Tag: abuse

They’ve found her

My mother has been found. My abuser has been found.

It has been a little over a year since I first reported to the police the abuse done to me by my mother in my childhood and early adulthood.

Since I made my statement, the police had been searching for my mother to question her. It had come to the point that with her not being found for so long, part of me felt perhaps she never would be. Had she chosen to disappear? She had gone from her last known address, disappeared and ceased contact with the hospital that was treating her, no information about her whereabouts was known by the very few former friends and similar, and none of the few leads I could think of helped (a relative she might have had contact with, a place she worked a very long time ago and so on). Even the police’s searches of records held by places like the DWP or tax office yielded nothing (very strange since she must surely be claiming a Benefit, or a pension, or working). The police had even searched the death and marriages registers and were talking about the possibility she may have passed away. It was in my mind whether the time would come that I might have to accept that, though bizarrely without ever really knowing what happened to her.

Then at the weekend I got the news that the police have found her.

Shock. I was stunned.

So, now I am to meet with the DC who is working on my case, the same person who took my statement. He has spoken to my mother. I don’t know if he has interviewed her. I expect he must have. He has things he needs to tell me but felt we need to meet face to face to talk about it.

I’m in a sort of suspense til our conversation. There are so many questions and uncertainties and fears. Where was she? Probably the DC won’t be allowed to tell me. How did they find her? Perhaps he will be able to tell me how. What state is her health in? She was not in good physical health when I last saw her and her mental health conditions are severe; she never believed she was ill though. Has that changed? I doubt it – but perhaps that’s too much of an assumption. No, actually, it isn’t; given the years and years history anything else would be astonishing. What has happened to her since our contact ceased? She disappeared from contact with the hospital team – not surprising, sadly – so has she had no treatment since? What’s she doing? What danger is she in? And what danger is she to others, that’s in my mind too, because of what she did to me, and because of her violence when she is ill.

For me, what now? If she’s been questionned, what happened? What did she say? What do we do now? I can imagine what she will have said to the police about me. I’m trying not to imagine too much in general about this, as it can lead to no good. There is no point in imagining scenarios until I meet the DC. A big issue will be her mental state now, I think, and whether she has capacity to understand proceedings. I think another big issue will be how will there be any evidence of what I went through? So much happened when I was alone and isolated with her. The lack of evidence gives the voices in my head power and I’m stifled and paralysed quickly with the flashbacks on the one hand, the voices telling me liar, disgusting, your fault, you wanted it….

The last 2 days dissociative episodes have taken hold scarily often. I’m fighting them, sometimes. But often that makes me break too much or I’m too far in.

If I have to make some decisions over what happens next, how can I choose for good?

Ginny xxx

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What is it okay to protect for ourselves?

I still can’t figure out why I’m crumbling so much trying to support my friend. Partly it’s because the trauma he’s suffered and needs to talk about is so close to my own experiences and I don’t know how to cope with my own emotions about my trauma, and bad as I feel about this, I can’t always cope with someone else’s experiences, the even stronger emotions this gives rise to in me and the overwhelming emotions they are also feeling. It’s as if I absorb the pain and feel it 3 times over – my own pain and distress, my pain for them, and their pain and distress.

But this isn’t the only reason. When there’s no link whatsoever to my experiences I’m still feeling panic, dread, boiling frustration (inappropriately), unease, fear… and terrifyingly, too many emotions that are too close to those I felt when I was caring for my mother (who was also my main abuser). My conscious feelings towards my friend are nothing like what my feelings towards my mother were so why are these experiences occuring? Very raw feelings, as well as flashbacks, hallucinations and panic attacks are increasing. For some reason the situations with his health deteriorating out of control, hopes for things being understood resolved and treated then being delayed time after time, his near desperation, his rapidly overtaking weakness and physical degeneration, even his need for me, is triggering the feelings I had when I was with her. This scares me. It’s nonsensical. He’s nothing like her. The situation is not the same. Yet I can suddenly feel just as desperate to escape. I don’t know why because he is generous, good, caring, honest, he wants to help me, he does not judge me, he worries for my wellbeing and he supports me greatly in the faith we share.

