Monday, March 10, 2014

The Day I Lost It

Image below from http://r-u-safe.org/domestic-violence/.

My very first "real" boyfriend came along when I was 15 years old and he was a doozy. His name was Kenny and he was one of the first few boys brave enough to ask me out. (I've been told I seem confident when as a teen, when in reality that was just me being an extrovert.) Looking back on it, now I see the signs and that it wasn't bravery but his control issues that allowed him false bravado to come on so strong.

Kenny and I dated about a month and in that month I was verbally abused, pinched, slapped on the ass, cheated on, my breast was grabbed in public to humiliate me, and ultimately was knocked almost unconscious.  Why did I put up with it for a month? I had already survived sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse from the hands of others that I loved. I had this sneaking suspicion that I deserved to be treated like this. That this was normal for me. I had not yet healed enough to know not to accept these behaviors as normal from anyone.

I was the Good Girl in school. In high school, I helped teachers by handing out papers, delivering notes to other teachers to get supplies, and going to the teacher's lounge to make copies. I helped in the superintendent's office, answering the phone, filing, taking messages, delivering things. I was the kid the teachers trusted. I was responsible. Mature. Not a trouble-maker. I had grown out of that in 1st grade where I alternately slapped and talked nonstop to people on a daily basis. I stood at recess A LOT that first year. I learned to hit while the teacher wasn't looking. I lost my temper the most on the school bus, most of the time in the afternoon on the way home. The noise and the heat combined with a long, tiring day was enough to have me lashing out at people. I had to visit the principal a couple of times in elementary school but never got a paddling. My parents were very seldom notified of my violent explosions. I was better at stuffing my anger down by the time I got in junior high.

So my established role as the Good Girl was slightly tarnished The Day I Lost It. I do not regret this tarnishing for it taught me a lot and was the beginning of the cracks in my Good Girl armor.

On the day I lost it, I had forgotten my homework in my locker. I had undiagnosed Complex PTSD and forgetting things was par for my course. I was standing in an empty hallway, all the kids having already went to class and me having permission (always asking permission) to get my homework from my locker, I was alone. Until I wasn't. I had broken up with Kenny a few days beforehand and he, being the trouble maker that he was, had left class to roam the halls. He found out the week before through a mutual friend that we were going to the mall and I had to pass his house on our way there. He waited in his driveway in his car until we passed, then pulled out, gassed it and tailgated me. I drove straight to the police department parking lot and parked it. He pulled in beside me, rolled his window down, hollered at our mutual friend, "You're not my friend anymore!!" then peeled out.

He had also been harassing me in the one class I had with him and had promised me that he would visit my house late some night when my parents weren't home to inflict some unimaginative violence upon my person. I told him to bring it for I was always armed to the teeth and I'd love to see who the law would believe...me, the Good Girl with not so much as a speeding ticket to her name or him, the drug head with a record. He never showed up at my house.

Instead, he showed up in the empty hallway and as I turned, homework in hand, locker door closing behind me because I'd heard somebody there, he palmed my face like a basketball and bounced the back of my head off my metal locker door, smiling all the while.

My vision went blurry and I staggered, grabbing the lockers behind me for support to keep from falling. The hallway was swimming around me, my stomach was treatening to revolt, and all I could see was rolling cinder blocks and his freckled, smiling face. Then I Lost It.

I do not remember launching my 5'9" self toward his 5'6" self and I do not remember wrapping my hands around his throat or pushing him up the cinder block wall and I do not remember uttering noises from my throat that made it scratchy for hours afterward nor do I remember teachers coming out of their rooms, hollering at me and trying to pull me off of him but all of that happened. It happened because when I became aware of myself again, that's what was going down. Kenny, going blue around the mouth against the cinder block wall of the hallway, my hands wrapped around his throat, veins standing out and red with strain, teachers hands on my arms and fingers, prying, scraping, and the buzz of voices saying my name loudly but very far away it seemed. I had no conscious thought other than, "Make him stop hurting me."

