Notes to Self

April 22, 2014

The mirror of the mind

I saw a picture of myself that was taken just a few days ago. I had no idea I looked so horrifyingly wretched.

I gained weight during my last pregnancy and haven’t lost any of it yet. So on top of the 40-50 extra pounds I was already carrying, I now have 30 more. I’m enormous. And hideous. I’m disgustingly fat.

When I was in college the eating disorder I struggled with all my life finally manifested in full blown bulimia. As I attempted to recover, I learned a lot about myself and my life’s battle with weight. In the years to follow, as I struggled to recover (stop purging), I gained a lot of weight but I also gained a valuable perspective- I had always thought I was fat yet now I really was. I looked back on pictures and couldn’t believe how ugly I thought I was compared to what I had become.

How we see ourselves is always with this ever changing mirror, distorted by the emotionally of our current psychological state. For many years I thought I was fatter than I actually was. Now I don’t realize how fat I am (that’s not to say I don’t think I’m fat, just that I didn’t realize the severity of the situation). In the past, all I thought about was my weight, how my clothes fit and what I imagined everyone was thinking about me and my weight. Now, I don’t think about me at all. I hope that my clothes are clean and not too raged. Most days I get dressed in the dark or out of laundry baskets – “sure, this will work” is my dress code.

I used to stand in front of the mirror and comment to myself how this or that was unfortunate and I recall reading how folks with body image distortions only see individual parts of their bodies and can’t see it as a unit. So the thighs may look big but in reality they fit the body as a whole. I have no concept of how I appear to other people. I don’t even know how I appear to myself. I stopped looking in the mirror. I don’t want to. I don’t want to see the wrinkles, grey hair and cellulite. When I do happen to catch my reflection the reaction is always a generalized, demoralizing, self-bashing qualification of my worth as a human being. But that’s not the point of this post.

What I find interesting is that since I became a mother, and maybe more so since I cut my family out of my life, I see my image as more than the reflection in the mirror. I see myself in the way my daughter looks at me. I see myself in the way that my new mom friends value me. And I see myself in the really big smile that my son gives me whenever his eyes meet mine.

Even though I am aware of my pathetic physical shape, and realize that my lack of any sort of personal time whatsoever is temporary, I am glad to have this realization that my weight is no longer the only way in which I define myself. It is a big part of my mental health, even in my current state of denial and avoidance. But lying in bed, cuddling my daughter and reading her a book – I realized she doesn’t care (right now) how I look…she cares how I love her.

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March 11, 2014

If it’s in your dream it must be…

If you dream it then it must be bullshit, true or a little bit of both?

I feel like that’s the way I answer my life: somewhat full of shit and somewhat true – no, wait, only the first one. No, no it’s both at the same time. Wait, what? I’m sorry, what was the question again? I wasn’t paying attention; I was too busy dealing with my anxiety over what you will think of me when I answer and should I answer differently to make sure you don’t think I’m crazy…..

Last night I had a dream that my daughter was being comforted by the perfect mom – she looked like Darling from Lady and the Tramp (beautiful, hair and make up perfect…soft glow about her). I recall looking on as my daughter felt so loved as she was being sung to in a perfect voice and was engulfed in a warm (yes, glowing) embrace and thinking how ugly I must be to her and how unfortunate she is to have me as a mom. I could never look or sound like that. Maybe she’s better off…

 

So here’s the crazy part – last night during bedtime I spent a good 30-40 min nursing the baby to sleep. Just as I was going to put him in his crib I coughed (I have a cold) and he woke up. I was so annoyed as I am just so, so tired and stressed. My husband took him for a bit and my daughter cuddled in our bed. At one point my daughter decided she wanted to go back into her bed. She started caressing my face and telling me to sleep well and that she loved me. She even sat up and sang me a lullaby, pulling the covers up to my face. I thought to myself how wonderful she is and didn’t I do a good job making her feel loved and respected, since here she was giving it back to me. This motivated me to get up and nurse the baby again – to give him the same unconditional love and affection I gave her.

So what’s with the dream? I fell asleep thinking how lovely my family was.

March 7, 2014

Deliver me from evil

Deliver me from the communication evil that befalls my marriage. Help me chose the right words and impart the appropriate inflection and intonation.

As the adage says – it’s not what you say but how you say it. It’s evidently all in the delivery.

