Proud of Me

It’s a strange place to truly do something differently from what has gone before. I spent so much of my life self-imploding, I didn’t know any other way for years. I am the person who turns things in on herself, that takes on board all other people’s shortcomings, blames herself for others’ lack and then spectacularly implodes. I also implode on my own lack be sure about that.

Not any more.

We cannot and should not wear the shame of other people, carry their emotional baggage when they cannot or will not do work on themselves. It’s a passing of the buck usually from one generation to the next; grandparents handing down their issues whether consciously on not to our parents and then parents handing down their shit to us. We also then pass our shame on to our children. Some things can be a family disease. And at some point, maybe someone within the family halts its ability to infect anyone else by actively changing what has gone before.

Behaviour is a mixture of social, environmental and born nature. But one of the things we are gifted with as humans is self-awareness through empowerment. It’s a huge journey, often excruciatingly painful and it doesn’t cease until we die.

Behaviour change is also putting things into action, rerouting and rewiring neural pathways so that we can move differently in life and experience a new way of being that affords us more peace and contentment. It takes persistence and consistency through continual practice.

My self- worth was often tied in with people-pleasing and external validation. I grew up with a parent who constantly never bothered with his kids, he wasn’t interested in anything we did unless there was a grand payout for his own ego. He was highly critical and never gave any praise. I spent most of my former years seeking his approval to no avail. This is not our relationship currentLy because I know it was all he was capable of and I make moves differently around him; we have a good relationship to date and have done for many years.

However, my perception that formed early on due to my highly sensitive personality, was a concrete belief I was not good enough, I was unlovable and felt I had to continually justify my position, actions and existence. I became possibly one of the most well-defended humans on the planet. I stopped letting others in to my thoughts and feelings and with those awful feelings I felt, I numbed them with anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, alcohol, drugs, spending and bad relationships. I developed a hard attitude so people received a ‘fuck off’ on my face before they even dared to take advantage and it worked. It put people at a distance and it gave me space from many possible avenues of pain. It also lead to a very isolated existence where I was besieged by overwhelming loneliness and disconnection. I felt that I didn’t belong anywhere and those feelings can still pop up and persist if I’m not looking after myself properly.

It has taken me a good decade of self-discovery through treatment, investigation and research to truly understand who I am and why I am this way. It has taken, tears, rages, tantrums, relapses, gallows humour, spiritual awakenings, forgiveness, risk, ploughing on, determination and bloody-mindedness to get to where I am today.

I have my bad weeks and I have weeks where I also feel unstoppable. I have peace on occasion but most importantly, I am taking care of myself in a more compassionate way.

The middle of November marks an anniversary where I sank possibly to my lowest mental state and lost everything nearly, including my life. This year instead of dreading the third anniversary of my own personal hell, I made the decision to really take hold of all the terrible memories associated with it. I decided to make it a celebration of almost being ‘born again.’ The reality is, it was my escape from hell and my liberation from the shackles that had held me captive for too many years. It’s only today do I see it had to happen in order for me to survive.

Through the darkness and the pain, each day I have rebuilt my life. I have taken the devastation and reworked my personal landscape. At first, I wasn’t grateful for being spared; I was full of self-hatred and loathing, bitterness and remorse, guilt and shame, hopelessness and resentment. It’s been a heck of a project and I wouldn’t change it. It’s my journey. It’s a work in progress.

I’m one of the lucky ones, I came home to myself. I had to, I had to start again with nothing, except my family and I’m grateful. Some people don’t even have that.

I have found my feet again by loving myself from inside to out. I have a connection with the angels who I talk with daily on spiritual matters such as acceptance, forgiveness, healing and trying to do the right thing and if that goes amiss then trying to do the next right thing and that is pretty important too.

I don’t have to just implode because of an initial fuck-up, I always have the chance to make the best out of any situation, even the situations that look and feel bad. That’s pretty powerful thinking because it keeps me in the game, it stops me giving up, it allows me to practice a more positive way of thinking (my default thinking has always been fairly pessimistic but it’s something that can be overcome with mindfulness and being aware of my chain of thoughts).