Why does his need for me scare me so much too? He tells me I’m the only person he trusts to tell certain things or to give comfort. I am thankful and sort of honoured that he trusts me but I don’t want to be the only person. That isn’t safe for him. I am only one person. Yes, I care, I pray, I do not judge (well, wish not to, with God’s help), I can empathise deeply; but I’m only a normal person. I can’t keep him safe, heal him, I am not the total good he thinks I am. God gives hope. God gives safety under His care. I am only one person. I am thankful he trusts me but I don’t want him to trust and confide in me and not the doctors or other professionals who can help. If I’m honest, I cannot be the only person because it isn’t safe for me either, as well as for him. I cannot be the only person who knows when he is in danger. I cannot carry that or keep him safe. I cannot be the only person he can turn to because despite my best desires I cannot infallibly be there and there will come a time I don’t do the right thing or the thing he most needs or that I hurt him unintentionally and I don’t want him to be in danger then.

Which brings me to: what time or mental or emotional resources can we protect for ourselves? He needs me desperately and constantly. As well as practical help, there is rarely more than a couple of hours that I’m not listening, emotionally supporting or encouraging him or at least trying to. I might be coping more stably, or having lower levels of the currently overwhelming emotions, if I had more breaks, time separate from him, time to meet my own daily tasks and duties, time to keep my commitments to others, time to pray, time just to rest. But what would he do then?

When is it okay to protect time and mental resources for myself? The Lord is with us always. He always listens, always answers and always holds us in His Heart. Jesus gives His life for us. We are called to emulate this, to join in the sacrifice He made and pour ourselves out in love. If I’m to follow Him, to offer my life too, then I need to be there for people in need, always not only when it’s easy or convenient. I have felt the hurt myself of people I’d counted good friends cutting off or cutting back contact when I got more ill and being alone when I most needed contact with friends and to know I wasn’t going to be left for my weakness.

So I just cannot limit my availability to someone in desperate need. But I’m crashing up against my own physical and emotional limitations. What is the loving response? Admittedly my friend is not my only calling and responsibility. I have a calling to my family, my volunteer work, to run my home responsibly, to manage bills and finances and so on. In a way I have a responsibility to my own health and wellbeing too, though that’s hard to admit. Though that’s a fight in my head to. I should deny myself to reach out to bring God’s love to others. Then again the Lord created me, wants me, loves me – perhaps not only so that I can be denied and weakened? At the moment every responsibility except to my friend is falling to the side. I have no reserves left for anything else. That really does not feel right. I feel more guilt for it, especially not having the energy for family, for contemplative prayer or for treating my home that I’m blessed to have with due care so everything is in disorder.

This is all very uncomfortable and I’m so tired. I need to seek guidance.

Ginny xxx

The wrong voices calling

The voices are very bad at the moment. My emotions are soaring and plummeting at the moment since my last group therapy and discharge on Friday. So it is not surprising the voices are worse. They often are when I’m emotional and stressed.

It’s as if now this stage of therapy is completed and I’m trying to hang on to the good and the real, the voices are getting louder (stronger?) trying to pull me back to the blackest darkness and terror where “reality” was my abuser’s words and threats. All morning I’ve heard her calling out to me. Sometimes just my name. Sometimes the things she’d say – mocking, detesting, making me an animal, less than human, threatening, confirming my evil and the terrible things that would happen (unless I gave in and gave her total control). I hear her. And it is terrifyingly real. It is totally outside, not an echo in my head. I turn towards the voice and dread grips me. It stays totally real to me even as I try to repeat my safety statement.

I am Ginny. I am 32 years old. Today is January 30th 2017. She is far away. I am safe now. I trust in God. …He created me for good not evil.

These aren’t the only voices I have but they are some of the most frightening and separate me most from reality. I don’t know how or if there is any way to stop or change the voices. If there is I haven’t found it in the therapy I’ve had so far. If I can’t change them can I lessen their power?

