Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Writing therapy

Writing is a vent where I can blow stress and sadness out. I write in a journal, and now here in this blog. Written expression anywhere is cathartic and helps me to process things, but the blog and my journal differ. When I am done writing in my journal, I close it up and the words stay hidden inside. They never even venture outside of my bedroom. Like screaming into an empty room, it feels good to get it out - to have done something, but when the noise dissipates, the energy of the words linger. They stay forever in the room with me. Here, in this blog, when I finish my words fly out, untethered, into the universe, and writing ends with an opening rather than a closing. With that comes a very small hope, someone might reach out and catch my words as they float by. Maybe one day somebody will send their words out and I will be the catcher! In an illness that shuts connections down, the internet opens the possibility for connection up.

I had thought today that I would start with some sort of warning, to alert you to the wallowing. Reader beware: self pity ahead. But then I realised that judging or apologising for difficult emotion is part of my problem. Acknowledging feelings, and then releasing them is exactly the right thing to do, and writing is one way I can do it.

Our culture encourages us to keep going no matter what. Get up, get over, chin up, move on, think positive, sort your shit out, join in, achieve, achieve, achieve. This way of being is a pervasive part of the world we live in. When difficult 'life stuff' happened, and I struggled with sadness, anger, hopelessness and grief, I didn't allow myself to stop and work through it, or even really acknowledge it. The overwhelming sentiment from virtually everyone (myself included) was to keep on going. Our culture would prefer we deny, avoid, bury or solve away suffering in whatever way we can, as quickly as we can. The full expression of our humanity is curtailed. Hard emotions just get parked, and with that, we lose our ability to learn and truly heal. My eating disorder gives this thinking (what my kids call) the bad finger. It says Shut. The. Hell. Up. It was keeping on that made me really unwell.

I want a life that is authentic, fulfilling and healthy, so I need to sort through all the hard things. I have to soak in the muck and really get a good lather up in order to understand and repair. It is painful, frustrating, probably uncomfortable to be around and apparently very slow, but if I don't do it, my problems will most likely resurface another day. And god help me, I do not want to be starving when I am 75. I want to be eating dark chocolate truffles, deep fried camembert, and hokey pokey ice-cream. For breakfast. So today, as part of my effort to get well, I am going do something SUPER fun. Yes folks, I am going pro-actively wallow in, and express hard emotion. ARE YOU EXCITED??!!

So here we go:

When I woke this morning, I did something foolish. I weighed myself. Already heavy with sadness and hopelessness, the numbers on the scale just made me feel worse. No matter which way I turn in the prison I am in, I feel like I fail. The walls are closing in on me again.

Above me - the ceiling - is weight gain. It's unbearably noisy up there with the sound of judgement. The judgement comes both from within me, and from lots of people (almost always women) around me. For the most part, I barely know these people, but they have been very vocal along the way - congratulating me as I lost weight, chiding me when I dropped too low, and now they if I gain weight they shout You look SO WELL! They cluck and fuss, hurrying me along Are you working yet? You could do this thing and that thing and isn't it such a relief, you are looking so much better!? Their voices echo the wider cultural message: Quickly now, let's sweep this bad stuff under the carpet and get on. I feel pressure to perform, and I smile and nod in agreement, but their comments, however well intentioned, leave me feeling disconnected. They make assumptions based on the way I look, and it slows or reverses my progress. Recovery needs to come from a place of genuine healing in me, or it's not recovery. Until I can become more resilient to the racket, the way up seems impossible.

Below me is weight loss. I've been down there, had a good look around. I banged my head against the concrete a number of times before I conceded that losing weight was not working. The answers I desperately needed weren't there, no matter how much I wished it were so. I know this, but I am still am drawn downwards. It's an instinct that is proving very, very hard to shake. When I lose weight, I feel guilt and fear for my children - they deserve me well, and that fact will never change. When I am in bed at night sometimes my heart doesn't thud quite as it should. It is slower and weaker than my healthy heart. Stupid heart. So inconvenient, I think, then Poor heart! It hasn't done anything wrong! And I get confused because of course I am too robust and large for that to still be happening.

The walls on all sides of me are the confines of each day. None of my eating patterns are healthy, but I have a variety of behaviours now, so each day is slightly different. I still almost always aim to restrict my food, and that's mostly what happens. On a restrictive day, I under eat and follow a precise set of rules. I feel calm, in control, and very sad. If my resolve to restrict weakens - and it only need be for a second - I hurl a mass of sugar at my emptiness in a frenzied binge. As I shovel food in, panic grows. I know I have to get rid of it. I purge chaos and failure down the toilet along with the contents of my stomach. Once it is over, I feel calm and steady again, relieved to be 'back on track', at least until the next round. Then there is the third sort of day: the wildly confusing 'everything' days. On these days I try and do it all, but feel desperately lost. I pile in junk food; then I have a go imitating normality - I might eat a healthy lunch; then I panic and restrict, putting a halt to it all with black coffee or diet drinks. Eating normally seems utterly out of reach, and whichever way I go, I feel hopelessly trapped.

(NB. You might want to put your gumboots on to wade through the next bit - it gets pretty murky.)

Depression is making things look particularly bleak at the moment. It is creeping over me like a damp, thick mist and I can't see very far ahead. Every minute is too long, and the hours are torturous things which just have to be endured until a time when I can sleep again.

There are things I know I could have done today, to help clear a little breathing space, but they were beyond me. I tried drawing this morning, which usually helps, but my eyes keep filling with tears and I couldn't see what I was doing. Drips fell on the page and smudged my drawing, which made me sadder still, because the picture was ruined. A walk would have been good for me too - but when I stepped outside, I saw the world was bright and bustling - people were out enjoying themselves, and it just reminded me that I was not because I am lonely and lost. So I turned back inside, shut the door and the curtains too. I wished someone would reach in to my dismal day (reaching out seemed too hard), but if the phone had rung I wouldn't have answered because I would have been afraid, not knowing who it was.

At midday I retreated to my bed. It was warm, and the blankets wrapped around me felt almost like a hug. I lay for while, a bundle of sadness, nothing in me but tears. But when I listened closely, I heard words swimming around and they were looking for a way out. So I emerged far enough out from under my covers to type this. For today, writing has been my companion and my comfort.

It isn't a lot, but it is just enough.


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