A friend and mentor calls it ‘the chain analysis of stinking-thinking’ and it’s absolutely spot on.

So this year, I spent the anniversary busy, enjoying my classes, making time to talk with other people in recovery, going to my fellowship meetings, putting my heart and soul into work, thinking about other people, honouring where I’ve been but most importantly, how far I’ve come; recognising my attributes and keeping structure.

Instead of imploding, I sparkled and I had a choice in that.

Self-sabotaging behaviour is often about lack of self-worth, it’s often in conjunction with ‘all or nothing’ thinking, it’s also for my part about defiance ‘well if you don’t believe I can’t change, then let the hurricane start and I’ll show you a new level of disappointment!’ But in all of that, it would be me emerging from the destruction more wounded, bruised and battered than ever before.

I don’t need to derail myself these day and that’s because I know I matter. That’s something many people never achieve and most only get a few moments of. I find I’m in the latter group but that’s good enough for me.

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Comeback Kid

There is indomitable strengthen all of us. ‘Indomitable’ in the dictionary means:-

Impossible to subdue or defeat.

‘a woman of indomitable spirit’

And here I am. This is me. Each year at this time marks the worst and best time of my life. The latter, I didn’t see for a long time. The former part of that statement felt like my truth until time and healing took place. I made it through. I made it through because of my family and the true friends who stuck by me. The fake friends all disappeared but if I’m honest, I am glad. Some people are not really friends, and it will always becomes apparent when the chips are down. Who needs that?

My puny little bicep in this picture is not a representation of my physical strength but my mental toughness. I will not let my past define me, nor will I allow people to use it as weapon to exercise some kind of control or superiority over me. Nor will I be dictated to on how I ‘should’ conduct my life. I had too many years of dancing to other people’s drums and in the chaos, my needs were always second best or totally whitewashed with almost catastrophic outcomes. It has taken a long time to discover who I really am without condemnation, disapproval and contempt for my general existence.

I will not apologise for my mistakes continually to be placed in a position beneath in someone’s self-appointed hierarchy. I know my worth even if it was broken for such a long time. A true sorry is a sorry, no one should ever make us grovel and neither should we feel we have to.

The biggest accomplishment in my life was coming through the last 3 years and being able to stand here today defiantly and smile knowing I was unbreakable. It doesn’t mean to say there wasn’t some damage but what it does mean is no one gets to hit a moving target ever again.

For all the doubters, haters, none-believers, skeptics and morons, I’m still here. For all the people who supported, encouraged, believed and never stopped loving me unconditionally, I’m grateful every minute of every day, in every way. #slay #stubbornasamule # comebackkid #fuckyou

Revealing

Since taking on this journey of recovery and having no maladaptive coping strategies at my disposal anymore (apart from obsessive thoughts and compulsive gymwear purchasing), the last few months have been eye-opening. I had truly forgotten I am an incredibly anxious person.

I should have remembered but hadn’t really thought back on past circumstances like the panic attacks I suffered horribly from in my late teens and early twenties, or the phobias I had as a kid such as being struck by lightning or being pregnant!! The latter, was because I thought pregnant people were fat and really believed you could catch being pregnant; I hadn’t even been told about the birds and the bees at that time!!

I had a terrible phobia of nuclear war when I was 14 and was tormented by horrific dreams for years after studying this book in English. Our teacher at the time, graphically described what would happen and the level of destruction, nuclear winters, how no one in my school would survive if a bomb went off in Birmingham. It seemed that those early phobias were a transference of my general anxiety. It seemed fitting that these phobias in my mind were the root of what was happening, rather than the fact I was just so anxious and didn’t understand why.

So, clean and in recovery from my eating disorder and others behaviours, once again, my anxiety has come to the fore.

It presents itself with nervousness, palpitations, shakiness, a sense of impending doom, restlessness and sometimes, I question whether I’ve got something that means I’m going to die. I also feel constantly like something bad is about to happen like lose my job or someone is going to die. It’s not nice. But it’s now a process of working through this without any quick fixes to find my footing in the world with integrity and as I am.

