Working, eating, breathing, being

progress

Wow…time has flown by since I last wrote at the beginning of January.

I got a job. Not necessarily the ‘best’ job, or my ‘dream job’, but a job none the less. I’m thrilled and I’m terrified, because with this next step comes a bundle of anxieties that I recognise from every other job I’ve ever had, every other change I’ve ever made, every other challenge I’ve ever faced: You suck. You’re stupid, you’re incompetent, everybody thinks you’re an idiot. You can’t do it. You shouldn’t be here. Go kill yourself. Just, whoosh- all the negativity spewing forth from my head before I even signed the paperwork.

Well, fuck that. I can do it, in fact I *am* doing it, every day- yup, full time work, another scary concept for me. I’m learning, and sitting with the scariness of not knowing all the answers, and dealing with the social anxiety of meeting lots of new people. Trying to translate an honours degree in social work into the reality of social work, in a speciality that I know hardly anything about = really fucking scared. Two weeks in, I’m still running on adrenaline and fear but I’m functioning, non-one has told me I shouldn’t be there and the world has kept turning. So screw you, head noise.  

Working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (with a really long commute on top of that) has forced my body into a decent eating routine- I’m managing breakfast, lunch (in front of work colleagues!!!) and a couple of snacks most weekdays. That’s more regular and ‘normal’ than I have been for YEARS. It’s not perfect because I’m not perfect, nobody is perfect, fuck being perfect. It’s still an achievement, and it’s good enough for now. Quick oats, toasted sanwiches, muesli bars and bulk cook-ups of soup are my recovery aides right now. Staying away from any sort of restrictive diet or notion of ‘clean eating’ is also helping my sanity levels. I’m doing what I can, the best way that I can, when I can. I am enough.

A counsellor from a previous therapy group (RIPE, check them out) is running very gentle, body-positive and restorative yoga that is really helping me to manage the head noise, if only for an hour a week. It was perfect timing, the kind of thing that makes me believe in the ‘workings of the universe’- start stressful job, win free place in yoga course- and the gentle reminders to breathe, be still and be kind are just what I need at the moment.

So- I’m doing well. I’m scared and I’m shaky and I’m feeling pushed but I’m managing. I’ll take that, thank you.

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Slow and Steady in 2014

WordPress have been sending me emails reminding (pushing?) me to renew my subscription, and I’ve been tossing up whether or not to keep blogging, but have decided, yup, another year of regular written self-reflection is a good idea. I do this for me, and sometimes other people chime in and that’s fine.

New Year was spent down the coast with lovely people, good food, swimming, chilling out, doing crosswords. It was really relaxing and there was none of the pressure I’ve felt previously to ‘do something big’ for New Year’s eve.  I appreciated the beauty of where I was and the blessings of the wonderful people around me.

I made two resolutions about food/ eating, trying to keep them small and manageable, not be overwhelmed by eating disorder or negative voice thoughts like ‘lose half my body weight’.  They are

1) Aim to eat breakfast every day and

2) Store and eat food in the kitchen, not in my room.

The second one is definitely harder. I’ve got a tendency to hoard food and binge on it in private. It’s something I’ve done since I was ten years old, scared, finding comfort in food and solitude. It’s a dodgy justification/ denial mechanism,  ‘if nobody else can see it’s not happening’. I also have a whole lot of shame tied up in eating or feeding myself, I don’t feel I deserve to eat things…so this is trying to chip away at that, even a little bit of progress is better than none.

The breakfast eating…I can do it, and I’ve done it before, but I really have to push myself. Much easier to roll over in bed and sleep the extra 15 minutes, or say ‘I’m not hungry’ or whatever. There is something psychologically helpful in eating at least one  ‘set’ meal in a day though, and getting it over and done with. At the moment I’m doing instant oats and yoghurt, and struggling, but just gotta Keep. On. Going.

From Monday onwards I’ll be back into the job application routine, and hopefully getting responses/ interviews. I’ve been taking driving lessons more intensively over the holidays and feeling slightly less terrified. I suspect it- driving, job hunting- will take longer than I’d like though, and I just have to accept that. I don’t normally ‘do’ horoscopes but yesterday’s one in the Age felt fitting:

What this year has to teach you is deep. And wonderful. And can’t be rushed. You’ll meet your demons face to face and learn to handle them with grace. Your key operating strategy is pace, not race. As in slowing down and finding the right timing. Recommended reading is Aesop’s fable to the tortoise and the hare.

Going slowly is not my favourite thing, nor am I great at waiting or accepting things gracefully. But I can handle a challenge or ten, and if that’s what this year has in store, then bring it on. Slowly.

Slow and steady...

Slow and steady…

 

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Milestones and stumbling blocks

I’ve finished! I can now call myself a Social Worker, with the piece of paper to prove it, the transcript that shows four years worth of courses and late-night essays and months of placements. Done!