They finally separated us or I let go of him, I don't know which but they hauled both of us straight to the principal's office. The inside of this particular office in high school, I had never visited and of course Kenny was a veteran. He coughed and gasped the whole way to the office, while spouting sexist curse words at me over his shoulder and while the teachers constantly hushed him. I was silent and not quite myself yet, things seemed to be floating around instead of being firmly on the ground where they belonged, which was why when we got to the principal's office and Kenny made eye contact with me again while saying those words, I lost it for the second time. This time, he fell down to the floor with my hands around his throat and I followed him down. It was harder for the teachers to get me off of him this time because there was less room than before with chairs and a desk in the way. Plus I had my legs wrapped around his freckled ass. I had dancer's legs and they were locked on target. When I came to myself again, two male teachers and 3 female teachers had came to the office and had me by various body parts, screaming my name again.

I stood up, Kenny could not because he was having trouble getting his breath and the principal's eyebrows were somewhere up around the stratosphere when he asked me, "WHAT IN GAWD'S NAME IS GOING ON???" The shock on the face of all of the teachers in that office pointed at me strikes me as funny now but then, I was still woozy and suddenly sat down. I told the principal what happened and what had been happening while Kenny gasped, coughed, lying on the floor and tried to defend himself and lie through his severely bruised up tracea. The principal told him to shut up. The counselor was dispatched to get ice packs, I was allowed to go to the bathroom to get it together while Kenny got his punishment in the office, whatever it was. I could not have cared less.

I learned a very valuable lesson that day. To stand up for myself the first time. To shut that shit down the very second it starts. That people will only treat you how you let them treat you. That nobody deserves to be hit or humiliated for any reason EVER.

Kenny was the first and last boyfriend who ever laid a hand on me in anger or abuse. He died a few years out of high school in a car wreck.

I read an article today about domestic violence that struck a nerve with me. I realized I had never told that story on my blog and I never told it in school either. My parents didn't even know about it until a few months ago. You see, I thought it was my fault deep down so I kept it a secret from most people. People can't understand why women stay with men who hurt them. This is why. Shame. Fear. Guilt. Lack of options. I understand it perfectly and I also understand how hard it is to get away from them safely even though mine only lasted a month. There is great personal risk involved in staying or leaving and it takes more courage than you know to do it or talk about it because we feel like it is our fault even when you tell us it isn't. It takes YEARS to convince ourselves that we didn't ask for the violence. Don't judge others until you walk a mile in their shoes.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What I Know, Part V

This is an ongoing series of blog posts about my journey so far in therapy and recovery. For the previous parts of this series, click here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.

Yesterday was my One Year Anniversary of recovery from Binge Eating Disorder. I posted the video below on all of my social networks and the response was quite frankly overwhelming. From comments from friends, to people beginning their journey of recovery ON THAT VERY DAY after watching the video, to people contacting me asking how to get started, I basically cried all day long and I am not complaining about it. It was HAPPY tears, GRATEFUL tears. (I’m TEARING UP just thinking about it now.) I told my friend Kimmy Darling that I was just trying to say thank you with this video and never dreamed my story would inspire this many people.

Last week, I saw an affirmation that hit me so hard, I felt like I’d been sucker punched in the gut. I was struggling with the “pressure” of my upcoming anniversary and my fear of relapsing when I was so close to a year in recovery. Because of some stress that I had been experiencing, I did exactly what I knew I did not need to be doing. I quit self-care completely. I quit writing affirmations. I quit having quiet, thinking, reflective lunches away from my desk. I quit meditating. I quit journaling. I quit reading. I quit looking for help. My weight went up. I was going backwards. Now, keep in mind, the “pressure” I referenced above was all internal. I placed it all on myself because of my fear and my obsession with what everybody else thinks of me. I was scrolling through Twitter, deeply re-entrenching myself in unhealthy past habits of denial of self-care when I saw the affirmation. Sucker punched. The affirmation said, “A “perfect” body is one that works, no matter what that may mean for your personally.”