And So It Is

Another birthday, another 12 months gone, done, sent to the past. Another year closer to my final exit day from this earth. And I’m not being grim in talking about this. But death is part of living, often uncomfortably touched upon or something us folk regularly steer clear of discussing. Yet for something so absolute in our path as a human, you’d think it never happened. Death is a dirty subject.

I know it comes from fear. I guess that fear is knowing that this part of our journey is absolutely alone. There will be no friends to travel with or the ability to take our favourite item of clothing, no money in any bank account will make our passing any different from the one we are destined to succumb to. That’s scary stuff.

I’ve been aware of death and dying from a very early age, too much so that the part of me that has a very spiritual side believes this is a memory trace left over from a past life. I have no other way to find reason with why I have always known its presence, known everything is temporary and often felt out of control in this physical plane. I guess this kind of existential questioning was also part of why I clung determinedly to my eating disorder for all these years; to control a small part of my existence for the time I am here. Delusional but then we all are in so many ways.

I see the delusion at play daily, don’t you? Big house, smart car, sparkling jewellery, fabulous clothes darling, plastic surgery to try and reverse time like it will add more minutes on the life-tax we are all going to settle one way or another.

We become so important, making ourselves more important than others, demanding that our needs be met over someone else’s.

I sit in coffee shops listening to business people barking about deadlines and using jargon, it leaves me cold. But we are so absorbed in this quest to achieve, be a big fish in a small pond. I’m no different. When it goes down at work, I feel like my world is coming to an end and that I need to exert my authority, my ego runs riot. And what for?

It means nothing. It means nothing at all. What hurts today, won’t necessarily hurt tomorrow and when I get to sliding off into either blackness or some form of life on another plane, none of it will matter. None of it matters.

I’ve been ready for a long time, not to be here anymore. I think I was born by some kind of accident and that it couldn’t be revoked. I think I wasn’t meant to be part of this world. I don’t connect with anything or anyone and I’m okay with that. I tried, very hard I’ve tried. I’ve clung to people like they were going to save me from what I already knew. It was as if I could make them change the law of being human, make someone else’s view of the world rescue my sadness in knowing I wasn’t meant to be here.

I walked around London, a very long walk this morning, through Marylebone, down to Piccadilly, on through the West End to Covent Garden. Parents had given me money for birthday gifts, text messages coming through on text, email, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, wishing me a happy birthday; I just felt detached. I can’t feel anything except a terrible disappointment that I’m still here.

But the flip side is, I feel terrible guilt. Guilt that I am here. So many have perished desperately wanting to live. I know 3 people this year alone. And some other battling life threatening illnesses.

This week has been eye opening. Wednesday was a dreadful day. I realised that I do not want to participate in living. It’s simply a daily arduous task to wake up, talk to people, get through the day until I get to flip my lamp off and I’m over it.

And the rest of it, this living is just distraction, come to London, distract myself from this living-dead experience but it is all going through the motions; a whittling away of time to get to my exit date.

Monday Morning update: open my eyes and here we are again, another day to waste with a few distractions, still over it. X

Dangerous Defining

I do a lot of observing, people watching. I spend hours sussing out what drives people, where they are coming from and what is influencing their decision-making. So many actions are driven by conditioning from past experiences on a truly subconscious level. I can use myself as an example. In the past when I have been angered, my level of rage has been disproportionate to the perceived hurt or wrong doing. The person on the receiving end having triggered more often than not, a memory from my past therefore receiving my anger for their wrong doing and THEN SOME. They receive a whole back catalogue of anger from hurts and injuries from a long time ago which was nothing at all to do with them.

I also see a lot of people suffering from eating disorders defining themselves ultimately by their eating disorder as if they are anorexia or bulimia personified. Dangerous ground. There seems to be kudos around anorexia particularly, and I have seen the competitive nature of the illness first hand and the way a person can only relate to the world as being anorexic as if that is all that they are.

