thank you for reading.

Ginny xx

P.S. The title of this series was inspired by The Killers’ song “Dustland Fairytale”. I In the final chapter I will explain the meaning I intended behind the title.

As the wild goose sails away

Music and lyrics – Kate Rusby – “Wild Goose”
Thanks to pagasPMusic for the video

I really like this folk song at the moment. I first heard it in the soundtrack to the film “November Christmas”. It sounds beautiful though vulnerable at the same time. Listening to it calms me right away, somehow.

Ginny xx

Not that far from Bethlehem

Underneath the stars, just a simple man and wife,

Somewhere in the dark, his words cut the silent night –

“Take my hand, for the Child that you carry is God’s own,

And though it seems the road is long,

We’re not that far from Bethlehem.”

(Hopefully the above link works. It’s supposed to link to a video for the Christmas carol “Not that far from Bethlehem” by Point of Grace – see the footnote!)

It’s just a week til Christmas. I have very confused feelings around this time of year. Advent has passed so very quickly. It’s a time I really wish everything would slow down. I struggle all the more with relationships, especially in the family, and the knowledge that I am not what I should be is all the more painful. This must be normal for everyone, to some extent, I think. I think the more expectations there are, the more distance and emptiness hurts.

Feeling so weak, though it’s one of the most (if not the most) abundant times of hope and grace. It’s the time that Our Lord Jesus came to us, to love and heal and forgive us. It’s the root of our faith. Yet, this time of year it’s harder day to day and I feel all the more that I’m failing precisely because of my fear and emptiness.

Prayer and hope can seem nearly impossible and just as I feel a terrible darkness that seems to black out everything else when I’m distressed about interpersonal relationships, losses and so on, in the same way I can enter this state if I start to fear my God. The faith that at other times sustains me becomes a source of utter pain, “knowing” that I’m bad and can never be “enough” or with Him.

I start to make my God a sort of compilation of all the terrors and obsessional thoughts in my head, making God a punishing judge, who is angry with me and knows I am evil inside and cannot wait to punish and reject me for it.

This is so very dangerous. God is not the sum of my fears. My relationship with God does not depend on my thoughts, fears, hallucinations and sickness. When I read God’s Word in the Bible, He tells me that “perfect Love casts out fear”. He does not say we must be enough, but only “come to Me”. He does not say we must perfect ourselves to earn His love, but “you did not choose me but I [Jesus] have chosen you” and that we love because He loved us first and lifted us up in His arms.

So, this time of year, I try to answer His gentle voice, “come”. In prayer, I meditate upon drawing close to Jesus, Mary and Joseph at the stable in Bethlehem that first Christmas. Jesus Christ, who is all Love, is come to us as a helpless little baby, to share with us every joy, every suffering, every need, every feeling. He chose a young and poor woman, to be his Mother and to answer “yes” to God’s call, and through her “yes” and through her body, He came into the world. He was born in the “stable so bare” as the carol says, laid in a manger. He did not ask riches or a palace or great astounding things. He asked only love and a place in our hearts.

As Christ was born in that poor empty stable at Bethlehem, so He will come into our poor empty hearts. It does not matter if my heart is empty – there is the more space there for him to fill. It does not matter that I feel I have nothing to give him. A baby asks nothing but love and to be with us always. So does the Christ Child. He will fill my heart and He will be everything I am not. No amount of pain that I may feel can change that.

So I say yes, and in prayer and meditation I kneel close to the manger, and I wait and watch and hope and rejoice, with Mary and St Joseph. There we gather united with everyone who struggles, longs and hopes. However dark it seems, however long this road is, even in the midst of this most awful pain, we can never be far from Bethlehem.

 

We’re not that far from Bethlehem, where all our hope and joy began

For in our arms we’ll cherish Him,

No we’re not that far from Bethlehem.

Lyrics and score by Point of Grace – film extracts from “The Nativity” – with thanks to Crisen de Guzman for the video – all rights belong to the respective artists

 

 

 

Walking this Borderland #4 : 5 more minutes

 

please read the Introduction to Walking this Borderland before this or any other post in this Series. Thank you.

 

When I feel the compulsion to do something to hurt myself I find it very hard to resist and do something else to cope with the feeling or the desperate need to obey the voices in my head telling me to punish myself.

