Tag Archives: Negative Voice

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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Saved By The Evening Sky

 

 

 Saved by the evening sky. My favourite shade of blue, dusk sweeping west and blending with orange to wrap the city into night.

Nausea won me over this morning. It’s something I have everyday,a  side effect of medications, but normally not too bad. I take my epilepsy medications early to try and give it time to settle down before starting the day, but today I was still unable to function at 9am, wave after wave of ‘oh-god-I’m-going-to-vomit-whoops-no-I’m-not’ passing through my tummy. The occasional sharp stabbing pain that I associate with (now long past) laxative abuse. Trying to get vertical but too dizzy to stand. Resigned to bed and a short email to placement, sorry it’s not going to happen today, sorry, sorry again. Guilt, shame, fuck you body I need to be able to DO things, how I hate letting people down, not being able to follow through on my commitments. Close eyes, give in, fade out.

Being able to get out of bed the second I wake up is a very important part of my Don’t Kill Yourself Today plan. If I don’t, the Negative Thoughts take over and everything goes to shit so quickly that I hardly even notice until my real self is buried underneath layers of blankets and doom. So today was kind of a write-off, in that most of it was nauseated hell and the afternoon was just a cycle of thoughts about it being a waste of a day and ergo, me being a waste of space. Delightful inner monologues are (not so) delightful.

I had to get out of the house and out of my head. This is the real hard work for me- not the contemplating, not the therapy, but the action. Standing up to my head, rustling by the fragmented bits of ‘real me’ and giving depressive thoughts a big FUCK YOU by choosing to engage with the broader world.  I got lucky this evening because it was so beautiful, the clear sky and the moon and air cold enough to see my breath as it exhaled, reminding me I was very much alive.  I am alive and here in the world and that’s a good thing. Tomorrow I will get up again, go about my day, look to the sky, notice the colours around me, engage with people, keep doing the hard work…and then probably come here and write about it!

 

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Pick A Colour, Any Colour…

The head noise- the constant, loud, always critical Negative Voice that runs through my mind- was incredibly loud today. I didn’t want to leave the house because it involves scary shit like getting dressed (side issues- being naked, looking in the mirror, having to choose clothes) and being in public (more side issues: taking up space, being looked at, potentially being attacked because of my body size) and doing all these things against a booming inner monologue of YOU SUCK, YOU’RE UGLY, YOU’RE FAT, YOU SMELL is really hard. Too hard, I decided, I’m going to hide in my room all day.

But my friend T called and asked if I could come and hang out in a cafe with her while she studied. We’d had this very conversation the day before- she’s currently finding it hard to focus on her study alone at home, I’ve been finding it hard to leave the house and be in public, so we pledged to help each other out sometime this week. As loud as the Negative Voice is, the part of me that believes in honouring promises and being a good friend won out and I agreed. Also, I suspect T was also trying to help me by metaphorically dragging me out into the world. But that didn’t stop the screaming voice in my head from being just as loud.

Over the past week or so, because of how low my mood is and to keep a eye on my safety, my Wise Woman has been giving me extra support via a daily text message check in (yay, a therapeutic use for i-gadgets!). I feel incredibly ashamed and intrusive for needing extra care but that’s a separate post. The point is, the texting has been really important in keeping me going and today’s was particularly helpful. I was freaking out about being in public and she gave me techniques to use to try and keep me tuned in my body senses and out of the grip of the Neg Voice. Feel the ground under your feet, feel the wind on your face, notice what can you see and hear and smell, pick a colour I’d say red or yellow and see how often you can see it around you.

I’m no stranger to sensory grounding ideas and I’ve tried to use some of them before. But THE COLOUR THING! It’s new to me and it actually works! Focusing in on noting the yellow around me- road signs, a hat, construction worker’s vest, the ticket scanner on the tram, shop signs- got me from home to the cafe (and then through the rest of the day) without me a) thinking about body shit 100% of the time or b) getting run over. I’m serious about being run over, because I’m usually so disconnected from my body that I have daily near misses with cars/ trams/ bikes/ alarmed pedestrians. It also forced me to acknowledge that even on grey days- and it was a pretty miserable winter day in Melbourne today- there is colour and brightness to be found if you look for it.

