Category: Eating Disorders / Disordered eating

Going away for a break

Going away for a break

Wow. This week has been really emotional, with so many really sad tragic things happening – the Grenfell Tower disaster, two terrorist attacks in London, another attempt in Paris, another major attack in Mosul – so much pain. I desperately want to be able to “do something”. Help. Bring some hope. Bring the merciful love of our Heavenly Father into this pain.

My partner and I have taken some action to do this and I’ll post more on that separately.

Meanwhile I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. I’ve had a couple of appointments with the pain clinic which have been very draining and in some ways upsetting. I’m sure I’m going to learn things that really help there and I have to try to keep going, keep trying, keep open to what they’re saying and offering even through the parts of it that hurt.

Today my partner and I are going away for a few days. We are staying in a besutiful hotel. We’re going to meet up with some of his family and my goddaughters’ family too. This is the first time in I don’t know how many years that I’ve been away on holiday. It’s not to a totally unknown area but I’m anxious. It’s a huge thing for me to go away and stay somewhere I don’t know and to stay a few days. I am excited too and know I really need a break. Most importantly I’m looking forward to some time to spend with my partner, talk and pray together, and share home calmly rather than constantly running around at the point of exhaustion and it seeming that time in which we can be there for each other and be thankful for each other sometimes comes last. I’m thankful for these coming days and pray for God’s blessing on our time together.

There’s a pool at the hotel and I have made up my mind that for the first time in about 7 years I’m going to get in the pool. I’m going to try to do some of the exercises my pain physiotherapist gave me and try to swim a little. It should be fun but also a great challenge to overcome as I haven’t been in a pool since I used to swim obsessively to try to lose weight when I was in the grip of bulimia.

So it will be a weekend of firsts and implementing some beautiful changes, please God.

Wishing you all good things this weekend.

Ginny xxx

 

Descent into emergency

Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Help us in our need dear Jesus, please, Lord hear our prayer.

6.45pm

I feel so scared and powerless right now.

My dear friend is in complete crisis. I’m so scared he isn’t going to make it. I don’t want to tell all his business here. That wouldn’t be right. But he’s been through some horrific things and his mind and body is in utter pain. He could die, through what’s happening to him physically and the risk he’s at mentally.

I won’t leave him on his own right now. He’s massively distressed. He’s too scared to go to A&E tonight. I’m trying to insistently but lovingly persuade him to speak to the out of hours services to see if he can get to another place of safety, or to speak with his GP. Please God he is going to see the GP in a short while in an evening clinic they have. Please God we get there. He is letting me stay with him now. He so did not want me to at first but I could see the danger. Please God, please may he still accept my company and please may he get somewhere safe tonight. (There are very concrete reasons I can see he’s at risk but they are not my business to write here.) I’m in his car waiting for him whilst he’s speaking to someone who he felt he had to go see about an issue that came up earlier; I don’t think this is going to help any right now for him but he really felt the need to do it and I didn’t want to force him not to. Please God please may he come back soon.

I’m barely hanging on myself. I’ve been losing the grip the past week especially. Dissociating, losing time, self harming, huge panic attacks and flashbacks including physical sensations.

A neighbour has started being aggressive and verbally abusive. He’s been pressing me for money for months. He’s been doing the same to other vulnerable people on the estate. He’s been citing endless disastrous circumstances but it’s now coming to light that something else is going on. I’ve sensed things wrong for a while but now it’s becoming clear what he’s telling me does not add up and isn’t the whole story to say the least. It’s getting out of control. I believed and wanted to help him to get help, supported him with getting referred for a support worker and foodbanks. Now it seems nothing is true. I’m afraid for a vulnerable person he lives with. I’m going to have to contact the police I think.

8.40pm

We have spoken to the doctor and are waiting to hear if my friend can get into a safe place with support. There is no space at the moment. Even if he does it is only open til 1am. We’ve gone back and forth with the doctor and out of hours services. All doing all they can but of course there are these limits… and in the end I don’t know who can keep him safe when he’s as far down as he is now, hating himself and hurting himself so much and so afraid of everyone. I’m ripping apart inside. I’ve been where he is, or similar. I know perhaps I cannot do enough. I care for him deeply as a friend. I wish I could rescue him but know despite all the love I can give perhaps I cannot.

9.15pm

I didn’t want to leave him. He has gone to the hospital. The doctor was worried for me and said I should not go with him. He insisted I not go with him. He promised not to hurt himself and that he’s going there. I couldn’t do anything else especially since it’s his car and I can’t drive. We are keeping in touch by text. I believe his promise but I know from being there myself that when you are going to end it, that blackness and blank terror and loss and self revulsion and pain overrides everything, no matter how firm and true and faithful your promises. The doctor told me to go home because she was worried for me but I so did not want to leave him. I cannot save him in the end but I can be there.

