Tag: mental health in the family

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

 

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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

Fear, tears, pain, joy, guilt, thankful, anger, strength, shaken…

The emotions are crashing over me now. They stayed temporarily a little distant in the activity of yesterday afternoon and today. Now the activity has stopped. The rush of mixed experiences of the past week is temporarily still. I am physically utterly exhausted, shaky and hurting and it’s all I can do to get across the room. Sitting I feel like I’m being crushed. I’m cold and my chest aches deeply. I’m curled up in my dressing gown and blanket, needing all the comfort and grounding I can get. I feel childish and guilty for saying that, because I have no right to – what have I been through that’s so bad? – but it is true.

There’s so much to take in right now.

Intense waves of scary emotions jolted me through the week, especially fear and anxiety I cannot attribute to a logical cause that was there at the time. On reflection perhaps it was an emotional flashback to earlier times and threats, both distant (childhood) and more recent.

The hallucinations strengthened – auditory, visual, sensory – and scared me more.

My escape imaginary world was closer than ever and its pull stronger than ever.

Anger is raging and rising uncontrollably in me against my stepmother. All at once I feel huge guilt, fear, hurt, rage, the need to express what I feel and the impossibility and danger of ever actually doing so.

It’s feeding anger against my dad again; then against both of them together.

More memories of specific painful derogatory, demeaning, restricting, humiliating things my abuser did have been coming to the fore, along with memories of how her abusive power was perpetuated, and then in turn, more thoughts of how it feels – and this is so scary to write – similar patterns still repeat in my family. I need to get away from that.

It was goodbye to a friend in my therapy group for whom I care very very much. I’m still crying for her.

Another member of my therapy group to whom I also feel a particular connection, has suffered an unimaginable avalanche of hurts, struggles and illnesses. Now, he has been diagnosed with cancer which is likely to be late stage. The end of his life could be close. I’m crying for him.

Today was a special day. I had a little coffee morning to fundraise for Macmillan Cancer Support (part of the “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning” Macmillan run nationally). It is the first time I have ever done an event like this at home (following on from the courage I gained from having had some close friends over for my birthday earlier in the year). My anxiety was huge. I put as much as I could into the preparations. Good things happened today. My guests’ care and kindness was wonderful. This fills me up with gratitude.

So here I am now, afterwards, with this whole mix of soaring emotions. All of them I need to face and there is a lot of work for me to do. My individual therapy is tomorrow and I’m so glad. When the emotions are too much, every so often, I’m going to try to return to the thankfulness for today and remember everyone’s enjoyment and generosity. Somehow, this just a little restorative.

Ginny xxx

Slipping through our fingers

There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?

I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.

I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.

First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.

Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child,  is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain?  We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.

Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.

Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need,  as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).

This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care.  Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff,  were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for,  which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.

I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients.  (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.

A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.

….

I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.

Ginny xxx

Not that girl

Alert for stupid self indulgent sad post :/

I wrote this post a few days ago. It’s a struggle to admit to these feelings and to how it’s hurting me. It’s one of those times I feel so childish and needy and that I should just get over it. I’m taking a risk and posting this and maybe I’ll see what happens and see what you think. Maybe it’ll help me let it go too.

….

I’m trying to accept that my ex has got married. That though he left me saying the thought of marriage made him want to run, and he never wanted children and had no understanding of the meaning of marriage or the idea of being open to having children, he didn’t want the changes to his life that a relationship would bring, he didn’t want the personal social or financial implications – despite all this he now has a wife and two young step daughters and an extended step family and he’s arranging his wife and daughters’ immigration to the UK.

Everything he told me he wanted and believed he now has the opposite. He was so utterly against having children and he now has two. He was against any change or disruption to his routine but he’s maintaining a transcontinental marriage and arranging all the immigration process and naturally bringing his new family to his home, which will completely change every part of his life. And so on.