I try to remember,although the world created by my abuser was my reality – the only reality for 11 years and the most of it for another 14 or so – it is not the truth. The voice is not trying to do anything, or pulling me anywhere. It is a hallucination. It is a memory. It is not a person (now). A hallucination does not have a will or an aim. A hallucination is not physical so cannot pull or drag me. So why does it have power to cause me terror, to return me into the frightened child, to make it impossible to believe in my freedom or any goodness in me?

Several other people I’ve met who have personality disorders have shared having experiences of voices. In my 18 month MBT therapy, we talked about hearing voices in the group sessions. Sometimes for example, I’d share that I was struggling to stay present in the room because the voices were loud and scary and I was constantly being pulled away from reality. But in therapy we didn’t get to explore the experience of voices or how to cope with them, how they may interact with what you’re feeling and what is happening in reality, how they affect interactions… in therapy the focus was on using grounding techniques to move away from them and be present in the group and able to focus on others. Sometimes we talked a little about how the voices may affect our thoughts about ourselves and about others, for instance when we’re interacting with someone, leading to assumptions (they think I’m evil, the know I’m bad, that’s what the voices are saying) rather than curiosity about the other person’s thoughts.

However we didn’t talk about how to cope with them. We didn’t talk about their emotional effect on us, the way they pull us with them, the control they have even though it makes no sense, how they bring traumas right back, how what they tell us and make us feel is more gripping than our current experiences, if there is any way we can respond to lessen their power…

There is a place for using grounding techniques to cope and this is valuable. There is great worth in learning to be able to stay present for others here and now. Probably a value to staying present in the moment for ourselves. Yet I wish there were more than grounding techniques because there’s always next time the voices come. Their apparent power stays the same.

Perhaps I’ll look to see if there are any books that explore voices and how to cope. I’ve pretty much been told that the voices won’t go away but if I keep taking my medication, I won’t lose my grip on understanding they aren’t real. I feel I need to find more than that.

I would be very interested to hear about experiences of voices that anyone would like to share.

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

In the cold

I hate how sporadic I am posting and reading at the moment. Again I’m sorry though I’ve already said that so many times I know.

I’m having a really low time. I’ve too many horrible feelings about the abuse and about the PD service that’s meant to be helping me. I have never felt so far from my dad in what I experienced as a child being abused and what he did not know, that I thought he did know; what he thought was actually going on. It is not his fault, it wasn’t then and isn’t now, but I can’t stand the distance – which means more doubt and fear and was it all because of me and have I invented everything through my madness. I have never felt so trapped by repeating patterns with the service -that I thought would help me and thought I could trust – of being misled, let down, tricked, brought to the very edge then when I’m in crisis they reject me, do nothing to help, say it’s nothing to do with them, send me away so I cope the only way I can at that point of utter pain, which at the moment, means overdose or knock myself out with sleeping tablets. It’s too much like how my abuser made me believe I needed her and she’d protect me but I never received her care, which paradoxically I did need, only her total control and the terror of her threats and certainty of my evil, so I believed. Now the cycle repeats with those I should be able to trust and ends in the same desperate pain.

Even in therapy group today I felt so so far from everyone else. An intruder. Something wrong with me. Disconnected. Just watching. Deeply hurting for everyone else and guilty for causing them hurt and anger too, but at the same time totally out in the cold; so much needing to be heard, but everything and everyone showing how at odds my experience is with theirs and what it should be.

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

I can’t be loved

It hit me today. I can’t be loved. I am unable to receive love, most of all God’s love. I long for it in different ways. Crave not being alone or being understood. Crave protection. Crave being wanted. Being needed. Being any good (any good to anyone, and just simply any good). Not being rejected. But I’m totally unable to receive it, accept and believe.

A friend said to me a few months ago that I always put a barrier and was too angry to let God love me. I got very angry with this friend at the time and very afraid. I felt like he confirmed everything I always inescapably feared about being outside God’s grace, bad, too bad to save and it was my fault, that however much I thought I wanted good I was bad in the end. I spoke very angrily to my friend, accusing him of frightening and judging me. But really everything I attributed to him, was what I utterly feared because of what I’d learnt as a kid being abused. The only way to stop my abuser’s threats coming true, I believed, was to accept what she (my mother) was telling me about me. That meant admitting to my own pervasive, enduring, dangerous evil.