9.25pm

He is at A&E now. The situation is far worse even than I knew but thanks be to God he is there. Thanks be to God he’s going to be taken care of…dear Lord I pray he’s met with compassion there as well as getting the physical medical treatment he needs. Please Lord, please can they still help him. Please enfold Him in your love, whatever comes now, if it’s the end or not, please show us Your saving help. In the darkness of pain and not knowing, danger, even death, You are our certain hope and Saviour.

Mother Mary, St Joseph, please offer to your Son in the way most pleasing to Him, everything I offer, everything I do, everything I pray….

Ginny xxx

 

 

Ten dishes challenge #6: chicken stew and exploring wheat-free

Since the new year, actually I’ve been much better than usual at cooking meals, though usually I haven’t managed to remember to take a picture to add to this series, hence the lack of updates. A significant reason I’ve done better at cooking is that I was preparing food to share with a couple in my block who were in serious financial difficulty, and also cooking for another friend who is very unwell and struggles to eat at all let alone cook.

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I’m motivated to cook when I feel it’s to help or care for or simply for the enjoyment of someone else. This can help me overcome feeling too exhausted to do it. When I’m cooking for others, there is actually some joy in it even if I’m battling the chronic physical pain. The thoughts and voices that taunt me that I don’t deserve good food, must not eat, fill my head with repulsion at myself and greed and failure, do not come so loud when I’m cooking for others and sharing the meal. When I’m with others, I don’t binge eat and I cannot purge food. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way out of these eating disorder symptoms – I have to be able to feed myself for myself in the end – but the more times I do cook, do share food, do manage not to binge eat and purge or restrict for long periods, the quieter the voices become even when I’m alone. It’s a very slow process and can still be awful but I think it’s a strength that will slowly grow.

The other major change in the last month is that since I was in hospital with stomach problems, I’m on a wheat-free diet because I was advised to try this. So I’m finding out new recipes or adaptations to recipes. As much as possible, I’m finding foods and ingredients that are naturally wheat free, because a lot of replacement products are very expensive, especially the processed ones. A very small loaf of gluten free bread will be £2.50 rather than 80p for a similar sized normal loaf; a packet of wheat free biscuits may be up to £3.00 rather than 75p or less for regular supermarket biscuits. I can’t have these things regularly on wheat free, at least not when I’m relying on Benefits whilst I’m signed off work. The plus side of this is that it leads me to cook more and eat more fruit, veg, beans, meat and dairy. My food bill will increase a bit nevertheless but I don’t think it will be unmanageable if I’m very careful to go for cost effective recipes. In fact, I’m often enjoying finding a new variety of foods and the altered diet. For example, I’m going to try making my own bread using wheat free flour. I discovered these funky coloured carrots that were tasty roasted:

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It’s not all saintly. Chocolate definitely still features in my diet! 🙂

For the first couple of weeks I was out of hospital, my stomach was very unsettled and I was mainly eating rice, rice crackers, cooked vegetables and fruit, peanut butter then gradually some egg and cheese as well. Most meals were looking something like this:

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Slowly, as my stomach is a bit better, I’ve wided my diet again with meats, yoghurt, various treats or desserts like chocolate, or fruit bars, and I’ve tried some wheat free cereal a couple of times. It’s a gradual process and I’m still feeling unsettling effects from the stomach problems I had.

I’ve also returned to using my Nutribullet, which I find most helpful for upping my vegetable and fruit intake with juices, ensuring I have high fibre intake and consuming things that can be harder to get into my diet. In the winter, I don’t enjoy eating a salad as I might in the summer, but I can make a yummy smoothie with some raw spinach and mixed leaves, avocado, banana, apple and a little lemon juice.

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The result does slightly resemble the bathroom suite my parents had in the 1990s, but I promise it tastes good. (Warning – in my experience, home made juices, whatever the ingredients even if you use brightly coloured fruits, tend to turn out green or brown. This may not look appetising however if you can overcome the colour they usually taste good.)

Yesterday I made a chicken stew with lots of veg and mashed potato, which I was very pleased with as I used not to be so confident cooking meat. I had the day at home so was able to pace the preparation better than usual. There was plenty left over that went in my freezer.

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Thanks be to God for helping me to rediscover some joy in food, some opportunities to share and eat with others and enjoy it, and gradually continue on the path to a more healthful diet and feelings around food and my body.

