Monday, 28 December 2009

On The Rack



Tortured by his enemies, a film I once watched showed a man tied between two posts which were then gradually pulled apart, thus ripping his whole body in half.


Nice start huh?


Thought I'd jump in headfirst before I got cold and ran out on the balls of my feet.

Medieval England practised "Stretching" as a form of torture on a hideous frame known as 'the rack'. It was often used to punish or to extract information from a victim.

I'm not great at history, but even the narcoleptic kid wakes up for the part of the lesson where the teacher tells about torture methods.

It's that morbid fascination thing.

Not to sound too melodramatic, but the image of someone being pulled apart has floated around my head over the past couple of days.

I feel as though parts of me are engaged in a game of "tug of war", and while that conjures up images of happily exhausted, muddy heaps of people who have engaged in the battle of the rope, for me, it feels as though my two teams, who are unfortunately, both inside me, are actually going to rip me in half.

It's a tug of war with a hell of a lot at stake and another part of me watches with some degree of horror as the stubborn struggle between me and me reaches a ridiculous intensity.

On one end of the rope, Desperation pulls me towards the gym to work my body into a frenzied, sweating, mechanical state where I no longer feel anything except a physical exhaustion and a terrible desperation to deplete my body in a any which way.

On the other end, Depression pushes me down, won't let me move, pulls my energy away from me so I have to step further back to retrieve it.

And as they pull, I am torn.

Desperation to lose weight is screaming in my ears.
"You must be in control".
"You only have this".
"If you allow yourself an inch, you'll be sure to take miles and miles and it'll be unstoppable".


Depression whispers,
"Don't bother".
"What's the point?"
"Nothing matters".

Yet another part, cries at the pain of being torn so violently. It feels as though I am on a rack.


I end up in the gym but the inside is weary and tired from the fight.

It would seem that I am able to cope when depression is not begging me to stop and when I am winning what I know is an unhealthy battle against my weight. Which is absurd!

This is not how it's meant to go, surely?

I suppose that when you are on a rack, if the force is only pulling you in one direction, it ceases to be torture.

The lesser of the two evils (in terms of short term outcomes) is the force which drives me to starve and exercise.

It's when that force is opposed by the dreadful weight of depression that it becomes so painful.




Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas - The Best and The Worst



Polarity
is the word that springs to mind.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I'm not a huge Dickens fan but this is one of my favourites.


Christmas can be a time of magic where, without even realising it, a mysterious sense of wonder can seep into even the heaviest heart, piping the edges of dead dreams and hopes with fine,spider-spun, incandescent threads.
Childlike innocence, a longing for something greater than 'us', the sudden warmth in a stranger touched by 'Christmas spirit', the unfamiliar sense of community... Christmas holds people, just for a brief, flickering moment, in a warm palm of purity, goodness and equality.
Gone are the British class boundaries and the pretensions and graces.
Just for a moment, we are bought together by an affinity that may only be described as supernatural.

All this said, Christmas can be the very worst of times.
Nothing blows colder than the wind of grief, loss and loneliness experienced by those who suffer at this time of year.
Many of us have been there. Standing outside the beautifully adorned windows of houses which glow golden Christmas light and sparkle with velvet laughter and heavy blanket heat.
Nothing like being on the other side of the pane, with the cold ache of despair that cannot be touched by the warmth you are surrounded by.

The cold isolation is felt all the more as you gaze at the dancing flames you cannot feel.

Christmas is a mix for most.
A time when the temperature is rarely consistent.

For those who can stay warm, I wish you a wonderful, peaceful, hopeful Christmas.

For those who have a little more trouble with the thermostat... or those who are cannot even make it past a front door, I pray that you would find the strength to hold on, hold out for the next day when it may not feel much warmer, but at least the "lack of" will not be so acutely emphasised.
I pray that you can hang in there for the aftermath when Christmas has passed and the pain is not highlighted so acutely.

I don't mean for this to be a depressing post.

I just want to acknowledge the two sides to this season and to reach out to those who are feeling despair.
You are not alone.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Circling at One Thousand Feet



It's ironic that as I sit down once again, to tackle the subject of eating disorders, and in particular, anorexia, I have an image of me circling my subject like a very hungry animal circles a potential feed; warily and full of tentative, watchful suspicion that what is being circled might suddenly retaliate with a defensive blow from a place which went unnoticed.

This topic. I'm afraid it has the potential to do that.

I have written a fair bit about
my sister. In fact, there are a few posts here about her and although it is not easy to write about, it's more because of my sense of hopelessness around making others understand than any deep pain at the memories of the experiences.
In fact, if anything, I have very few memories and the ones I do have are almost totally devoid of any feeling.
Giant pools of nothingness swill and wash around my insides much of the time. I feel that underneath everything... under all the angst and the pain and the upset, there is nothing.
Just an empty, black void.

Hopping out of that void for a minute, it's fair to say I have been circling my own feed for a while now.
I've burnt a lot of calories with my circling.

I don't expect understanding.
In fact, if anything, I expect to be met with the same level of horror and disgust that I feel about myself.

Having such an intimate knowledge of what it is to have to stand by and watch a loved one scream and twist in an unreachable cage, shredding themselves against the razor bars, you'd think that:



  1. I would have more common sense and

  2. I would never be as selfish as to inflict it on those who are already so broken.

But no.
It seems that I lack the ability to apply the logic I am such close friends with and that I am clearly so completely wrapped up in myself, that I care very little that others will suffer.

I have developed an eating problem.

I don't want to call it Anorexia because that is what my sister has suffered from for over half of her years on earth, and any similarities between us disappeared long ago.
It also just feels fundamentally wrong to be "anorexic".
I'm just not LIKE that.
It's not me.
I'm not the type.

And... at any given moment, I feel in grave danger of all my control slipping away from me. In other words, I don't know if I can keep up the starvation, the denial, the ferocity of the exercise regime BUT if I even think about going easier on myself, I will be unable to stop the gorging and the uncontollable binging that will follow.

I recognise that wht I have just written lacks balance.

It is a problem I can't find an answer to.

I need extreme lack.


Thursday, 17 December 2009

My Cage.

I'm so tired.
Not just lack-of-sleep tired.

Soul tired.


Sometimes depression feels like an extra limb growing out of me; grotesque and oversized. Not something that could escape my notice.
More often though, depression becomes so innate that it is barely distinguishable.
It coats my insides in a death mist that slows my senses, blots my feelings and leaves me feeling little more than an empty shell.
I am a container of a hidden fog of gas so noxious, so insidious, that I can no longer recognise my edges. Perhaps then, that is partly why I need to be able to see and feel each rib; why I need to be small enough for me to hold.


A sense of desperation claws at the arid valleys of emptiness inside me.

On my 33rd birthday, I weighed 6 stone 8 pounds.
Less than I weighed when I was 13.


I'm trapped in a wire cage and, when I dare to look at the space inviting the unknown, I become so afraid and feel so broken, I dare not fly through it.
I'm left clinging to the perch, with an energy I can't sustain, in a very foggy, very frightening cage.



I'm so so so upset that I have let panic win today.

I'm sad enough to taste salt tonight.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Distorted Perceptions?



Most people with an eating disorder have a skewed perception of their body.

I know this. Better even than most.

I remember walking through town a few years back as my sister explained to me that a Size 8 COULD be fat.
I remember the hot, white anger, tempered by my mind curling around her words, desperately trying to grasp for an understanding, some logic.
I remember it as one of the many, many moments where I felt that my ribcage was a small, cold, metal box holding a bomb.

I've talked a lot about my sister's illness but haven't particularly been able to talk about what has happened to me.

Although it feels like strange and frightening territory, it is perhaps possible, that when I see myself, I don't see what others see. Or at least, different parts of me see differet things.

In therapy we have been, quite gently, picking up the notion of having different parts.
My parts don't communicate with each other, which I'm told, is a bit of an issue.

I realised this week, that my different parts all have something very different invested in starvation...
This would explain why I can't work it out and why my understanding fluctuates between fine, morning mist and a blanket of thick, inpeneterable fog.
Diffeeent parts have different reasons and I can't even access some of them.