Once I engaged with my friends, my mood shifted up a bit, as it usually does if I can just make myself get out and do it. I got to do some things I really enjoyed toady- talking to people, having good conversations about life/ the universe/ everything, walking, drinking copious amounts of tea, participating in a circus class- that wouldn’t have happened if I’d given in and hidden at home. And every time I started getting dragged back into my head, I focused on colours. It didn’t necessarily eradicate the noise, but it turned it down enough for me to cope.

That’s how I got through today, which is what my life (and this blog) is primarily about right now. Getting through each day, surviving the nights, dealing with the head noise, trying to get up the courage to do it again tomorrow. Anything that makes that even a tiny bit easier is helpful. So pick a colour, any colour…

Sincere thanks to the Wise Woman, T., L., and the many other people in my life (that includes YOU if you read and comment on this blog!) who are helping me live through this. You’re all awesome and I hope you know it.  

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Not An Option Today

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide talk. I’m not going to kill myself and I really hope you won’t either. Get help now and don’t read on if you think it may be harmful for you.

Long time no write, because I’m trying really hard to keep living from moment to moment, stay alive through the dark nights to get to the next day and do it all again. Because I write lists for myself that say things like ‘1. Get out of bed, 2. Take meds, 3. Try and do something physical’ and most days getting through those tasks takes nearly all of my energy and will. I got through my uni assignments and now I’m on holidays there’s a lot of unscheduled time and Neg Voice jumped straight in and yelled, JUST KILL YOURSELF, you fat ugly disgusting worthless piece of shit and it’s really easy to get sucked into and so so hard to climb out of.

I don’t want to die. I love my life, my course, my friends and family, the career I’m heading into, the thought of children in the future. I want to be here and make a difference in the world. BUT I struggle so much with living my life in my body. If it were ‘me’ in another body that I didn’t loathe so much, it would be different, I tell myself. Would it? Maybe, probably not. All I know that being in my skin is the hardest, most awful day-to-day struggle and the lure of not having to keep doing it is very strong. It’s brain versus body, emotional self verses physical self. I don’t think I can kill myself. There’s too big a part of me, real me, that is compassionate and aware of how much suffering I would cause, and how much loss. That part of stops me accessing a gun, or throwing myself in front of a train, or any of the other scenarios I entertain late at night. Dying intentionally is a very selfish act for a person who has built an identity on being considerate, helpful, mature, kind, empathetic. So, killing myself is not an option, I say in my head, over and over. Not today. Get through today and then we’ll deal with tomorrow.

Today I had a huge swim, because swimming has always calmed me down and getting physically tired helps manage the late night head noise. Swimming through the constant ‘you suck, you’re huge and gross, you look awful’ is really hard for the first few laps but the water helps so much. Plus, having to focus on not drowning is a good way to get out of my head. So it was overall a positive thing, everyone should try swimming, it’s awesome. But getting the bus home just after school peak hour was a bad move. Two girls got on and proceeded to bitch about their ‘friends’, their teachers, their parents and everything else that was bothering them. I put my music on and tried to blank them out.  One tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Excuse me’.

‘Yes?’, I said, turning around, taking my headphones out and putting my usual polite smile on.

‘If I was as fat as you I would kill myself’, she said, and her friend and her both burst into laughter.

I turned bright red, as you do when somebody publicly humiliates you and tells you to top yourself as though it’s funny. How does she know that I think that all day, every day? was my first thought. ‘She’s just saying what everybody’s thinking. You don’t deserve to live, you hideous lard-arse’ screamed the Negative Voice. Say something back, you idiot! was my next coherent thought.

‘Sorry, killing myself is not an option today, too busy’ I said. There are better lines, but hey, I was under pressure. I turned around, put the headphones back in and tried really fucking hard not to cry.

That’s what it’s like, every day. It’s dealing with my own head as well as what other people see and what they do. It’s trying to summon up the courage to get out of bed and engage with the world. It’s wondering if I have a flashing sign attached to me, ‘I hate my body, really hate it, and I kind of want to kill myself but I’m trying really hard not to’. It’s feeling every millimetre of flesh squirm with shame whenever I’m out in public and visible. It’s  keeping busy enough so that the Negative Voice doesn’t overwhelm me. It’s trying to hold on and to remember that killing myself is NOT. AN. OPTION.