Damn. My body works. Yes, I have all of these initials and disorders and intolerances but my body STILL works. Therefore, I have a perfect body. EVERYTHING NEGITIVE INSIDE OF ME SCREAMS WHENEVER I SAY THIS TO MYSELF. IT’S LIKE AN A-BOMB GOING OFF. That Negative Committee that meets in my head does NOT want me saying that I have a perfect body. It might actually be true!! HORROR OF HORRORS! I might actually believe it and love myself if I keep saying it!!! The voices are going, “MAYDAY!! MAYDAY!!! FULL HULL BREACH!!! WE’RE GOING DOWN!! EMERGENCY EVACUATION!!” They know that THIS SENTENCE, these WORDS are their demise and the key to my continuing recovery. That rolling gut, that lack of peace is how I know I need to keep saying it. I will keep saying it until my torso stops rolling in anxiety every time I even think it. I will keep saying it until Scarlett O’Hara, my inner child/symptom self/subconscious mind, stops adding “NO, YOU DO NOT” or “Yeah, a PERFECT body underneath all of that fat.” I will say it until she is silent and my brain accepts that my body is perfect exactly the way it is with no changes. Until I believe it. It is okay to accept your body as it currently is while you are still evolving. You do not have to wait until you weigh ___ pounds less.

We accepted our 50th member to the Facebook support group today and I am overjoyed. If you struggle with an eating disorder, body image disorder or general negative body image, diagnosed or not, male or female, you may join us. It is a closed group so you may tell your story when you are ready to do so in confidence that it will not be on your newsfeed. Positive Body Support Group

This weekend has been nothing less than amazing and I am so grateful to have the entire supportive community I do. I could not have made it this far without you. Thank you.

A Year of Hope from Cindy Hornsby on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Skin and Bones

New angles emerging
Hollows, knuckles, edges of muscle,
My Being being revealed,
Transformed as it always was.

Hidden from view so long
I forgot the Me I was when
I WASN'T HIDING in full view,
Plain sight of the world.

Stilling my body's movement,
Robbing it from being seen,
A tall, round scarecrow ever
Immobile and going nowhere.

Leaving, layers of insulation
Protection from the real me being judged
And found to be too much or
Not enough, distance from too close.

A love affair with a bone,
Hidden for 20 years, they may
Find me wanting, not enough,
They will most definitely judge me.

But this is me.
Me down to this bone.
This knuckle.
To the sinew.
Too close.
I will not be too much anymore.
I will be TOO MUCH.
I will be me.
Completely.
Visibly.
Present.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Are Not Alone

This week is Mental Illness Awareness Week and I am writing this blog for NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and for the people out there who are suffering right now. One in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. It is way past time to shed the shame and silence and speak out to break the stigma, the illusion of perfection. No one is served by the silence.

I will be giving some statistics throughout this blog post and all of these can be found at http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf

I have been diagnosed, misdiagnosed and undiagnosed in my 35 years. I have suffered with depression in my teens; a deep, dark, sucking blackness, a lack of emotions. Approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental disorders in a given year.

My grandmother suffered from schizophrenia and the lack of easily available, good, inexpensive mental health care in the US. She passed away in a state mental institution an hour and a half from her nearest relative. About 2.6 million people live with schizophrenia.

My aunt was diagnosed with manic depression over two decades ago which is now called bipolar disorder. About 6.1 million people live with this disorder.

Many of my wonderful friends have been diagnosed with clinical depression, chronic depression and general depression. I was diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in 2004 which is also known as "the winter blues". About 14.8 million people live with major depression.

I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD and OCD this year professionally (although I've known for 15 years or more that I have OCD). My darling man was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder professionally last year. About 42 million people live with anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and phobias.

I was also diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder this year and have been in recovery since March 1st. November 4th will be my 250th day binge free. My grandfather and great-grandfather, and many aunts and uncles were/are alcoholics in various stages of recovery or denial. About 9.2 million adults have co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders.

I was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) which is a mood disorder in 2007 by my gyno. Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.

My grandfather and his brother, my great-uncle, committed suicide. Neither left a note so we do not know why suicide was their only option. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death for ages 15 to 24 years. More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders.