It's possible that I even have parts that I don't know.

Imagine.

I'm torn between thinking this is absurd, illogical psychobabble

and

the possibiity that, in trusting my therapist, there is something more... something other... some chance that what I am now is not all I ever will be.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

I'm Not Alone?

Lots of things to write but I'll go with what the blog is meant to be about.

Therapy

It felt like I had been swallowing liquefied lead when I crawled into the little house in the woods yesterday evening. Hot lead that cooled in my chest and solidified in my gut. Heavy and cold.


Her words were bars of golden light that I allowed to my hands to touch, even to hold and bring to my lips.
And in that trembling daring, the light I think, sort of met me in a deeper place and in my chest at least, has dissipated some of the darkness.

I dared.
I must remember that when I dare, it pays off.

I wanted to leave some of the gold here. A reminder of what it could be if I can just lower the fence a little. And it occurs to me as I type, perhaps I don't even need to take the fence down. Maybe I just need to hop over it for very small amounts of time.
Kind of like the process of desensitising.

I can't remember big chunks of what was said in the session but what I do remember is her saying that I was a battleground and that it wasn't my fault.
Music.
Is it really not?
I challenged her. "I must be choosing this. I must be".
The parts of you are not communicating as they should be.
You have become the punitive adult. It has become you.

How do I stop it?

We are working with that now.
WE are.
WE will do this together.

I can't really remember ever feeling anything but alone. Not because my parents didn't try to calm my fears. Not because I couldn't ever tell anyone how frightened I was. Just because I have always felt that nobody can ever really be there or understand.
I have never thought that 'we' was... Well... 'We' has never been. Not for any dramatic reason. Just because nobody could be there.

I gave her the What Ifs.
I told her she would never be there.
I was thinking of the nights in pain, the moments where I hold the blade, the lonely, head curling times where I am frozen.

I dared to tell her she would never be enough.
I think I thought she would back away.

She told me she would be there. Even if it meant more sessions during the week. She said she wouldn't leave me and would try, to the best of her ability, not to let me down.
But, she said, it relies a lot on trusting me.

I'm not good with trust.

No. You're not but that's because for whatever reason, nobody has been able to be there and cope with the pain.

Oh.

Last night I struggled with her. Not in her house but in my head. Hmm... Yes. Crazy indeed.
I continued arguing long after I left.
But I was fighting with golden light which had already, somehow, seeped in.


This morning, for the first time ever, I feel like perhaps, if I was going to take a risk... maybe it would be WE and not just I.

I feel scared by what I just typed. Scared that I have allowed words to fall out and when I 'come round' to logic, I'll want to stuff them back in.

But.

I'm trying to take some risks.
Staying safe hasn't been working out too well.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Sadness



Careful crimson smile
Hiding sepia sadness
Hot tears streak my soul

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The Child Part

Alright.
Now.
Bear with me.

I need to issue some kind of disclaimer which states that the information that follows and the fact that the concept has been mentioned at all, does not in any way imply that the author accepts or acknowledges the existence of such a thing.

Then, in one completely paradoxical swoop, I will contradict my own disclaimer by saying that I know perfectly well that this is a part of me somehow... I am just terrified by the disgust that I feel it may be met with.

Get on with it right?

Sorry.
Fear gets in the way.

So.
My therapist in all her glorious wisdom reminds me over and over again that I have a number of very seperate and very distinct 'selves'.
I am beginning to see how this is really quite true. The filing cabinet seems to have more than two drawers, or there are, at least, sub sections in each drawer.

This post is itself a child, tentatively and stumblingly clinging to the walker as it steps on soft, unused feet.
The ideas we talked about in therapy this week are little prisms, just about an arms length away from me and I tremble as I reach to just brush one with the very tips of my fingernails; hoping that the infintisimal fraction of contact will be just enough to edge the prism into a line of sunlight.

The title of the post acknowledges the topic I am not daring to comment on.
I'll come back to it if I can reach...

Friday, 27 November 2009

And in other news....

Lately I have needed to sit very quietly, with my knees, encircled by my arms, pulled tight into my chest.
I'd give an update of therapy but my eyelids seem to have suddeunly been overwhelmed by uncontrollable graitational forces.

Perhaps tomorrow.

This week I have:
Accidentally order a pair of very expensive Caterpiller boots off Amazon.
Been shocked by a huge hornbeam tree falling down across the garden
in the high winds.
Drunk Ginger wine every night.
Bought a (bargain price) nice bottle of whisky in ASDA
Eaten a lot of sweets and chocolate.
Not slept very well.
Cut myself in a very superficial and controlled way.
Worn a vest everyday because the heating at work has gone bust.
Taught 3 new kids.
Been to the dentist and been told I will need to have surgery on my
gum in the future.
Been to book club.
Seen a friend who has been living abroad for 2 years.
Been asked out to dinner by a guy in the gym. (Not my type, sadly)
Been very stressed at work.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Hollow

Anger has burned through me and left a black, hollow space of silent ash and dust.

It's a story I won't be able to tell.

Silence is heavy but safer.

If I could place a pillow over the hurt, I would suffocate it. Sit on it until it stopped moving.

I hate it that I sound this pathetic right now. I disgust myself.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Kindness Like Water



The other day my therapist said she didn't know whether to wrap me in cotton wool or bubble wrap to keep me safe.
I was fuming and something inside me tried to crawl to the furthest corner of my insides; a frantic retreat from her kindness.
Images of barbed wire piercing bubble wrap flashed through my mind, followed by the most vivid recollection of this scene from The Wizard of Oz.

At first I thought it was my therapist. Nice...
But no.
The witch is something in me and the water is kindness and VALIDATION.

If I let it soak me, I think I will melt.

Positive, you may think, given that the witch is after all, The Wicked Witch Of The West. But, truth be told, that part of me is desperately frightened of being melted.

Being heard is harder to swallow than being dismissed.
I find more pain in the kindness.

A watery war is being fought inside me somewhere. I don't want it to touch the wicked witch of the west, and yet I know that the witch is the villain of the piece.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Razors and Release.

I have so many words but feel overwhelmed at the idea of trying to piece them together. They swell and tumble, a disparate wave of words and feeling. The wave itself a spectrum of sensation, utterly numb at the base, raw at the breaking crest.

If I could somehow figure out what is going on to cause this level of desperation I might have a hope in hell of controlling it.
These last few days, well... weeks really... I have been fighting (and, shamefully, frequently losing) a battle against the urges and the desires I have to hurt myself in whatever way I can.
Yes.
Self harm.
Controversial. Taboo. Disgusting. Shameful. Painful. Desperate.
And yet, comforting. Releasing. Soothing. Calming. Cleansing.

A paradox and a half.

There are so many different perspectives on self harm that it's hard to keep up.
"Attention seeking" is the label that is possibly the most damning and the most hurtful to those who have to exert such incredible control by resisting the urge to just let rip on themselves. Instead they have to confine the screaming of their stories to such small areas of the body, the most hidden parts.

Tonight, just as many nights this week and the week before that, I stand on the brink of my own desperation to destroy. I fight from a part whose objections I repeatedly overrule, even as it reminds me and warns me of the physical pain I will be faced with when I trample over its defeated form in the rush to reach the razor.

People self harm for a wide variety of reasons and certainly, nowadays with the youth heavily influenced by 'emo' culture and the like, it is quite common; a disturbing trend borne, it would seem, out of a search for identity. Whatever happened to clothing being the defining feature in "teen stereotypes"? It's no defined by the number and depth of the cuts on a wrist.
I digress.
For me as an adult, it's primarily either a release of anger, a punishment if I feel let down, a purging of feelings that I can't hold in, or a response to uncontainable self hatred.

True, I started cutting as a teenager. I was fourteen and unable to speak about the fact that my sister was starving herself to death. Faced with the reactionless faces of my parents, the point blank denials that anything was wrong, and the stinging discipline that met she who dared to contradict; the pain started to spill out in secret ways using a different language. A language of pain which doesn't need to be heard to bring relief, only to be spoken.

