SUCCESS

Success scares a part of me once totally unconscious of. Looking at the scale, seeing the numbers drop. Well, eat. There is something about excess weight and feelings of safety, once thinking that reason was bogus. But no, it is real. It means men looking at me, even at this advanced age.

Both flattered and fearful, taking the reins of my own path and goals anyway— success continues and the numbers decline. But as my body changes, albeit slowly, there must be time to adjust to each half pound.

Is that a flatter stomach? Is that a bone? It frightens me, yet the drive is not going away this time. And how many times since age 8 have 50 or more pounds been shed? Too many to count.

Age 8 when the attacks began, and though several living in that same house knew of my vulnerability and terror, no one helped to protect me from further trauma(s). The message, carry the burdens… which translates to repeated failure in every venture. Staying down for the ease of others means taking the hit myself.

Excess weight always brought feelings of safety along with numbing to the facts of my existence. But in unraveling the knots, going deep into my center, all things are possible. There everything needed resides. Maybe this time my parts can stay together for the very first, feeling safe, in my body, and slimmer.

Face the fear, live fully, embrace all there is. My being is as deserving of good things as any other…

LOVE

PHOTO BY PATRICIA

Settling down to the memory of yesterday, accepting an ‘off’ day with hopes of moving back towards the center. It is disappointingly excruciatingly hard to cope with old habits that emerge when up in the night- EATING.

It’s OK. You will keep moving towards your goals. You can expect glitches and falling back to old patterns all along the way. Accept that.

“I’ve done so well. I’ve been trying so hard,” I lament to Samuel, after he had cleaned up my mess from middle of the night foraging. I was too tired from a double dose of medication to clean up crumbs or put away peanut butter and jelly.

Each day the calorie counter on-line is pulled out. Every morsel entering my mouth is tracked to the exact calorie. And exercise, all my body can handle until hitting a wall. Then? Sit down or fall down. A bad night comes without really knowing why except my body takes off out of my control and sleep evades me.

This time it it might simply be not telling a friend I can’t do a video call on an afternoon when so much exercise was done in the morning. My body has limits due to so much abuse throughout childhood. Being present with a friend takes energy, energy I did not have when trying to talk to her. She’s not evil, just ignorant. And when rested I can let her foibles slide off me, just as she must allow my character flaws to exist with acceptance.

Feeling sorry for myself after laying there hours in bed, I got up and went to the living room. Hating the old ways but doing them anyway I ate. This is the pattern that began at age 8 after the first attack. Eat then throw-up because my then thin little kid body couldn’t take the excess food. It can now, but not without equal amounts of self-hate.

Yet over the course of many months pounds have slowly dropped, twenty so far. Because something changed, I changed. I can’t tell you why, how, or what, but something deep and internal that won’t allow night time follies to dissuade my journey to wholeness and health.

COVID 15

Like a duck out of water, early trauma made me feel different from everyone, a searing differentness that was real. Trauma unprocessed is broken glass. No amount of glue makes it like it once was.

When others ate out of hunger, my hunger was of the soul, searching for love never finding any… especially inside myself. Eating blotted out unspeakable pain. By replacing anguish with food, numbness and self-hate increased.

Every bite since the age of 8 came with a dose of guilt. Blaming myself for using it as a survival tool wasn’t the answer, though it took till just recently to realize just that. Even by adolescence diet groups became part of my life. Being overweight was never the problem. It was a symptom of unhealed wounds covered up by enforced silence. The only outlet provided was eating. It was what my mother wanted, that is until she didn’t.

When others gained weight, like during basic training after joining the Army, my jeans began to droop down my hips after weeks of meager meals in the mess hall. Other girls filled their trays with gravy topped potatoes, meat, breads, and cake with ice cream. Mine had plain meat and vegetables with lots of hot crappy coffee to wash it down and fill me up.

Then scurrying out early, leaving the laughing young women behind. Back in the paint peeling barracks no snacks were available to ease the voracious soul hunger. The necessary discipline needed was only at brief intervals three times a day. Weight melted away.

It is not dropping off quickly now, but it is dropping after meticulous talks with myself about who I really am, what I have desperately wanted since childhood, and what I truly deserve to be happy inside myself where it counts. When even in the worst of times, a place internally welcomes with kind, loving, acceptance.  

The Covid 15 talked about, similar to the freshman 15 for those first semesters at college, are the opposite for me once again. 15 pounds are gone! This time the way forward is much different that the millions of other attempts at weight loss. Success comes not by white knuckling it, but by loving myself even with failures, which are many. Loving myself back onto the path by judging that all of me is OK even in the midst of failure.