On the occasions I have a little bit of control, I sometimes say to myself,  “Wait 5 minutes. You can do it, but not yet – just wait 5 minutes. ” If I can force myself to wait 5 minutes then when I do harm myself, then sometimes a little of the initial force of feeling has passed and I do it less viciously.  I’m hoping eventually I’ll be able to wait longer, little by little,  and then eventually sometimes not to self-harm.

I got the idea when I worked with people with eating disorders. One technique that may help people who struggle with purging after eating, is as a first step to delay a few minutes after eating before purging rather than doing it straight away. Then you can try to make the gap longer and longer and in this time, with support of a therapist or carer, try techniques for acknowledging and coping with the awful feelings and thoughts that are contributing to the compulsion to purge.

I’m new to doing this technique to delay self-harming. I think it’s working a little bit.

Ginny xx

 

Walking this Borderland #3: Good things happen over tea

 

 

Please read Walking…#1: Introduction before this or any other post in this Series. Thank you.

 

Good things happen over tea. I saw that quote on a gift mug today. It’s true. Perhaps I’m particularly English 😉 though it’s my coffee I really can’t get through a day without!

This one follows quite well from#2 and is another way of practising grounding and mindfulness.

If it’s not too wet a day, I like to sit outside for a few minutes with my tea. I don’t mind if it’s cold – I wrap up well and the nip in the air adds to the sensations that keep me rooted in the present.

I hold the cup. Enjoy the smell. Watch the delicate progress of the steam wafting upwards and maybe feel it on my cheeks if it’s a particularly cool day. I sip slowly and really enjoy the flavour and the comfort the warm milky drink brings inside.

Then I turn my attention further outwards. A good place to start, I’m told,  is to name 3 things you can see, 3 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell. Sometimes I start there and then go on to appreciate in detail something in my familiar surroundings. For example, how many different shades of green / gold / brown are there in the big tree opposite my flat? Count them. What shape are its leaves? Are there fewer today,  if it has been windy?

By this time, if I was feeling okay when I started I may be feeling calm enough to try some slow breathing exercises. If I was in a state of very high emotion, turning my attention outwards in this small way may have been enough to just slightly take me away from the extreme, to a place I can be a bit further from acting on dangerous impulses.

Ginny xx

Scared of imagining

My imaginary world used to be safe. My escape and my protection. I’d call it up at first and hide myself in it.

Later it came unbidden, with an invitation to slip through the ‘door’ to safety.

Later still, I just suddenly find myself there. Protected and dissociated. I’m safe and maybe others are too. Usually I know I’ve gone there and can hold on to an imaginary line and fight my way back into the present world.

But lately I dissociate into a place I don’t like where there’s anger and hurt and uncontrolled expressions of needs left wide, raw and empty.

And another where I’m the scared and frightened child and I’m back THERE again.

The latter two I can’t choose to leave. I have to wait til they eventually chuck me back out. I am terrified of who I am in them and how they hold me.

The lines between the worlds are blurring with more and more of my hallucinations and flashbacks. The scared child world is flashing into the present.

Knowing that as a child I could enter, at will and without will, the alternative worlds, I’m scared that other things are also false. That things I thought were in the present world then, are actually not true. That this means the awful frightening things – the abuse – things my mother did and said – did not really happen. What if I’ve somehow imagined it happened? And it didn’t really and I’ve invented it? What if I was a horrible sick evil child? Or what if I was psychotic?

So much that happened when my mother and I were alone means it can’t be corroborated.

What about the things I’m sure happened when my father was there or that I told him? And that he now says he didn’t know?

I do not know what the answer is I just know it could mean I’ve done something terrible I can never make up or make right or hurt myself enough to punish myself for.

How ever do I get an answer?

 

 

 

I am…. (she said)

(My mother told me that) I am:

Ugly. Greedy. Too plump here. Fat.

Pretending. Deceiving. Manipulating.

Pretending to be a little girl. Doing my act.

Punishing. Getting my own back. Repeatedly Punishing.

Deceiving.

Holding her in chains since I was a baby.

Not supposed to be crying. Look who should be crying, she’s the one who should be crying. [And she was – and shouting and screaming and ridiculing and sneering and shaking me and throwing glass…]

Going to make her have a heart attack.

Wearing her out. She’s lying on the floor unable to move because of what I’ve done. [I called out and nobody would come. ..]

Going to make my dad so upset he’ll have a car accident. He’s lying on the floor curled in a ball unable to breathe. Because of me. That’s what I’ve done to him.

Going to come down the stairs one morning and find her … [dead – I will not write here the graphic description she made].

A silly little thing.