At first, it wasn't as good as being able to talk to a grown up, but it made the clamour inside me quieter, and came to be far more effective, and practical, than needing anyone.

Great, you think.
So...
That was THEN. This is NOW.
My past is not my present.

And yet, something died in me back then that I miss in my present.
It wasn't my sister, although I no longer know her, so in some ways, perhaps she was the greatest loss of all. But something in me died and I can't revive it.
Maybe that is what therapy is for. To resurrect what is dead.

I am ashamed to admit that my mind feels invaded with fantasies of what I will do to hurt myself.
Goodness knows if you knew me in real life you wouldn't see a shadow of a ghost of a trace of the truth that I am someone who would ever imagine such fantasies, let alone indulge them.

I sound vaguely like a psycho but you'll just have to take my word for it that I'm the smiley girl you pass on the way to work. I'm your kid's favourite teacher. I'm the one who you come to when you need someone to listen and understand. I'm the one who you can count on to write a list of your problems and work out how you can tackle them in a way that feels manageable and is realistic.

It defies my own understanding then, that that same smiley, logical, responsible empathic, problem solver who is relied on by so many can be so consumed by such a desperate desire to violate her own body.
I'll spare you the details.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Cottage In The Woods


Yes. It's quite true!
My therapist lives in a cottage in the woods.
It really is like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson tale!

I suppose it could be symbolic, although I have never thought it to be before writng it here.

By six o'clock on these evenings, the grey dark has already been draped around the woods and the blackened trees tower, sinister, hoodless figures of forboding. The smell of damp, rotten leaves and lichen is comforting in the cold, and as I step out of the car a heavy, woody, quiet muffles in my ears.

The lines of the cottage have the blurred glow of the aura on the edge of a flame. Pumpkin light seeps from therapy room window.



There is space here for metaphors to bound like excited kids on an autumn forest walk but, I have to say, the golden light that draws a part of me into that room often feels like a trap and, once inside, I am frequently faced with a darkness and fear much greater than a night alone in a cold fingered forest.

That's the story of the little cottage in the woods.

And yes. There is a magic about it somehow, despite (or perhaps, in part, because of) the plunging fear that accompanies and enshrouds the place.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Back To The Matter In Hand...

Therapy.

Well.

My session today was markedly more positive than the previous sessions...
It's not that a great beam of light shone into my disordered and chaotic cabinet.

No.

More that I allowed myself
to dare
to try
to be
just a tiny
little
bit
less
well defended than I have at other times.
(Yes - that sentence was intentionally convoluted... Somehow I want it to demonstrate just a fraction of the fear I feel at daring to get close to anything that might lie beneath the barbed wire spiral in which I have wrapped myself).

Anyway, it's about time that I bought a little light to the darkness that has been my blog over the last however many ("too many!", you cry) posts.

I drove away from her little cottage in the woods thinking that I must remember this session as one where I gave her something to work with, rather than waiting for her to wave a wand over my unspoken pain.
I thought that it would feel very risky to allow myself to do that too much.
But that I must remember the time that I did.

The word "allow" is one of the most frightening words outside of my vocabulary.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Friday, 6 November 2009

Filing


To what does my therapist repeatedly liken me?
A mysterious, multi faceted prism bending and reflecting light? A valuable, finely tuned instrument?
Um...
No.
Apparently I'm a filing cabinet...
One of those rather grim, storm grey, functional filing cabinets that squats inoffensively in a corner under a desk.

My bottom drawer (or is it the top?) is in perfect order. Little coloured, plastic tabs labelling each and every category and subsection. Each tab written in perfect, calligraphic, black font. Efficient, competent, quick minded and organised.
Put me in a situation and watch me compute actions and actions; reach into the tidy compartment and pull out the appropriate 'file'.
In stark contrast, my top drawer has all the marks of a desperate thief rifling through papers whilst footsteps approach the darkened office.
My therapist explained that it was as though all the papers in this drawer had been strewn on the floor. Moreover, the papers had been ripped into pieces and we may pick up a middle piece and find it has an end but no beginning... Or find an end but not be able to find the two upper pieces.

I wanted to explain that my last post came from my top drawer.
The 'secret' drawer that nobody really gets to see.

It's a chaotic drawer and I'm not sure that some of the fragments even exist anymore.
It's a drawer that has been locked for a long time and the rusted runners won't allow it to open easily, let alone fully.

I was in half a mind to 'disable comments' on this blog. It has been a battle to leave my honesty and my expression of the top drawer chaos. It is unfamiliar ground to allow the drawer to open even a fraction and when I began this blog, I didn't realise that blogging was such a 'relational' thing. I had no idea that people would be the least bit interested in a grey filing cabinet.

When I expressed the difficulty I had with allowing comments to my lovely blogfriend Gail, she wrote that she thought most of the comments I got here were very kind and caring... I don't know that she realised that this very truth is precisely why I find it so excruciating at times.

Kindness kills.
Careful.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Screaming Silently

*****Trigger warning for anyone struggling with self harm - sorry*****

Thin pink lines, lips clamped tight
Bile burns my throat, bubbling
blisters swell, threaten
to burst

but swallow

swallow down the acrid glob
of howling unheard, stifling
child's screams, fighting
to erupt

but press

press balled fists into the sting
of salted eye skin, swelling
and cresting with each new wave
of gasps

but cut

cut red mouths, open lines
to scream unheard, unknown
my legs, a shrieking gingham cloth,
to hear

but hide.

hide.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Ice -olation

The other evening, I hurt someone to hurt myself.

Now, I'm sitting on an iceberg, wrapped in razor wire, in the middle of a half frozen sea.
If I move, the wire sinks deeper in and anyone who comes close will be shredded.

Writing this, I'm wondering whether I am perhaps, waiting until my flesh is so frozen that I can no longer feel.

I can't believe I hurt someone else so much.

Friday, 30 October 2009

What I Dont Know About Anorexia



I want to try to finish what I began in the post My Sister - Anorexia Here, I established that having shared living space with anorexia, there really is very little that I don't know about it.

Seeming to be either too clinical or too compassionate, I have rarely read anything about Anorexia. In the very early stages of my sister's illness, I may have read leaflets of the kind you find in doctors' waiting rooms, but these were as far as my research went.
At 14 and with a family desperately in denial about what was happening, knowledge was not welcomed.
In fact, the only thing welcomed was a refusal to believe that this "finicky eating" was anything more than just "a phase".
I never believed it no matter how many times I was slapped or shouted down, and by the time they came round to it, it was far too late.
In my sister's case, I don't honestly believe that there was a point when it wasn't too late. But that's another post.

I digress.

Ignoring the title of this post (focus girl - focus), I DO know that the stats for anorexia make pretty grim reading.
Up to 20% of anorexics will die of complications caused by their illness. That gives the illness one of the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness.
Although the figures vary depending on who is publishing them, it is estimated that only about 60% of anorexics will make a "full recovery" (I'm skeptical). Of the remaining 40%, half of those will make a partial recovery although they will struggle with eating for the rest of their lives, and the remaining 20% will be unable to shake the illness and will remain seriously underweight and in and out of hospitals and clinics for as long as their bodies allow.

You can guess which percentile my sister falls into.

I also know that although again, the figure varies, it is often estimated that roughly 10% of all anorexics are male.
I would suggest that society will see this a sharp rise in the incidence of males with eating disorders. I have been watching the 'emo' culture closely and observe a worrying trend towards a blurring... a diluting, of sexuality.
(Again, another post).

So... I digress again... Perhaps to avoid...

Referring once more to the title of this post... What I DON'T know, is how, after living in the grotesquely monster like shadow of this illness for so many years, and after having been forced to witness the gaunt fear on the faces of my loved ones... (and for all the words in the English language, I will never be able to describe the agony that has etched itself on my family as they have watched so helplessly) HOW it is that I too, seem to have made this illness my ally.
It feels harsh to say that I have chosen it when I can't begin to work out how it is that this has come about; but my own locus of control won't allow me to say that I have merely "fallen prey" to it.