I read so many posts on Instagram and at times have to really resist the urge to give some of these people a helluva dose of truth and then I think, what are the therapists doing with these girls (the post I’ve read)? Where is the truth in the reality that is this illness? Is no one issuing tough love? Is no one really truly getting to the heart of the problems for sufferers? Who is ready to fight, want change, do everything to change, start the process of separating their true self from the mirrors and smoke screens that are characteristic of this illness because of entrenched beliefs that are falsehoods and ultimately life-threatening?

I don’t care what anyone says to me, eating disorders are addictions, yet they are treated as something else, like addiction is a dirty word. But it all forms under the same umbrella, a self medication or coping mechanism to deal with a world that presents pain that is overwhelming. The only difference is, an eating disorder is something which is around food and regardless of who has it, food cannot be given up like alcohol, drugs, spending or gambling. Food sustains life, so every mealtime there will be a true test of eating enough and halting so not to ensue upon a binge. That’s hard when the drug of choice is also an essential component to fuelling the body. Imagine telling an alcoholic you can have one drink for breakfast, dinner and tea?

There is an enigma about someone who is ravaged by an eating disorder, folk are curious, some even jealous because of that unwavering discipline that is perceived of the sufferer. Yet it isn’t discipline. It absolute terror of being fat, being out of control, not having anything to call their own and this is why eating disorders are dangerous. A sufferer defines themselves by being thin, by being able to have clothes hang off them, by not consuming food in public, often being known for their anorexia or thinness as a if they are the masters of their own bodies. What if they recover? What will they have then? Who will they be without it? How will they be perceived? Will anyone even notice them, care about them, see their mental anguish when they are weight restored?

I know this because this is how I felt. To untangle myself from the eating disorder was a complicated business, to know that I am so much more than the myriad of complex believes and behaviours has taken time. But through it, I can see just how insidious this illness is, it’s like a possession from something so malevolent. It’s like there is no marker of where the eating disorder ends and I begin; intertwined, meshed, fused, like a Siamese twin. And this is why they are so very hard to treat, why relapse is common, where death claims plenty, where recovery on average is 8 years from weight restoration. That’s a long journey. All that time the struggle is real. And I can tell you now, I’m in recovery but I am not recovered and this illness has been with me a long long time. But the saving grace is, I want to be aligned with recovery, I do not want to be aligned with anorexia/ortharexia. I am a sufferer in recovery, I am not an ‘ic.’ I will not ever call my self anorexic, ortharexic, bulimic, alcoholic, ic ic ic……. those are labels that will drive an identity and allow the illness to be who we are. And more damningly, allow others to see us one dimensionally.

Just getting it done

It’s true, I’m shit at being an adult and it’s been a while since my physiological age hit adulthood. Shame my brain hasn’t ever hit 18. But this is the joy of addiction. I have absolutely no qualms that when anyone picks up a behaviour to cope with life, they pretty much get emotionally stunted at the age where they embarked upon their addiction.

I was 15 when I started acting out around food. At 15, it all started with anorexia and that’s where my emotional development halted. In my head, heart and soul, that’s really my age. Obviously physically, add on a good 27 years. So I am a teenager in an adult’s body. I am prone to outbursts of blurting without thinking, my filter is a bit shit, I can throw a decent teenage tantrum on occasion, I have mood swings, rubbish with money, love cuddly toys, cabbage patch kids, pink stationery, believe in fairies, Father Christmas; hate responsibility and rebel against authority far too often and with a kind of stroppy wilfulness befitting of any moody teenager.

However, I am getting better at it, this adulting lark. Minus eating disorder, minus booze and other addictions, my moods have stabilised and I’ve learned the art of response not reaction, to pause and not to just go ahead impulsively. I’ve learned to watch, observe and listen more than trying to be the centre of attention and always acting the clown to deflect from my real feelings. I’m learning to be more middle of the road in my thinking and not so black and white. It’s been a process. Some days, I can be an adult more easily than others.

My inner teenager is not a bad person. She is part of who I am and what keeps me fairly young in my outlook on life in many ways.