 

I had a phone session with my therapist the other day. I simply do not feel like I can take off of work – feel like I have too much to do, too much responsibility and lose too much time pumping.

He had the following things to say:

  • My marriage is laden with communication issues and they need to be resolved.
  • What me and my husband say, and what is heard, are very different things.
  • Both of our feelings are hurt and he’s not informing me when his feelings are hurt so we can’t discuss it and pain just festers.
  • I assume I understand his thought process. I most likely do not.
  • Furthermore, we do not understand each others intentions, motivations or understanding of situations, events, etc. But we think we do.
  • We need to develop new ways of communicating. We most likely need couples therapy.

 

I don’t disagree with any of that. Relationships are a two-way street and problems can never be one person’s fault. I also think that we hold our own life frustrations so close to the surface that it’s hard not to hold the other person somewhat accountable for our emotions (i.e., our response/reaction must filter through these frustrations and thus carry a part of the anger).

Here are some examples:

My husband commented that I have criticized him for cooking. I do not recall doing this, although I do recall being annoyed that it seemed he waited until we got home to begin cooking. From my perspective, when I get home I am hungry. My daughter is also very hungry. He is unemployed and I don’t see why he couldn’t start cooking earlier. So we either wait for dinner, and get more and more annoyed, hungry and cranky, or we eat snacks to hold us over…but then aren’t terribly hungry for dinner. We also then go to bed shortly after eating. But I have no idea of what he did that day such that he couldn’t start cooking earlier. I never asked. I never wanted to ask. How on earth would I phrase that conversation so that I didn’t hurt his feelings and simultaneously start an argument? So I say nothing, but get annoyed. This happened last night. And I didn’t handle my anger very well. I am sick (head and chest cold) and extremely tired. I just wanted some dinner. I am also annoyed that I am overweight, can never seem to eat well balanced meals and the summer is coming so I will again have to suffer through the heat and humidity in jeans (no, I would NEVER show my legs!) and constantly be reminded of the fact that I am fat and disgusting. So the fact that he didn’t have dinner ready reminded me of all of these other negative things and that’s really why I was angry.

On top of that are my feelings of jealousy  and “it’s not fair” and, more importantly, self-blame of what am I doing wrong?, all of which get intertwined with my frustration about the state of my house, my lack of personal time and the constant drain on my body and mind. I have said many times that on the occasion where I actually get some time to myself, the cat is then all over me. It never ends. So when I start thinking about the things that need to be done, I start feeling like my husband doesn’t do enough – e.g., housework. I feel like he gets to do whatever he wants during the day without any demands on him or his time and I don’t ever get that. So I get angry about the clothes still in baskets, the overflowing garbage cans, the cutting boards that haven’t been washed for weeks (over a month?) and the mess everywhere. And I think he should take care of it – it’s only fair. But I am also struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a woman, wife and mother. Don’t all other mom’s have immaculately clean houses, never a mess anywhere, dinner always prepared ahead of time? Aren’t they all a healthy weight and not a complete embarrassment to their daughter (forget that she’s only three)? I am clearly doing something wrong if this is the state of my house and my life. I am clearly not adequate and clearly failing miserably. All of this anger and frustration (ok, let’s face it, it’s anxiety) get turned to jealousy and anger towards my husband.

On top of all of that, I then struggle with how much of my feelings are “acceptable”…am I asking/demanding/expecting too much? Shouldn’t he be doing this stuff (note the extreme use of “this” as all encompassing!) or am I being unreasonable? What the hell is normal? I just assume that everything I think and feel is irrational and extreme. So now I don’t trust anything I think or feel and get even more angry and anxious that I can’t figure that out. Another layer to work through – more emotion to coat my words.

So when I open my mouth I have already assumed the response based on this crazy thing that I do. It will always be my fault. I am always to blame. I become more and more defensive, anxious and angry. I don’t know which way to turn or what to do.

February 25, 2014

It’s begun again

I am starting to (again) get angry at myself for making what I always deem as wrong choices (e.g., taking a different route to work and not sure it was any faster and maybe even longer….by 2 minutes).

I feel like I’ve taken a giant leap backwards in the progress I made over the last year+.

