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A foggy monday morning in London

It has been a while since I’ve been able to write, even though I have so much to say.  My emotional energy is completely depleted.  I feel like I’m walking around in a fog, and I can’t possibly see the way out.  I’m going to attempt to use an analogy to explain how I feel, but please forgive me if it’s not perfect.

In my mind, I’m trapped in a room with six sides, and on every side of the room are full length sheets of one way glass.  Most of the time, I’m not able to see out, but I am completely aware that there are people on the other side of the glass.  I know I should notify them that I know of their existence, but all I keep seeing are the images of myself, and it makes me turn away and look down because I can’t face my own reflection.  I feel so lonely, but it’s a trap of my own design.  It’s what one of my best friends calls “hermiting”.  I shut down and shut people out because I can’t even face myself, let alone anyone else.

And then there are the times that I desperately need to reach out.  There are those few bursts when I finally can’t take it, and I need to feel connection.  In those moments, I feel like the glass is the other way around.  I can see everyone interacting and having a good life, but they can’t see me through the glass.  I bang the glass and make as much noise as I can and want to say “hey, notice me!”  But why would they keep trying to interact with me when I clearly don’t know how to interact with anyone else?

I’ve probably taken that analogy a bit too far, but it’s the best my foggy brain can come up with.

I still have the notebook filled with ideas about things I want to talk about.  I’m too afraid to share all the thoughts I have, as I’ve mentioned before. I see the words reflected back at me and they aren’t perfect.  I feel that they’re rubbish and that no one wants to hear them.

So I’ve not written, and I’m suffering for it.

I get inspired at the oddest times – mostly when I am nowhere near a computer or any sort of writing implement.  I come up with what I think are amazing ideas and can’t wait to get somewhere to jot them down.  But by the time I can actually sit down and write, the thoughts are gone and they’re replaced with an all too familiar feeling of dread.

I’ve never been a confident person.  It’s not to say that I don’t think that I’m good at things, but I’m constantly comparing myself to other people.  I’ve always found people that are better and smarter and more talented than myself.  The conversation in my head goes like this – “Hey, you’re really good at x, you should do that more!  But this person Y is a lot better at x than you, so why should you even try? You’ll never be as good as Y”.  And lately it’s gone even a step further “Furthermore, Y probably thinks that your work is crap and that you’re a horrible person for even attempting to do something like that.  Why bother?  You’ll just fail or quit like everything else”.  With that battle going on in my brain, the confident part of myself becomes smaller and smaller, shrivelling up into apathy.

The rational part of myself recognises this battle but doesn’t ever step in to call shenanigans.  I can see it going on and since the confidence is gone, I feel absolutely powerless to stop it.  I have to keep fighting every single day to accomplish anything.  This takes perfectionism and polarized thinking to an entirely different level where I’m afraid to enjoy my own life. I’ve blamed the depression for the fact that I can’t enjoy things I used to love.  And while the wonky chemicals in my brain probably have a lot to do with it, I think my confidence level is probably the bigger culprit.

Sometimes is never quite enough
If you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love

Be a good girl
You’ve gotta try a little harder
That simply wasn’t good enough
To make us proud
~ Alanis Morissette “Perfect”

If I trace the journey that my life has taken thus far, I’ll see many forks in the road where I made a choice to quit because I was scared.  I was scared of not being perfect, of not being good enough.  Fear has kept me from trying anything outside my comfort zone.  And I’m afraid to even pat myself on the back for the times when I did leap.  I trusted enough to fall in love.  I moved across the ocean to follow my heart.  I went for a job I didn’t think I’d ever get.  I am strong, but not confident in my own strength.

