Monday, June 25, 2012

Healing is Not for Sissies!

    I’ve been in and out of treatment since my first suicide attempt at seventeen, though I needed help long before that. I remember lying in my bed at the ripe old age of eight, praying for God to end my life. In my naivete, I tried to hold my breath until I died. Of course, I’d end up breathing again. I contemplated drowning but I was afraid of the water. One time, I tried holding a pillow over my face to no avail. Clearly, I was depressed for as long as I could remember. I always knew I wasn’t normal. Although I repressed the knowledge and memory of the sexual abuse, I certainly knew that there was something wrong with me. I was not like other kids. I believed that I was bad, shameful, sick and ugly, inside and out and I held this belief for more than forty years.
    Even today, I find myself wondering when I’ll feel normal. When will I be done? When will I be over it? When will it go away? I don’t think it ever really goes away. How can something so much a part of who you are just go away? Surviving an entire childhood of pain, shame and sexual torture at the hands of my own family is so much a part of who we are, that even in the most ideal circumstances and on the best of days, it’s there. It won’t always be so “in-your-face” as it is right now, but how can it not effect every part of who we are? Hell, there wouldn’t even be a “we” if not for needing to escape the reality! If you’ve spent your entire life being a “we” it’s impossible to know what being an “I” feels like. My therapist once likened it to being filthy rich while trying not to think about money. The abuse shapes our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs in such a profound and primal way that we cannot fathom anything else.
    Incest and the mind control that accompanies it is pervasive. It’s the foundation that even the most fundamental thoughts, feelings and beliefs are built upon. Healing requires demolition all the way down to that foundation and rebuilding brick by brick. Healing is not for sissies! You’ve got to commit to it for the long haul, otherwise it’s like a Band-Aid over a bullet hole. You will die a slow death unless you commit to it. I know this because I danced around it for twenty years before I made the commitment to my healing. I did some work here and there and I was willing to say that I was abused. I allowed myself to know it but no way was I going to feel it and I was definitely not ready to make myself vulnerable by allowing anyone to come into my inside world. I had to hit bottom. I had to wait until both my parents were dead before I could be strong enough to go there.
     I’ve been working on integrating for a couple of years now and I’m definitely blending. I feel more whole than I have ever felt and more “normal” whatever that is! I found the right therapist at the right time and I jumped in with both feet. I made the commitment and I haven’t given up. As excruciating as the process has been, it's still better than the depression I lived with for four decades! I have been working harder at healing than I ever have at anything else. I’m open about the abuse and resulting D.I.D. and have given the blame back to those that deserve it. I don’t carry their secrets for them anymore. I have given voice to the wee ones inside me and to all the parts of me that have been bound, silenced and kept isolated in the dark. I am all those parts. We are all me! None of us would be the same without the others and all of us are me. If you are a survivor, you probably understand that and if not, I hope you can respect it and respect me for surviving, thriving and being willing to make myself vulnerable to grow stronger. Dissociation is not mental illness, rather, a gift from God that allowed a helpless child to survive the unimaginable. I’m grateful for that!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rip VanWinkle

One of the fairy tales I recall from my childhood is that of Rip VanWinkle.
Remember that one?
This young guy falls under a spell and sleeps away his entire life.
He wakes up years later only to find that he has become an old man;
complete with a long white beard. That’s what I recall most vividly.
Poor old Rip looking in a mirror with shock at the sight of that old face.
A boy inside an old man's body touching that long gnarly beard.

Call me Rip.
I’m in shock and I’m grieving.
I slept through most of my life too. I should be a teenager, but I’m not.
I look in the mirror and I feel shock and confusion too.
It’s not because of vanity that I can never remember my real age.
I have to consciously think of my husbands age, then subtract 4 years.
Even then I’m never really sure.
Dissociative identity disorder, (DID), saved my life and my sanity.
There is a price for survival. I missed almost everything.
What I have in my memory banks reads more like a scrapbook
or a youtube montage video. Highlights and snapshots, stories and fantasy.

