Monthly Archives: April 2012

Good Enough For Now

I started this blog with the intention of going through the Beautiful You book, working through each exercise daily to help improve my relationship with my body.

Well, it hasn’t quite turned out like that. Most days I don’t feel in control of my Logical Mind enough to contemplate and reflect in the ways required for the exercises. Most days I wake up each morning and I want to die- but I keep going despite that feeling.

And I guess that’s what this space has become. It’s a recording of getting through each day. Some days are wonderful and I write about those to make sure I remember them. Most days are not wonderful- they are really hard, a battle against the constantly  invading Negative Voice. But if I make it through, and sit and think about it, I can usually find at least one thing that was worth being alive for. One thing that made me glad to have fought through that initial waking thought, got up, kept going. It is these things, built up day after day, that help me resist turning suicidal thoughts into suicidal actions. It’s still a really tough place to be living in, but it keeps me in the world. It’s not exactly good but it’s good enough.

So I’m sorry if you found this blog thinking it would be about Beautiful You. I think I jumped in a bit quickly on that one. I hope one day I will be in a place where I have the mental space to do something as structured as that. For the moment though, life is not about cultivating body positivity so much as working incredibly hard just to survive in my body each day. Which is good enough for now.

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Trying To Understand

I’m so ANGRY at my body for not doing what it needs to do to lose weight. Giving in so easily. So weak and useless and clumsy and huge. And my head for relying on the idea of suicide and a coma as ways of losing weight. Not being able to deal with living while changing. What a fuck up.

Just angry at yourself?

Yes. No. I think I’m angry at them too, for not protecting me during those times. I mean my body didn’t do enough but why was I even in those situations in the first place?  And why was I allowed to be hurt so badly? Why aren’t those people being punished for what they did?

Because obviously you’re not worth anything to anybody, you fat piece of shit. 

No. NO. That voice has to come from somewhere else. I know what I sound like, who I am, and that’s not me. Neg Voice been there for so long that it’s hard to separate her out from the rest of me, but she is separate. She comes out when I try to feel anything hard about the past, to squash it down again and try to make it all about my body.

So what else do you feel then?

I think it’s more sadness than anger. Sad for myself that I wasn’t protected from her, that I wasn’t able to depend on anyone or reach out or make it stop. Frustrated that she had such a hold over me and everyone else, and that she still does even though she’s interstate. I say that I don’t think about it or care about her but I do. The assault in August 2001 was like…a bottle of bleach being poured onto a deep open wound, but the patterns of abuse were already so well established that it didn’t really matter. Does that make sense? What he did, what she was doing, what they weren’t doing, it all kind of just blurred into one continuous attack on me, on my body. I had no way of dealing with it and I didn’t trust that anyone else would care enough to do anything, so I just left it open for people to throw more acid on. So long as I float above it, squash it down, numb it with food or starving or being in a coma or whatever, it’s OK because I don’t have to feel it.

But now I’m trying to work on it, trying to accept the idea that I have worth, that my body is worthy of care. It means being in my body, feeding it regularly, feeling it, putting protective barriers around it. Defining myself as me not as the Neg Voice defines me, not as ‘the fat useless one’ or as ‘dumping ground’. I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even know if I can do that.

So you’re scared?

Yes, genius. I’m fucking terrified. I’m fearful of staying like this forever- despising myself, stuck in the binge/purge/starve cycle, being isolated, never connecting to anyone because they might hurt me- but I’m even more scared of trying to change and having to feel everything and having to look after myself and live in my body in the world.

What are you going to do now?

I want to curl up in under a pile of blankets and sleep forever. I want to starve until I waste away and kill myself. I want to binge and binge until my body explodes. I want to slash at my body and get all the awful things out of it and finally be free of them. I want to overdose and numb everything out for a while.

Yes, but what are you actually going to do? 

Go for a walk in the rain, come back and make a cup of Lady Grey, work on my assignment while listening to calm music, go to sleep.

Well there you go kiddo, that’s living. You’re doing it. 

Piss off. Go and sit in someone else’s traumatised brain for a while.

Glad to be of service. Therapy Fairy, signing out.  

