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I have been out of the habit of writing, and have only taken to the page/screen when my emotions are too difficult to handle.  I should write more often instead of waiting until the bubble is about to burst on my brain.   Though I should eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary all together.  Let’s try this again.  I should It would be better for my sanity to write more often. 

A friend of mine who has been reading my blog sent me a message that said “Sometimes I think you should just come home”.  I know that it most likely wasn’t his intention, but It made me think that maybe I come off as completely miserable here in London with my husband.   So let me be clear, I’m only miserable inside my own skin.  That makes it harder to bear sometimes because I “should” (ugh, that horrible word) be happy.  I “shouldn’t” be depressed because people are envious of the life and things I have.  On top of feeling depressed, I feel guilty for not being able to just “get over it”.  I see the good and wish that I could turn off my depression by simply appreciating the things that I have.  But it goes much deeper into the depths of my brain, and I feel like I’m trapped in it. 

It also makes me afraid to talk to anyone about struggles I have being married.  It’s harder than I thought it would be, and sometimes I get so frustrated with living with another person.  I don’t tell anyone because I don’t want people to think I made the wrong choice by uprooting my entire life to move here.  I don’t want people to think that I don’t love my husband.  That has never been a question in my heart, I wouldn’t have chosen to be here otherwise. Sometimes, however,  it frustrates me when I can’t communicate effectively how I’m feeling.  I take it out on him, and that sucks the most. He’s the person I lean on the most, and when I’m pissed off at him, who am I supposed to talk to?  I’ve shut out everyone else and I don’t have any safe coping mechanisms since I gave up smoking. Last night when I couldn’t cope,  I shut myself down and went to bed.  I fell asleep craving the comfort of nicotine instead of dealing with the issues that were making me so upset.

Does this mean that I should just pack it in and come home?  Should I seek out a geographical solution to a problem that clearly isn’t?  No, that is clearly not the answer.  My reply to him was “What does home mean anyway?”  I wish I could find that feeling inside my own skin.  I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that way, no matter where I’ve lived.

But see this?  This is why I can’t write. My brain goes everywhere but in a straight line.  I don’t even know what the point is even trying to navigate or make sense of it.

Now that my lovely skin situation has returned, I’m finding myself up at times when I should be sleeping because I can’t bear the pain of lying down.  And it’s perfectly fine during the daytime, but as soon as I try to fall asleep, it creeps up on me and I’m unable to think about anything else.  Maybe by focusing on these thoughts I can make my skin feel better or at least ignore it for however long this takes.  So while I may ramble, maybe it’s the best thing I can do to force this out of my brain.

I compartmentalize my life into segments based on where I was living at the time.  I can carve out chunks of my life in 4-5 year increments as that’s how often we moved when I was growing up and in my adulthood I patterned my own life on that nomadic behavior.  It’s easier to deal with those periods of my life because they feel like other lifetimes to me.  I know that they happened.  I remember them happening.  But I can just as easily pretend that they were a story I read once.  I can pretend that the things I remember aren’t real or that they were dreams or manifestations that my brain created after I started having seizures.  It’s a coping mechanism, albeit a bad one.

There are touchstones to the past that I can’t completely avoid.  There are the physical manifestations – the scars mostly, that are constant reminders of the person I’ve been.  But there are also the people – my sisters, my parents, friends that have been there across multiple lifetimes. When I can’t deal, I shut them all out.  I can’t face the me that they reflect back.  There are versions of me that I can’t stand, and those people have known me through all of that.  When I get panic attacks about the past, I can’t cope with these people. I can’t call them even though I know that some of them still want to talk to me even after all I’ve put them through.

At the core is this belief that I am a horrible person.  It’s been suggested that my Catholic upbringing had a lot to do with this.  I have spent my whole life terrified of dying and being damned eternally because of things I’ve done (or didn’t do).  I feel like I’m scared that I’ll be defined by the things I’ve done in the past.  I’m scared that I’ll spend a lifetime (or many lifetimes) trying to atone.  Terrified that one day people will “find out” who I truly am, and never talk to me again.  This is the fear that wakes me up crying in the middle of the night.  This is the terror that I feel when I have a flashback to something from my past.  It’s catching up, running alongside of me, and I can’t avoid it too much longer.

The dark terrible secret? I have always felt guilty that I’m alive.  I have felt ashamed since I was a little girl.  I’ve felt ashamed of being fat, of having epilepsy, of being shy, of not being perfect.  I justified that shame at a young age.  I made a choice that I must have done something wrong for God to make me this way.  And that He made a mistake when he saved me.  Guilt and shame are like old friends that wrap around me, and I don’t know how to shrug them off.

Attitude is something that I’ve seen discussed a lot lately.  It’s not as if I can just suddenly “get over it” or “change my way of thinking”.  There are 34 years of guilt and shame that are not going to go away by looking at a picture of a kitten hanging off a tree limb telling me to hang in there.  Having bariatric surgery – a surgery that would effectively amputate a healthy part of my body just to “make me healthier” is not going to make that go away.  And I’m so afraid of reaching out to talk to someone else because I can’t take the rejection.  I can’t take the leap of faith and trust someone else with my feelings and have them just abandon me.  So, I don’t make the phone call to go get help.  I don’t respond to efforts to reach out to me.  I’m scared that if they really got to know me, they’d leave me too.