At the same time as I learnt this I learnt he saw me as a financial drain. He resented the slightest extra expense he saw our relationship (ie me) as causing, even a taxi or bus fare because with my disabilities I couldn’t walk everywhere as he would. He thought I drove his friends away and cost him his friends and lodgers  (at one point I along with two other people rented rooms in the house he owned and we did not always get along and there were arguments and as my and his relationship progressed ams so did that of one of the other lodgers with her boyfriend, she moved out). He resented time I wanted us to spend together. He was more and more angry if I wanted to try to build the emotional side of our relationship or pray together.

I don’t think there was anything good for him in the relationship apart from the physical side. He admitted he was physically drawn to me and had been for some time before our relationship started, and that he continued to be since. That terrified me. And I felt used too. That he resented anything emotional or spiritual and saw me as a drain and source of anger, yet had some physical want for me. I feel revulsion the two are separated and disgust at myself that I was so repulsive to him as a person but there to be taken physically. No we didn’t go “all  the way” or go against our faith’s teaching but there was intimacy and it is enough to terrify me. I don’t understand it properly yet. Perhaps it’s something to do with my childhood abuser’s hate of me but control and use of my body.

Anyway. … it’s also harder to accept because I found out the lady he has married has been a close friend and correspondent of his for over 10 years, that is to say well before my relationship with him began. I knew of her and thought she was an occasional penfriend. I didn’t know the depth of their friendship. I don’t think he was unfaithful but all the bonds that were lacking in my relationship with him were there between him and her all along. Everything he resented and wanted to run from with me, like time spent together or having children, he had and wanted with her. So it felt like it was so clearly me that he wanted to run from, not the things themselves.

It’s ironic that I found all this out at a time I was already thinking that my mental health had greatly affected my relationship with him (my Borderline was not yet diagnosed at the time). I had been planning in any case to tell him about my diagnosis because I did already feel responsible for a lot of why our relationship failed, because of my emotional instability, crying, anger, intense need of his presence and reassurance. So what I found out should have come as no surprise. Yet it is still a shock.

I’m not that girl. I’m not the right person to share his life or bring him joy. She’s got him. She always had him really. I am glad for them. I am happy for them and for the stability they will share. Despite his resentment for me I still feel an ache and painful sadness when I think of us or hear of them. Despite how much he disliked me, basically, and how little it seems we shared from his point of view, in my heart I can’t accept we didn’t share anything genuine in our companionship.  Then again it seems we didn’t from his point of view. There is not going to be an answer to that really.

I told a trusted friend about how I’m feeling and what my ex has now told me about our relationship. She said he sounds like a complete jerk. And the thing is, reading this,listening  to me, perhaps you would think that. But I don’t think he is. A lot of the time I was with him he acted understanding and kind and generous. That was partly why it was such a shock when we broke up. He was committed to his work and the church and gave a lot of help to several people in need. It was only when we broke up, and then now as I’ve found out about the wedding and his wife and daughters and he’s admitted what he actually thought of me, that I feel both used and guilty he resented me so much. It feels like nothing I thought we shared was genuine somehow because all the while he was feeling something totally different from me and totally different from what I thought he was feeling. I don’t want to make out he’s a nasty person. I was so sure he was and is a good person. I’m so confused.

When he brings his new family to the UK, there will be another wedding ceremony over here, and this will be important, as this ceremony will make them married in the Church body as well (at present they have had a civil ceremony in the law of her home country; they have not sealed their vows in the church). I will hear of it, I must be prepared and accept and learn to wish them well. I do wish them well.

I’m not that girl and I must not allow myself any more self indulgent lingering in the pain I’m feeling. There are many questions that won’t be answered. They have found each other as it should be. There is another place for me. I need to give them to the Lord now and keep looking forward to the good relationships that I’m in today and what I can do, not back to the questions and pain I can’t solve.

Ginny xxX

 

Trying to be curious about trust #1

As you may know if you stop by regularly ( 🙂 thank you lovely people!!) I’m finding it very hard to trust the personality disorder service at the hospital (where I go for therapy) at the moment. It has become harder and harder over the last few months, in part due to repeated occasions where, in my experience at least, I’ve been let down, not had the promised support, or been turned away when in desperate need of help. I feel they do not believe me and do not think I deserve help and the more I’m in crisis the more they don’t believe me. Everything that happens confirms this now. In my last care coordination appointment I felt again completely dismissed, not listened to and that what was recorded on my care plan did not reflect what I was going through or needed, until I’d insisted time and time again that my care coordinator write what I actually said rather than re-phrase it in a way that minimised and avoided a lot of the issues at stake. Aargh….

