Waking after another rough night up too late, having to take something, my first thought? Why not be grateful? Instead of sitting a good part of the day in grogginess, snapping at Samuel so much he stays far away from me, why not turn it around?
Out walking early helped to metabolize the drug, also adding the benefit of uplift once the happy chemicals kick in. Instead of it being penance for eating off anxiety in the night walking rigidly just to get it done, the walk was paced slowly enough to suck in the heavenly scent of wet earth and decaying leaves.
Round and round noticing the aroma which goes straight to my core, a squirrel surprised jumping to the next tree, the crunch of nuts under my feet. And Samuel? We sat, laughed, and chatted over morning coffee, a miracle, because usually after a bad night which of late is too often, no company is wanted…just leave me alone.
But be grateful, the mantra while walking. Why not? There is an ability to waver one’s attitude to a more upbeat tilt. It includes acceptance that my body will do this no matter how many healthy habits are incorporated into my day.
A life of daily terror to my body because fear was around every corner took its toll. Not fighting it or blaming myself for not controlling it is a start. Gentleness swept in.
While walking on a crisp damp day the thought of rewards for this effort included a lavender Epson salt soak in the tub and a pot of ginger vanilla chamomile tea. The day went much better, from a blob on the couch to living it fully.
Sometimes you have to fall apart to come together. For much of my life it has been the falling apart, but now when peace can be sustained for more than two moments at a time… still, there is a monster on my back.
It is sleeplessness. The why? Round and round laps count up to 20 trying to make up for a night of senseless eating- AGAIN. The only trigger that might be attributed to this inability to sleep after 6 nights of improved sleep probably due to drastically decreasing the pot oil, yet on night 6 lying there 2 ½ hours before giving in to a sleep aid, and an hour in front of the TV at midnight- then FOOD, because food has been used to quell anxiety since the age of 8— the only reason that might make sense was a 3 pound weight loss noted that morning.
That ought to be good, right? Celebrated, congratulated, especially after a summer of being stuck? Yet it triggered anxiety. Unless something on the news or a movie set me off, what else could it be?
Weight loss scaring me. Therapists suggest overweight women who have survived childhood sexual abuse become overweight to feel safe. That is an improvement over many who look at an overweight person and think lazy, glutinous, and disgusting.
The thinner my body becomes, the closer to an unwanted memory. What is remembered is horrific enough, but the one repressed memory must have been really bad. Danny said in his twenties when asked what he did to me, “It’s better you don’t know.”
But I do know a rape occurred, there just is no memory of it except before and after. As the weight comes off there is movement toward what was unconsciously repressed.
Lap after lap, talking to myself… I will not be deterred. I will do this, I will do this, I will. And if the memory comes I will be alright. It already happened. I already lived through it. And there are hospitals to stay in if needed. The self talk doesn’t seem to help alleviate the anxious terror.
So eerily quiet this morning even the birds aren’t talking and a queasy feeling surfs my stomach. Crickets hardly peep, not a sound, barely a movement of leaves at first until a soft breeze moves in. Perhaps the animals instinctively feel what the news last night warned of, the possibility of tornadoes.
At least the day was not faced with dread. The full spectrum lights, a return to a diligent mediation practice, the push off the couch to walk, and a drastic reduction in marijuana oil for sleep issues are all helping.
In order to treat myself with respect, which mean not gagging down feelings with food, my doctors have gotten a mouthful out of me after not speaking a peep for years. My primary responded by finally paying attention to me and my needs.
We discussed my use of pot oil and for the first time heard from her that just a few drops are needed. My dose kept going up and up thinking that helped, but it backfired causing more sleep issues, and an exorbitant increase in anxiety rather than decreasing it.
The cardio Doc has yet to respond to my personal letter to him after his nurse wouldn’t answer a simple medical question because my choice was to cancel an appointment due to the pandemic. ‘You haven’t been here, make an appointment,’ her note coldly read in the on-line chart after my question was posed.
Really? I have to come in and spend 50 bucks to know whether to continue taking a baby aspirin each day? Reports are saying there’s a bleeding risk as we age.
After going there for many years you can’t answer a benign generic question? The only reason for several decades of cardio appointments was not due to need or directed by my primary care doctor. It was out of fear that I’d fall dead just like my father who lay there at my feet at age 8.
Oh, the years of unneeded EKG’s, STRESS TESTS, EHCHO’s and yearly visits out of terror I might succumb to what my father fell victim to. And doctors, even the best ones, will gladly do it to keep their revenue going. This one too because he did say in my father’s case it had more to do with his smoking.