When thin, because there were times at a healthy weight, feeling shitty prevailed. The gastric stapling butchering my stomach and intestines years ago after my mother’s urging to have it done did not cure the emptiness in my soul, or heal the ragged wounds. In hopes of becoming normal, because in my mind slim=normal, feelings of not being normal kept wearily on.

Decades later, dangerous, and extremely painful internal bleeding occurred over the course of many months. Finally an ambulance was called because I couldn’t stand up. Hospitalization was required for several days.

Reasons why were not known till after discharge when a surgeon specializing in gastric stapling identified the cause of the bleed. The surgeon of long ago is responsible. The on-going risk of bleeding at the surgical site is managed with a daily dose of a high potent antacid taken permanently.

It’s not about weight and never was. It is about liking, then loving myself, a daily struggle, and my most important work. The messages of being different, bad, unlovable, incapable, and not normal, like dark swirls cemented in a piece of granite, are here to stay. Chipping away at these harsh voices is not always easy or successful. But chip away I do, with small, wondrous achievements along the way.

Happiness, or failure, all lies within. No matter what happened way back when, it is in my grasp to decide what messages to give myself. Easier when rested, about impossible when not. But over time, when the source of my being is tapped, comforted, and accepted, great things happen. Maybe not ‘great’ in that I’m saving the world, but in saving myself.

1976

Into the Light

Despondency, the tarry pit of dark thoughts overtakes me. Sleep evades me as my thoughts spin about badness, a theme more familiar than love, kindness, or gentleness. That is the stuff of autumn with its shorter days and the even shorter ones to come.  

That each movement, action or word is WRONG. That I am wrong just for being.

Even in the best of times, which oddly has been this summer, thoughts need wrangling in due to the scourge of brothers who sexually attacked me as a little girl. That blackens every encounter even to this day.

That sullies relationships as my thoughts are ALWAYS negative. Like granite they are chiseled at day after day with some success over time. Then fall hits and so do my thoughts, bashing my head in along with whatever self-esteem that was casted into the mold by hard work.

So take the feelings and feel them. That is the only way. Turning the truth of my feelings into a pink cloud by force or pretension is not my way. My way has always taken me through the darkness into the light. Back down again so many times, but somehow, always somehow, back into the light.

time for full spectrum lighting

HUNGER

Photos by Patricia (bluebird baby)

Having to pretend since age 8 that the horrors suffered weren’t real, it became customary for me to stuff them away. That took a lot of food, food that mother loved to cook then see others eat. Weight gain, up and down since age 8.

Even mangling my inner organs to be normal. That pleased my mother who told me about the magical operation.

She left out the part that meant intense pain for hours, and countless episodes on the bathroom floor hoping to upchuck the extra teaspoon of food swallowed. What was left of my stomach was  a tiny pouch with only enough room for a tablespoon or so of food.

That is a problem for a person accustomed to using food as an escape from the body, and had since age 8 when my mother’s cure for the first terrifying attack was to stuff with me food. And if my mother’s love was at the end of a spoon it was better than nothing.

To be in my body now is a revelation. Not realizing that my entire life has been an escape, the exploration into this brings up empathy unfounded in my own inner workings. Because usually there is harshness, blame, and self-castigation. Compassion has begun to blossom.

To go through all that all alone. To suffer like that all alone, except for a mother on the side-lines always making it worse because she didn’t want a fat daughter. So she put me in fashion shows, and beauty contests, and then as an adult excitedly telling me about this operation which years later put me in the hospital due to internal bleeding where the inexperienced surgeon make his cuts to rearrange my internal organs.

It was never about weight, but about pain suppressed. About a little girl alone whose only resource was eating because you readily pushed food, loved to cook, and loved even more to see it eaten.

Mom, normal is to feel. Normal is to go to your daughter’s aid and keep any son from attacking me again. It doesn’t matter if you’re left a widow with 8 kids, you’re story over and over again whenever trying to tell you how angry I was at you and why.

You could have 20 kids, just stop and do the right thing. No more attacks, and don’t tell your little daughter who is crying hot tears down her cheeks, that if it ever happens again to tell you. Of course I wouldn’t, too ashamed to do so. As if I had the power to stop it by telling you. YOU STOP IT.

So food became an escape from the body as other sons took what they wanted. And I became more and more invisible as my body got larger. And that was 60 years ago but the same methods of not feeling are still being used.