I can’t explain it more than this right now because I will get so angry and out of control. Plus you’ve all probably heard me go on about it so much you’re bored 😉 ! Sorry.

I’m trying to be curious about my feelings about trusting the service and how they see me, as Mentalisation Based Therapy focuses on this and trying to be curious and open to different feelings and uncertainties about what is in our mind and other peoples’.

Right now, although I can try to examine different possibilities, I’m certain in my heart that the service don’t believe me. This doesn’t apply so much to my 1:1 and group therapy sessions. In some way the group feels honest and safe. Perhaps it’s something to do with my commitment being to the other people in the group, listening to them and being there for them, present with them, and sharing honestly as much as I’m able, rather than it being a relationship just with the service or the therapists. It applies more to when I need support between sessions, or when I’m in crisis, or talking about support outside therapy with managing daily life, or in my care coordination appointments.

After the experiences I have had so far, I am not sure what would now reassure me that they did and do believe me and do want me. I got on to thinking about how my recent falling out with a close friend N. involved my absolutely unchangeable feeling that she didn’t believe me, didn’t really want me, didn’t think I deserved help, and I was just a burden and irritation. I don’t know what would convince me otherwise (except, just perhaps, if she had come to help me when I was at my worst, in some of the times she was adamant she could not or should not come).

Not being believed and not deserving help is a big theme for me. Ultimately, I do it to myself too, because I can’t really believe myself. Some of my psychotic symptoms feed into that, with the voices in and outside my head telling me I’ve lied, I’m a fraud, that everyone knows and is thinking and saying I’m a disgusting fraud, cheated people to get help, and no matter if I may think I want to be good and try to do good, there’s all the bad things in me really and everyone else knows and I’ll hurt everyone in the end. Only self-harming in some form quiets this.

In my last 1:1, we talked about my recent falling out with N. We started going slowly through my feelings and thoughts step by step from the beginning of the day things really fell apart between us. We didn’t get very far through. Nevertheless it brought back a lot of the feelings of that day. I’d been feeling very bad about things I said and how things were left at our meeting and in our exchanges the week after (since which, we haven’t been in touch – I couldn’t anymore and felt she didn’t want to either, really). I’d been trying to write to apologise. But in the 1:1, what was even harder than this was that guilty as I felt (and still feel), a lot of the hurt is still there too.

As the memories of these feelings, and more of the feelings, surfaced in the 1:1, I suddenly felt sure that my therapist must think I’m a horrible, childish, needy, jealous, selfish, demanding, nasty person who thinks terrible things about people. Then I started thinking these things about myself together with feeling guilt, disgust that I was so evil, and worry about what would happen to my relationship with my therapist now she thought these things – I couldn’t say what I thought would happen at the time but now I think it was feeling that, oh now she’s started to realise that I really am bad after all and she’ll leave me and not want me around any more.

I was certain about what my therapist must think. Just as I was/am certain about what N. thinks about me. It was actually very hard for me to think curiously about what N. (or my therapist for that matter) would feel. I spend a lot of time certain and horrified about what the people I’m interacting with think about me, and feeling bad for what I am (because of what they’re thinking), what I cause, and the feelings that are then in me, confirming my self-disgust and self-hate. My self identity is somehow, in a way I can’t yet express properly, bound up with what I am certain the other person is thinking about me. My own feeling follows immediately being so certain of their thoughts. I am not necessarily at all able to access beforehand what I am feeling, and I am not necessarily able to think about what the other person is feeling (separate of me, as opposed to being convinced about their thoughts about me).

I am not necessarily bad at picking up what other people are feeling. Actually, I can be very accurate in it, and sense it before other people do. I’ll post about that separately and will put a link here when I’ve posted. However, in these situations, I’m entirely sucked into the certainty of their thoughts.