I’m only just now suddenly starting to see how strong her deception was and how it has made me unable to receive love, rather only to receive confirmation of her view of me (or at least the view she presented as an abuser). She talked a lot about love. I did not receive love in that relationship and as a kid that’s the relationship where love is most important. My father loved me but she so twisted things that my impression of him was that he believed the same about me as she did. The closest thing I experienced to safety and love was “admitting” under her violent coercion to how evil I was, accepting and desiring her total control over me and my total weakness.

Most of all I have been unable to accept the love of God. My abuser’s twisting of the meaning of what should be love has had a very direct impact that I wonder how I didn’t see til now.

More on this in coming posts. Right now I’m feeling like I just fell off a cliff or something.

Ginny xxxx

 

Getting stuck on a loop

I’m gradually coming to notice when I re-experience feelings associated to long past experiences of abuse. I’ve described this as emotional flashbacks. They can include re-experiencing physical sensations of events, but also and often more overwhelmingly, emotional experiences. This often leads to certain thoughts being triggered and impulsive, uncontrollable actions that aren’t necessarily helpful for me or others. (I say uncontrollable. I must still take responsibility for them though I do not yet manage successfully control them and the impact the feelings have on me.)

I’m also noticing that I re-experience feelings and thoughts associated to more recent events; events which are not nearly as damaging as the abuse and trauma I experienced as a child. Sometimes, I can identify that the event triggered a deeper memory, which to some extent explains my reaction. But frequently, I can’t identify this. It is like feeling stuck on a loop. It causes me a lot of guilt and anger at myself. I feel I am being childish and self-centred because I should just get over it. I feel guilty, especially when it leads me to think over and over a time when somebody upset or hurt me, because I ought to be forgiving them. If I am repeatedly thinking of the hurt and wrong caused to me, I am holding it against them, not truly forgiving and I am keeping a barrier between them and me. God forgives us fully and it is as though our offences are blotted out. When we receive his forgiveness, we are washed “whiter than snow” and He does not look any more on our transgressions. Who am I to think I’m so important that things that hurt me play over and over in my mind? I’m reminded of someone close to me telling me “nobody else is responsible for making you feel better” “I’m going to be completely straight with you and I don’t have to think about what you’re feeling”. Am I making other people responsible for my feelings by my inability to move on? Am I making everything about me? I really fear that.

An example of such an event and consequentially getting “stuck in a loop” occurred this weekend. It’s a fairly low intensity example. Yesterday, I was in the street when I was stopped by a charity fundraiser – there are many of these people in shopping streets in my city, stopping people and wanting to take their personal details and sign them up to make regular donations. This person both irritated and intimidated me immediately. I watched him approach a lady who was a little way in front of me and follow her up the street. He then came up to me, coming uncomfortably close and half-blocking my path. I think this kind of approach is particularly intimidating to me since I’m disabled, unsteady on my feet and walk with a stick (and in my mind it is insensitive and inappropriate to approach in this way someone who you do not know, especially someone who is clearly physically vulnerable). He started to ask me questions and I simply replied “no thank you,” and carried on walking as best I could. I am in no position to give money at the moment and do not want to be signed up to anything, and think the best approach is to firmly but politely refuse to engage with this kind of approach. He then continued to follow me up the street, very close, muttering behind me sarcastically “oh, well that’s just charming” and so on. I was at once frightened and suddenly angry. I turned round and by no means shouting, but firmly, told him “Would you please stop following me. I am not obliged to give you my details. I do not want you to follow me.” “Well that’s incredibly [*&$% expletive deleted] rude of you” he retorted. I told him this was highly inappropriate and asked for the details of the organisation he was working for as I would be making a complaint. Fortunately, I was able to get sight of the ID badge he was wearing as he told me “Good, I hope that you do, because you’re incredibly unpleasant!” and noted the details.