Yet beauty occurs, that of feeling deep down inside with peace not tsunamis. I can go there and be OK, better than OK. Still tentatively trying it out, but more and more comfortable being there. It is a beautiful thing, one others live daily without question. But for a trauma survivor it is a new place to be that brings wholeness, peace, and love for self.

Instead of self-repugnance for a too big body since childhood, there is the beginnings of understanding and compassion. Food is used to numb, to not be in the body. I have not understood just how terrifying my childhood was. That leaving the body became the norm when my body was attacked, not the other way around which is really the norm when living childhood without trauma.

Without intervention or release of the agony inside me, I ate for the next sixty years. Even when the stomach was butchered into a tiny pouch- I ate. I had to, even though it meant long periods wrapped about the toilet on the cold tile floor. There was still interaction with ‘family’ acting like I loved them because that’s what was required. Of course I ate.

It is a new beginning where food is eaten out of hunger, not all the other hungers, but true physical hunger. And that only begins to happen when love and compassion are heard inside of me filling the ragged holes that food once filled. That is not the head or brain… that is the soul hungry for love.

The Cure

Eerily quiet and unusually dark at my accustomed waking time, the silence is unnerving. Where have the birds gone? My guess is many have left for warmer climates already. They surely arrive here earlier in the spring than most people realize, as early as February’s end.

The feelings of loneliness this usually brings is not as deep or as painful. There is an energy occurring that wasn’t present during all the years of restless sleep when waking at all kinds of hours, staying awake watching TV.

Good sleep means more energy. It also means a brighter outlook on things with a happier mood, happy which equates to more peaceful. The magic cure seems to lie in the pot oil begun after visiting Cory last fall in a state where the oil is legal.

After choking on  smoking the pot also purchased, then hallucinating afterwards freaking out, needing my grown son to talk me down, it was the oil that was more fitting for me. The pot these days is nothing like my college days because it is way more powerful.

The oil seems to have cured much of what ails me. Not a total cure, but toning it all down and still there to manage. What a blessing, and all in this innocuous little plant. It probably wouldn’t have done all it can do earlier in my life because there was just too much to overcome. 

But after years of therapy and living through the worst, it was the little bit needed to send me over to the side of peace. Still the work goes on. It does not offer immediate self-esteem. Nor does it remove anxiety, an issue worked on daily.

But it does help with sleep a great deal along with the tendency for repetitive negative thinking. But discipline is needed to keep countering those voices which sometimes thrash me down unequivocally.

All the tools that help are needed, and this is one of many. But this addition after all these years is an amazing balm to my overworked systems. Though it works for me, it is not a recipe for everyone. We each find our own ways through our own hell’s. 

 

SWEETNESS

Our new bird house up for only a week before being occupied.

There is beauty all around me, some of my own making, much from Mother, the same Mother who takes my breath away with her beauty and casts scourges upon us in the form of a virus.

But inside me there still lives darkness, gloom, and disaster, a surety of blackness that believes I don’t deserve life.

It lands on me like vulture claws in the quiet loneliness of night when sleep won’t come. This time due to simply sending an email to a brother, a non-abusive brother, but one who buddied up with an abusive brother for life choosing his company over mine. That makes him a co-conspirator of the worst kind, and very dangerous for me.

Yet, like a moth to flame… but who doesn’t want family? Picnics, holidays, to be part of a group? My groups call for safety. And those ‘people’ are not safe. To initiate contact ALWAYS means no sleep that night.

Taking a sleep aid finally at midnight, watching TV for almost an hour, resisting food as a way to numb, back to bed and my dooming thoughts. Because this is when everything looks bad, and feels bad. Every bright thing in the daytime becomes foreboding and all my fault.

The rock hard boulders push me further into the pillow with the weight. Then a gentle voice, as if an apparition of an angel spoke above me, what if you filled yourself with loving words, kind thoughts, sweet truths…

And the turn-around began, countering the badness into reality. The outcome? A feeling, a belief, the knowledge deep inside that began to open with love… you are a good and special person. Like everyone around you that you admire, you too are admirable. And with that sweet sleep came.

Our resident toad living on the patio making a home in a potted plant burying himself in the dirt every night. He has live there for weeks!

Go Away PTSD

photo by Patricia

It was bedtime. Routine in that area has become very important, extremely so. Yet forgotten, or the hope that maybe this one time I could do something excitingly spontaneous and it would be alright.

It wasn’t. The next two days didn’t go so well.

So on the way back to the bedroom after putting the crazy cat in the studio for the night, I took a peek at the night from the back porch. Fireflies appeared, one by one, watching, mesmerized, feeling childhood awakening in the bones of my memory.