I am not at all able to “mentalise” – to reflect and be curious about what is in their minds and what they are feeling and what I am thinking and feeling. There is no possible questioning or genuine entertaining of different possibilities about the other person’s mind. I am absolutely certain of their thoughts about me and I have absolutely certain thoughts and feelings as a result. Even though I may at some level be able to come up with a distant idea of other possible thoughts that could be in the other person’s mind, it is completely disconnected from my beliefs and emotions.

Written down like this, it is quite easy to see that this could lead to or be part of my psychotic experiences. I am certain of other people’s thoughts about me. The voices repeat them to me. I feel disgust and guilt and horror of what I’m doing to people. Somehow I become linked with the thoughts I think the other person is having and I am all those horrible things.

I am starting to wonder whether I am actually having the thoughts (which I attribute to the other person) myself, and having the resultant feelings myself, but I am unable to recognise them or feel them in myself, and then for some reason attribute them to the other person as though I know for sure that they are thinking these things. Really they are just my own thoughts or feelings about myself.

Perhaps my certainty nobody believes me or wants me and my resultant inability to trust, is in fact simply nobody else’s thought but rather just what I think of myself – and the fact that I cannot trust or believe myself because I always doubt my own motivation for good or evil, because I have no identity except what I find in what I think are others’ thoughts.

I don’t know quite where this came from. Certainly my mother’s very unwell beliefs about thoughts and emotions during the time I was growing up, clouded my learning about my and others’ feelings and thoughts and the demarcation between them. Her deeply psychotic beliefs were pervasive and persistent. She believed that I knew exactly her thoughts even in advance and when I did not, she told me this was deceptive; she believed she knew my thoughts and intentions; she frequently presented to me my intentions as malevolent and manipulative in incredibly complex ways, when I was unaware of any such motives or thoughts (precisely because they didn’t exist, but I didn’t know that as a child); she made inconsequential, morally neutral actions (such as being able to do some particular thing or not) have a moral value or manipulative power (“repeatedly punishing her” for example); she perceived my emotions as controlling her and done to her (unless they perfectly matched hers); and this was coupled with dire threats (including her suicide, my father’s death, the family breaking apart, my parents being taken away) because of my emotions and thoughts – and of course, with the abuse.

I don’t know quite how to unpick that to find out how much does it explain how I now feel about others’ thoughts about me. Maybe I don’t need to and just need to find out how to change my certain, set-in-stone thought patterns now.

Oh my days I’m tired now and I need a hug. Think I’m going to have a hot bath and curl up under my blanket when I get home.

Ginny xxx

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #6

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #6

Protection in Emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #6

“Closing the drawbridge” – eating disorders and rigidity

PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION – this post contains discussion of eating disorders (primarily anorexia), description of my eating-disordered thinking patterns, and a link to an article about studies on calorie restriction

[Wow, again it has been too long since I have posted in this series. Sorry.]

Many books about eating disorders, in particular anorexia, mention rigidity of thinking as a symptom which emerges as restriction of food increases and weight drops. When I worked at an eating disorder service, it was frequently described in inpatients on the ward. I’ve been pondering why this is and how much did I experience it when I was anorexic. I never used to think that my eating disorder was about control, although I now would take that back and I think I did use it if not exactly for control, in order to separate myself from my mother’s abuse and protect myself (and, I thought, others too) from demands, emotions and the dangers I felt they presented.

Perhaps it is logical that counting calories and measuring portions and exercise, forcing yourself to adhere to a punishing regime of starvation and painfully excessive activity in the very weakened physical state of anorexia, requires a strong, almost angry, obsessional drive. Sticking to this above and against all the natural urges of your body to keep you well and nourished, to the point that your body consumes its own muscle for energy, requires a steely determination that must be fuelled from somewhere. This could be seen as rigidity. It could easily spread to other areas of cognition and daily routine.

