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


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..."
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.
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.

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?
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.
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.