This is a long one and I still haven't got close to what I want to say.

Monday, 26 October 2009

In My Defence


The last post I wrote here was a very hard one for me.
Discussing my sister, trying to capture even a snapshot of the past, feels like a very hollow endeavour. It's as though language was not really created for such depths of pain...
I realise, with a large degree of shame, how melodramatic that sounds... Almost as though to imagine or to admit that anything over superficial pain / suffering is a form of arrogance, worthy only of disgust or dismissal.
I also realise that admitting to suffering leaves me open to the thing I fear the most, which is being branded as someone who has a 'victim' mentality, deemed 'pathetic' or known for showing a lack of resilience.

All this in mind, I feel the need to defend myself against the potential judgements that might be made by asserting that:

1. I do not talk about my family or my sister's illness to anyone.
2. Outside of family and a few old friends, nobody would dream that I struggle with life in any way.
I am regarded as a person who is wise, self aware, stable, grounded... whichever of those kind of terms you use, I'm it.

So... Don't go thinking that I'm some rather weak, pathetic, hapless little creature who bathes in soft self pity and then wraps themselves up in the fluffy words of whoever wants to listen.
I'm not.
Nothing inspires greater disgust in me.

It has been a huge fear of mine that, in writing this blog, in writing about the things that have impacted me, blown me apart, people will judge me to be something repulsively feeble. Now that I come to begin to write about what has been, I feel that fear all the more acutely.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

My Sister - Anorexia.

I've been looking at some stuff to try to help me make sense of what is going on... I suppose in some ways I want to give a part of me a voice without having to go through the agony of trying to find the words.
I feel like I have spent a lifetime doing that in some respects. Music... I have spent my whole life looking for a song that will somehow sing me... There's no such thing of course.
"Write your own then", I hear you say. But, it's not like I haven't tried. It's just that words slip into obscurity when I try to gather them.

Anyway.


Anorexia.
There's not a lot I don't know about it.
I've sat and watched it devour my sister for over seventeen years.
I've watched it's grotesque form gnaw at her from the inside out and then superimpose itself onto her once beautiful body.
I've watched her scream into her bones as they become more and more hollow. Her shoulders, a branch from which the rest of her hangs.
I've seen her eyes sink deeper, the cage of bones around her cheeks protruding sharply, her chin just a point. I've watched her face become a skull, her skin stretched like canvas.
I've showered in the bath blocked by chunks of her broken hair.
I've cleaned my teeth in the washbasin blocked by the food she used to have to eat.
I've existed next to her tortured screaming and ranting. Her desperate sobbing. Her silent streaming tears.
I've watched her punching and kicking my parents as she has been dragged screaming into ambulances and cars to take her to hospital.
I've turned from her retching as she pulls out NG tubes and rips out cannula's.

I've watched her turn into someone I no longer know.
I have loved her as I thought I could never love anyone and I have hated her and longed to beat and bruise every inch of her fragile body.
And all this...
All this doesn't even begin to describe anything.

What I am left with however, is absolutely nothing.

I don't feel a thing for her.
Not a thing.
3 stone or 7, I don't feel anything... except maybe, a sort of brokenness somewhere too deep to mend.

So.
Given all this.
I should know better.
But apparently, I don't.

I started this post because I found an article I wanted to write about.
I wanted to explain something about myself that I feel is almost incomprehensible.
My sister is relevant but it is my own recent struggle I was going to write about.

Perhaps another time though.

I'll leave it at, 'there isn't much I don't know about anorexia'.
Just for now.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Silence is...

... not really golden at all.

It's too hard to write here right now.
I WANT to.
But I feel too exposed as it is.

I'm on a rollercoaster at the moment.
Ever watched Final Destination?

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Projection

Feeling as I do right now, it is neither wise nor advisable to be writing here. However, I need to say something in order to puncture my own silence and thus make it a little easier to come back when my words are going to come out bearing some semblance of order.

Sometimes it feels as though I am surrounded by a force field that will only allow people to get within a certain radius. Any closer, and they become a risk. One which I find so frightening.

Yet, it's not others who are the risk... It is me. It is the way I will feel or react. It is the terrible prospect that I will accept something that should be unacceptable.

My therapist (unaffectionately referred to as 'the woman') feels miles and miles away from me, particuarly when we are sitting in the same room.
Today somebody told me that it is not she who is far away, it's me.

Projection - The name of this phenomenon.
I feel something so strongly that I imagine that the therapist is feeling that way. (Please correct me if I'm wrong)
So, because I am bent double with the frustration at my own attitude ad behvoiurs, I assume that it is in fact HER feeling the frustration and anger.

If I feel that she can't ever help me and that she feels at a loss as to what to do with me, then, the theory of projection propounds that it is in fact, ME who is feeling those things about myself, not her.

So.

I'm in a difficult situation.

Does projection rule out the possibility that perhaps she really DOESN'T know how to help me? Does it mean that there is no longer such a thing as an objective reality?

I am ovewhelmed by both my options.

1. To keep going to see her.

2. To give up.

Both seems to lead to the same barren place.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Still Breathing.

Kind people have suggested that sometimes it's important to just stay breathing and it reminded me of this song which was on the last album released by Lifehouse, a Christian band who, despite that fact, are very good.
- Apologies offered for (not wholly unfair) prejudice.

Depression is like a magnet which locks onto you and drags everything 'living' out of you.
Sometimes, barely breathing is as much as you can manage.



The Broken clock is a comfort
It helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow
From steeling all my time
And I am here still waiting
Though I still have my doubts
I am damaged at best
Like you've already figured out

I'm falling apart
I'm barely breathing
With a broken heart
That's still beating
In the pain
There is healing
In your name
I find meaning
So I'm holding on (I'm holdin on)(I'm holdin on)
I'm barely holding on to you

Saturday, 17 October 2009

The End.



I dont think I will ever see my therapist again.

I feel utterly hopeless and just cannot see any point in anything.

This is not what people want to read. I'm aware of that.
In one sense, I'm angry with myself for appearing to be so lame. In another, I'm furious with the world for wanting me to live behind such a convincing act, wearing the mask with the fixed grin when the insides pulse with black and bloody clots.

Behind the mask, I'm on the offensive. I'm reactive.
If someone seems frustrated or angry with me, despite the fact that logic tells me that it may just be my perception, I will turn to the blade for punishment.
Why?
Because I will hurt me more than you could ever hurt me.
And
I am the only person who has the right to abuse me.
My mantra from days when i was a lot more ill than I am now.
Tonight I want to wear my skin as red gingham.
Claw at the silent, unfeeling flesh until it screams in long red streaks and white subcutaneous fat.

Platitudes, positive mental attitides, slogans, cliches, cognitive challenges, kindness, gentle words, listening, empathy...
They amount to nothing.

In the face of their own hopelessness, people meet despair. In the face of another's, people find anger and disgust.

My walls, bejewelled wth cut glass, crowned with razor wire, offer poor protection against the ghosts of shame and disgust who swoop to whisper that nobody knows and nobody will ever know.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Joys Of Disorganised Attachment.


A few weeks ago my therapist noted that I had a very disorganised attachment pattern.
At the time, I wasn’t the least interested in what she was saying and put it down to just the usual psycho mumbo jumbo that abounds in that particular sphere.
I have blogged about this before. It’s the second or third time she has mentioned it in passing. I’d love to have the ... whatever it takes...(guts perhaps?) to have asked her what she meant but at the moment, for reasons that are, quite churlishly, sticking their fingers up whilst urinating up the wall of the logical corner of my brain, I feel as though her kindness is a poisonous solution being drip fed into me. Hence, no questioning the therapist.
However, alone I crumble. And so again, I knelt at the font of Google in search of answers.
What IS a disorganised attachment? And for that matter, what the hell IS attachment? (I saw dozens of brand new Dysons being showcased and demonstrated by men with very white teeth (not sure where that came from) each displaying a technologically ingenious array of attachments).
Anyway. Turned out it has nothing to do with hoovers.
In brief, and I’m not remotely up on psychological theories so, if you know better, feel free to correct me...
There are all different types of attachment but they all concern the relationship between a child and its caregiver (often the mother).
A secure attachment appears to be th 'ideal'. The child's world is hunky dory because the mother is attentive to her baby's needs therefore allowing the child to build a healthy dependency, sense of security and protection.
With me?
Ok. In all honesty...? How many people get that.