Certain chemical changes in the brain are thought to contribute to this rigidity as well, I believe. Two studies were conducted in the 1950s, using as participants conscientious objectors to National Service and former prisoners of war. One of these is the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, where starvation was imposed on physically and psychologically healthy participants who had no history of eating disorders. As the participants’ calories were reduced and their weights dropped, their thinking patterns became more rigid and obsessional thought and behaviour patterns emerged. When their calories were no longer restricted, they also became vulnerable to binge-eating. You can read more about Ancel Keys’ Minnesota Study here. (It would be considered highly immoral by today’s standards, although perhaps it is worth bearing in mind that one purpose of the study was in order to find out how to care for and manage re-feeding and weight restoration in victims of starvation in several countries following World War II.)

I am not sure to what extent rigid thinking was a big feature in me when I was severely underweight. Others who knew me at the time might disagree! It was mentioned to me on a couple of occasions.

On further thought, perhaps I did not struggle so much with rigidity over, say, my daily timetable – with the notable exception of excessive exercise, as I forced myself to swim a certain distance a certain number of times per week, until I was so exhausted and weakened that I could no longer move through the water which felt ice cold, my legs cramping, and I would drag myself to the changing rooms with my skin purple and blue, bruises appearing that did not heal and no number of layers of clothing warming me up.

However, if the rigidity was not externalised, it was certainly internal. This is what I think of as the “closing drawbridge” of anorexia that locks up or locks away everything we fear. I’ve talked in previous posts about the blissful, safe numbness of anorexia, ensuring my emotions were in check and flattened, and ensuring the evil I perceived in me was locked away to hurt only me, weaken only me, so that I could not hurt anyone else. Locking up the perceived evil locked up feeling, too. No more panic – just obsessive counting calories, distances, how to hide or avoid food. No more fear – just explicable pain, wonderful blanks and emptiness, safe empty gnawing in my stomach. No need to feel others’ feelings. No need to be hurt or be overwhelmed. Just glorious numb, nothing, whiter. lighter, clearer than before. No needing; no taking; just closing down, separated, apart from everything, locked up safe, pushing away and always succeeding, taking nothing in, frozen.

As a friend pointed out to me recently, emotions take energy, just as physical exertion takes energy, so with vastly insufficient calorie intake, there simply is no energy with which to feel. Despite the lack of energy, the drawbridge was shut tight and closing harder. The further I starved and restricted, paradoxically, tighter shut the door and even stronger came the energy driving me on, not to need, not to feel, not to fear, not to touch anyone or anything.

Coupled with that strength came a desperation never to leave this closed up place and never to need or feel again, to remain unreachable, to keep safe away and to keep everyone else safe away from me. If I could just be sure to hurt myself enough and never to eat, this wonderful place would stay with me. The fear of everything the drawbridge kept away joined the energy and both drove me harder and deeper into the numb place of anorexia.

Combined with my mother’s illness and abusive actions, there was no shortage of reinforcement from the outside that this numb place was good. The only period of my life in which my mother’s emotional abuse and threats reduced and in which she was even caring towards me, in which interactions with her were free of threats and scorn and twisted statements about the harm I was doing to her and my father, was when I was severely underweight with anorexia so severe it was probably life threatening. I was no longer a danger and no longer seemed to be so evil. I even thought perhaps she loved me. I even dared to hope perhaps the evil thing I was sure was in me and that came out and hurt and controlled and deceived everyone, was gone. If I could just stay like this, perhaps it wouldn’t come back. On the other hand with the drawbridge tight shut my body was mine as well, only mine, and the anorexia was mine, and she would never come near me again, literally never touch me again.

(Perhaps that was the one thing that was eventually true in all my twisted anorexic thinking. She did abuse me sexually during the anorexia but afterwards, she didn’t ever abuse me sexually again.)