I write all of this to tell you: You are not alone. I could go into so many different stories just within my own family, within my personal experience, that it would end up being so long, it would be a series of novels. Untreated mental illness, no matter how mild, takes its toll on the body. The body and mind are connected in ways that science has not yet fully grasped. Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than other Americans, largely due to treatable medical conditions.

You are not alone. If you have trouble dealing with everyday life and stress, seek professional help. Therapy and mental health treatments are just as much preventative medicine as a blood pressure check or cholesterol reading. There are literally millions of us and a growing number do not speak about it in whispers or private messages anymore. You can get help. It can get better. You do not have to live like this.

You can find more information at http://www.nami.org

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What I Know, Part IV

This is a ongoing series of blog posts about my journey so far in therapy. For the previous parts of this series, click here: Part I, Part II, Part III.

Trigger Warning for Sexual Assault.

Last month, my friend Lori posted a link to an article about a father in TX who caught a man in the process of sexually assaulting his young daughter and beat him to death with his bare hands. The State of Texas did not charge him with anything since the law allows a person to protect his children. After I read that article, I got to wondering about the “confrontation” that happened between my sexual molester and my parents. I realized I didn’t know exactly how that came about and in my journal, I wrote a list of questions to ask. I got the chance a few days later when Mom and I went to dinner.

I found that it really wasn’t a confrontation. Back story is that the teenaged daughter of church friends, we’ll call the daughter Cally, is the person who molested me. We were going over to their house for Sunday lunch almost every Sunday for a while. The family had some issues and with guests there, they could “get away” with being normal because the father of the family would behave himself. So we got invited A LOT. We didn’t find all of this out until much later, of course. When I told my mother that Cally was touching me in places she wasn’t supposed to, we just stopped going to their house with no explanation to Cally’s family. After a few weeks of made up excuses as to why we wouldn’t come over, the mother of the family pinned my mother down after church one day. She knew something was not right and asked why we wouldn’t come over anymore. Mama didn’t know what to do so she just told the truth. That Cally was “messing” with me. Cally’s mother, we’ll call her Vicky, was flabbergasted and said she’d talk to Cally. The next Sunday, she came back and told my mother than Cally had said a neighborhood boy had done the same to her when she was younger, she didn’t think anything was wrong with it. Vicky had not known and obviously had never given her daughter ownership over her own body or permission to stop things that made her uncomfortable. Needless to say, we did not go back to their house.

I did not have ownership over my body either as a child and did not have permission to stop uncomfortable things with people who were older than me. I was to be nice at all costs, not be silly, not cause a scene, BEHAVE. Cally pursued me like a predator. I was already hyper-vigilant, even at that very young age and my instincts kept me from being hurt any more than I was already being hurt because I knew when some was “off” with people around me. I paid CONSTANT attention to voice level, tone, eye and facial expressions, body language and movements. To this day I am not easily lied to or easy to sneak up on. I knew something was “off” with Cally but she wasn’t always like that. As a child, I sought out people closer to my age than the 30 – 50 year olds in the living room so I would find myself alone with Cally oftentimes. Listening to the radio, records (this was before tapes or cd’s or MP3’s), talking about people we both knew in the community. She was (is) about 10 years older than me but I was very mature for my age and she was kind of immature for her age so the presence of an elementary school student didn’t faze her and we got along well. Until she started giving me creepy vibes, that is. She didn’t touch me for a long time simply because I knew something was up, that I needed to get out of the room with her so I would make up an excuse so I could run. I felt like I needed an excuse to leave. Because I did not have the ownership of my body or the words to just say, “You’re creeping me out. What are you thinking about?” I would make up an excuse without lying because I had been told I would ALWAYS get in trouble if I lied and I would flee from her presence. I would go into the living room where the adults were and stay there. This happened every Sunday for weeks.