The following is information I found on a Canadian website called AboutKidsHealth
Disorganized/disoriented attachment
There is a group of children (15-20%) who do not fit into Ainsworth’s original three-category scheme. Mary Main, another influential attachment researcher, added a fourth category to include these children.
Whereas children in the 3 primary attachment groups have organized strategies for dealing with arousal, disorganized children either lack an organized pattern to their behavior or have strategies that repeatedly break down. When stressed, in the presence of their caregiver, these children appear disorganized or disoriented displaying unusual behaviors such as approaching the caregiver with their head averted, trance-like freezing, or strange postures. These behaviors have been interpreted as evidence of fear or confusion with respect to the caregiver. Disorganization is considered an extreme form of insecurity.
Many children who fall into the disorganized category have experienced some form of maltreatment or have a parent who has been traumatized by severe loss. Other stressful situations involving reorganization of the family such as family moves or the birth of another child may also temporarily disorganize attachment patterns in a child.
The unusual behavior of the disorganized child is more difficult to understand even when considered from the child’s perspective. Many children with disorganized attachment patterns have been subjected to highly stressful, chaotic, and frightening environments.


So basically, pretty much anything could create a disorganised attachment. What interested me though was this...
...
Disorganized attachment sometimes occurs following extreme loss on the part of a parent. Researchers speculate that parents who are unable to recover from tragic losses (e.g. death of their own parent, abuse by a parent) subtly communicate a sense of anxiety and fearfulness to their child. This situation is highly disorganizing to the infant because the person who is supposed to be a source of comfort is also a source of fright and anxiety. Faced with this impossible situation, the child’s attempts at an organized strategy break down.

My mother lost her mum as a young child. Sent away to a boarding school within a year, she never got over the loss.
As a very small child, I remember her father as a stern but formidable old man who wore beige cardigans and smelled of cigars. The unresolved loss of her mother must have near killed her when he died.
Then, her most treasured sister died.
I was about 5.
I have an unaturally bad memory. 1 gig at most. I jest but I have considered the possibility of early onset dementia. You laugh, but you don't know just how much of a black hole so much of my mind is.
Children who show disorganized patterns of attachment in the Strange Situation Paradigm at one year of age have the greatest risk of aggressive behaviour, conduct disorder, and dissociative behaviours later in life. Dissociative behaviours involve a breakdown in a person’s perception of his or her surroundings, memory, identity, or consciousness.

The point I was making (before I rudely interrupted myself with a quote) was that although I remmeber nothing, my younger sister remembers my mum crying every day for a long, long time.
Grief?
I don't know.
But.
This disorganised pattern begins to look... Well... I won't say convincing because my layers of cynicism are not THAT easily pierced, but.

I could go on but I won't. It'll be another post.
Given that I have been attempting to articulate this post for over a week now, it is fair to say that I am finding it a real battle to allow myself to make anything too concrete or 'real'.
This whole journey is proving to be a lot harder than I thought, and for different reasons.
When I started out, I never figured that I would be my biggest obstacle.

Friday, 9 October 2009

This Week...

AGAIN, I have so much to say and yet so few words.
This is becoming something of a norm for me.

Last few therapy sessions have been reasonably gentle in response to a terrible session last Friday in which I actually thought my insides were going to cave in and I would implode.

Wednesday left me reeling after I had a really bad panic attack in the hairdressers and had to leave with soaking wet hair.

This weekend, I hope, will afford me a little time to put myself back together a little and to collect my thoughts and maybe try and get some down.

I'm finding it hard to write for a number of reasons. Mainly a reluctance that is borne out of fear but also just out of a general inabiltiy to express.

Monday, 5 October 2009

I Need Something

Newton Faulkner says it so well.



I need something to believe in
Cos I don't believe in myself
I'm sick and tired of getting nowhere
Guess it'll all work out

Friday, 2 October 2009

Hopelessness, My Disease.

I'd been psyching myself up to write something positive, or at the very least, poetic, but tonight I am faced with the profoundly disquieting aftermath of a Friday evening therapy session and it feels a though a storm has raged through my being and left me for dead.

I wish I had words to describe the despair that lies on the inside.
The depths of it are indescribable.
Hopelessness. And it is absolute.

My therapist sat and talked and the more she spoke the further I away I moved.
In the end, her words became a meaningless blur of sound.
I sat in pitch darkness, frozen, staring at the wall and counting.
It felt as if I was counting to save my life; to save myself from shattering; to save something from falling so far that it would never be able to get up again.

Inside of me is a death that is too old and too tired to be turned to life.

Depressing? Yes. Perhaps that is what this is.
I think depression has become such a part of me in the last fifteen years, that I no longer recognise it as being a seperate entity.
Depression is like a tree which grows INTO and incorporates any immoveable object in the path of its growth. It is entwined in me and it is so numb and so normal that I can no longer identify it.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

So Much To Say...

...and yet so few words to say it with.


Depression is like an anaconda in my chest, suffocating my words before they can even take a breath.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

In Hiding



I don't know what I should do now
'Cause I've exhausted all I know how
Still all of my efforts, they fail me
Leaving me broken and empty

I can't go on
Half living this life on my own

'Cause I'm hiding behind this smile
And I haven't come out for a while
See, there is this place so empty inside me
I'm hiding behind this smile

There must be someplace warmer than here
'Cause my teeth chatter, and I live in fear
But every attempt I attempt just impails me
Leaving me broken and empty

I can't go on
Half living this life on my own

'Cause I'm hiding behind this smile
And I haven't come out for a while
See, there is this place so empty inside me
I keep hiding behind this smile

'Cause I know I'm not okay, yeah
I know I'm not alright, yeah
I'm hiding behind this smile
Now I haven't come out for a while
See, there is this place so empty inside me
I keep hiding behind this smile

You see there is this place so empty inside me
and I'm hiding behind this smile
Hiding behind this smile


I was going to highlight the relevant bits but I'd have to highlight the whole lot.

Work is my saving grace. My smile is a good mask but it carries me sometimes. But then, I get home, and it all collpases.
There must be somewhere warmer than here.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Looking At The Remains - A Ravaged Landscape

A few summers ago (when I was less of an agoraphobe/freak) a great friend and I, armed with a rather cumbersome, green tent, drove down through the stunning French Pyrannees into the arid, desert landscape of Northern Spain.

As we wound on roads cut through the rock and on to the lower mountain roads, it was obvious that there had been an enormous fire which had swept uncontrollably across vast areas of landscape; ravaging the hillsides, melting and twisting any road signs and killing all the vegetation and wildlife for miles.

A striking experience, to realise the power of the element solely through being witness to the complete devastation that it has wreaked upon the land.

My own landscape looks a lot like the one I have described. If I was to paint a picture of how I imagine ‘the inside’ to look, it would be a picture of something charred and shrivelled. (Though of course, if I WAS to attempt such a thing, the outcome would be little more than a brown and black puddle on a page).
I cannot remember most of the time when I burned and yet, the evidence is everywhere on my blackened landscape. I know the hundreds of tiny deaths. I see and even, in some places, FEEL burns of various intensities, but I cannot really, accurately, recall being alight.


I think I must have cried my way through the night, or rather, howled. I woke up half a dozen times making a hell of a noise.

Bloody therapy. It does that.

In one (of the many) ‘snapshot’ dreams last night, I had an image of a little plastic mould of a human being. Plaster Paris (remember that stuff?) was being poured into it. The liquid was filling the sides of the mould, just as smoothly and beautifully as a heavy, winter Stout fills a pint glass, but the centre of the mould remained empty.
A hollow human figure.