Until I started to eat again and weight restore, there was only one thing that cut through my rigid defences, and that was singing. I’m not a particularly good singer but I was in a musical at my school (more because I used to be able to dance, than for my voice, I think!) and afterwards I took singing lessons, which were about the only part of my later school years that was enjoyable. Although I enjoyed singing, during the anorexia I would find that the music had a peculiar effect. We didn’t usually sing particularly emotive songs but I would often find music bringing me to want to cry or causing a strange twisting feeling of unease inside me, as though it was draining away the rigid kind of energy but I wouldn’t let it go. My mother prevented me seeking any professional help for my eating disorder but the only two people to whom I did talk about it honestly at all at school were my singing teacher and my art teacher. (My swimming coach was also very concerned about me and to some extent I did talk to her but, for some reason, although I knew she cared and was a safe person to trust, I was never able to be truthful to her, I think because in some way I feared hurting or disappointing her too much.) I don’t know why music and to some extent art, broke through the rigid protective mechanisms, but it did. I know that music can be very helpful in therapy for people with various conditions, including dementia and depression. I’ve never read about it in relation to anorexia but that might be something I should look into!

The struggles I have with overpowering, overwhelming emotions in my Borderline Personality Disorder, are the complete opposite of the protective place I entered in my anorexia, and they are an excess of feeling and needing which are probably, actually everything I feared. If I’m honest the numb place was safer. I’ve long lost the way back there and lost the key to the drawbridge and I hate that and I’ll admit that in the worst times, when I really hate myself and everything I feel and need, I wish I could return and it’s hardest at these times to try not to punish myself with cutting or purging. I’m trying to learn how to choose life and staying connected to other people – and to my body and my emotions – without the unbearable and dangerous becoming all that there is.

Ginny xx

How often do you “need” to spend time with others?

I’ve been trying for a long time to arrange to meet to catch up with a particular friend. We used to be close and live in the same city, but we haven’t met since a very brief meeting at Christmas, and before then the last time we met was at a an event at her Church in September. I miss her a lot and have been feeling very sad that we live so close but meet a handful of times a year and never in such a way we can catch up properly.

Part of the reason we don’t is that she has a family now, including young children, and I completely understand and agree that family comes first before friends. Still I’m sad to see her so very little – and also (and this is a big part of my feeling) worried for her. She gives all her time to her children and various numerous volunteer works at her church and parish. She home-schools her two older children. She almost never suggests meeting up, she never seems to socialise except for seeing other mothers at home-ed groups, and she told me she hasn’t met up with a friend for over a year. She never takes any time for herself and she does not seem to have any desire to socialise.

Should I be worried about her? I am, very. I feel like she must be so tired and drained and stressed and never have a moment to take care of herself or do something she wants to. Most of all I fear she never has any time that really is for talking and sharing with her friends. I know I wouldn’t be able to cope with even one day of her schedule let alone the foreseeable future.

I think she is amazingly strong, dedicated and generous to her family and she is responsive to their every need (let alone all the time she volunteers). She has clearly made big sacrifices. She says she loves it and never feels the need for any break or to see any one. I just can’t see how she can possibly be well or happy and it seems really isolating to have so little contact with others.

At first I was hurt that she had no interest in meeting – i made no end of suggestions and she declined them all and didn’t suggest any alternatives and pretty much said she doesn’t do that kind of thing. I was lonely and upset already and I’m sad that we are no longer close friends. She really matters to me and I care for her and miss her. There’s only so much you can keep a friendship going and only so close you can be when you only text message and email. And I’m worried for her welfare, as I said.

Perhaps I should just accept that she says she’s happy and she is. It got me thinking, perhaps it’s a difference of personality. She’s happy not to leave the house for several days at times, whereas I usually feel compelled to go outside, see the outdoors, be around people,  even if I’m not meeting or speaking to anyone (except when I’m very low and not going out is then a sign I’m very unwell). Meeting up with someone is of no interest to her, whereas it’s very important to me, although there are few people I trust and am able to be with at the moment. That probably is a particularly bad combination and makes me particularly needy with the few people I do trust! I need time alone too and have times it’s all too much but loneliness is a big struggle for me. So I’d silence, which is another thing she loves. Perhaps it’s as impossible for her to understand my needs, or values in a relationship, as it is for me to understand hers and how she can be well and happy in her current situation.