Ginny xxx

Furthest away from those closest

[Begun writing yesterday 30th December]

I’m really sad, angry, lonely and hurting. I feel excluded, blamed, not believed, not wanted, a disappointment, right when I am trying the hardest, giving the most I can, in the most pain and most need to find some understanding; not necessarily help but simply acknowledgement and belief of what I’m experience and some love nevertheless from those closest to me whom I might hope to trust.

I’m on the journey home now after staying 3 days with my dad and step mum and I am ashamed but I could not have coped with one day more. Again and again in my flashbacks I was back to being the child with my mother and my father and the constant terror and trepidation and dread. I live the same situations over and over. I’m terrified of the next time she’ll think I’ve done, said or thought something wrong and get angry. I am exhausted from any time with my step mother and her utter insistence on her right and my wrong. Even simply talking with her and Dad, it’s as if we’re back where whatever happened I was the problem, I was the one behaving oddly, I was the one causing damage – when actually my mother was the abusive one, she could get away with anything, when I was crying for help nobody heard, nobody helped me and my father appeared to agree with her entirely. Similarly now, he can’t believe my step mother and everything she does is anything but fantastic and wonderful. I know I’ve said before, in a family situation he is utterly loyal but to the exclusion of the point of view of anyone but her, just as he was with my mother. I think that’s at least in part how I went unheard for so long when I was clearly massively distressed and when I needed his help, and when I told him what she’d done.

It was a bad enough time through all this but it has also become very clear how little my step mother believes or understands about my physical health and disabilities, how much she blames me, holds me responsible as though being ill is a choice, how annoyed and disappointed she is I don’t live up to her requirements. I’ve known for a long time how she doesn’t understand but it came home this week. It isn’t only me that it’s directed at. She shows the same attitude to my step sister over her mental health and to one of her friends who has a lot of physical health problems. It is beyond me how anyone can show as little belief or understanding of what someone is going through, as little compassion and as much blame, but then I have been ill or physically disabled most of my life so admittedly that gives me a different starting point.

She is not open to hearing what day to day life is actually like for me or even seeing it when it’s right in front of her . I don’t make a big issue about my health. I try to make sure it affects anyone else as little as possible. But when she is lecturing me about why don’t I do this or that, things are only a problem because I imagine they are, and so on and I have to try to explain eventually why I may not be able to do something, she refuses to hear and insists on her solution and gets angry if I can’t do it. When I’m physically unable to do something when I’m right there with her, for her it’s something I’m doing deliberately, it’s a real problem for other people, I “just have to do it”, I am not making enough effort… it’s like when my mother accused me of pretending not to be able to do things if I didn’t succeed academically as she required, and the resultant rejection and punishment of me is similar too.

I wrote a lot about what my step mother said to me and did which I’ve deleted because listing a load of hurts and speaking badly of someone does no good. When I was leaving, she started up again about “New Year, new you”, how everyone needs it needs to be a healthy year, we don’t want any more of this, I’ve got to be completely different  and I’ve “simply got to” make sure of that, and it’s all about positive thinking, it simply has to be mind over matter, as if it’s a choice not a number of lifelong health conditions. She loves telling me what I’ve simply got to do, always things which I literally physically or mentally cannot, so she exerts a great amount of pressure and certainty that I’m a disappointment when I can’t meet her simply-got-tos that she heaps on me even when they’re medically not possible.

In the face of all this, my father blanks me, ignores what I’m experiencing, denies what has happened or ignores what I say if I express as much as the fact that some of what she says is hurtful, to the point of refusing to answer and acting as though he has not heard or changing the subject. He literally will not hear a single thing against her, or even not 100% agreeing with her. It’s just like how he withdrew and ceased responding and cut off and rejected me and to say the least did nothing whilst my mother continued all kinds of emotional physical and sexual abuse. Then he is able to say he doesn’t know what’s happening.

***

My step mother’s growing obsession with weight and Slimming World is hard for me too. The fridge looks like a diet advert, even though it’s Christmas, brimming with vegetables and low fat yoghurt and very little else. Food is such an issue and has to be done her way. She will not stop telling me how I’ve “simply got to get healthy… simply got to prepare proper meals”. I don’t want anything to do with her diet. She has no concept of eating disorders and how hard a combination of the voices, my physical disabilities making cooking and the resulting cleaning ever so painful, and my eating disorder make it to cook. Yet she can’t see past her own obsession with vegetables, fat free, going to the gym…

***

I’m at the point of ceasing to expect anything but rejection, judgment and accusations from my step mother and from my dad, withdrawal from me and utter support of her views. At best. The glimmers of understanding I thought I had from my dad just seem like a trick now that opened me to trusting, making the inevitable return to rejection and accusations all the more painful. I will not go to stay with them again any time soon.