Being a child, I did not think she would continue to pursue me/give me the creeps because she hadn’t always acted like that. I thought things would go back to normal eventually. The pursue/creepy/excuse/flee/stay away situation continued until finally, one day, the adults had walked down the road to the gas station at the end of Cally’s driveway and left me there alone with her. There was no reason for me to leave the room. I could think of no excuse to make up. I knew there was no one to save me in the living room just with their presence. That was the first time. Then she started molesting me every Sunday after church. She told me if I told anybody, ANYBODY, she stressed this a lot, that I would be the one who got in trouble. That my parents would spank me and nobody would believe me. It escalated into threats of violence from Cally herself if I told anybody. Her favorite song at the time was Madonna’s Crazy for You that she had as a single on a 45. She would play it loudly over and over again on the turntable in her mother’s bedroom, which was where the molestation happened. My mother even walked into the room while it was happening once and asked why in the world we were under the covers of Cally’s mother’s bed. Cally blurted out that we were cold before I could say anything, and therefore covered up and Mama chalked it up to kids being weird, shrugged, said, “Okay” and walked out. The molestation went on for weeks just as the pursuing did before it and Madonna’s song wore a groove into my psyche that almost three decades has not erased.

One Sunday, after a particularly tearful assault where I asked, begged, hollered in a whisper at her to stop and leave me alone, I was in the backseat of my parent’s car on the way home afterward and I told on her. I told my mother that Cally was touching me where she wasn’t supposed to. My mother believed me. Until last month, my mother did not know it happened more than once, that Cally pursued me or that it was happening when she walked in the room one time. It was never spoken of in detail until last month. No therapy was offered, no conversation or questions were asked. I was not forbidden from mentioning it but I was not encouraged either. It had happened to my mother and most of the women in her family and they all just dealt with it by not thinking about it and moved on. The trauma of that piled up with the other traumas I was enduring and it proved too much from which to move on for me.

I once heard The Song as I walked into Kmart as an adult in my early twenties. It was playing on the loud speakers throughout the store. The friend I was with knew the song was a trigger for me although we didn’t know to call it a trigger at the time and knew when I turned and ran full out through the middle of the produce section and into the bathroom in the food court, leaving her behind in the process without one word of explanation and all the customers in the area staring in my wake, why I was running. I had told her. The music isn’t usually piped into public bathrooms and I knew I would be safe in there until it was over. With therapy and new coping skills, I can handle a few notes of The Song now without running. I have enough conscious response to turn on my radio or put in ear buds or ask the coworker with the blaring radio to please turn it down or change the channel. It does not elicit panic in me anymore. That is progress.

I have also finally connected the terror/anger I feel at being pursued by aggressive men when I’ve made it clear I am not interested in their attentions to that 7 year old girl who was innocent, being pursued and was helpless to stop it alone.  I thought it odd that this terror manifests itself only with men and not women until I remembered the repressed society we live in where a woman cannot express her attraction openly in public to another woman in the South and cannot therefore, become aggressive in her manner. I have never been triggered by a woman because the only women who have flirted with me have been my friends and were not asshole strangers. Only men are “allowed” to be that assertive/abusive sexually so my terror would rise with the trigger no matter the sex of the aggressor. I am working on my terror and am also working on the fact that my first response when I am triggered is to walk up to them and dunk their face into their plate. My therapist says that if someone is creepy enough to be setting off my radar, I should trust it and not engage. This is passive to me and I abhor passiveness. Passiveness is weak in my mind. My therapist told me that changing seats in a restaurant is not passive, but is setting a boundary so that the Creepy Dude cannot stare at me anymore. Still feels passive when my kneejerk reaction is to lash out and make HIM stop it and maybe cause some bruises. So yeah, the aggression is something I’m working on too. I found my anger in my teens and it is still the most comfortable thing to me. I know how I should behave when I’m angry and it gives me courage. I am trying to maintain that courage without the anger or aggressiveness. It’s easier said than done. 