Dashing around the yard at dusk with the kids from the neighborhood playing Kick the Can, or Ghosts in the Graveyard. Being called in late once dark settled in, all dirty and tired, falling asleep easily after a day of hard play. But that is not Patricia-world now. Now routines must be adhered to.

But only this once? Since things are going so well, can’t this once be added on to what has been a stretch of wonderful summer days? Days when miles upon miles of bike rides along the path by the water are also combined with laps and laps of walking, because energy expended seemed to compound into more energy.

Can’t a quick dip in the pool be enjoyed? The quiet water luring as the last pink faded from the sky casting a rosy glow. Donning my swimsuit, an irresistible dip was risked. Fireflies grew brighter as the waves cuddled me. But my senses began to ratchet up rather than calm down as they should have been doing.  

The impromptu fun delighted, the water warm, the twinkling solar string lights making it a magical wonderland of joy. Too much joy, exciting me beyond any possibility of sleep. The haranguing voice began its pounding, ‘YOU KNOW BETTER! YOU YOU YOU.’ 

Routine. Remember that? You must pay attention to your unique body needs. Stimulating your senses when they should be winding down won’t work. Lying awake long after Samuel came to bed, medication had to be taken. Not only did my body go off the deep end, so did my mind.

The negative thoughts chewed like snarly, dripping fangs, taking bite after bite, pounding my being with fearful stabs. After staring at the television for over an hour, another dose had to be taken.

Finally drowsiness, and back to bed. Sleep came as if encased in a tomb like a mummy with no movement until waking. There goes a day of waste. No walking, no chores, no nothing except for the escape into watching beloved movies. Because a body that jumps into the dangerous pool of PTSD needs calm. No motion, nothing except feeling sorry for myself. That equates to food used to numb it all out adding to the load of crippling self-hate.

It takes a second day to recover and feel as if back into myself. Depression, disconnect, and displacement from my very being all needed time, quiet, and seclusion before re-connection to body, thoughts, and spirit. Go away Samuel, leave me alone. Everything had spiraled about like a mini universe out of control, all from a simple quick dip in the pool. 

This morning wholeness. The fresh picked lavender scent is noticed as the gurgling fountain settles my soul. The morning feels cherished, not feared. Because once the PTSD breaker is tripped, fear, panic, and the surety that a terrifying thing is about to happen exposes every nerve as it readies for danger. Terror from childhood when the peril was real crashes in putting my alert system on edge with red-light vigilance. THAT is tiring, and once happening, out of my control. 

A special day is one when my being feels whole and is whole. When the tiniest event floods me with pleasure; the toad living in the potted plant on the patio blanketing himself under the wet dirt as if it is a home with a bed, the birds sipping at the birdbath, the abundant lavender in bloom along with the heady scent calming my very pores with their aroma.

The morning is sweet again with wonder as we celebrate 42 years together. On this day, at this moment, I feel whole. 

Bestow Love not Hate

photo by Patricia

An unease invades the morning reverie. Perhaps it is the lack of sunshine hiding behind thick clouds on a balmy morning still warm from yesterday’s heat. Perhaps it is a change in me. Day after day of an upset stomach the realization surfaces that my body is telling me something. But what, so disconnected from it that I really don’t know. 

Connect. That doesn’t come naturally, though it must have in my first 8 years before the attacks began. A skinny kid with long blonde hair, happy on a beach before my father died, Then all went tragic and crazy.

Boom, like lightening, weight came on and stayed on for the next fifty years keeping me safe, hiding me, making me someone other than who I was meant to be.

Trust is the most grievous loss, gone forever. What kinds of relationships sustain without trust? None. The daily feat is picking up pieces of shattered me trying to trust enough to get close… husband, son, or friend. 

The timidity to speak up about likes, dislikes, to put forth anything looking like a boundary, gone. Boundaries obliterated when even my body was not my own. When unmarked boundaries are crossed and my mouth stays mute, then grudges, resentments, and hate howl. 

Oh that anger, not allowed either. It takes a lot of food to suppress anger. Over the years anger began to  erupt naturally on rare occasions expressed in the moment, naturally, freeing and normal. Taught to stay quiet this was miraculous even in its rarity. 

And with a quiet muted mouth, my body grew large screaming unhappiness, terror and pain. Nobody listened. It was one more thing to hate about myself.

But what if I listened to its cues? What if love was bestowed not hate? With no map, no direction, no permission, could I do it? Over and over I try, and fail. But what if?