Sooo….what now? Who am I, if I’m not a student anymore? So much of my identity was (is) wrapped up in being a high-achieving, HD-scoring, super-involved student. I will graduate with 1st class honours and a string of extra credits, but no job. What?! That wasn’t the plan! I’ve been looking for jobs since September, because ‘obviously’, in my high achiever, go go go mind, I wasn’t going to take a break after study. I was going to finish, graduate and get right onto changing the world.

WELL. That hasn’t happened.  My perfect transcript doesn’t really count for much, in fact, many community sector jobs list qualifications as ‘desirible’ rather than ‘essential’. Which is depressing given I have been at uni for 4 years and have a $20k debt. Then there’s the driving thing. Apparently, being a social worker is not about people skills, or advocacy, or supporting people through the shitty times in life: it’s driving clients from A to B. Again, a four year degree to…drive people to Centrelink? About 90% of ads list a driver’s licence as essential, and regardless of whether that’s true or not, I don’t drive yet. Thanks, epilepsy. I’ve had two job offers retracted because, despite clearly stating this fact, people don’t register it. It’s like a foreign concept, like not driving is equivalent to being unqualified.  ‘Oh…we just assumed you could drive…oh yes I see it’s written here…well, sorry. Come back when you have a licence’. Part of me wants to scream, “DISCRIMINATION!’ in their faces, but the reality is that I’m a new graduate and they know I’m not going to make waves about it.

It is so FRUSTRATING. I’m so ready for this, I’ve worked so hard, I want to be out there using my skills and just…nothing. Well meaning people say things like, ‘your time will come’ or ‘just think of these stumbling blocks as stepping stones’, and I want to scream. I’ve never been in this situation before. Everything I’ve set my mind to, I’ve worked hard for and gotten it- jobs, scholarships, everything. It’s really hard not to spiral into self loathing- what’s wrong with me? Why are other people getting jobs and not me? I’m a failure.

I may well be unemployed for the next few months, until I- hopefully, all things going to plan (huh)- get my licence in March. I don’t know how I’m going to cope with that. I’m a lot more resilient that I was just a year or so ago, but it still hurts like hell, and I still feel useless and out of control. I’ll keep churning out applications and hopefully get one of the rare-as-hen’s-teeth jobs that don’t require driving. I hate having to rely on hope and the discretion of others instead of skill and experience, it makes me feel completely shit and more disempowered than ever. But I don’t have a choice.

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Photos

I hate them. I hate having to look at my body, I hate that they record me at this weight, I hate that other people will see and (I think) judge them. I hate the noise it creates in my head every time I see a picture of myself. I hate how every occasion is ruined by looking back at photos, zeroing in on my body and instantly wishing I was dead. I hate being torn by wanting to celebrate things, wanting to be with friends, wanting to document another day in the world verses knowing how utterly shit it makes me feel to look at them.

So often I offer to be the one taking the photo, as a way of being out of the picture. That works well, mostly. It has left gaping holes in my history, though. The last picture of myself that I can look at and appreciate is when I was about 8, just before I was diagnosed with epilepsy, playing in the surf at Byron Bay. Then- nothing. I have about 30 photos from the ages of 12-21. I hate them, although I also have the double shame of looking at them and knowing how much more I weigh now, and thinking, ‘If I was fat then….’.

All I see is fat, awkwardness, sadness, eyes that never look straight, too many chins, bulging breasts…it goes on. On and on and ON and I just want to rip them all to tiny pieces and retreat from the world and never leave the hosue ever again. Being in the world and knowing, even more acutely, that people are looking at me and seeing my weight, nothing else. It makes my skin crawl with…what? Shame, embarrassment, loathing? I don’t quite know what to call it but it makes me feel like killing myself. Photos reduce me to only my external body, to the thing I hate most about myself.

I am trying harder now to suck it up and be in pictures, even though it makes me feel so fucking horrible right now. I want to be able to show my children pictures of myself when I was young. Fuck, I want them to be free of this awful self loathing, no matter what their size or shape.  But it is so. fucking. hard. to be visible in this way.

I am crying now as I write this. I have just had a wonderful weekend away with friends. We went camping in a beautiful secluded spot on the coast. Swimming, walking, talking, card games, fires. I didn’t feel out of place, or like people resented me, or like I was taking up too much space- I was free of all that day-to-day, normal life shit. But then- the photos. The photos that other people took to make memories of a great weekend, I am now crying over, grabbing at my excess flesh, desperate to purge, wanting to cut. I HATE MYSELF. I hate the way I look, I hate the way my disgustingness is captured. I hate it.

What is the solution to this? I hate the photos of myself at 12, 50 kilos lighter than now. I hate the group photos that I have been coerced into, hiding at the back, desperate to disguise as much as possible of my body. I hate how every year I blow on candles and wish to magically become ‘thin’, whatever the fuck that is, and as if it were as simple as that, as I say ‘No, no, let me take the photo’. I hate the knowledge that I will keep being in photos- my upcoming graduation comes to mind- and keep having to be reminded of what I look like.