I wonder whether she doesn’t value meeting in person, spending time together in friendship, catching up, doing some things for herself outside the family and so on? Or does she just need less of them?

This got me thinking, do we all have such very different needs firstly for contact with other people, and secondly beyond that, what I somewhat inadequately call deeper or more meaningful interactions (a good conversation with a friend you trust and can be “real” with,  as opposed to eg a passing interaction in a shop or talking to a work colleague – all are important but I know I very much need to be able to share how things really are sometimes, not just keep up the acceptable businesslike front where I seem to be well and in control of myself! ).

What do you find that you need? What is important to you in a friendship? How do we know which is normal?! I think my therapist would say that’s one of those questions where there isn’t a definite answer right or wrong. … I’m left wondering in this friendship,  firstly if she’s really okay or not and then how can I be there for her, when she has no interest in regular contact? How do we keep up a friendship with someone whose values here are very different from ours?

Ginny xxx

Fat, and hot, and horrible.

The hardest thing about the quetiapine (and venlafaxine maybe, though I attribute it more to the quetiapine) and clonazepam is what it’s done to my body, or rather what I’ve let happen.

Fat. Disgusting. Sweating and hot (that’s the pain meds too I guess). Conscious of my expanded body. I have gained so much weight in the last couple of years. And I’ve let it happen. It’s true the drugs make you gain weight and increase your appetite, but I’ve failed. I haven’t stopped it.

I’m repulsed when I pass a mirror and see the foul reflection, bigger and bigger; when I feel the flab around my stomach and waist, the one thing I used to be able to keep flat and small even if I did have chunky thighs I hid under skirts. It’s everywhere. Crawling disgusting flesh and fat.

Why did I let it? Why? Why did I return to this demanding sick big disgusting body? I want to rip and claw and cut. It’s out of control. It’s all wrong. Growing and needing and hungry and hurting inside and out, aching within, stabbing in my stomach, darts and shooting burning pains as my feet touch the ground and my joints feel like they’ve been smashed and bruised.

Failure. Why. Hate. Hate hate hate this growing sick too big too present body. Even in my dreams I’m fat fat fat, running and clawing to get out of my body. My mother is there, shouting and mocking and threatening and I wake up drenched in sweat and shaking because the nightmare is real now. I couldn’t save her and the foul thing I am stares back at me out of every mirror.

And I cry.

Telling

Telling

On Tuesday I made my statement reporting the years of emotional and sexual abuse from my mother. Two officers were with me for about 3 hours. There were a lot of preliminary questions and forms to complete then my statement was recorded by a small camera. The recording itself may be used in evidence, and a transcript will be typed.

It was a bit surreal at first, but the anxiety was rising in my throat and pumping through my whole body. I thought it would consume me and I would not be able to speak. The officer stated the date, time, place, who was present. Rather like on TV shows, except this was real. Then I spoke. I spoke for about 50 minutes with just a few breaks and questions, then there came more questions at the end.

The officers were incredibly kind and compassionate and made the process as “best” as it could be in this situation. It did make a difference. They were respectful, and gentle, and had empathy for the impact and the cost of speaking. I know from what readers have shared in the comments on other posts that this is not everyone’s experience of reporting this kind of crime to the police. How I wish it was.

Right now I feel shattered, like the picture. I’m so tired. Every joint feels as though it has been smashed with a hammer. At the end of the day at work today, my legs are hurting so much I can only walk very slowly and my feet recoil from the ground. Partly it’s the fibromyalgia and arthritis. Partly the stress, I’m sure.

It’s as if I don’t really know how to stand right now. I know that it was the right thing to do and that I needed to give this statement. Yet those 3 hours change everything.

Suddenly those “touches”, those words, the coercion, the threats, the violence, are unquestionably crimes. A substantial chunk of my childhood written, taped, recorded, in a couple of hours. What happened was no longer sickness (or no longer only sickness). No longer to be excused. No longer misunderstanding or as she sometimes claimed, the product of her fear. It was a crime. In the police’s words I am the victim of her crime. My mind is shattered, too, try to understand this concept….

Ginny xx