I am also in the middle of an identity crisis. I self-identified as The Amazon, Built Like A Buick Girl. I would use my weight as protection and as an intimidation factor when I was feeling insecure or triggered. After a 120 pound weight lost from a starvation diet 6 years ago, I was in a size 16 with only 15 –20 pounds to go until I reached my goal weight. I had accepted the fact that even when I was not obese, I would be a plus size. I was big boned. I was not meant to be small in the conventional way. Now I am in recovery from Binge Eating Disorder and through eating mindfully and therapy, have lost 50 pounds and am back in that size 16 again. Only this time, I’ve only lost 50 pounds, not 120 and am already in that 16. Now I’m wondering exactly what size I will be in when my body decides the weight it wants to be. It will obviously be less than a 16 and there goes my physical identity.

My religious beliefs are evolving (into what, I have no idea),my dreams have been rearranged (into what, I don’t know) and even my “personality”, that aggressive, quick to anger, running on bravado, snap decision woman that I was has been changed. I am at peace more often than not now and that anger which gave me courage is gone. I am still assertive but do not bulldoze with it. My kneejerk reactions are being thought about and sometimes stopped if they do not represent the type of person I am striving to be. I do not even have a clear view of what that person I am striving to be IS or FEELS LIKE yet or how I will self-identify after the dust settles from all of this whittling away of the old me. I’m flying by the seat of my pants and this uncertainty is not a pleasant feeling. Not when I knew who I was so well before and used it to its best advantage. I do know that I do not want to go back to that person even though this newness and not knowing is not pleasant. Even though I spend days analyzing my emotions and reactions and the motivation behind my words. I know that I want to be compassionate. I want to listen to HELP not listen to REPLY. I know that I’ve been where a lot of women around me are and I want to help them even though I am not comfortable in the role model position. There is a lot of internal pressure for perfectionism from my Negative Committee when I know that people are watching me and I have to remind myself that I am called to be REAL and VULNERABLE, not perfect. That I will not have all the answers even on my death bed and hopefully that time is decades from now so until then my job is to learn and lean and listen and grow. To be human. To make mistakes. To try again.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What I Know, Part III

This is a ongoing series of blog posts about my journey so far in therapy. For the previous parts of this series, click here: Part I, Part II.

The 15th of this month was my 200th day binge free and some things have changed for me in the last few months since my last blog. I’ll list a few of them out below all organized like:

  • I do not have a conversation with myself all day long about food anymore. I thankfully do not have to do that anymore. The only time Jiminy pipes up (if you don’t know who Jiminy is, read this.) is when I am reaching for food before the time that I normally eat or if I am particularly stressed out. I’m beginning to trust myself and know that I am and have been making good and healthy choices for myself and will continue to do that. Trusting yourself is a very good thing.
  • I do not feel like I am struggling every moment of every day anymore. Choosing myself has become a habit and I do not have to think twice about it. Making self-care a priority is second nature now and I am honest with myself about it. I do not tell myself no and tell others yes when it needs to be the opposite if I’m exhausted.
  • I have taken up meditation and yoga. To quote my boyfriend, I have “more frazzled days” when I am not practicing meditation. It feels like prayer to me and helps with my anxiety, focus and the ability to be present/mindful.
  • I am continuing to lose weight because I am listening to my body. Stopping when I’m full. Eating when I’m hungry. Not eating for any other reason. Being present in my body and mind. In the moment. I have been asked what is my “goal weight”. I do not have a goal weight. I am not on a diet. I am in recovery. My “goal” is not thinness. I endeavor to be HEALTHY in every way. I trust my body to use the food I eat in way that works best for it and if that means that I have fat on my thighs, that is okay.
  • I am writing affirmations daily before I eat lunch each day. This is helping me to retrain that negative committee that meets inside my head. I can tell when I skip a few days of it. My thinking starts to get bogged down again and I start thinking bad things when I see myself in a mirror, even with the weight loss. I cannot love others if I do not love myself and this is not the person I want to be.
  • Being my whole, true self is getting easier. This is NOT A HABIT yet. I AM NOT COMFORTABLE with this yet. This is still something I have to be conscious of and choose daily, every moment sometimes, but it is getting easier at least.
  • Rage is not simmering in me at all times anymore. It is still very easy to fall back into because I lived in it for two decades, it feels comfortable. I know how to act when I’m raging but rage is not something I need anymore. I am learning how to act with acceptance as my guide. Acceptance of the trauma, of the disappointments, of my stolen childhood and innocence, of what I’ve done to myself because of the choices I’ve made, of who I am and who my family is. Acceptance is something I’m exploring and have not been to all of the corners of this place yet but when I do, I’ll come back and tell you what it looks like. I know that it feels peaceful. I’m not used to that yet.