I sat in my therapists office yesterday and it hit me. I’m about fourteen.
I don’t know too many fourteen year olds who want to be married
to a fifty-one year old man or who want the responsibility of parenting
teens and twenty-somethings. I’m overwhelmed and afraid.
I feel trapped and I’m angry. I feel ripped off.
I awoke to a face that isn’t mine and the body of a middle aged mother of three.
How did I get here?
Oh, sure, I can flip through the images in my memory banks
and I can see exactly how I got here, but I’m still confused.
I can see it, but it doesn’t feel real.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Red Flags

So, I started Atkins nine days ago and despite some massive
migraines, I'm alive and well.
Fifteen pounds lighter... and very, very grateful!

When I decided to trust God to hold my hand and help me do this,
I really had no idea what that would look like.
I'm still unsure of what the rest of this journey will be like.

Here's what I've seen so far:
God used my niece to get my attention and she was obedient to Him by calling.

I was obedient once I realized it was from Him and my husband followed bravely.

I asked Him to do what I have never been able to do and He did.
I had NO cravings the first whole week- which, from what I read is uncommon.

I suffered through some powerful, painful migraines, unrelieved by medication.
These headaches lasted about five days... a very looooong five days!

I prayed and I reached out for support and got some great advice.
That support and my faith allowed me to push through and stay the course.

I felt really good going into week two and had lost more weight than expected!
Unfortunately for me, along with my new found confidence,
often comes pride... and not the healthy kind of pride either!
I started feeling empowered and self sufficient.
Whenever I'm not struggling, I start forgetting to pray.
I wasn't struggling this week.

I decided to buy some sugar free jello for a treat, after all, "I'm doing so well."
The night before last, I made a box of two servings.
Rather than pour it into two bowls, I left it in the big bowl I had made it in.
Innocent enough... right? (First red flag)
I woke up yesterday and thought of the sweet treat almost immediately.
I almost didn't make coffee because I wanted to eat that jello.
I talked to myself aloud, negotiating and rationalizing.
I made a deal with myself, (Red flag number two).
I would eat some "real food" first, then I could have the jello.
Ok, the plan sounds reasonable to me! I fixed myself some food.
Normally, I really like tuna salad with onion and radishes and I enjoy eating it.
I took my plate of "real food" and the bowl of jello to my seat. (Third red flag)
I began eating. I hurried through my "real food."
All the while thinking about my treat.
I don't remember whether or not I enjoyed my food.
Once I swallowed the last mouthful of "real food", I dove into the jello.
At first, I planned on only eating half... "well, maybe a bit more"...
I used the side of the spoon like a knife to carefully cut the jello in half.
Then I shaved off "just a little more"... (Red flag number four).

In short order, I had eaten all the jello. "Duh"...
How did I not see that one coming?
Because I'm used to playing the game, that's how.

Here's another shocker... I started having cravings yesterday!
Let me repeat myself, "Duh!"
I may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but I am able to recognise
something that folks in the AA community call "stinkin' thinkin'."
I am a carb addict after all.

Yes, I know that sugar free jello isn't going to hurt my body.
Only 20 calories and 0 carbs. It's not my body that's the problem.
That jello and all the insanity surrounding it, messed with my thinking.
THAT'S where the real problem lies.
My eating sugar free jello is the equivalent of an alcoholic drinking
an O'Doul's non-alcoholic beer!
It's way too soon for me to be flirting with danger!

So, here's my revised plan:
PRAY. Honest and often.
Stop playing games that will become my undoing.
Back away from the jello and no one gets hurt!
Hold myself accountable by talking about it.
Go back to what works.

So here I am, fifteen pounds lighter, humbled and grateful.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I know what I want.

On September 26, 2005 I was 41 years old and I weighed 324 lbs.
I had gastric bypass surgery on that day and I lost 183 pounds over the next 18 months.

For the first whole year, I followed the rules to the letter. I ate NO sugar ever. I ate slowly and didn't drink while I ate. I always ate my protein first. I gave up all carbonated drinks and drank no alcohol. I worked out a minimum of 5 days a week and weighed in at least once a week.

A little over a year post op, when our daughter was about to head off to college, I went back to work in the hospital. That's when I began to flirt with sugar. This would mark the beginning of the end of my extremely strict eating. Someone was always bringing something yummy to work and I resisted as long as I could. The job was so stressful. I was emotionally triggered and slowly, I gave into temptation.