It would be easier for me to cease all contact with them. My step mother does not often behave as if she likes me. I often think they might well prefer me to have only infrequent contact. After all, I’m seen mainly as a problem. Morally, I don’t feel I can cease contact. I have a duty to them. I want to forgive. I can’t expect total understanding. If I ask forgiveness from God when I’ve judged other people I need to forgive them. I try not to act angrily but the hurt is much harder to control. If I did not have a dependence or need for their understanding, it would not matter to me so much. Though my father’s withdrawal and denial of my experience hurts as much as what my step mother does.

It hurts so much in my head right now.

Ginny xxx

Exercise without returning to extremes

WARNING – this post discusses weight loss and eating disorders

I saw the nurse today as I had to have an ECG. I’ve had a lot of chest pain lately which is thought to be costocondritis but the GP wanted to check my ECG again. I’ve also been potentially diagnosed with another condition but that’s a story for another time.

Whilst I was there, the nurse took my weight and height and we decided I’m going to try the exercise referral scheme again (to a different gym this time), to have support to try very gentle swimming or at least exercises in the water.

It is time for me to do something about the fact that I am really upset at how much weight I have gained in the last 2 years, through poor diet and through my medications and being very sedentary as I often can’t walk more than a very little way unaided. The weight is increasing my hate of myself and my body. Not succeeding in losing it by my familiar means over the last few months has increased this hate even more. I know this isn’t a healthy thought pattern and I know many of my “familiar means” are eating disorder behaviors. At the same time, I am now slightly overweight according to BMI recommendations, so I need to lose weight for my physical health; also I need to care for my body’s needs by eating healthful meals rather than oscillating between starving and junk food, as has become my habit through lack of money and depression. I need to try to do some kind of exercise to improve my physical strength to manage the pain from my chronic conditions better.

So I have to figure out how can I manage my situation now and the changes I need to make without plunging deeper into eating disorder thoughts? How do I start an exercise programme without using it to punish my body? How can I keep track of my weight and control my diet without returning to my totally addicted state and the ever-present revulsion at my body tipping back over into self-harm and purging?

Does anyone have any thoughts about how to lose weight and change your eating to get back to a healthy weight range, when you have a history of binge-eating and bulimia? Are there any particular resources on this topic? I know that somehow I need to address the pervasive disgust I feel towards my body and ideally I’d do that first, but it has been present most of my life and I can’t allow my weight to grow to an even more unhealthy level. Most of my life since age 3 when my abuser started to use weighing me and controlling my food as one way of punishing and shaming me, I’ve been overweight, severely underweight or plummeting or ballooning between the two. I have lost all concept of normal food intake and normal appetite.

Ginny xxx

One massive punch

WARNING: contains a very brief mention of eating disorders and abuse in childhood

Well. It’s kind of ironic given my post yesterday about uncertainty in relationships. At least the uncertainty in the particular relationship I had in mind at the end of the post has been cleared up. Cleared up with one massive blow. I’ve rarely felt more hurt and betrayed and rejected though I’m not sure quite why the impact has been so consuming.

I have tried to talk with my friend about what has happened in our relationship over the past months / couple of years and some of how I’ve been feeling.

After a line of further rejections from her, her not hearing when I tried to be honest and explain some most painful things, her not believing as far as I can see, what I experience and what has happened to me in the past – today she told me I have no reason to feel upset or hurt or angry, that I have no right to feel as I do, that because I have a feeling does not mean it is right, that I am to come before God and see if I have any moral right to feel as I do because I don’t, I am to push it down and rise above it.

I was filled with a massive surge of anger and raw hurt. It has not stemmed any in the hours since.

Coupled with her rejection of me and her disbelief or at least dismissal and ignoring of severely traumatic things that have happened to me in my childhood and right now, it was an immensely hurtful judgement of me. And how strange she thinks that she has the power to decide what feelings I am morally allowed to experience and what is real and what is not.

The terrors associated with feelings I thought were sinful, feelings I was not allowed, feelings that were so dangerous, that I had to atone for and punish myself for, were together with my terror of my ultimate evil, the way that I got to life threatening anorexia and then bulimia, daily self harm, overdosing and attempting to end my life. These feelings kept me submissive and within my abuser’s control. The feelings my friend’s judgement of my experience, my feelings, their and my morality, where I stand with God, the truth and validity of what has happened to me, brought in me straight back there again. Straight away my impulse was to cut and make myself vomit. But something had happened to my legs and I was shaking too much to do anything and perhaps that was blessed protection. I just cried.