I used to love writing.  I did it all the time, scribbling on any spare piece of paper I could get my hands on.  When I got my first computer, I was banging away at the keyboard pouring my heart out to the empty pages.  Then I found Livejournal and started sharing.  Sharing feels like it was the worst thing that could have happened to my writing.  I started limiting what I said based on what I thought other people would want to hear.  I started over-editing and over-analyzing every word. I tried to brand myself as an interesting and funny person.  A good friend of mine (at the time) told me that my writing was crap, and I wasn’t an actual writer at all.  She said I was a fraud who would never succeed, certainly not enough to make a career out of it.  And as a result of that critique, my confidence weakened and I stopped.  I stopped sharing.  I stopped writing all together. I only wrote when I had to, when the words were so powerful they were ripping through me.  But I stopped sharing those moments too.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs by strong and brave activists lately and they have awakened in me those same longings to share.  I’ve started keeping a notebook of things I want to blog about.  There are currently 3 or 4 pages of bullet points of things that are important to me that I feel like I need to share.  Topics that are important for me to explore for my own good, and maybe inspire someone else into seeing things in a different way.  I’ve been mad at myself for making excuses as to why I’m not actually WRITING about them.  Today’s topic was not on the list.  But if I can’t conquer this fear, none of these ideas will ever be anything more than bullet points in the spiral notebook in my handbag.

Today I was late leaving the office for circumstances not entirely in my control.  Plans fell through, yadda yadda, and so I was late.  Leaving late meant that I had to take the 5 PM bus, much much much more cramped than the earlier one.  And I was late getting to that bus as well, so I barely made it.  And since I was so late, I didn’t have the luxury of picking my seat.  I like to sit as close to the door as humanly possible, because there’s only one exit door on this particular bus and I like to be able to see it.  Today, there was only one seat left.  At the very back.

I settled myself in and tried to relax.  My normal bus takes 40 minutes, this one almost an hour and a half due to traffic.  I tried not to panic, but only when we were almost to my stop did I start to completely have a meltdown.  People and luggage were clogging the aisles, all the way to the door.  And to make matters worse, the idiotic bus driver started letting people on through the same door! I am pushing my way past people, having to shove some of them just to squeeze by.  

This situation was completely avoidable.  There would have been a seat for EVERYONE if the bus driver had done their job and ordered the idiot tourists to put their luggage in the luggage racks or in the luggage area and NOT ON THE SEATS.  And also, tell the people to put their buggies away and in the luggage racks and hold their children, then there’d be more room for luggage. And finally, let everyone get off before you start letting new people back on.  I know you  have a schedule to keep, but for fuck’s sake.  Seriously.

I wasn’t thinking about that as I tried to claw my way to the door.  I heard the huffs and saw the rolling of the eyes, and I could feel the stares.  I heard someone grumble to get on with it, as if I could suddenly make myself thin and magically squeeze myself through the giant horde of passengers.  I could hear the (imagined) shouting and the loud condemnation from every person I passed.  As if it was my fault for being fat that I couldn’t get off the bus.  As if I should make allowances and sit nearer the front (like I always do), as if I should know better.  Ok, so no one was shouting, but I felt it, and heard it, and experienced it as if they were.

This has happened before, and the last time, I just found a dark corner and cried until I felt better.  Today, I ran.  Ok, not really running, but I walked faster than I have in a long time.  I was pissed. I clenched my teeth, and glared at everyone who happened to walk past.  I was so upset, I imagined that everyone was saying something about me as they walked past me.  I wanted to punch something and punch something hard.  I wanted to hurt everyone who had ever hurt me, or anyone who thinks that it’s perfectly acceptable to judge me because of my size.  I wanted to scream. A lot.

I got home in record time.  I honestly don’t remember most of the trip.  I’m still seething with all this pent up rage. I want to scream and tell the world that I AM SICK of being demonized because of who I am. I am SICK of it being ok to bully me because I’m fat.  I am SICK of being the object of years and years of torture that was acceptable, because it was “for my own good”.  And most importantly, I am SICK of being made to feel like I should get to a “breaking point” and “hate myself enough to change”. FUCK THAT.  I am so sick of hating myself.  I’m so over that.  

I know that I’m not going to wake up in the morning into a world where people stop allowing people to be judged solely on the size of their bodies.  I know I’m not going to wake up and be magically “normal” either.  And I know it’s going to take a long time before I can find the peace to be ok with all that I have.  

For now I just wanna scream.  Who’s with me?