I feel like everything is always a fight or a hassle or a negative. I rush rush from this task or event to that one. If I spend time on one thing I feel like anxious about the other things I didn’t work on (like right now- wanting to get this off my chest and write in this blog but really I have so many other things I need to be doing; and the anxiety is just building). I constantly forget to do things and I seem to always have to pee!

Life shouldn’t be this kind of constant battle. I know I have my issues/pathologies and I am far from perfect, but why do I feel so alone; like no one has my back? And on top of it, I don’t feel like I deserve to ask for help.

It will be almost a year since I last spoke to my family members. I still don’t regret my decision, but I sometimes feel like I lost all my roots. Well, I guess I did! Ha! But how do I replace that or what do I build in its place? Who’s looking out for me?

I feel like if I don’t reach out to people I wouldn’t have any friends or communication with them. I struggle with always thinking people don’t really like me. I struggle with trying to figure out what “normal” is. How does a normal person react, respond or act in any given situation. I always feel like my thought and action is pathological. Everything I am and everything I do is pathological. I don’t know how to cope with that.

So the recent email from my husband, albeit riddled with whatever he brings to the table, has left me feeling like there is no possible resolution. If I am always to blame, if I am always wrong and always the problem…and if I can’t “fix” myself….

Each day I do the best I can for my family. I work hard to make sure I always have a job (my husband has basically been unemployed for three years). For my children I am always trying to make sure that the tone in my voice and the words I use are loving, supportive and in their best interest (ok, I do lose my temper sometimes, get stern and threaten to take away her toys…). I try to make sure my daughter has activities to encourage growth in all aspects of development. It’s about what they need to grow up feeling unconditionally loved and with the self-esteem needed to be un-pathological (whatever – make up your own words and you’ll see how much fun it is!).

I am exhausted. I don’t have any outlet for stress and no time or mechanism for exercise. I am lonely. I don’t sleep well, I cry and lately all I do is eat (so not psyched about my fat). I guess I am depressed.

And no time for therapy. I think I am screwed. Worst part (ha!) is, I can’t even drink because I am breastfeeding.

February 23, 2014

6 of one, and you’ll kill yourself over the other dozen

My baby wakes three times a night to nurse. And he’s really consistent with the times at which he wakes! I am exhausted!

Last night we somehow skipped the 1am feeding and I got to sleep from 11pm to 4am!! Woohoo!

Now you’d think I would just be happy and move on.

Nope, not me. Here’s the problem.

I breastfeed so, if you don’t know, it’s a supply and demand type situation. When he reduces his demand, my supply decreases.

I usually pump in the morning and get 6-8 oz which is all extra milk. This goes to the freezer supply that I am obsessively creating (in case I dry up early or have to take medication, etc). Because we missed that feeding, I pumped less milk this morning. And if he continues to sleep that well, I will get less and less.

So on one hand I finally got some really good sleep and wasn’t I absolutely ecstatic when I woke up! But leave it to me to beat myself up because of the flip side….

Isn’t it funny how are never happy when one thing happens because of the change that happens on the other side. You get a new job but then there’s the stress of performing well. It goes on and on. I can never just be happy with my current place; always stressing and worrying about what is and isn’t or what should and shouldn’t be.

Back to the themes of my pathologies…it’s never good enough, I am never good enough. That’s what it boils down to. Self- imposed, Ludicrous standards. And that is exhausting.

September 1, 2013

Low self-esteem can be exhausting!

Something relatively minor happened at work on Friday and I am still obsessing over it. I have lost sleep because of it.

I have learned by now that when I can’t “let something go”, its because I haven’t resolved it for myself.

The event happened, I reacted, called a few folks, got a resolution and yet I am not done with it.

The issue, I realized this morning, is the way I treated myself when the question first arose. The doubt and worry I had about something so minute. When I talked to a friend/co-worker she told me what to do and it was that simple, yet I was envisioning everyone thinking I was a terrible person! And so I made it a bigger deal than it was, and now I am angry that I did that.

My husband said to focus on the fact that I have recognized his and how that is furthering me along the “road to recovery”- that I am becoming a better person. While I agree, I still can’t stop being completely annoyed.

It isn’t just the event and the ridiculousness surrounding it, it’s that I think so lowly of myself and that I let my family continue to treat me so poorly to encourage the low self-esteem for so long. I am tired of finding more ways and further reaches of how my poor self-image affects my everyday life. I am not surprised by the effects, just where it comes up and how it then affects me.