It hurts worse because this came from one of the very few people I trusted. Someone I shared things with. Someone who brought me to the church and whose child is my godson. Thank the dear Lord I did not share with her the very worst of the abuse I suffered. If I had I don’t think I’d cope in any way now. I already feel violated again. Tricked, ripped apart, judged, rejected, punished, blamed.

As well as the hurt that’s making me go to pieces, I wanted to scream – feelings are not a sin. I have many reasons to feel very hurt, angry, scared… Feelings are not moral or immoral. Who is she to judge what I have a moral right to feel? I have a massive amount of pain and hurt and yes sometimes anger about the abuse. That is normal. Yes, when I’m not believed, dismissed and rejected and abandoned when I’m most desperate, that cuts a little deeper every time and yes emotionally I end up right back where I was in the terror of the abuse. This is not a sin or something I have to crush. I am not a sugar plaster “saint” too “holy” to have any feeling but happiness and superficial love, floating on some supernatural plane disconnected from every real feeling. That’s what she wants. I am not that figure. I am bleeding.

She was the last person left, outside this blog and community and apart from my therapist, with whom I had the depth of trust I thought I did. Perhaps it’s as well it’s gone. I will be very very careful indeed in the future (even more than I already am) about what closeness I allow to develop.

But the hurt is consuming. I am falling into pieces. Shattering. I haven’t gone home yet as I was scared what I’d do and of being alone. But I’m exhausted now and I have to go home. I’ll stay safe somehow. If I can’t I’ll have to go to A&E. I tried to get to the safe place I’ve been to before but they are full tonight.

Ginny xxx

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry: when it’s less safe

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

When it’s less safe, but I am no longer my abuser’s child

WARNING: this post contains mention of childhood abuse, discussion of my experience of anorexia and disordered eating and the purpose it served for me in my eating disordered thought processes.

When I started drafting this post, I didn’t actually intend it to form part of this series on eating disorders and personality disorder. I didn’t realise that it would be so much about my eating disorders, but it turns out that it is. I started writing tonight in preparation for my therapy group tomorrow. Last week, we were talking about feeling safe. In the discussion, I said that at some points during therapy (around the past 14 months so far), I’ve actually been less safe than when I was not in therapy. In hindsight, perhaps I should say, felt less safe. It has felt less safe. Despite this, I still feel therapy is a process I need and want to go through. Someone asked me a question about that, to which I struggled to verbalise the answer. I’ve thought on her question during the week. I’m not going to write what she said because I don’t want to break her confidentiality, but I wanted to share the reflection she has led me to about becoming more or less safe during therapy.

As soon as I tried to explain, the familiar eating disorder thought came into my mind – when I was anorexic it was safe. I know how sick and dangerous that thought is and how illogical, the physical destruction of my body having been so clear. Yet, there was a point not very long ago in therapy where I so desperately wanted my anorexia back, because it would have been safe, and not so much too much. With anorexia, I wasn’t too much and nothing was too much. (Except food, of course!) I was encased in a safe, protected place, and I felt nothing but its power, voice and drive. My emotions and my body made no more demands.

With anorexia I could be certain in the knowledge I was starving, punishing, weakening, enough to atone for what my abuser told me I was, enough to avoid the damnation I thought I otherwise deserved, enough to ensure I was not a threat. Enough to satisfy my abuser.  And even years after I had got away from her, I thought perhaps anorexia could take me back to that one time where it had seemed she wanted me, seemed through a child’s eyes that perhaps she loved me, the one time I wasn’t bad, where I was so weakened she took total control. That would be totally safe.

I was never cared for by her. Total control stood in for care instead. The closest thing to care and safety for me was my total self-destruction, total physical weakness, allowing her to take total control of me. My BMI was about 13. I was in unbearable pain in my back and legs. I could just barely walk with crutches and had to spend a lot of time in bed. She took control literally of my movements, my food, my use of the bathroom and toilet, my washing, my dressing and undressing, my weighing (any action that could have and should have been private, she invaded) my contact with other people (even the doctors who wanted to help me, whom she prevented me seeing most of the time). Telling me what I was thinking, telling me what I was doing to the family, telling me what to say, total control – but this total control was the only time that the terrible powers and terrible intentions she told me I had, seemed to cease. My body and my mind ceased to make demands and I succumbed to her totally. This was the only safe place. The rest of the time I lived in fear of what I would do to her or the family and of her terrible threats coming true.