I am thinking about getting a tattoo when I am one year binge free in celebration. In remembrance of all I’ve done and all that I’ve left behind and all I will never go back to again. I do not have any tattoos but have always wanted one. I just never could decide what to get or where to get it. I’m narrowing down the choices now and looking at artists’ work around my area to take the plunge next year. I will keep you updated. Stay strong, my peeps.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What I Know Part II

This is a ongoing series of blog posts about my journey so far in therapy. For the previous parts of this series, click here: Part I

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I started EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy in January this year. After only about three sessions, I began to reap the benefits. People who experience trauma will disconnect from their body sometimes to the point of not feeling pain if they are experiencing it. They do this in order to survive when faced with overwhelming circumstances or situations that happen repeatedly. This is what I did.

Upon my first session, my therapist gave me homework; a worksheet with the outline of a person on it with a list of 8 or 10 emotions. The instructions were to draw a line to the part of the body where you felt that emotion. I told my boyfriend that I didn’t understand the sheet because we feel all of our emotions in our head. I drew lines mostly to my head. I had disconnected so completely from my body, I did not know I experienced emotions below my neck. When I gave the completed sheet back to my therapist, she looked it over then put it in my file without a word. She is very diplomatic. 

She explained that you have two selves. You have a conscious/adult self which runs on thinking rationality, reason, logic, maturity, what is good and right for you. It makes good decisions.  You have a subconscious/inner child/symptom self which does not think. It runs off of all of your stored memories and beliefs. If you hear something negative about yourself when you are a child and you believe it, that’s where that knowledge goes. My therapist uses the Adult Self and Symptom Self terminology so I’ll use that here.

Until just a few months back, my Symptom Self was fully in control of me. All of the negative things about myself that I’d absorbed over the years ran rampant and I wasn’t even aware of their constant replay in my head. I almost always had anxiety rolling in my torso and wasn’t aware of that either. I had migraines, sinus infections, joint pain, swelling, high blood pressure and more and ignored all of it until it stopped me from being functional. Rage was always just beneath the surface. I was and am still very good at rage although it has gotten moderately better as I work longer on it. Rage was my go-to emotion for everything. My boyfriend said he had never seen somebody get so angry so quickly. I went from calm to ready to commit murder literally in seconds.

As my brain and body began to reconnect again and I gave my Adult Self permission to take the reins with the help of my therapist, it made its presence known on February 21st at lunch. I will never forget it as long as I live. I was beginning to realize I had an issue with food of some kind and was reading various books trying to figure out what healthy eating really was. I was on my way to lunch and was gleefully planning a gorgefest just short of making the employee at the drive-through question if I were going to eat all of the things I was planning to order. That was my modus operandi. I had still had the full/hungry disconnect because I wasn’t paying attention, didn’t want to have to listen to that…didn’t want to have to change that huge thing. I liked the feeling that food gave me. The comfort. The numb. It was my good girl high. As long as  nobody asked questions about the amount of food I ate, as long as I could sneak it past people, into my office drawer, into my car when I was alone, I could continue to numb my out of control emotions with food. As long as nobody confronted me about it, I could keep doing it and get a thrill. Like I was getting away with something. Symptom Self was in full control of my eating, and she loved it.

As I reached for the door handle of my car that February day, a voice piped up in my head. I have since named that voice Jiminy for it has asked me many important questions since that day. The question that day was, “Who wants that food you’re gleefully planning to order? Your Adult Self or your Symptom Self?” Time stopped. I could hear the blood rushing through the veins in my ears. I could feel the floor of the parking garage shaking as a coworker passed over a speed bump behind me. The answer was obvious, even to my disconnected self: my Symptom Self wanted the food. I immediately grabbed my cell phone and began texting and emailing people, searching for support to let me know I had not finally lost my mind. After my lunch of A GREEN SALAD, not a double bacon cheeseburger with cheese tots and chicken nuggets with BBQ sauce and a Coke to drink that I’d planned, my therapist replied to my email to let me know I wasn’t turning into the kid from The Shining.