I know that this most recent photo will send me into a spiral of starving and binging, purging, binging again. I know that I will come up with meticulous diet and exercise plans, promise myself that I will stick to them, this time. All the while also knowing that it will never change, if I keep doing it this way. ‘Mad is he who repeats the same process while expecting a different outcome’.

There’s no neat ending to this post. What can I say to male myself feel better, with this most recent image burnt onto my brain, with the voice in my head loud and on repeat, you disgusting pice of shit. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

 

 

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On Feeding Myself

I just bought ingredients, made a meal and ate it. Part of me knows this shouldn’t be a big deal, not worthy of a blog post, but actually, it is. For the ‘me’ who is living with disordered eating, for all those meals on all those days where I have let the Negative Voice take over and either starved or binged: marking occasions where exceptions occur is really important. I gathered, I cooked, I ate. The world did not stop spinning.

The meal itself was pasta with tuna and pesto, and a side of broccoli. It was walking through the early night under a dark blue sky to the supermarket. It was feeling the anxiety rise inside me every time I saw people approaching, for we are reminded over and over again, this part of the world is not a place where women should walk alone . It was saying to myself, well fuck that shit, I have every right to walk these streets and why don’t they ever write about the place where most of the violence really happens, the home, in every suburb?

In the supermarket, people gather alcohol, chips, dips- things to take to parties. The AFL grand final has just been played, the streets are colourful with the paraphernalia of opposing teams.  People are gathering in celebration or just because it’s what we do, as Melbournians, on this day in September. I am not going to a party but I don’t care. I am going to cook, and eat. I have every right to eat. 

On the way home the Negative Voice berates me over food choices. Pesto is full of oil, pasta is carbohydrates, carbohydrates are bad, fishing for tuna kills dolphins…She is desperate, grasping at straws, trying to rise against this unfamiler experience of me taking care of myself. I picked the can of tuna where the label says ‘responsibly caught’ but that is not the point: I have every right to eat.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about nurture lately, about my experiences as a kid but mostly about now, as an adult, how I can chose to care for myself. If that little girl  was standing in front of me, the one who needed love and protection and reassurance that she was absolutely not as hideous as she thought she was, what would I say? What would I do? Would I tell her she wasn’t allowed to eat?

The pasta water bubbles and I chop and grate and stir, and there it is, simple, a one pot dish. This is not hard to do and yet society makes it out to be. You must eat this food, or these ones, at this time only, cooked in this way, you’re doing it wrong, buy this magazine, watch this show. Maybe all those people on Instagram with their carefully crafted pictures just want acknowledgement that they too have managed, today, to feed themselves.

I eat the food, quickly, as though somebody might take it away from me at any moment. I eat it secretly, in my room, as I have been doing for years. I enjoy it though, and I enjoy the feeling of having made it myself. I won this round, Negative Voice. I have every right to eat. 

 

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School Holiday Train Rides

I love commuting in the school holidays- there are less sad looking adults in suits, and more curious little people making observations of the world.

 

Four year old girl dressed in pink everything: Mum mum mum mumumumMUM!

Mother: Yes, what?

Girl, pointing at me incredulously: That girl has pink hair, Mum

Mother: Don’t point darling, it’s rude.

Girl: Can I have pink hair?

Mother: Not today

Girl: Well, what about next week?

 

Going past Royal Park/ Zoo train station

Mum: Look boys, that’s the zoo, where the giraffes live

Boy 1: Ooooh

Boy 2: Hmmph

Mum: What’s wrong with you?

Boy 2, grumpily and loudly: I’m EXASPERATED.

Me: That’s a big word for a little person to use

Boy 2: I’m NOT little. I’m FIVE.

Another commuter (to me): You’ve been told.

 

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Well Hello, September

So, it’s been a while since I wrote. Things have happened. People have come and gone. I’m almost through my final placement, therefore almost a Fully Fledged Social Worker (TM). I’m shit scared, feel like I don’t know anything, hate that feeling. I must know everything and have all the answers ready all the time must be perfect always…Oh hey, Negative Voice. I’m actually going really well in the placement and hitting all the benchmarks easily and getting really good feedback from clients and co-workers and teachers, and part of me knows this- a small part of me, somewhere inside me- and the rest of me is like oh fuck maybe today will be the day when they all realise I’m a massive fuck up and they’re going to kick me out. 

Whooo! Anxiety! Fun times!

And I eat and eat and eat and make myself sick and wipe my face down with acidic toner that stings as it mixes with my tears. I say, no never again, never again, and within hours I’m there, but not really there, floating outside myself, watching myself as I do it all over again. Again.  And I wake up crying in the middle of the night, can’t breathe, my chest is tight. And the hours pass and the light comes through the window and (most days) I force myself out of bed to keep up the act.

How are you going?, they ask, not really wanting to know.  Tired, I say. Always tired.

It’s not all bad. If I can manage to stop and breathe, I realise that I am OK. The world is not as bad as my head would have me believe, am not as bad as she would have me belive. Things are getting done. Friendships are being nourished, plans are being made, the degree is so close to completion I can almost touch it.

Just gotta keep going.

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