Paradoxically, at other times my anorexia gave me something that was nevertheless mine. It was my anorexia and my body. I think I’ve written before how when she had me strip in front of the mirror, a fierce voice in my head said, this is my body and you will never touch me again, and I resolved to lose as much more weight as I could.

That determination and angry strength was unusual. It was more about cutting off. Later, I stayed as numbed and weakened as I could. Long after I was out of the anorexic weight range, physically safe, I continued to punish myself. Starving. Vomiting. Cutting. Overdose. On the outside, I could do what was required and expected. I achieved. I was together, doing what they required in terms of education and work. Again, that was safe, because I was doing what was required, my dangerous emotions were numbed, my atonement continued. Until I imploded. Everything went to pieces.

As everything fragmented, numb was no longer sure and safe. I desired the end and wanted to end my life. At the same time, my child voice that I had suppressed so successfully for so long, was screaming and desperately needed to be cared for. This was explosively dangerous. My abuser’s threats about what I was would come true; they’d be proved to be true for all to see. The evil in me would explode out of control, if I could no longer punish and weaken myself. I would cause unlimited hurt to others without even seeing it myself, but everyone else knowing the evil I was. I would never be cared for (ie in someone’s total control).

Straight away, the rejections began. (Again. Just as I’d been rejected when I had needs and sought help as a child – terrified what my abuser’s reaction would be; my father not knowing what was going on, so not protecting me.) I was not under my abuser’s control any more, but there was no care for me, no one to protect me, and the few people I trusted were not there for me. The pressures – I don’t know if consciously or not – piled on me made it very clear I am a disappointment, not good enough, not what they need me to be, that they will only accept me as long as I am moving in the direction they think I should be at the pace they have dictated.

I cannot silence the needs any more. Anger boiled out of control, hurt screamed. Going through therapy, the feelings intensified. There was no way back to the protection my eating disorder had given me. Now, when I write about how it worked and why I wanted my eating disorder back, I am horrified. I am horrified at the power my abuser had over me and how I allowed her to have it and how that made me feel safe.

I will never receive now the care I did not receive when I was a child being abused. I will never receive again the closest thing I knew to care, the total submission to another person and control by them. Terrible as that was, I feel as though I will never be sure, as I could for a brief time be then when I was totally dependent on her, that I am not the bad, evil thing I had been taught that I am.

With the loss of all my coping mechanisms, including stopping self-harming and stopping overdosing, as I have somehow by the grace of God managed not to do in the past few weeks, it does feel more dangerous. I don’t know how to find any reassurance, internal or external. My feelings, my emotions, experiences, feel so out of control and dangerous. I am no longer my abuser’s child. I am no longer what my family requires. I will never have the care and security I did not have as a child, nor will I have the safety unconditional acceptance would give, because I do not have that now that I’m no longer what they require. I don’t yet know how to exist without these things.

Part of me grieves for the loss of the eating disorder and mechanisms that kept me safe, because stupid and twisted as it sounds, they did at least protect me; despite the harm they caused, they protected me from ending my life, and though it was fairly illusory, they gave me the closest thing I had experienced to being cared for.

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I should say that I think that another important part of the safety issue in therapy is coping between sessions with the emotions that have come up in sessions. Also, the impact that this disorder and the recovery process has across your life. Until very recently having the help of my support worker, I struggled badly with the social isolation that followed the loss of many important relationships, and the “domino effect” of all the material stability in my life falling away because of the financial problems caused by losing job after job and my erratic spending when I was out of control. Struggling with this at the same time as my emotions were going out of control anyway, my desperation for help increasing but being unheard by everyone I tried to get help from and had been led to believe I could trust, brought me very much too close to the edge. My support worker has greatly contributed to my safety now.

Ginny xxx

This is different, somehow

This is different, somehow

I’m feeling very very anxious today. My emotions have been shifting quickly in the last two weeks. Many of the emotions are familiar but some aren’t and the startling changes are raw and unexpected.  I feel so shaken and quickly exhausted. A substantial part is physical but a lot is emotional or mental too. Anxiety and hurt and pain but also thankfulness, feeling overwhelmed at goodness and expressions of love – from friends, for example – come suddenly and something is different. It sounds nonsensical because so much of my problem for a long time (and a big feature of BPD) is that my emotions have been so total, overwhelming, all-consuming, the only thing that seems to exist, the only thing I seem to be. Now I’m saying I’m feeling overwhelmed but it’s different. So, what’s different?