It’s very difficult, damn near impossible I’d say, to explain triggers to someone who doesn’t really understand them or doesn’t –seem- to be affected by them.  My triggers are as if someone put post-hypnotic suggestions  in my brain.  They’re like a landmine , and one small trip up into that dangerous territory causes a tumult of emotions that I don’t feel like I can control.  I’ve been called weak for being slave to such things, but in order to cope I’ve figured out my workarounds, and it’s hard to tell people I love what they are.  Especially when they either don’t have them or aren’t as aware of theirs as I am of mine.

It should be no surprise to those who know me that my biggest trigger is the topic of weight loss.  It’s a very difficult area for me to even talk about or write about, and I tiptoe around the subject as much as I can.  Even the words put me into either a blind rage or a blubbering 7 year old.  I become a slave to that raw emotion, and I wish to hell that I could control it.  So I dance around the subject, trying to talk about it the best way that I can.

It wasn’t until I came across an inspirational woman’s blog that I was finally able to find the words that I could use to talk about the issue without tripping my triggers.  It’s when I took away the words weight loss and replaced them with “getting healthy” that my head instantly started to clear. .  The Health at Every Size movement is really fascinating and I had never heard of it before.  It was the freedom of being freed from the dependence on the scale and the pounds that I felt like maybe I was ready to take control of my life. I am not talented enough to put things the way that she does, so you should give her stuff a read if you get a chance – http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com

Now, I am definitely not saying that I am Healthy.  I eat like crap, I don’t get enough activity, and I am really bad at taking care of myself.  But I think that if I can focus on loving my body enough to WANT to change things to make me feel better I can actually do it.  And if I don’t even focus on the losing weight as a measure of my progress, then I might actually succeed.  I want to stop hating myself.  And that doesn’t start with getting healthy, but maybe in the process of appreciating the skin I’m in, I will learn to take better care of it.

So where does this body shame come from?  Is it any wonder?  We’re surrounded by imagery every day of the ways that we should hate ourselves.  But they’re telling us this for “our own good”.  As if they will FINALLY get our attention that we should hate the way we look and do something about it.
And it hurts worse when it’s taught from a young age how much you should hate yourself by someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally.

One of my previous therapists wanted me to write out what I thought were “pivotal moments” in the development of my self-image.  I was in a bad place at the time and didn’t take it seriously.  But now I think it’s quite helpful to try to pinpoint where it all went wrong.  Does identifying the source of these triggers make them go away?

When I was 7 years old, I gained 50 pounds in 6 months.  My mother was incredibly concerned and confused, because as a nurse, this was something she couldn’t wrap her head around.  I don’t remember this of course, but I know this happened shortly after I started taking phenobarbital for my seizures.  Again, I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know what happened here, and my memories are pretty cloudy for that time of my life.  So without explaining, my mother took me to the doctor.  Well, no, to a dietician.  I remember sitting next to my mom in uncomfortable chairs on the other side of a huge desk.  And the doctor telling me that my weight was unacceptable and it had to change.  As if I had any control over what I was eating.  As if I wasn’t a really active kid already.  I remember looking to my mom for encouragement or help or something, and she wasn’t saying anything, it was like she was tuned out.  I don’t remember anything else about the appointment.  But I remember crying later when I told my dad about it.  I asked him why everyone wanted me to change who I was.  He just hugged me while I cried.  I remember getting really angry and slamming my door. I remember crying and screaming and throwing things. I remember feeling completely out of control.  My mother never spoke to me about that appointment again.  But put me on what was my first “diet”.

At 7, I was on swim team, and I rode my bike everywhere.  Ok, so I sucked at running and gym class was usually a nightmare for me, but I was a kid.  I was doing kid things.  I didn’t have any understanding of the side effects of my medication.  I didn’t understand what having epilepsy meant.  I was just…a kid.  I wanted to be a kid like everyone else.  But suddenly all this “diet” food started creeping into the house, and my mom started taking me to aerobics classes with her.  And I was hungry all the time.  And I thought I deserved it.  I took everything to heart.  I didn’t understand why my sister and I did the exact same things and ate the exact same things and she looked the way she did.  But I learned to hate the scale, and hate the food, and hate the person looking back in the mirror.  I was 7.