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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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Beautiful You #7: Moderating The Negative Voices

Whoops. I’ve been avoiding Beautiful You for the past week or so, and have fallen out of the pattern. I’m prone to doing that with ‘hard stuff’ in life but there’s usually a persistent little voice inside me, saying ‘you’ll feel better if you JUST FREAKING DO IT’. So, speaking of voices, this practice is about naming the ones in our heads that are mean/ bitchy/ otherwise unsettling, and attempting to interupt them.

I have quite a few different voices hanging out in my head most of the time. I’m a bit special like that. Some are mainly helpful- like the Just Do It Fairy- and some are very unhelpful. For convenience I cluster all the unhelpful ones into what I call ‘Negative Head’ or ‘Negative Voice’. The Negative Voice is most definitely female, a mix of my mum/ older sister/ schoolyard bullies/ so called diet and fitness ‘experts’ in the popular media/ random sneering woman on the train etc. I’ve never given a second thought to what most guys/ men think about me but I am hyper-super-dooper-aware of how other women might be looking at me and judging me. That’s the amazing thing about the Negative Voice- she can actually read every other woman’s mind, and see what they are thinking about me. She then helpfully broadcasts this into my brain, at varying volumes, 24/7. You gotta admire her commitment and work ethic.

Well, no, actually. She sucks. Makes my life very hard. Hence why I’m doing these practices and trying to get a grip on this shit.

When I am feeling ‘baseline’ about myself (e.g. not suicidal or in crisis), the Negative Voice sort of just whirs away in the background and becomes part of the soundscape. A bit like the centralised communist radio system piped into every North Korean kitchen- it can be turned down, but never off, and you’re absorbing the messages even if you’re not aware of it.

When I first realised this- a few years ago when I first started trying to kick bulimia- I was rather shocked and pissed off. I had a creepy, abusive voice in my head that I couldn’t control? That was SO not part of the plan, dude! When I first started binging and purging, it was was supposed to be an oasis from the actual abuse occurring in my world. Now that shit was multiplying and getting into my head, stopping me from ever feeling any good?

Here’s the thing: I don’t like dictators or oppressive regiemes. I don’t like ’em running countries, I don’t like them in family homes, and I don’t like them in my head. Sure, I engage in bulimic behaviours, but I don’t identify as bulimic. I identify as Catherine, as an activist, as a feminist, as a queer woman and a person who believes in ‘humanity, diversity, compassion and the empowerment of women’ (as I noted in Beautiful You #1, thanks for the reminder, Past Self!). So, I decided it was time to Moderate the Negative Voice.

You know how, if you make a comment on a blog, it usually says, ‘your comment is awaiting moderation’ before it appears in the thread? Well, that’s what I’m trying to do with my head. I’m looking at each statement it throws at me, and trying to assess whether I approve of it, whether it fits my beliefs and values. It’s a bit of a spin on the old ‘would you talk about your best friend the way you talk about yourself?’ counselling chestnut.

I’m pretty good with defending and supporting others- that’s why I work well as an activist and social worker- but I’m still learning how to moderate for myself. Lots of days I forget, leave the gate wide open and the Negative Voice storms right on in before I’ve even realised. It’s really easy to get flooded by that, and harder to wade back up to breathing level again. So in honour of today’s practice and after being reminded just how destructive letting myself be ruled by the Negative Voice can be, I’m going to put up some reinforcements for a few weeks and see if they help.

*Set the alarm on my phone every hour during the day with the reminder: ‘MODERATE YOUR SELF TALK. Things affirming humanity, diversity, compassion and the empowerment of women can stay. Ditch the rest.’

*Remind myself: It’s my mind. I’m in control. Not the Negative Voice. (Possibly written in Sharpie on my palm so I can see it frequently).

*Remind myself that nobody can mind-read. Not even Negative Voice. Other women may be judging me, or they may not. Their call, not mine. (That might need be written on my other palm.)

Right then, I’m off to source some permanent markers. See y’all tomorrow for #8.

In 2012, I am doing a daily practice in self acceptance, guided by Rosie Molinary’s book ‘Beautiful You: A Daily Guide To Radical Self Acceptance’  Click through to her website to learn more about the book and join in yourself.  


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