Somehow, this links to the fire but I can't think about it enough to articulate it cos my brain “slides” if I try. Trying to hold things steady in my mind sometimes is an impossible feat.

At this juncture, it is perhaps worth saying that the all these analogies may seem to point to all sorts of terrible things in the mind of readers who may identify with some of the feelings or images. However, I want, and indeed, need to make it very clear that I have NOT suffered physical or sexual abuse (as so many others who are in therapy have).
I can’t explain the whys. Firstly because there are possibly too many and they are too difficult and secondly because getting to the point has never really been my thing. (Actually, more truthfully, getting to the point in this instance feels painful and impossible).

Cumulative trauma is what my therapist keeps saying.
It’s hard to acknowledge that after years of trying to squash it, and then subsequent years spent trying to make sure that it was always ‘less than’ someone else’s pain.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Speechless

I ran out of words a few days ago.
Figured I might manage to muster some after therapy on Monday but the session felt so... (as you can see, I failed and am still failing!).

Note to self: Must try harder!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Three Elements Of Therapy

3 things that feature in every therapy session I have:



1. We follow thought ropes which very suddenly get chopped by an immense, invisible axe.

Typical scenario = Therapist says something which suddenly strikes me
Me = "Yeah! That's true..! I remember this one time..."
CHOP
Silence. My mind is blank and I have no recollection of what I
was about to say. My mind has emptied, my ears are ringing and
when I speak again, I am accutely aware of how loud I am speaking
and the fact that I feel like I'm slurring my words like a drunk.
T = "Your mind fragmented just then. Interesting how that happens"
Me = "I don't know what I was saying".

So. Back to the veil of mist that hangs around my head but different from the grey patches and zooming I wrote about the other day. Another form of dissociation though perhaps?

Another thing.
2. My therapist madea comment today about the fact that I am very prone to quite upsetting psychosomatic responses, that is, my body "feels" in a way that my soul (or whatever it is tht feels) can't.
As soon as she makes an observation about me I am near drowned by a mighty wave of complete fear that she doesn't believe a word of what I am saying.
It's totally irrational and I cannot for the life of me figure how the wave forms or where it comes from, but it is so powerful and so frightening that it chokes me nd makes it impossible to speak.

Last one,
3. Every session when I tell her something about an experience or feeling and she goes to feed something back to me, I brace myself for a disgusted sweep of hand. I sit and feel my insides twist as I wait for her to start telling me to get a life. To tell me that none of it matters.
I wait for her to tell me that she can't be bothered and I am a waste of time.

Every session I walk out and drive away wondering how I got away with it for another day.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Can't keep something this good to myself...

When in doubt...



... This stuff is like nectar!
Soothing with a good kick, it might just be my newest drug of choice!

Really strange how you can hate a taste for 30 years and then, overnight, develop a crazed passion for it.
I've heard a theory that eating a food you dislike 15 times leads to a person acquiring a taste for it...
Perhaps I reached the magic 15 with the ginger?
Either way, I am going to make up for lost time!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Kindness Hurts



Sometimes it feels as though my outside has been sanded and planed and I am left, without skin. A raw, weeping, pink sub-epidermal layer exposed to grit and wind.

Come too close and the flesh blisters and bubbles as if scrubbed in a citrus bath.
Show kindness and I scream silently as my seeping surface is burned by your care.
Touch me and your hands are as salt rubbing and thrusting into bloody gashes, down to the bone.

I have been skinned alive.

Kindness scaulds me. I can hardly bear it.
At times it is like torture.

And yet, some part of me wants kindness and is so frightened of being met with disgust or anger. So afraid, that I wrap barbed wire and cut glass tight around my skin and aim to let your care bounce off before it can find its way in.
Because if, for one minute, I let it soothe me, you will gouge it out, snatch it away and I will feel worse for having had and lost than never having had at all.

It is better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all? Maybe
But never better to have been loved and lost than never to have been loved at all.

I am meant to love unconditionally, without restraint, without SELF.
Ugh.
I love. I care. I hold. I touch. I tend.
But do it to me and I run.

Negative I know.
To do uplifting would be to be the same in this place as I am to all those I live and work with and THAT defeats the object.
Apologies all the same.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Blurring The Edges - The Mind Thing



The mind thing.

That's what I called it before I heard the terms 'fragmentation' or 'dissociation'.

For a long time I have been aware of the mind thing. It happens sometimes when my anxiety levels get really high begin to tip over into panic. Sadly, it doesn't hang around when a full blown panic attack strikes. Instead it usually appears at the most inconvenient time, usually when I am in a situation where I am engaged in conversation with someone and cannot possibly indicate that there is anything even slightly wrong.

Picture me, driving up a dual carriageway, with one of our more 'interesting' students in my car (minbus overflow - educational trip - kid not to be trusted in large groups).
Of course I have been stressed. ALL trips out raise my (normally too-moderate-to-be-comfortable) anxiety levels, but it's not as if I am panicking or anything... At least, I don't think so, until the zooming begins and the swooping darkness and the sense of that I am losing my grip on reality. It is as though my mind has suddenly begun to push against itself to create a little dented fontanelle, space enough to fold inwards.
I am battling the growing sense of what I can only describe as 'being corridored'. My mind is becoming a breath stealingly narrow passage lit by low energy bulbs which won't warm up.
And all the time, the disaffected student is talking and I am trying to focus on the words and respond at the same time as forcing my eyes to blink hard and believe that the road and traffic ahead is actually real. It is not a computer game. I am 'in' this.
My steering wheel feels part of my hands and when we arrive, I fall into the disquieted aftermath.

The warning often precedes a panic attack which doesn't always come, but if it does, can be a sweeping tornado which wreaks havoc on my inner landscape.
Panic attacks are really a post all of their own but I give them some mention here because, although not always, they are often linked to 'the mind thing'.

Another of the strangest and most disturbing things that I experience when I am zoning out is that the person who I am trying to focus on ("act normal for goodness sakes, act normal!") begins to blur around the edges and then, as though I have starred at the sun for a long time and looked away, the grey patches appear and start to swim around them and over them.
Disorientating to say the least. To say more would be to describe the nausea and the dizziness that swells and washes in crested waves through my head and gut.
I'll leave it there for fear of drowning!

The mind thing happened in therapy. It often does to some extent.
Last session she zoomed in and out and was almost overwhelmed by the monsterous steel grey amoebic blobs which looked as though they were trying to blot her out completely.
Today I knew when it was going to start because the volume went down and I hardly dared look at her. When she asked if she was zooming in and out I explained that she was blurry, as though looking at a photo taken with a soft focus lens. She thought that my mind needed to blur her. It's a protection thing. Psychobabble?
I'm not sure.

I would be interested to know if anyone else experiences this, fragmenting of their mind when they try to talk or anything similar.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

And Speaking of Country... Sometimes music will reach what nothing else can.

Anything beyond work has felt very dark and frightening this week. I have been fighting to stay 'on my outside'.

I've been listening to Paul Brandt, a country favourite of mine. He has sung to me on every car journey I've made this week.
Very kind of him.

I'm posting one of many songs where I appreciate the sentiment but am uncertain about the theology. Nevertheless, it has helped to keep something in me alive and above water.

The song talks about how love will find us if we can just 'hold on'. This presents all sorts of, 'but shouldn't we take more responsibility and do the seaching rather than being pathetic and waiting to be found', thoughts in my head... But for just this week, I have had to ignore the questions and the disagreement and allow it to comfort me a little.

I used to know this love he sings about and a part of me knows it probably exists regardless of me and how I feel, but there was a time once where I felt it rather than just knew in my head.

From the album 'Risk', Paul Brandt singing a cover of Nordeman's song Hold On.

And I am...



He will find you when you've called in all your favours
He will meet you at the bridges highest ledge

So baby don't look down
It's a long way
The sun'll come around to a new day

So hold on
Love will find you
Hold on
He's right behind you now
Just turn around and love will find you

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Country Music and Me!