I am just tired of it. I want to be “normal” and not think twice about little stuff. I want to stop doubting myself so quickly and I want to stop obsessing when I do.

I’m just tired of it all.

July 30, 2013

because She said so

Saying it aloud makes it seem silly, obvious, as if I should have always known. But the complexities of the mind, the way we learn and the way every little experience has the potential to influence how our personalities develop…I didn’t realize it.

So yesterday when I finally made the connection, the impact was profound. I think it will take time to really understand, and then to change.

I believe beyond all doubt that I am a fat, ugly, disgusting whore who is incapable of being feminine or sophisticated; I am nothing but a bum and will always look like one, despite what I am wearing. I am a failure as a woman, which means I am a failure as a human.

I have lived my life in jeans and t-shirts, rarely venturing out of my comfort zone (and having great anxiety when I did). I’d avoid situations where dressing up was necessary. I never wore makeup. Never cared about my hair or nails. I did the bare minimum.

I avoided mirrors, would run out of bathrooms if another came in and I was trying to redo my pathetic hairstyle (barett, half way up). I felt I had no right to look and even less right to attempt to appear feminine.

I never had many friends. I constantly compared myself to other girls/women, telling myself how unworthy I was of their presence and friendship, and how less of a girl/woman I was because I didn’t dress nicely, do my hair, wear makeup, get my nails done or wear pretty shoes. I was not as worthy of a human being because I was not a good enough female. After all, I was used and no one wants a used person (yes, that is what my mother said to me when I was 13 years old after a very manipulative, abusive 16 year old boy took advantage of me).

I believe all this to be true because She said so.

That is the only reason.

It was an “ah-ha” moment laden with pain. My body cringed as my mind tried to make sense of the simple truth. Because She said so. I could almost see the words come out of her mouth and pave the neuronal pathways that caused the morning tears and tantrums as I went through my wardrobe desperately trying to find something to wear that would take away the negative thoughts and feelings. Day after day the struggle to hide behind cotton and somehow cognitively ignore my own body.  “It’s bad enough you look like a tramp but now you have to dress like a hobo too!” she said one day. Every time I got my hair cut, with a new do, she’d say “oh, well I would have done something different, but if you like it.” Miss Manners was always turning over in her grave at my existence. I stopped going shopping (clothes) with my mother when I was in the 6th grade or so – after she pulled out some frilly shirt (for the hundredth) and I replied “do you really think I would like that?”. It was clear she didn’t know me, didn’t approve of me and wanted me to be something else.  The messages of “I do not approve of you and you are not good enough” came from all directions in various forms. The eye rolls when I came down the stairs. This ’tisk’ when I got a little dirty (as a child mind you).

It was all there, all the information I needed to realize that no, there is and was nothing inherently wrong with me that makes me less of a human or woman. Stop hating yourself and thinking you are undeserving of anything but abuse. Stop trying to fix yourself or deny yourself fundamental love and appreciation for the individual you are.

I look at pictures of myself from when I was a child/adolescent and feel such great, deep sadness. As if I see my potential dying. As if I could have been great but it was lost and I am doomed to being….me. I hate that feeling. I hate thinking that I am nothing but a shell of a person who was wonderful.

And to think that I believe all this to be true simply because She said so.

I don’t know how long it will take me to fully appreciate this realization. I am still in shock. I do know that it is the beginning of brighter days ahead. I just need to figure out how to let all of her words go; how to dust off the little girl that needed love, encouragement and support, and emerge the person I am, that I have always been and will finally love.

July 16, 2013

Obligation

I haven’t spoken to my family for four or so months now.

Within weeks I noticed how much happier of a person I was. I am still finding ways where I am “healing” and am becoming a different person. For example, whenever my husband was in a bad mood I always assumed it was my fault and that he was resenting me and would eventually leave me. I would then try to make him feel better, which ultimately angered him (like everyone, he just wanted to be left alone!). But the other day, when he was tired and cranky, I didn’t blame myself. I didn’t try to fix it and I didn’t think he was going to leave me. I just recognized that he was in a bad mood and that was that. When I realized this change I was floored…first, I never realized that I was doing this and, second, never imagined the link between how my family treated me, how I interpreted their treatment of me and how I applied the effects to every little aspect of my life.