I can’t express it properly but since my therapy group two weeks ago things are shifting. I admitted in that group to strong and frightening feelings of anger and need and fear of the voices I hear that tell me I will do terrible, violent things; I admitted that since I have tried to stop self-harming I’m experiencing every feeling I so much wanted to cut off and control to keep other people safe from the evil I fear in me; I admitted how I detach and dissociate and how a lot of my needs and emotions, I only allow myself to feel through the pain of self-harm or in my escape (“imaginary”) world. I admitted I knew that  they would be horrified and disgusted at me and that I was disgusted at myself. Then something happened. The other group members weren’t disgusted or afraid of me.  Several people said that they hear the voices too and that they have similar feelings too. These three things stunned me – that they were not disgusted or afraid, that they hear the voices too, that they also have these feelings. This started to change things. It was more than a feeling of “oh thank goodness I’m not the only crazy one”. It started to mean that if these things are felt by other people too, experienced by other people too – other people who I trust and who are good and kind – then it is no longer something that means I’m evil inside or that I’m just all bad really and everyone else knows it or everyone else will be hurt because nobody could believe I was really so bad but they will find me out in the end, fulfilling my abuser’s threats.

Since then, and even more since therapy group this week, I’m feeling my forbidden emotions, without doubt. Some connection is appearing that was not previously there. The void between my emotion and my ability to be present and think and speak is closing, somehow. Before, everything was either consuming emotion, leading to explosion, violence to myself; or to total dissociation, impulsivity and non-presence then utter horror and depression afterwards and memory loss; or thinking spiralling compulsive thoughts, being unable to connect to the emotion behind them that was just too frightening. Now somehow I am starting to pray and think in the emotion, experience its presence, experience its coming and going… it’s very raw but somehow it is different from how previously the emotion was my everything, my only reality, and the self-destruction (self-harm, overdose, starvation) was utter safety. My escape world of my other dissociated identities is encountering this world more and more, whereas previously they stayed safely separate, present with me much of the time, but not overlapping with my own consciousness, thoughts, feelings, needs…. Now I am feeling what previously “they” felt. That’s scary. That’s unknown. Also, that could be good.

I’m frustrated by how very inadequately I am able to explain what’s happening to me. It seems as if I could put it together better some of the anxiety I have might reduce. I know it isn’t a bad thing and that it’s very important but I am extremely shaken and high in anxiety and needing comforting, grounding things. I am going to find it a struggle the next 3 weeks or so, because there is a break in the therapy programme for the summer holiday time, meaning I don’t have any group therapy this coming week or the next and no 1:1 therapy until the second week of August. Right now I so need someone to work with through what’s happening. I have to try to dare to call the duty support team if I’m getting bad in the meantime. I have to take the step to trying to trust them again and this is as good a point as any, I guess. Perhaps it’s also good that I’ll have to try to cope without therapy. I know part of these changes is going to be learning to experience and emotion of my own without it being understood or accepted or cared about (and indeed without me being cared for) by anyone else. I’ll have to do that in these two weeks.

Ginny xxx

Laundry, hot dogs and tiny steps….

It is a day full of heat and summer. It’s a day of struggles inside my head too and it took me hours to force through the distress in my mind and even open the door and stand outside. I did it with the help of God. Perhaps it’s ridiculous that leaving the screaming and hurting going on in my head and the temptations to overdose and the fear of everything that is just too much and too forbidden to feel, had such a hold on me that it took the better part of the day to leave the one safe zone in my house. It may be stupid to anyone else but right now that’s how things are and the Lord took me in His hands and have me strength. For today that’s a little victory. I stepped outside. I smelt the grass in the sunshine, watched the flowers in my neighbour’s garden swaying in the breeze; I pegged out the washing and made myself concentrate and really feel the texture of the damp cloth, the warm stones under my feet and the air on my skin. It really is a beautiful day.

And that little victory continued and I have managed to walk down the street very slowl and come grocery shopping. I have promised myself to choose nourishing and healthful foods and not continue to punish myself with the binge-purge cycle that could numb some of the feelings I’m so afraid of now they don’t go away.

Right now before I do that, I’m just sitting with a cold drink and writing this to make my promises firmer. I’m watching the people passing in the street and letting this awareness ground me and draw me a little further out of my fear.