It didn't affect my weight at first. I continued to lose weight and I continued to exercise a minimum of 3 times a week. I leveled off at about 150 lbs. Then I had major surgery; three of them within a year. I had two plastic surgeries on my body and one for a bowel obstruction. I lost even more weight and ended up at 141 lbs. This was too thin really. I’m 5 feet 9 inches and I was wearing a size 4/6. Before my bypass I was in a size 30/32. After I recuperated from my other surgeries, my weight bounced back up and stayed right around 150 lbs. or so for another year.

I became very depressed and my child sexual abuse trauma symptoms really flared up. The job was too stressful, so I left. Once I stopped working I was eating sugar fairly regularly but I still didn't notice much difference in my weight. Soon I was an 8, then a 10. I remember that because I was so sad to be double digits again. Then I was a size 10/12. The depression was in full swing by this time and I was on 5 different psyche meds; none of which were working.

I went back to work at a local nursing home when our son went off to college.
I was wearing size small scrubs at the time. I got put on the night shift and started eating really badly. I began munching all night long on crackers, lifesavers and doughnuts or cookies. I went up to a medium in my scrubs. At first I was still active. I'd fast walk up and down the hallways or go walk around the parking lot.

I started therapy about this time and weaned off the psyche meds. I started doing EMDR and getting into really scary incest and trauma stuff. I left that nursing home in search of 12 hour shifts so that I could have more days off to do therapy. I went to another nursing home to work in their geriatric psyche unit. This was a big mistake. I worked 7 pm to 7 am as the only RN for my unit and often covered another unit on another floor. There were residents there who triggered me so badly, I truly thought I might snap and hurt one of them. I had never experienced this level of anxiety at work before. I was in a constant state of high alert anxiety. To cope, I ate high carb foods NON-STOP for 12 hours 3 to 4 times a week.

Even when I was off duty, I continued this raging carb addiction. I left there after only 3 months because the local nursing home offered me a day shift position if I would come back. I was so stressed working in the psyche unit that I was willing to leave after such a short time and go back to 8 hour shifts.
Within 2 weeks of going back they put me back on nights again. I negotiated a 16 hour shift from 2:30 pm to 7:00 am 2 times a week plus one additional 8 hour shift. This was VERY hard but gave me more days off to focus on therapy. Now I was eating non-stop for a 16 hour shift. I left there about 4 months later wearing X-large scrubs.

I went from a small to an X-large in less than a year.
I have gained another 20 pounds in the last 4 months.
I have now regained 119 pounds.

I would rather have never lost it in the first place, than to feel the shame and agony of such a massive failure. My back hurts again and I have pain in my legs and knees. I have dependent edema with pitting edema of the left ankle and foot. I'm having more migraines too.

About 3 or 4 weeks ago, my niece Rachel called me, out of the blue, to tell me that she had been eating according to the Atkins phase 2 plan and had lost 15 pounds in 2 weeks. We are no strangers to eating disorders and dieting in my family, but they all know that I don't do the "D" word and they are careful never to raise the subject with me. Food, eating, weight and dieting have always been major triggers for me. I'm especially sensitive since I gave in, broke down and had the gastric bypass that I swore I'd never have.I have essentially been in hiding since I regained. This is a VERY delicate subject with me and Rachel respects that. So, it was really unusual for her to make a point of calling me to tell me this. She felt that God put it on her heart to share this with me and I agree that He did.

Last week while on vacation with my family, I ordered two of the Atkins books on my Kindle. I shared this with my husband, who isn't one for the "D" word either.
To my surprise, he immediately agreed to do it with me and essentially gave me "permission" to purge our house of all non-Atkins approved foods. We made an agreement to do it right away.

We got home from vacation yesterday and I went right to work cleaning out the pantry, the fridge and freezer. I was feeling very anxious and guilty over "wasting" so much money and getting rid of perfectly good and expensive food. He was so supportive. Before pitching things like real maple syrup, I asked him, "Are you sure? Even if it's expensive?" His response was so reassuring. He simply replied, "Why not?" He was right and I felt free to go for it.

I bagged up 4 or 5 bags to go back to the dorm with our son's fiance, 4 or 5 bags to go to Manna's food pantry and another 4 or 5 bags of expired or not very good food to go to the dump. I washed out my refrigerator so it sparkles and smells so clean. I worked on that for several hours. Then he and I made a grocery list according to the Atkins guidelines and bought $176.00 of fresh, whole, Atkins-friendly foods. I was tuckered out with very swollen feet by the time I sat down last night, but I feel inspired and ready, albeit a bit anxious.

