Tag: purging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginny xxx

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Exercise without returning to extremes

WARNING – this post discusses weight loss and eating disorders

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

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

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

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

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

Ginny xxx

One massive punch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginny xxx

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

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ginny xxx

Laundry, hot dogs and tiny steps….

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

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

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

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

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

Ginny xxx

 

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry: too much; too big

 

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry

Eating disorders and personality disorder

My body becoming too much

WARNING: this post contains potentially triggering content on the topic of eating disorders, weight, body image and emotions. Please proceed with caution. Please note that in this post I express my distressed thoughts about my body and the relationship between my body, needs, emotions and relationships. I’m aware that a lot of these thoughts are part of my personality disorder and historic eating disorders. I am not advocating or encouraging these perceptions and feelings but describing what the process of trying to live with my body and face emotions is like. I think the stage of therapy I’m going through is bringing a lot of this distress to the surface. 

My body is changing. It’s out of my control (or so it feels, though the angry punishing eating disordered voice in my head says it’s me that’s out of control – disgusting fat b*tch – and my own disgusting failure).

I have gained so much weight in the past 2 years. I have tried hard in the last few weeks to lose and done all the things that used to be my trusted go-to solutions, with the exception of using illicit medications. I have failed and no matter that I succeeded in restriction, my weight has hardly dropped. If anything, now I feel more out of control. Sometimes I wonder if any of it is to do with being in my 30s now (quarter aged spread instead of middle aged spread?!) and my mobility being poorer with so much physical pain just now.  But that does nothing to justify the gain or calm me. Many people taking the medications I take report weight gain as a side effect even when restricting.  I think it increases my appetite but I know so does my need for comfort and my lonely emptiness and my…feeling. Feeling that’s dangerous and unchecked and explosive.

Anorexia meant I was never alone. I was cold and numb and empty and hurting, but needs and unbearable feeling stayed where they belonged and I dissociated, living somewhere whiter, higher, safer, always with the twisted pleasure of bitter success in my spiral to greater protection and greater weakness. Anorexia was my companion, that reassured me all would be well if I did not deviate from this path,  spurring me on with wild energy to control and deprive and make dangerous need and demands unreachable. Soon enough I would detach and dissociate totally then maybe disappear.

Anorexia left me. Abandoned me. I failed yet again. Just like my friends, even my family, my protector and guide left me. Found out I was a vile disgusting greedy failure, undeserving of that whiter place. Anorexia too abandoned me, and sped away to a place I can no longer reach, now that it is proved yet again that really the evil inside consumes and demands and if anyone else thinks differently, it’s only that I’ve tricked them into staying and caring. They’ll leave soon, when they find out.

I could take it if it were only for my protection that I needed my friend anorexia. But the thing is, it was to protect everyone else, first and foremost, from the danger and “too much” “too big”that I am. Without my friend I hurt beyond control and I hurt others beyond control.

I look in the mirror and I’m frightened and recoil from what I see. I wish I could rip myself away from the “too much” in the presence that I see, hating every part of the space I occupy, the weight, the body that absolutely does not seem to fit together right and screams too much, too much. I cannot escape. I cannot get rid of this body and these needs. I cannot stop what it contains, the out of control, the demanding, aching. … alone without my friend to starve and cut and numb and leave this place, I cannot stop the damage I will cause to everyone I so care for and so wish to save, protect and love.

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

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #5

A closing drawbridge and a silent cry – Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #5

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder – #5

“You will never touch me”

[I am sorry I have not updated this series for a while!]

In my first period of anorexia, one of the greatest functions of my eating disorder was a kind of defiance and separation. Anorexia definitely changed my personality, or rather, it was often as if there was a separate personality, much stronger than my own, rising inside me and gaining strength as I got thinner. She was strong and defiant and could not be hurt. She could keep me away from everyone and every thing that hurt me.

I was about 15 by this time and had suffered at least 11 years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation. The family unit of my mother, my father and I were increasingly isolated and cut off into my mother’s sick (in both senses of the word) world and anything that tried to penetrate it led to terrible consequences (her sickness, her threats to kill herself, her threats to abandon the family, her threats of breaking up the family or of me causing her and my father to die, be taken away and so on). Anything that posed a risk to the world of her twisted thinking, delusions and manipulation had to be invalidated or removed. Visitors weren’t allowed to come into the home. Any social contact had to be planned and rehearsed beforehand, carried out to Mother’s specifications, reported back to her, analysed against her pre-prepared script. The daily routine had to run exactly according to her needs. She had to be recognised as super-human, a genius that nobody could ever sufficiently understand, the victim of everyone’s cruelty and misunderstanding who was so gracious as to forgive everyone because she “loved” them so much. Appease, pacify, agree, conform….the disaster wouldn’t happen, maybe….

My eating disorder couldn’t appease, pacify, agree or conform. It couldn’t be manipulated or invalidated. My eating disorder could defy, protect, shield, consume, grow stronger, defend, refuse to succumb and refuse to be controlled or analysed by her and even refuse to recognise her at all.

I remember that eventually, as my weight dropped and dropped, even Mother started to worry I was too thin and getting weaker. She’d encouraged my eating disorder at first, requiring my weight loss and dieting and reminding me how ugly I really was. Eventually it snapped out of her control and I think it was the one thing that actually scared her.

One evening, she called me into her bedroom. She told me to get undressed and stand in front of the full-length mirror. She’d done this many times before in order to shame and humiliate me and to slowly and methodically point out all the bits of my body that were bad and “too plump” and “too much fat”. Usually it followed a ritual weighing and reporting of my weight to her, her disbelief and being forced to repeat weighing myself in front of her. Now I flatly refused to weigh myself in front of her, but delighted in doing it in my bedroom in secret (always in exactly the same place, lining the scales up with a particular pair of floorboards) and was satisfied with the thrill of seeing the pounds drop. But for some reason, this day, I did obey her to get undressed and stand in front of the mirror. This time, instead of pointing out the places I was too fat, she pointed out where it showed I was too thin. Even I was shocked when I was forced to look at where the normal shape of my behind had started to flatten and disappear at the base of my spine. She continued telling me I was too thin and how she was worried.

A thrill of power went through me. It was frightening but I had never felt power like that. No, I thought. No. This is my body. All mine and you will never touch me again. In total silence I walked away from the mirror, away from her, out of her bedroom back to mine and got dressed again. I resolved to lose as much more weight as I possibly could and get as sick as I could, because this meant she would never ever touch me again. I hated her at that moment. I don’t think I was thinking of the sexual invasions, specifically (and indeed a lot of them I didn’t even accept as invasions at that time), but of all the hold she had on me and all the hurt. She would never do it again.

I had an awareness, somewhere, that she was worried for me and she was upset, and that my father was too. At that time, the need for the protection and power of my anorexia was much greater. I had become quite a nasty person, disregarding the hurt I was causing people who loved me (my dad loved me, if my mother didn’t). Or the anorexia in me was quite a nasty personality and I was becoming that personality. The power of anorexia was stronger than my usual nature.

Of course, it didn’t really stop me getting hurt, and it hurt lots of other people in the process. Eventually, it was acknowledging my father’s fear of what was happening to me that started to bring me out of this first period of starvation. To this day, I am not quite sure what, at that time, made me acknowledge that and shifted the balance of power towards empathy and reason, and away from the protective force of anorexia.

Ginny xxx

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

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

Protection in emptiness

Eating Disorders and Personality Disorder

Chapter 1 – Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, thank you for reading.

Ginny xx

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

Walking this Borderland #4 : 5 more minutes

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Ginny xx