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Peace Amongst The Mountains

Yesterday was a public holiday here, where we remember wars and make a certain type of biscuit. As a person who hates glorifying wars and doesn’t really link them to Australia being a ‘free’ country, I usually just appreciate the extra sleep. This year, however, I’m training for a trip to Nepal, so the sleep-in was swapped for an early morning trip to the Dandenongs (a mountain range to the east of Melbourne) for some hardcore hill climbing practice.

The photo above captures wonderfully what it was like yesterday- ancient trees and ferns shrouded in mist. I don’t get out to the Dandies much because it’s a long way and the transport is so bad, but every time I do make it there, I am stunned by how beautiful it is. It rained the whole day but even that couldn’t take away from the magical feeling of being in a place that was there long before you, and will remain long after you die. I tend to lose that perspective, get so caught up in my own everyday crap that I forget about the wider, older world that we live in. Being dwarfed by trees that are older than white Australian settlement is a good reminder, your life is but a tiny dot in the timeline, a minuscule speck in the universe.

It was a hard walk. I can be an ‘internal walker’, putting my head down and getting on with it, one foot in front of the other. Especially in the training I’ve been doing  recently around the suburban streets, it’s been all about going further, getting fitter, going harder, getting thinner. This walk was one where I had to be aware of my surroundings, be in my body not my head, or else I’d fall on my arse. And once I started looking around, the walking was still hard, but so much more enjoyable. Who woulda thunk it?

Yesterday I was amongst trees not people, silence not judgements. My body was made tiny and insignificant amongst wild, beautiful surroundings. My head was engaged, but not the Negative Voice, my head. I was 100% within my body. It’s been so long since I’ve felt like this, I had to write it out to recognise what the feelings were.

I felt grounded in my body, held by the earth and the trees. I got a glimpse of what I want my future to look like. I felt grateful that I was still alive and part of the world. 

I felt at peace with myself. 

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Sarah And The Scarf

I’m writing this huddled under a mess of blankets and heat packs and layers of clothing because real autumn has finally hit, and it is cold. I actually love this time of year, despite living in a typical no-insulation, gaps-in-the-walls share house . I find it much easier to dress my body for cold weather. Today I got to wear a woollen scarf without overheating and it made me happy, far happier than the situation warranted!

It was a uni day today. Social Work, third year, first semester. We go on our first placement soon and there’s a lot of anxiety and tension hanging above the group. I’m not too worried about placement because- having worked in the sector quite a bit already, and having been involved as a client- it doesn’t hold the same feeling of diving headfirst into the unknown that it does for many of the others. So yippee, one less thing to obsess and worry over.

Then today I got a shock. It was a class focusing on crisis counselling and interventions. The case scenario was of ‘Sarah’, a young woman with an extensive history of surviving physical and emotional abuse, including a sexual assault when she was in her early teens. Sarah had been tossed around out of home care and psychiatric hospital systems, she was doing sex work to support a heroin habit, she lived in a boarding house. Sarah had never known what it was like to be cared for and she didn’t trust anyone. We had to act either as ‘Sarah’ or as workers who had met her once before she called, six months later, having just taken an overdose and needing immediate help.

Sarah’s story is not mine, but there were enough similarities that she got under my skin. From a worker perspective it was a positive because I was able to ask questions from a place of both theoretical knowledge and lived/ intuitive experience. But I felt myself struggling to come back into the present when I finished roleplaying her, and I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon. It’s such a fine line, trying to empathise with clients while also holding my own boundaries and staying in the present. This is not my story. I am here. Listening. Breathing. Connecting, not falling back into the past. After today I am more worried about whether or not I’ll be able to hold myself in this way during placement.

This is where the scarf comes in. As both a client and a worker I like to have something on me that I can touch/ feel to remind me that I am in the present. So I use necklaces, bracelets, scarves. People know me by my necklaces! Today I was wearing a beautiful possum/ merino wool scarf that I bought in New Zealand last year. It’s soft and comforting and makes me feel good. These kind of ’emotional touchstones’ have been great thus far, doing telephone support work. I’m going to have to figure out a way of being more discrete about it as I move to doing more face-to-face client work. But I quite like having that dilemma because it reminds me that I am a student, still learning, and that it’s OK to discover these strategies as I go along. Phew. Breathe out.

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Fat Freak In The Circus, Again.