My old sound system certainly wouldn't have won any awards in a Stereo Beauty Contest.
A black and silver Panasonic monstrosity, it was the kind of thing that even looked incongruous in the 80's, despite being designed then! You get the picture right?

However ugly, I remember that stereo because it was my first encounter with country music.

There was a channel which I used to find when I turned the tuning knob by painstakingly tiny degrees, often all the way up the red line and then all the way back down again, until I found something that sounded like country!
I don't know what the channel or the program was, but when I first heard the music, something in me simultneously leapt up and lay down, with the happy comfort of a joyful reunion. Somehow I was 'found' by country music. It made sense of something innate but unknown and it still does that.

Ok... so country doesn't get you a lot of street cred around here and it's just not cool for someone my age, though perhaps now I'm getting on a bit it will become more accepetable! Either way, I'm coming out of the genre closet and admitting to my passion for all things country! Big American trucks (for any Kendel Carson fans!) prairies, Stetson hats, ranches, the mid West, Nashville, guitars on backs, boots, harps, checked shirts, pick up trucks... Admittedly, my American Dream isn't quite the traditional one but...
(We've all got to have a dream though right? One day I'll...)

Country music gets a raw deal. It is stereotyped and ridiculed mercilessly by most people under the age of 30 and although it has made some appearances in the mainstream charts in recent years (think Shania Twain and, more recently, Taylor Swift) it is still the butt of most music jokes - You've all heard the one about what happens when you play a country record backwards...)
Bizarrely, it has even been suggested that country music is somewhat dangerous inasmuch as there have been studies which have tried to prove a correlation between listening to country music and suicide! (Steven Stack and Jim Gundlach were the men responsible for this strange idea!)

I don't think there is a way to describe it, but country often picks me up from the grey and places me on a sunbeaten dirt track with the smell of hot grasses and the sense that the world is bigger and wider and more beautiful than I can see right now.

Perhaps it's the spirituality that seems to be carried up the roots and into the core of country, I'm not sure, but it's my kind of music and in some strange way, it gives me hope like nothing else on earth.
Country music lacks pretension. It's real... about real life and real people. It is a lot about love and relationships. God, working hard, drinking hard and family life are all themes and they are written honestly and without ambiguity.
I like the way that country takes a little of our secret hopes and our inner values and makes them real.

I love it that Dierks Bentley once said that "country music has always been the best shrink that fifteen bucks can buy" (!!) because it sums it up so beautifully! Country music ministers to the broken parts and advises the longings. It will sit with your grief and pain but it will also offer light and hope. It's message is that no matter how bad it gets, you will make it in the end.

Monday, 7 September 2009

No 'Nice' Here.


I'd love to write with the grace and maturity of someone who has gained the much sought after emotional wisdom and perspective that sometimes seeps from the recollection of pain.
I'd love to maintain a cool and collected distance from myself. For the feelings I have to be something I could hold away from my body and walk around, considering what they show me and what I can learn from them. (Picture some pretentious guy walking around a piece of abstract sculpture, head cocked to one side and forefinger deliberately curled over the crescent of his chin).
I'd like to be able to paint my inside as a wave of detached blue and green maturity, sculpt it in smooth, round curves or chisel it in cool, quiet marble.
I want it to look like the understated elegance of silk, smell like the comfort of fresh white cotton and sound like the words of a beautiful song.

But.
It's not like that.
It's not looking or sounding how I want it to.

Instead it is the image of the screaming red child thrashing the floor. It's reds and blacks painted in blood. Heavy handed strokes from a graceless brush.
It is unsanded wood, splintered and charmless. Curses and ineloquent stammering, an ear clutching dissonance of petulant rage.
It is a mesh of shameful scribblings and blots, the retching stench of maggot ploughing flesh in the attic corner.

Too much, I know. I was just getting into it.

I jest, but in all honesty, all the melodramatic metaphors an similes in the world couldn't really touch the how I feel now.

I want to surround myself with fifty foot walls and then wrap barbed wire around and around the perimeter.
I told my therapist this in today's session and she asked which side she'd be on.
I didn't know and she suggested that perhaps she would have ease of access.

Yes. I thought.
Until you go and f*ck it up.

I so don't want to be this pathetic but it I'm being swallowed alive and I'm too disgusted by myself to even explain why.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Anorexia in Adults

I have been reading about the rise of eating diorders in adults.

It seems to make sense.

The following is taken from the University of Rochester Medical Centre, US webpage.

No Age Limits on Eating Disorders
National Eating Disorders Awareness Week takes place from Feb. 25 through March 3, and doctors hope the event will bring greater awareness that there is no age restriction when it comes to these disorders.

"It can happen to anybody at any stage of their life," says Dr. Alexander Sackeyfio, a psychiatrist and eating-disorder specialist at the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "I think we're becoming more aware of it and are better at diagnosing it."

Dr. Bunnell says anorexics tend to be preoccupied with their body shape or weight, and often suffer from anxiety, perfectionism and obsessive-compulsive disorder. By contrast, bulimics tend to be depressed and impulsive, often struggling with substance-abuse issues.

"The anorexic style is more overly controlled, tense and rigid, while the bulemic style is less controlled, impulsive or disregulated," Dr. Bunnell says.

Eating Disorders Can be Fatal
People tend to make another mistake in their perception of eating disorders - they assume they are relatively benign psychological problems that are easily treated and without lasting physical effects, says Dr. Doug Bunnell, clinical director of the Renfrew Center in Wilton, Conn.

"People are surprised when they learn these have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis, somewhere between 10 and 15 percent," says Dr. Bunnell, who is also a member of the National Eating Disorders Association board of directors.

Anorexia produces dramatic weight loss caused by excessive or compulsive dieting. An estimated 0.5 percent to 3.7 percent of women suffer from anorexia nervosa at some point in their lifetime, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.


Midlife Resurgence or First Appearance of Problem?
Dr. Bunnell says he is seeing more middle-age or even older women coming in for treatment of an eating disorder. But, he is not sure that all of these are new cases developing later in life.

"My experience is that virtually all the women we've seen with eating-disorder symptoms in their 30s or 40s had some prior activity in the more typical age range," Dr. Bunnell says. "It may not have been diagnosed, or just short of being serious, but there was a period when they were really struggling with it. We've not seen a lot of brand new, out-of-the-blue eating disorder cases in older women."

Other doctors believe that hormonal fluctuations that occur near menopause could set off an eating disorder, as could mid-life changes like divorce or the departure of grown children. As the family changes, some women find themselves grasping for some semblance of control - one of the needs that an eating disorder can fulfill.

Complicating matters for the older patient is the fact that women coming in for treatment later in life may find it harder to get the help they need. For decades, the focus has been young women, and only recently has the therapeutic field begun to expand into treatment for older women - and men, Dr. Sackeyfio says.

Ideally, someone with an eating disorder should be working with a team that includes a psychiatrist, a nutritionist, and a physician, Dr. Sackeyfio says.

"They aren't spoiled brats who are trying to make people's lives harder," he says. "They really have very little control over the physical changes that they cause in their own bodies.
"


It is an interesting point that an eating disorder rarely springs out of nowhere and most adults have struggled previously to a greater or lesser extent.
I have been obsessed on and off since my teens, though I suspect that it was mainly a reaction to watching my sister.
Now though, it is different.
It is about things too shameful to write about.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Truth Hurts

I have been lying to myself and everyone else for some time now.

I know I have a problem and I know it is getting worse.

Today I weighed 6 stone 12. 85.68 pounds. It's not a terribly low weight given that I'm only about 5,3" but others have been making comments lately. I feel like a fox must feel when backed against a mud wall, faced with the moist, snarled mouth of a hound.

I just want to get smaller and smaller.

It would seem that I have an eating disorder. However hard that it to admit.
And it IS hard.
I can't say it aloud to anyone.

The problem is that for the past 17 years, my family and I have watched my middle sister, a severe anorexic, systematically attempt to starve herself to death.
It has been extreme even by most anorexic standards.