She was at a place at 15 where she stopped moving forward because at 15, she was frightened and didn’t have a voice or the words to describe her fear. She didn’t feel good enough or special. She felt talentless and at odds with the world that was becoming more and more sinister as she started moving towards early adulthood. She saw pain in the world and was starting to realise human beings were not all good decent folk, some were doing things to other people that she didn’t understand but knew it was terribly wrong.

She realised nothing lasted forever and became so scared about dying, suddenly realising that she was on her own and that others wouldn’t be there forever.

She felt a terrible, isolating ache in her heart which she couldn’t understand and was afraid of.

She coped the only way she could. Later this became a serious problem. But regardless, back then and at this point, my 15 year old isn’t a bad person, she just lost herself somewhere in a world other people seemed to navigate with more grace.

Sojourn

So here I am in Cornwall. Decided to come down with part of my 12 days off. Glad I have. Simple break away from it all just for 3 nights and the travelling was okay; did me good to spend a day occupied in the car, driving. As already specified often, I’m useless when I’m bored so the fact that I’m in a different environment is a good thing. Keeping me outta trouble. But it’s a farewell trip.

The apartment is nice. Upstairs and a downstairs. It’s clean and nicely decorated. There is a huge gym onsite and 2 pools. The autumn leaves are swirling around in the late September north wind. There is a full moon tonight. Or if it isn’t full, it’s as near as damn it.

I don’t think I shall come down here again for a while. Time to cast my net to another coastal area. As much as it’s synonymous with my family holidays as a youngster, it is truly smeared with the memories of my married life and how can it not be? We were married here in 2000. We spent 3 holidays a year down here and even the smell of the place just takes me back to being with someone and being part of a dynamic duo, although that’s the rose-tinted spectacle version.

Unfortunately, smell, sight and sound are remarkably triggering for us humans and they can transport us to very strange places in our heads; memories forgotten and then recalled in the sniff of a sea breeze or holiday apartment. For my own sanity, it’s time to go elsewhere.

The thing is it’s bought up a whole heap of remorse and shame. Things I said and did on my part as our marriage crumbled and it became about lambasting each other viciously with words, acts, passive aggression and indifference. It’s shocking the memories I have been recalling and it hurts me to my core that I was 50% of the vileness that was characteristic of the last 5 years. Addict me was a bitch.

I keep trying to justify my part, my shocking behaviour but the fact is justification is to reapportion blame, to exonerate my deeds, my acts of terrible behaviour. It’s saying ‘you drove me to it.’ And as much as there is no action without a positive or negative reaction (Einstein), it does not detract from the fact that we are accountable for our actions regardless of how we feel we are provoked.

This weighs really heavy on my heart. It’s dogged by it.

I do not want to be with my ex husband; I did not love him like a wife should love her husband but that was my fault in deciding to settle for a safe bet after having my heart broken in a previous relationship. He didn’t deserve the years having to live with my eating disorder, alcoholism and all the erratic behaviour that came with it and absolutely compromised his right to living a peaceful life. I put him through hell. I put myself through hell. I put my family through hell and so many other people over the years so that I could just be with my many addictions and have people enable me. I was so very manipulative and disgusting in what I expected of him so that I could drink myself stupid or binge and purge. And he took it all, until the one day, the light went out of his eyes and for him, we were done. And I can only imagine how trapped and unhappy he felt in a job he hated and being married to someone so positively entrenched in addiction. An active-addict is someone who cares nothing but for themselves. To all intents and purposes, it’s a selfish disease because it manifests in the addict doing what they need to do to serve their addiction and that comes at the expense of anyone in the way.

I know this in my heart. I know what I did. I know what he did too. But I can only be accountable for my actions and it’s up to him whether he owns his part. I will never know; we don’t communicate; a blessing for me and for him. We have let go and moved on in our own way with nothing but memories to recall.

I wonder whether he gets triggered when he comes down here? Sometimes you can’t help wonder what might’ve been but then I tend to leave that line of thinking as quickly as it appears because what ifs are a mental version of human torture.