Here’s a story for you from a few lifetimes ago.  I was best friends with someone who was an emotional vampire.  It’s easier for me to picture her as the bad guy, but the truth is far more complicated.  I was her willing victim, you see, because I always went back.  I would cut her out of my life, and finally gain my strength.  With one phone call she could get me to drop everything and go to her.  She knew my weaknesses and could always coax me back into her life because she “needed” me.  Some of my happiest memories revolve around my friendship with her, but without too many details, she is the star of one of my defining moments.

The worst summer of my life ended on Labor Day.  I’d taken heavy pain meds the night before, and woke up that morning in a stupor.  I stumbled downstairs and the house was far too quiet.  There was an empty hollowness there that I couldn’t explain.  She and the person I was dating were gone. And there was a note that I will never forget.  “I’m leaving, and I can’t say that I will miss you all that much.  You are so fake, I don’t even think you know when you’re being real.  You are a horrible person and I’m happy that we will no longer be friends. Please take care of (the person she was dating), I just couldn’t stand it anymore.”  I kept that note for years, just because they were the physical manifestation of everything I knew myself to be.

I don’t know why I’m sharing that, maybe so that I can’t edit it out of my life.  It feels like a nightmare, but the words I know are true.  And even though the note is gone, the words are still etched on my heart.  It’ll be 10 years this September, but it feels like yesterday.

I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m always waiting for the note from the people I love to tell me that they’ve had enough.  I’m afraid that they’ve had enough of my depression, of my crazy, of my inability to just be happy and change and be perfect.  I’m afraid of people telling me that they’re worse off because they’ve met me.  Or afraid that these people will just disappear because I’m not worth even responding to.

So that’s my secret.  Too ashamed to live.  Too afraid to die.

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.

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 got upset today, as is the norm lately.  There wasn’t anything in particular that set me off, and maybe it’s my time of the month or something, or the moon cycles, or whatever.  Wait a minute, why am I apologizing for being upset? I don’t need to come up with a justification for being upset. I was upset, and it sucked.

I just wanted to “feel better”.  I wanted some instant gratification, a quick fix until I could get myself together.  In the past, I would have lit a cigarette.  I can even hear the sound of the lighter flicking its beautiful flame towards a waiting cigarette. I can feel the filter between my lips, and smell the tobacco.  I can almost feel the light headed giddiness from the first drag, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about it.  Smoking helped, sure, but then I’d want another, and another.  When I was upset, I was known to chain smoke into the night talking on the phone and cursing the world.

Life is different now.  I have no cigarettes, and more importantly, no one to talk to on the phone to curse out the world.  I still need that gratification.  My sister exercises when she stresses out.  Another sister cleans.  My parents drink.  Everyone has their ways of coping when a day just sucks ass.  But me, all I have left is chocolate.

I have been an emotional eater my entire life.  This started around the time I was starting to realize I had to be ashamed of what I looked like.  So I started stashing boxes of girl scout cookies in my nightgown drawer and stealing change from my dad’s desk to buy a candy bar at school.  I was really good at hiding the candy wrappers until I could hide them in the kitchen trash. I’d be extremely careful concealing the evidence under rotten leftovers or empty cans of Alpo. And the sad thing was, I ate the chocolate so fast, I barely tasted it most of the time. I just knew I wanted it, and it was bad to want it, which made it that much more important to have.

I don’t have a box of cookies stashed in my drawers anymore. I’m an adult, and don’t have to hide the fact that I feel like I must have chocolate at least twice a day.  But still I do.  I feel like I’m buying drugs as I stand at the counter, trying to make it look like I decided at the last minute to grab the candy bar to go with the diet coke I was about to buy.  Like the whole reason I went in there wasn’t actually to buy that candy bar, but it just looked so tempting that I had to have it.  I still feel the shame as I take my clandestine purchase out the door and hide it in my handbag so no one can see.  As if the world needs any other excuse to look at me and think I’m not worth living.  Why don’t I just feed the stereotype?  Look, that fat girl is crying while eating a candy bar!  I know no one is REALLY saying that, but that’s the scene I play out in my head.

Tonight, while upset, I wandered through the aisles of the supermarket trying to find something to make the pain go away.  At least I had left my tears in the street, but it took all of my willpower not to take all the chocolate santas off the shelves and run out the door with them. I had this vivid daydream of me ripping off their jolly little chocolate heads and eating them all before I got out the door.  I did none of those things, but I wanted to.  I ended up buying a chocolate bar to go with the chicken and vegetables I bought for dinner.  I ate it on the walk home.  It tasted like shame.

I sometimes wish I had a socially acceptable addiction.  Because then when I acted like an idiot, people could say “oh it’s a disease, she can’t help it”.  But my addiction to eating is just seen as “oh, she’s fat and lazy, and she can help it, what a fucking loser”.  And I believe that with all my heart.  I always have.  I have attributed these words to other people my entire life.  But the person who hurts me the most is me.