It's not about food. My thing.
It's about control and aging and being small and being loved and being unhappy.

I've just had a huge family ordeal. My youngest sister is in tears, telling me she can't do this again. I am selfish, she says.
There is truth in that.
How can I do this to them? How can I let this happen?
But...
How can I stop it?

I am terrified that if I was to let go of this, I would collapse. Smash into shards like dropped cut glass.
I would have nothing to live for.

I want and need to be left alone.

I want to be smaller.
I need my pain to be outside instead of inside.

This is a "reactive" post. Not one where I have had time to rationalise my feelings and create a distance.
According to Wordsworth it's not good to write this raw. He said that "the best poetry comes from emotion recollected in tranquility". I always thought that applied to writing in general.

There aren't words to describe the desperation I feel right now.

Metaphorically speaking it feels as though I have had lemon juice poured onto a fresh wound tonight.
The more they say, the more I am pressed against the wall an the more I will shrink.

I'm too old to have developed an eating disorder. I cannot understand what is going on.

I'm lost.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Learning From Lyrics III - Another Brick In The Wall Part III

The final part of the Another Brick In The Wall trilogy is perhaps the hardest for me to write about.
The lyrics show the result of years and years worth of bricks being piled one on top of another to form a brick wall, the scale and fortitude of which is not really even noticed whilst it is being built. In fact, it is only really recognised when the wall has become so inpenetratable that feelings can no longer be clearly identified.

In this last piece of Pink's building work, there is a change in tone, both musically with the addition of a previously unheard aggression, and more importantly (to me) lyrically.

Another Brick In The Wall, Part 3 (Roger Waters)

I don't need no arms around me
And I don't need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don't think I need anything at all.
No! Don't think I'll need anything at all.
All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all you were all just bricks in the wall.


The first two parts of The Wall reveal how the foundational bricks have been early experiences of loss, grief and rejection. Later, during Pink's adolescence, the wall was cemented and fortified with his experience of shame. More than that, his sense of being shouted at rather than listened to; humiliated instead of nurtured; and made to stand still and look disgust in the face, rather than encouraged to grow as an individual with a voice.
How many of us lost our voices when we were talked at instead of listened to?

The third part is different. It's a part that I feel I could have written myself and it's a part that no matter how hard I try, I won't be able to fully convey it's meaning because it speaks to a broken part in my heart rather than a logical place in my head.

In my experience all our walls are built with bricks that revolve around one major theme and no matter what different names and experiences each brick has, the theme cements them together.

Unmet needs.

The need we had to be loved, accepted, heard, held, invested in, trusted, fed.

When we have enough unmet needs to cement all our bricks of loss, rejection, grief, abuse... When the walls are so high that we no longer have clear memories of the things that caused us pain... THEN... Then the wall has become our prison as well as our protection.
The wall doesn't just protect us, it prevents us.
We don't feel the bad but we don't feel the good either.

For me, this is where depression steps in.

And in depression, there is only the dull, interminable and indescribable pain of depression itself. You feel the dark shadows cast by the wall, and you feel the dreadful heaviness of the bricks, but you no longer recognise the shame, the loss, the rejection that built it.

Pink sings about no longer needing anything from anyone.
Why?
Because it is just too painful to need things and to never get them.
It's easier to kill the need than allow the desperation of having the need and the pain of never having it met.
We've all done it... We've all experienced the situation where, for example, we haven't recieved the invite we had expected.
"I didn't really want to go anyway".
I work with some fairly damaged young people (and yes, I do see the irony). They are masters of self protection. Their walls are spiked with broken glass and barbed wire.
Last year a tough lad agreed to take an exam. He expected to pass despite refusing to do any work for it.
When he failed he was so upset he turned a table upside down. I told him he could retake it and it was no big deal and all he could tell me was that he didn't want the qualification anyway. He hadn't wanted it in the first place.
We don't get our needs met so we stop needing. We DENY needing.

I feel just like the kid whose anger quickly turned into 'I didn't want it anyway'.
Pink doesn't "need no arms" around him.
I know that feeling.
It's the dead, dessicated pain of not being held when you most needed it.

It is almost too frightening to consider needing anything or anyone and I hear Pink singing about the deadness I feel in this last part of Another Brick In The Wall.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

First Therapy Break

My therapist is on a break; a two week break which means that I miss four sessions.The last session I had with her was... a difficult place to just 'drop therapy' for two weeks.

I've been informed by her that I have a "disorganised attachment disorder", and in all honesty, given the lack of organisation I practice generally, I'd say that there may be a fair chance this is true.
(Ok. So I am deliberately choosing to misunderstand her).
I don't know much about attachment disorder, other than it is to do with the way a child attaches to its mother during infanthood.
Having little more than a 2 gig memory, it's a strain to recall memories of events that happened 3 years ago, let alone memories of what it may have been like 30 odd years ago, so you'll forgive me if I am slightly cynical. A disorganised attachment though, is allegedly the result of having a mother who cannot (for whatever reason) meet the needs of her baby.

Anyway.
I always thought it was a sign of being incredibly well adjusted if you never really missed anyone while they were away.

Apparently not.

It's amazing how negative a spin the mental health profession can put on everything.
Like... washing your hands a lot can't just be 'a penchant for cleanliness'. Oh no. It has to be 'an OCD'.

Weary sigh.

I'm talking crap and I know it.

Just wanted to let the bricks in my walls have a few words so they feel like they are still important.

Thoughtful of me huh?

Friday, 28 August 2009

Learning From Lyrics II (more on Pink Floyd)




Having identified the experience of loss, rejection and betrayal as foundational bricks in The Wall, I'm going to go on and have a look at Part II of 'Another Brick in the Wall' (and thanks to the lovely Gail, I can also hopefully manage to embed the song! - I say 'hopefully' warily!)

Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 (Waters) 3:56

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

"Wrong, Do it again!"
"If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you
have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?"
"You! Yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"




The haunting tones of a young child in the first part of the trilogy, are here replaced by those of an angry and rebellious adolescent. Rather than the earlier focus on loss, the theme changes to the damage done by the 'dark sarcasm' of teachers during school years.
(It occurs to me as I write that, paradoxically, the double negative in the first line is indicative of the fact that they DO need education!)
Waters' experiences with education clearly had a negative effect on him, as he writes about the oppressive schooling which became, 'another brick in the wall".

Few people I know came out of school unscathed and I can particularly identify with these lyrics as I recall a certain year in a very small Roman Catholic Primary School where the numbers were so small that children in Years 5 and 6 had to share a teacher and classroom.
The teacher I refer to was notorious for being a horrible, unfeeling man who had little patience for any child who he deemed to be 'weak' (sounds slightly Victorian, I know. In actual fact, he was a Northerner living with a load of 'soft Southerners' and there was truth in the stereotype in this instance).

I watched that man bully my middle sister, week anfter week, as she failed spelling test after spelling test (because she was dyslexic and not academically inclined).
He would make the class sit down as counted down from 20 out 20 to 10 out of 20 (by which time only a few students were left standing. As he got even lower, I would sit twisting my pencil in my hand, willing him to have mercy.
4 out of 20. My sister would still be standing, by this time, visibly trembling with her face and ears burning.
When she couldn't stand the humiliation anymore, her reddened face would screw up and she would begin to cry with the desperation of someone who knows that they can't afford to be crying.
"Go boil yer head", was his usual, disgusted, response.

I would grip and twist my pencil until it hurt. The unbearable stiffness in my spine makin it hard to even breathe properly as I visualised stabbing him with the pencil, or heroically facing him with the all the cold, angry bitteness of a ten year old child who has yet to become immune to watching the same sister suffer.

Despite the fact that my career revolves around education, I find myself wincing when I see colleagues treating young people badly.
Even in the slightly more emotionally 'enlightened' era we now live in, I would bet that most teachers have NO IDEA how much damage they may potentially do to a vulnerable young person.

When Pink sings about education in Part II, I think that he is referring to the shame that comes from being subjected to mockery, sarcasm, humiliation.
You want a wall built fast? Shame is your material.