I decided to try the diet that my parents had been on for over a year with a few tweaks of my own that just seemed right for me. I lost 5 pounds that first week. Seven days later, I admitted to myself that I was a binge eater. That I had Binge Eating Disorder. I continued the diet I had chosen, which is a modified Paleo diet, because my joints had stopped hurting, my acid reflux symptoms had disappeared, my bloating had gone away and I had more energy than I’d had in years. As I continued to read about my eating disorder (ED) and others, I learned that there is no “diet” that works long term. The reason I was feeling so much better on my Paleo diet is because I am gluten intolerant and didn’t know it until I stopped eating gluten. I was losing weight because I was paying more attention to my full and hungry signals from my body. If you decide to make a lifestyle change to be more healthy, to eat healthy, whole foods, that is entirely different from a “diet”. If you have yo-yo dieted and you have gained and lost weight your entire life, there is something going on with your body, with your thoughts, with your emotions that needs to be dealt with. Your body is not the issue. You will not be magically happy if you weigh ___, or if you get into size ____ or if your thigh gap is as wide as ____. You may have disconnected your hungry/full sensors as I did so I could numb with food and not feel the miserably full stomach afterward. You may be motivated by outside sources to eat. You may be motivated by negative thoughts to restrict or to purge or to binge. The bottom line is that diets do not work and if they worked, it would not a multi-billion dollar a year business. Everybody would lose the weight the first time and that would be the end of the diet business. Give yourself permission to stop dieting. Go to your library and pick up a book called When Food Is Love by Geneen Roth. If you pay attention to your body, if you eat MINDFULLY, if you listen, you will lose weight naturally. You have to be conscious to do this. You have to be connected to your body. You have to be honest with yourself. Facing the addiction is TERRIFYING when you first start. TERRIFYING. I’m in the middle of this fight and can already say that it’s a helluvalot easier being conscious than feeling how I felt before. Than binging to hide what I was feeling.

I have a conversation with myself before I even reach for anything that is not water now. Are you really hungry? Is that anxiety rolling in your stomach or hunger? What is going on around you? Are you stressed out? Are you bored? Do you just know the food will taste good and that’s why you want it? To distract you from something? What is that something? I have this conversation with myself ALL DAY LONG, EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. I will not lie to you and tell you it is easy. It is hard. Anything worth fighting for and keeping will be difficult sometimes. I have cried. I have been in a place where numbing with food again looked so damn good to me. I have felt sorry for myself. I have bitched to friends in emails and Facebook posts. I have struggled. I have read every book the library has about ED. I started following all sorts of ED professionals and groups on Twitter. I have joined and left support groups because I realized I needed less toxic and more celebration than they were giving me. I made a therapy board on Pinterest. I have continued my very modified Paleo plan because my body feels so much better without the grains and sugar but if I want a piece of chocolate, I eat it. I listen. I question. I have lost 34 pounds. I have started weighing myself again so that I can continue to be conscious (I did not weigh myself before. At ALL). I am not a fat person trying to get skinny; I am a sick person trying to get healthy. I started my own Positive Body Support Group on Facebook for all genders, ED’s and body image issues.

Through all of this, what I have not done is binged. I have not binged since March 1, 2013. A third of a year has passed and it is very slowly getting easier each day. Will I relapse at some point? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe I’ll have to start over again. But this is what I know: If I relapse, it will be because I have let my Symptom Self take control again and I will know why. Because I was not using the tools I have to ask myself questions. Because I stopped being honest with myself. Because I slipped back into denial. And I know that I can start again and binging is just a coping mechanism that I chose to help me. An unhealthy one, yes, but that doesn’t make me a horrible person. Just one that has survived things other people have not. I know one other thing too…

Relapse is not a part of recovery. Relapse is the lack of recovery.