I am a carbohydrate/food addict. There is no doubt about that. I purposely use food, especially carbs to self soothe and self medicate. I eat to avoid and to numb out. I've been doing this my entire life. The only exception to this was that period of "sobriety" after my gastric bypass. If I was using alcohol instead of food, I would have been a "dry drunk" during this time as my relationship with food and my feelings about it and about myself never really changed. I was essentially forced to eat well by altering my insides. Sort of like forcing a raging alcoholic into rehab and giving them the drug ‘Antabuse’ to make them sick if they drink again. They may be alcohol free but they are far from real sobriety.

At 47, I am finally committed to healing from my child sexual abuse trauma. I believe that if my food addiction is in check and I'm not self medicating and eating to avoid my feelings, the pace and quality of my trauma recovery will be improved. My memories have been very slow to emerge and I have been extremely frustrated by the snails pace. It makes sense that by continuing to use food and weight as a way to avoid feeling and remembering, I am my own worst enemy for remembering, feeling, dealing and ultimately, healing.

I believe that the Lord did put it on Rachel's heart to call me and tell me about this way of eating and because I believe it came from Him; I trust that He will give me the strength to do this thing. I am terrified of being hungry and I feel powerless over my cravings. The thought of restrictions on my eating sets off a chain reaction of negative thoughts and fears inside of me.
I am praying that God will give me His strength to resist temptation and to follow this eating plan. I want there to be no idol before God. I want to turn to Him and not turn to food for comfort. As long as I'm still using food, that can't happen. So, I'm trying to see this as the gift that He intended it to be when He told Rachel to call me.

I know that I want a more intimate relationship with God.
I know that I want a deeper and more loving relationship with my husband.
I know that I want to recover my lost memories and discover all the parts of myself.
I know that I want a lean, healthy body and I know that I want an active lifestyle. Because I have faith in Him, I also know that I will have all of these things and more as I become free from the strongholds of food addiction and eat the way God intended.

“Dear Lord, please carry me through the scary and hard parts of this journey and give me the strength to make good choices. In Jesus' name” ~ Amen.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Attic

As I lay in bed last night I tried to go to “the attic” of my mind
where my emotional parts live.
Several times I said aloud, “Go up, up, up.”  “Up, up, up” 
but I couldn’t really get there.
I thought it would be easier to do for some reason, but it was not.

Then, I found myself lying on my back, wrists crossed
and arms extended over my head.
My legs shook and I heard a voice, “Open up. Spread your legs Gaye.”
My left ear shut off and I felt a part coming up. I felt small and silent.
I felt that familiar pressure on my abdomen and a cramping feeling.
I felt a warm sensation between my legs
and I had a gripping pain in my right thigh.
My ankles felt stuck to the bed and I couldn’t close my legs.

I heard a male voice with my ears, not just in my mind but
I couldn’t really make out what the word was that he had said.
It was something like “Julie or Jules” or something, but I heard it.
I started to doze off and I was awakened by a clinking sound.
It sounded like something metal on my headboard. I heard it twice.
I heard it with my ears. My heart raced and my eyes popped open.
I lay there frozen; motionless and terrified. Eventually, I fell asleep.
I had dreams but I don’t remember them now.

I woke up with the distinct sensation that I had been choked.
I feel a dull ache in my neck to the left of my trachea.
It hurts to swallow and when I touch it, but it’s not a sore throat.

I have a hard time sometimes to separate body memories
from actual pain unrelated to flashbacks, triggers or memories.
They all hurt and they all feel real.
Usually though, once I identify that it is a body memory, it goes away.
A couple of times over the past few weeks I have been alarmed by a clear feeling that someone is squeezing my upper right arm.
It’s real and it hurts.
I knew immediately that this was a body memory and it went away fairly quickly.
This has happened two, maybe three times over the past few weeks.
I believe that not only was I restrained probably with handcuffs,
but I think I was either choked or held down by my throat.

I woke up early, sometime before six o’clock, and I lay in bed and prayed.
I went to “the attic” briefly.
One thing I noticed is that I think there are “garment bags” hanging
on one side and I feel that someone or more than one
someone is hiding behind or inside of them.
I wonder if it’s my bigger, older parts.
Some of my parts aren’t afraid and have come out a lot over the years.
Where are they? Why don’t I see them when I go there?
If they aren’t afraid, then why don’t they come out?
The wee ones that hide under the eaves seem afraid.
Jersey girl, (the scrapper), miss showmanship, (the great entertainer),
and the sexy one aren’t afraid.
Where are they?
Who else is in there?