Now, this event should probably no longer be in my mind. I was not hurt. I was probably not in any danger despite his intimidating and verbally aggressive behaviour. Likely as not I will never see him again. I have never heard of the organisation he was working for and have no dealings with them. It was nasty but probably not personally directed at me. It is an unpleasant way for anyone to behave, and all the more inappropriate on the part of someone representing a charity. I felt strongly about that. But it isn’t really an important event. The damage caused to me wasn’t major or worth thinking about (beyond that tomorrow I may make a complaint to the charity as I don’t think he should carry on representing them so poorly or treating other passers-by in the way he treated me and the lady in front of me).

The intensity of the fear and anger I felt at the time was much more than it should have been. It flicked me to come very close to an outburst of upset and anger that wouldn’t have helped anyone. I was able to stop that by the grace of God. I went some way into dissociating, hurting, being out of it but thoughts spiralling in a way too much to catch, being on the edge of going into a nearby shop and impulsively spending, which is one of the responses I’m most at risk of when I’m suddenly angry or upset. Again, I was able to stop myself. Mixed into this was the thought, what if someone was watching me, what would they think of what I had done? Was it my fault and was I wrong? I went home. I felt very low and was starting to shut down and everything I’d planned to do that evening was too much. I’m ashamed to admit this.

I’m more worried right now though, that instead of this whole minor incident now being over, it has come back on this loop in my mind today, several times. My mind has compulsively played over the incident many times, very vividly, but until this has been going on for a period of time, I’ve been unable to acknowledge what’s happening, whilst also being detached from what’s occurring in the present (for instance, no longer hearing the TV that was on, no longer doing the task I was doing). The way my mind has been playing this experience over has been similar to the way obsessional OCD thoughts about bad things I’ve done or am going to do, take hold of my mind. All the emotions I experienced at the time of the incident have come back again. With each obsessional repetition in this loop, my doubt of myself and my own actions in the situation increases, so that I am more convinced that I did wrong, that it must have been my fault, that people were watching me and now know how nasty I am.

Why am I unable to move on from even such an unimportant event? Why are my feelings so extreme at the time and no lower some time after? Why am I so unable to limit the impact of the emotion and the memory of the emotion and event? Does it in some way I do not yet understand, send me back to memory of a more damaging experience? That would give some explanation at least. Or is my experience just totally out of proportion, making me self-centred, self-obsessed, childish?

This event wasn’t particularly emotive in comparison to events that take place with people I know and care about. When upsetting interactions with friends and family get stuck on a loop in this way, it can completely affect and impede my future interactions with them and feelings towards them. I feel this is all my fault through my faulty reactions, emotions and thinking. Ultimately I end up self-punishing and self-harming as the only possible escape and a desperate attempt to punish myself enough for my failure to be an adult and my failure to forgive.

Writing this, it occurs to me that this feeling of being stuck in a loop does not only apply to things done against me. It applies equally to hurt I have caused or fear I have caused others, and other mistakes I have made. Wrong things and stupid things I have done play over and over in my head. The intense feelings of guilt, shame, horror, pain, etc, play over in my head and diminish little in intensity over the years. I regularly have vivid memories of, for example, things said during an argument with my dad and step-mum 3 years ago, or something wrong I did in my work that I worried endangered a patient 5 years ago, a time I stepped out of line with something I said to my boss in a meeting 8 or more years ago… I re-experience all the feelings and they can really shake me. I become afraid of any situations similar to those in which these events occurred, maybe because I believe I’ll do the same wrong again.

Again I wonder if all the feelings I have, whether it be a situation of wrong done by me to others, or a situation of wrong done by others to me and consequential hurt, in some way are (a lesser intensity of) feelings that were overwhelming and terrifying during the years of my abuse.

I also know that in personality disorders, emotions usually reach a higher intensity more quickly, and stay at the higher intensity for longer, than in people without personality disorder. I guess that explains to some extent why the feeling hangs around for longer, though not the vivid mental replaying of inconsequential events.

I desperately want an answer and I think I’ll talk about this in my 1:1 therapy tomorrow.

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I wonder have you had similar experiences? Have you felt stuck on a loop remembering experiences or having thoughts and emotions you want to let go, but can’t?

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