I have received a few emails (“thinking about you…”) and calls (they never leave messages) but I don’t respond. I have nothing to say.

However an email I received (well, was copied on) the other day threw me for a short loop. Evidently my mother required surgery and, based on the little bit of information I received, I can only surmise that she has some form of cancer (pre or very early stage). I had to stop and really think about how I was going to respond. How does illness and death change a relationship, and should it?

I’ve always been there for my family. Done everything I could (above what was needed). I can’t think of anything that needs to be said or done or what would be worth reopening communication. I feel settled in my relationship with all of them, to the extent that until they change, I have nothing to say. I don’t have regret. Death is only a problem for the living. I don’t have to resolve anything with her from my perspective. I think people go to ill and dying relatives with which they severed ties because they need closure or resoluation for something. I don’t.

But the legacy obligation (haven’t you heard that blood is thicker than water and family is all you’ll ever really have?) made me initially take pause and wonder if I should change my approach. But as I worked it all out, I realized that the culture with which I grew up…do it because it’s family and that’s all you’ll ever have…I’m done with that. How I respond to them and how I treat myself as a consequence of the interactions are two very different things. Until I can stop beating myself up for every little thing, I don’t think I can be with them. They destroy me.

All of this change I am encountering – it is powerful stuff. As powerful as all the damage that was done. I am proud of myself for finally being true to me; standing up for myself and my well-being. These are enormous, positive changes that are making me a better person and better wife and mother.

In War, inside

I remember the day I was listening to the radio and a song by The Who resonated most amazingly; “I don’t need to be forgiven”.

I have been searching for the fundamental (irrational?) thought that will lead me to victory. Maybe there isn’t one, but I am finding one that is very influential: while I do not believe I did anything wrong, I have not forgiven myself.

April 16, 2013

A portrait of resistance

It occurred to me yesterday that I have been slowly uncovering all these varying coping mechanisms or ways that my parents shaped my thought processes but I don’t really have a general idea of what a picture of me would look like.

This is what I have so far:

I am a judgmental person (to myself as much as, or more than, to others) because I was always criticized and I learned to be critical.

I have this idea of how the world should work and if people don’t fit my schema then I get angry; much like how my parents and sisters got angry if I didn’t act the way they wanted me to.

I have anxiety, probably because I was never allowed to have my feelings, show anger or voice my disagreement with decisions made without regard to me.

I believe that I will always fail at everything I do, because nothing I did was good enough or the way they wanted it.

I believe I am unworthy of unconditional love and I am only as good (or loved) as what I can do for people, because I was not good, and did not deserve support and encouragement if I strayed from their idea of who and what I should be. The more I did for them, in the way in which they wanted it done, the better a person I was and the more loved I was (and by the way, this is still going on – I was recently kicked off the will because they felt they couldn’t rely on me any longer. A few years ago they kicked my sister off for similar reasons.).

Hmmm, I can’t think of any others right now, although I know there are more.

So I asked my therapist, if I feel like I will always fail at everything that I attempt, why do I try? What makes me have initiative and drive? What makes me continue to take chances and try new things and put myself out there? Why didn’t I just settle for something safe?

His only response was that people often have this core that is resistant. It survives and continues on regardless.

So, instead of painting a picture of my faults, here’s a picture of my resistance:

I have been married to a wonderful man for almost nine years; we have been in love for sixteen (we dated 7 years before getting married).

I have a beautiful, happy, healthy little girl who knows she is loved.

I have a few really good friends and am making more.

I have a job in which I am respected, relied upon and am really good at what I do. I will be promoted soon.

Even though I don’t like what I see in the mirror, I know it’s a superficial disgust and that the person standing there is really a beautiful, kind, loving, intelligent and wonderful person.

Even though I think about the time I spent sad and broken and how that may have kept me from being more than I am now, I also remember the moments that I shined and stepped out of my shell to be truly magnificent.

Despite the lack of consideration, respect and care that my family showed me, I am a caring person who considers other peoples feelings and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt (at least once because I’m not a fool!).

I am not who they are.

I am not who they want me to be.

I am me.

I survived and I resisted.

My picture of resistance is colorful and blooming everyday. It’s made of tears, fear, anxiety and sorrow but it smells like love and joy (and it tastes like coffee).

How about yours?

 

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