I did my first acrobalance class of the year tonight. So far I’ve only been doing New Women classes. I’m happy to report that the atmosphere and ‘vibe’ of the classes doesn’t differ too much- lots of games, lots of laughs, ‘just give it a go and don’t worry if you fall’ kinda feeling. This is a great reflection on the trainer, who is really committed to making the class work for everyone, no matter what their body or their skill level. She is very funny but kept us all focused.

But I still feel pretty awful. I don’t know any of these women. I don’t judge their bodies or laugh at them if they can’t do a skill. But what do they think of YOU? screams the Negative Voice. I bet they think you’re disgusting. You’re the fattest person in the class. You’re clumsy and you stink and you should just give it up now. You can come back when you’re thin. 

I want to fight back but I don’t feel strong enough today. I didn’t eat all day. I thought that would shut up the Neg Voice but it just made me hungry and jittery after the food of the weekend, my body confused as to why it wasn’t being fed again.  I did two hours of stretching and running around and using my stomach muscles to hold other people up in the air. I walked quickly through the freezing air because Footscray at night creeps me out. I’m sore and exhausted but she won’t shut up.

I’m never enough.

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Living in Isolation

 

 

I ate last night, and I’ve eaten today. All the situations I’ve had food were ones when I was catching up with friends or family- juice box and water after a walk with mum yesterday, curry and cake, ice cream and fruit for a dinner with friends last night, pita breakfast wrap with dad this afternoon. I’ve been making up excuses to avoid eating and socialising for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday I just cracked. Now I’m paying for it. I feel like shit. I feel weak and stupid and ashamed for breaking.  I feel like I have to choose between having a social life or having a body that I can stand living in.

Last time I was starving like this, I was twelve and I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t have a job or go out to parties or play team sports. I didn’t invite friends home at all because home was a really awful place to be. I did everything I could to avoid most of my family. Basically I was a loner and that suited the Neg Voice just fine, because the weird eating patterns required for this ‘thing’ (eating disorder? survival mechanism? distraction from reality?) basically went unchallenged. A little lie here and there, occasionally hiding food, no big deal.

My life is different now. Yay for not being twelve anymore, and never having to be twelve or in be in high school or live at home ever again. I go to university. I work and volunteer. I talk to people and get involved in things and generally live rather than simply existing. One of the few things hanging over from that childhood time and into life now however- one of the last barriers to ‘growing up and getting on with life’- is that I still despise my body. And I still use food (or lack of it), in varying ways and with varying severity, as my way of coping.

I treasure the large circle of friends I’ve built up since coming into adulthood. They represent all the different intersecting aspects of my life- university, work and volunteering colleagues; current and former housies; circus friends; netball team-mates; people in the queer community; fellow activists; old and dear friends who I’ve known since childhood. I like going to events and parties with these people. I love talking to them and hearing about their lives and experiencing the world with them.

But can you see? All these social interactions, all the people and activities in my life that make me feel good, they all involve a degree of food and eating as a way of connecting. It’s a basic social convention to get together with people and share food with them. So when I’m starving and restricting, I can’t do that. I just can’t do it without feeling totally shit. There was a brief window last night- when my body was basically singing with gratitude about finally getting some decent nutrients after so long- where I could ‘see’ how much more alive and interactive I was I was with a bit of food in me. It was like I was high. But high on life, not high on starvation, which is a foggier, more jittery state.

It was so brief, and I can’t see it now. All I can think now is oh shit oh shit oh shit why did I eat I’m an idiot. I just want go be back to being empty. But only the pure, strong emptiness that comes with starvation is good enough now- not bulimia, the kind of fake, dirty ‘cheat’s way out’ empty. The Neg Voice is really really loud. You COMMITTED to this! You said you wanted not to feel anything! You are so WEAK. If you want to do this you have to put up with isolation. Who would even WANT to be with you? You’re DISGUSTING. 

And that’s how it seems to be. It was easy to live in an isolated way at twelve. It’s so much harder now but I’m just going to have to become better at negotiating it. Because starving and restricting are the only things that make me feel OK.  Starving does things for me that friends and other interaction can’t do. It makes me empty, makes it really easy to focus on the present. Just hold on one more hour until you eat. Now you’ve done that, you can do another hour. You can do it. It blankets over the trauma so I don’t have to be confronted by it every day. It keeps me floating above myself rather than living in this awful body, which is good, because I don’t think I can cope any other way.

 

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