Madam treating everyone like servants.  Reclining like an emperor on the cushions.

A baby that has to go on a walking rein. To show everyone what a baby I am.

…Pretending….

Repeatedly Punishing. ..

A threat to her personal safety. Putting her in hospital. The reason she goes into hospital because I frightened her so much. God help anyone I ever work with.

Impossible to live with.

When I’ve got what I want…

Reacting so weirdly to everything and I have to remember how all my reactions are weird and the damage I’m causing to the family.

Getting too much fat again.

Demonstrating that I’m damaged.

Leaving things hidden in places so that she finds them so as to show her that I’m damaged.

Pretending ( – I’ve already told her!)

A genius. Nobody is able to understand my incredible intelligence. She planned the moment of my conception and the moment of my birth. She wrote freedom into my very name. I was a genius and they could not cope with my intelligence. I was going to change the world.

Aware of her every thought and she knew exactly mine. Knew everything she was saying (on the phone to someone else). Knew exactly what she wanted.

Wearing her out( – look at her with 4 children and look at what my one’s done to me! )

Stopping her ever having any more children.

Causing the end of her and my father’s marriage.

Copying.

Pretending to be…

Testing. Testing the testers. Objecting to the test.

Those are just some of the things my mother (with her psychosis and disordered and abusive,  the doctors said) told me I am.

(She’d ask) what if:

Anyone’s watching?

Anyone hears?

Anyone from the government is watching?

The police are going to be called?

Anyone can see what you’re doing?

Anyone found out?

Anyone saw [what you can’t do]… are you very worried about the effects of your pretending. ..at how bad you ate at x … (you must remember you’re a whole school year older. ..stop associating with the little ones. ..)

If anyone found out. She’d be taken away. My father woUld be taken away. I’d be sent to a special school for morons. If anyone found out, they’d never imagine it was all because of me. They’d think it was her. Nobody would realise it was actually me. But I’d know and she’d know it was actually me. And she’d be taken.

So we had to cover it up.

Those were some of her ‘what if’ threats.

He (Father) agreed. Can’t you see how much you’re upsetting her? Look how much she’s smoking because of you. Stop snivelling like that. That’s what people do when they’ve had something really bad happen to them. Could you actually make a bit more effort? Is mummy even in the room to you? He’d sit there hugging her and stroking her feet and nobody would help me whilst I was crying and terrified and didn’t know how to end it.  This was the first day I felt I didn’t need to phone up to see how you were getting on with each other. Now look what I’ve found out. Why were you pretending? Where is she? What are you doing in here? Look how exhausted she is because of what you’ve done. She wouldn’t have to go to bed all day if you didn’t do these things. We could have had a nice day if you hadn’t done that.

She’s very lovely, he’d say. Isn’t mummy lovely? She’s very good at all of this… She’s amazing when she does that…isn’t that fantastic. ..

And he says he didn’t know what she was doing.

The threats and what ifs and horrible things I was, stopped for a while when I was anorexic. That was all. At least then the anorexia and my body was all mine and in me it was hurting, cleaner,  safer, nothing, numb but burning, longing but cutting off,  hidden, weakening, less, smaller, not, not needing. As soon as I got stronger it all came back and all the horror too. I was the problem and the evil one again.

So I am – evil,  dangerous, liar, fake, deceitful,  hurt people, going to cause the greatest harm, greedy, ugly, selfish, nasty, like a ruler with people in chains, disgusting, foul… all without knowing the harm I’m doing. I didn’t know it then when I was a child but it still happened and all this awful damage erupted from me, she said.

How did I stop them coming to take her because of me? How did I keep her alive? She didn’t give me care. I didn’t need care from her. I learned to manage without. All I needed was to stop the damage and awful things I was doing.

Ironically I did end up having to actually call them to take her! They did take her as she’d threatened. And they did say it was her with the problem and the illness and being abusive. And they did say it couldn’t possibly be me. So everything she said would happen, did. And that was to be when she and I would know it was all because of me. 

Oh yes – I know it. It never leaves. 

So cut cut cut and purge and punish myself and maybe I’ll get all the badness out or else keep it all in and hurt only me.

When I controlled enough in anorexia all the evil seemed to have stopped. But I can’t get back there.

I still hear it and believe it all even though I’ve started to feel angry in the moments my rational mind tells me how it was twisted and wrong and she did what she liked and he let her do it all to me.

And I can’t even write yet about … those other times. In front of the mirror. In the bed. With the bathroom. Telling me how I liked it.