That is just scratching the surface of the layers upon layers of hurt and sadness I have on my body and on my heart.  And maybe I am weak because I can’t control it.  Maybe I’m crazy because I let that still define me.  That was 27 years ago.  But I instantly feel like that 7 year old girl that is out of control when the topic of “weight loss” and “diets” come up.

I don’t want to be out of control.  I want to tell 7 year old me that it’s ok, not to hate herself, not to be so hard on herself.  To enjoy the amazingness of being a kid.  To love every swim meet, and cherish every race, victory or not.  To love the skin she’s in.  I want to nurture her and love her in the ways that I lacked nurturing and love.

How do you explain all that to someone you love without alienating them? I feel like I’m making demands on the types of conversations we have, but I think this small allowance should be ok?  When this topic comes up, I lash out and say things to try to wound the other person to make them feel as hurt as I do.  As if that is fair.  It’s not fair.  And certain things, once said, can’t be taken back.  So how do I admit how scared I am?

I’m scared.  I want to be supportive and nurturing and loving, but how can I do that when I can’t nurture myself?

I am in the middle of a full-blown panic attack while I’m sitting at my desk at work, and I’m trying to calm down.  My heart feels like it’s going to either race itself to death or stop, and I can’t get enough air into my lungs.  I know my face is red and I’m starting to sweat, and there’s no way I can even leave my desk because I don’t know if I can stand.  I’m just hoping no one comes over to try to talk to me, because I seriously will burst into tears the second I try to speak.

There’s no explanation for it, but I just want to get out. And go where exactly?  Home?  Right, so I leave, only to have to get on 3 buses which cause me to panic more.  I got off a bus last week because I couldn’t breathe.  And I took the one that takes twice as long because it was more empty.  If I could walk home the 9 miles, I would.  And getting a car wouldn’t solve it either, because I would panic about driving here – Driving at night, driving in the rain, the roundabouts, getting lost, or driving on the wrong side of the road.  If I just don’t feel like I can handle driving I can’t just get out of the car and find another way home.

And then when I finally get to our place, the panic of all that needs to be done is waiting for me there.  My husband invited people to come out with us tomorrow for our anniversary, but then for everyone to come back to ours.  There is no way the house is even fit for us living there, much less having people over.  Seriously, hives are starting to break out on my skin, and I have to just keep writing and maybe I can ride it out.

All I want to do is hide.  Sleep.  Sleep and not wake up for a few days when this feeling passes.  I want to stop feeling like I’m falling apart.

My co-worker just spoke to me and I was able to act normal even though I feel like my brain is going to fall out of my head.  I can fake it very well.  But it’s a really lonely thing.  Faking it and keeping people at a distance.  In case they find out…find out what? 

I want to reach out to the people that love me instead of pushing them away.  When I “get like this”, I shut everyone out.  I don’t want to talk to anyone, and I don’t want to confide in anyone.  Friends who have been around a while refer to this as “hermiting”.  But it seems I have been doing this for years this time.  Not letting anyone get too close, because I’m too afraid of…what?  Disappointing them?  Disappointing myself?

My husband suggested that I get out and visit people over the next few weekends.  The thought of it horrifies me and brings me to tears.  I can barely even face him, how am I to deal with seeing other people?  I know these people are friends and I love spending time with them, but why would they still want to?  I’m a really shitty friend who isn’t there for the people that love me.  I will end up hurting them too.  I shut people out because I’m petrified.

I love the friends we’re seeing tomorrow but I can barely even breathe thinking about it.  Why do I consider myself a social person if I am having all this anxiety about seeing people that I know already like me?  Because they haven’t seen me as I see myself.  As a completely crazy person who has stupid phobias.  A crazy person wearing a normal person’s outfit.  A high functioning lunatic.

I feel like the darkness is closing in on me, and I just need to survive the next 3 hours until I can get to my bed and close my eyes and try to escape from myself.