In the middle of all this I’ve actually smiled too, at happy children and at this chilled-out (though rather warm)guy waiting for his owner outside the health food shop. Seems they do their own hot dogs:

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So I guess what I’m saying in this strange rambling post is, it is very hard but I am trying to choose thankfulness and presence – thankfulness for feeling, presence with our God who does not leave us for a moment – rather than fear, self-punishment and numbing escapes. One tiny step at a time I’m asking God to give me strength to continue to look outward and be present, however much it hurts.

Ginny xxx

 

Is this pain real?

WARNING: this post contains brief mentions of eating disorders and self-harm.

Which is harder to deal with: physical pain and physical disability / ill health, or mental pain and distress and poor mental health? Is there a difference for you? Does one seem more real than the other?

At the moment my physical health is poor and my physical pain and limitations have been worsening fast, in particular in the last couple of weeks. Any standing or walking is painful and shaky. I need to use my walking stick again, having had 5 years or so not needing it (apart from one time for a few weeks).

Physical health problems can be tangible and visible in a way that mental health isn’t. People can see that I’m using a stick or that I need to rest often. They can’t see in the same direct way when I’m having obsessional thoughts or hearing the voices. I’ve posted before on how many people I’ve met who have Borderline or other mental health problems, feel a shame about their mental health condition and support needs and a guilt for needing help or “not being normal” or not being able to cope. Many of these people, again myself included, have physical health issues too, and the common feeling seems to be that these are more allowed and acceptable (in others’ eyes and also our own thoughts) than the mental health needs. Often that does ring true with me and I’m sad so many people find that. I’ll post on that topic more separately.

Just now I’m struggling to trust that my physical pain is real and allowed too rather than being something I’ve invented, is my fault, not real…

Physical pain is still subjective. Nobody can objectively see how much, say, my back hurts or there are weird numb sensations then burning pain in my feet. Anatomic problems can be seen and measured on scans and tests but what our experience of pain and weakness is, can’t be.

I have been desperate for more visible and concrete proofs of what I experience physically. I have some, for example, a scan has showed some degeneration in my lower spine, the GP performed various tests which diagnosed they inflammatory condition in my knees, and so on. However much of my physical struggles aren’t documented in the same way. You can’t see nerve pain or nervous system inflammation, painful joints, muscle spasms, poor regulation in the autonomic nervous system (well not directly anyway, although some tests can show disrupted adrenal or thyroid function or high white blood cell counts)…

The lack of physical, external evidence of what I’m experiencing is a real problem for me. If i let myself think on it the voices get loud. I think I must be going mad. It must be my fault. It must be my invention or my imagination. I should just get on with it and push through. I’m weak. The worst thing is the thought I must be a fake. I hate using my stick because of it even when I’m in more pain and more unstable without it. I’m deceiving everyone, the voice tells me. Look. Everyone knows. Everyone’s looking at me. Everyone’s talking about what a fake I am. They all know nothing’s wrong with me really. I’m terrified it’s all made up and I’ve faked it all without realising. I’ll never stop it but my whole life I’ll be a fake and at the end I’ll be judged and punished for it. Other voices tell me I’m doing it for attention to make people worry about me. Don’t you know how much upset you’re causing, they ask…

In the past I’ve felt I’ve deserved physical pain. That it’s safe if I have pain or cause myself pain. It means I’m being punished and suffering and that’s safe. It means I won’t be so bad. I won’t be so dangerous. I’ll be weak and that’ll be safe. That was how I thought during my anorexia. That was how getting thinner and thinner and more ill kept me safe. It is/was part of how self harming was safe too because it punished only me, just only me, stopped the evil emotions as I saw them getting out. I say “was” because I’ve managed not to self harm for a month and I’m grappling with the feelings that come to be now I’m not doing it.

The physical pain from my illnesses that I can’t control is different. It is overwhelming. It isn’t safe. It might show my badness (because I’m fake). It’s overwhelming and can feel inescapable but I feel I don’t have the right to think it’s real.

It interacts with my mental control too. When the pain is bad part of my mind freezes. I cannot be warm or present for other people. Trying to interact at all is a fight. Sometimes I want to hide and sleep. Being around anyone can be too much. I panic and want to be safe at home in my secure place. I mix up words and sounds and can’t get a simple sentence out straight. The all encompassing nature of emotions and especially anxieties and fears and psychotic thoughts increases. I feel shut tighter into the world of my Borderline.

I doubt the reality and truth of my physical and emotional experiences. The only pain I knew was real and undoubted was the pain of self harming or starving. The rest of my experience I doubt, as though the real me that’s bad really, angry, fake, deceitful, will be found out in the end, but I can’t escape from it/her. I only just realised that in writing this post. Trying to stop self harming is going to change a lot, I think.

Ginny xxxx