Monday, July 4, 2011

"Taking the Trigger Train to Crazy Town!"

I woke up this morning feeling good. Hubby has the day off,
the sun is finally shining.
The coffee was already made when I got up...
A great start to this Independence Day!

Last night, our 20 year old son was supposed to have loaded the dishwasher, (with mostly all his own dirty dishes), but instead he fell asleep on the couch. Before I went to bed, I woke him up to send him to bed and tell him to get up early in the morning and get them done.

Today, when I got up, my son was still asleep in his bed.
I came downstairs, got my coffee and came in to see my husband,
when I noticed that he had done the dishes himself.
I was so mad!
My husband is always so nice; he’s a very thoughtful man. Unfortunately,
he enables our son and we fight about that more than anything else.

I went to the landing of the stairs and hollered up to our son to get up.
I scolded him for not getting up early to do the dishes as he had said he would.
He made a wise remark and I reacted by hollering
at him to get out of bed and contribute something to the house.
He made a wise crack and then I really yelled! 

I came out to the sunporch and reamed out my husband.
I began to feel some familiar feelings from my childhood
that have repeated into my adult life.
I felt disregarded and unheard.
I could feel something escalating inside and I fought against it at first,
trying to communicate my feelings in a controlled, adult way.

The next thing I know I'm SCREAMING at my husband to "Do something!"
"Don’t just stand there, do something!" Of course, he just stood there...
I’m sure he was stunned!
It began with one good shove; then I hit him. Then, all hell broke loose.
I started wailing on him as hard as I could with both fists.
I hit him over and over again, screaming
at him. I kept telling him how much I hate him. 

Neither one of us is violent and hardly ever even yell or anything.
He was stunned, teary eyed standing there letting me pound and pummel him.
I don't remember some parts of it but suddenly, I came to the realization
that none of this had anything to do with my husband.
I don't hate him-I adore him.
Although I realized that the rage was misdirected, I still couldn't stop.
I continued the raging and punching and screaming.
I just kept screaming over and over, "Goddamn it! Goddamn it! Goddamn it!" 

Then I turned it on myself and pulled my hair and began to punch myself
in the head. I was like a crazy woman!
Then I just screamed but no words-just screaming and crying.
My husband stopped me, held me by my wrists and hugged me tight to keep me from hurting myself.
I fought until I was exhausted.
He tried to get me to sit down, but I resisted and then came ‘round two’ of the screaming and more crying. I backed away from him and cried some more. He just stood there until I calmed down. I kept saying, "I'm sorry" over and over. He held me for a long time.

By then I wanted to sit down because I was shaking and exhausted.
I sat and put my head on his belly while he stood beside me,
holding me for a long time.
To some, my husband standing there allowing me to unleash on him
might seem like weakness,
but let me tell you, he showed such strength and compassion in that moment.
Don is my rock and my safety.
Almost like he’s magic, Don has a calming affect on me.

Then he said, as if to lighten to mood,
"If I'm ever involved in a brawl, I want you on my team!" 
He always knows what to say to make me feel better.

Other than some tired, achey muscles, a really sore hand, a sore throat
and pulling out some hair, I'm OK now.
I keep sighing. I feel relieved and exhausted.
This feels as if it came out of nowhere
and although, I'm a bit embarrassed, I’m grateful.
I'm grateful for my husband and for getting rid of some of that rage
that I’ve carried around for over forty years.
My husband helped me explain triggers and flashbacks to our son,
so it turned out to be a good opportunity for bonding and healing
and I am also grateful for that!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

“My name is Mabel and my glasses catch my tears.”

Early one morning as I was waking up, I met her. 
So small and sad- so afraid.
Mabel has all my sadness and she cries very quietly. 
She told me that she wears those big glasses
to catch all the tears so they don’t leak out. 
She is small and tender. I’m guessing she’s around eight and she is very sad. 
Mabel knows it wasn’t safe to cry.
She knows what happened to me that made me sad 
and she has done the crying for me.
She doesn't believe that it's OK to cry. 
I wish she would let me have the pain so she could rest.