Yet he continued to oblige my need to ease my mind each year. That could be looked at as a positive then, but no longer, the pandemic making me reassess just how many appointments are needed each year. Unless a heart event actually occurs, NOT HIM! To hold back medical advice is cause to go elsewhere if a heart event ever occurs. Unconscionable. I’m sure they have their own spin on it, but so do I.
In me lies the need to finally advocate for my needs though with many stops and pitfalls along the way because my training was to stay disturbingly quiet about my needs. Traumas, too many to count, were forced to stay within me causing my skinny kid frame to burgeon dramatically into an obese one shortly after the first sexual attack by a loved one, also at age 8.
To keep family secrets throughout my life took a LOT of food. I want a healthy life. That means NO MORE SECRETS. That means speaking up for my needs even if different from your expectations or beliefs, and doing so even when terrified of the outcome. Who is this new me? Or maybe it’s discovering the me always there waiting for one special person to be on my side… me.
Samuel comes in quietly as usual around 11:30 PM with me asleep but that little sound woke me. After using the bathroom the routine is going back to sleep, sometimes easily, sometimes not. This time memories began to cave in like bolts of terror, each one worse than the one before.
Memories of brothers, what they did to me as a child, and after. Once taken down and repeatedly used for their lust, especially Chet’s, my tendency to be easily manipulated increased one-hundred fold.
And he took advantage of that in many ways after the sexual attacks ended. They all did. And many more out in society. Learning that my own body was not mine, going out in the world was so very dangerous. And that certainty won’t change. It was experienced by those trusted, loved, and looked up too.
The knowledge learned as a child of what humans are capable of, coupled with a lack of boundaries, makes living around people frightening. Encountering others who take advantage of people, manipulate, lie, cheat, and do evil, makes me vulnerable. It is home on our land where safety is felt most.
But lately? While walking the meadow there is a feeling of ever present danger, as if Chet will suddenly jump out of the bushes from his grave to terrify me. On edge, this feeling has developed all summer, making it a summer of ups and downs interfering with my sleep. Is it due to weight loss?
On nights when sleep is interrupted, the deal is that food is allowed to quell that anxiety. Food, food, and more food, the eating orgy along with medication making a stupor that allows for sleep. The next day grogginess and guilt. This is no way to live.
My intensity and focus on diet and exercise… gone in the middle of the night. Is it due to moving so close to my core that the memory of Dan’s attack is about to rise? The one attack repressed only remembering the before and after. Is the loss of weight bringing me closer to my psyche allowing for that memory? Has the excess weight been there to keep me safe from it?
Because as weight comes off, horrifying fear creeps in.
After two large kettles of apple sauce, why not pies? Pies? You must be mad, insane, out of your mind. But it sounded so reasonable to me. So away we go.
“Make two,” Samuel said. Two?
“Who is the other one for?” I asked, thinking of who might be the best recipient.
Peeling, slicing, then peeling and slicing some more. When the bowl was full there was way more than enough for two, so it had to be three.
Mentally asking myself, do you really want to spend the day making pies? Sure.
But then the crust.
“Samuel, I’m out of flour,” I said, dismayed that there was exactly enough flour to make just one pie.
“OK,” he said, adding, “I’ll go get more,” already salivating for the imagined apple pie as images swam in his head more desired than sugar plums.
We don’t have sweets around much because I’ll eat them. Though losing my taste for sweet desserts or candy, there is not enough will power within me to resist. And lately, since becoming a calorie counting maniac, this endeavor was madness. Why didn’t I see it?
Happily rolling out crust after crust, it is an art, and one has to be in the right frame of mind. There have been times when it was too wet, or too tough, and just terrible. But this time? Perfection for all three.
One went to friends down the street, one for the freezer, and one for Samuel. And though he had already been to the store once that day for more flour, he swung by again arriving home with ice cream cradled happily in his arm.
“What! Ice cream?” I exclaimed.
Later than evening, Samuel came into the living room with a dinner plate. Not a dessert plate, a large dinner plate with an ample slice of the most perfect pie I’ve ever made swaddled and surrounded by mounds of white cold creamy ice cream.
Happy to have brought such sweetness into Samuel’s life, I went to bed also satisfied that I did not indulge. That lasted until a bit after 8PM, then it was all over. And unfortunately it tasted so good another piece might as well go down. (with ice cream too)
Mentally counting the calories while trying to sleep on a bloated stomach the truth was bitter. Those kitchen trips were a day’s worth of calories. The truth was bitter, but that pie sure was good!
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…
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.
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.
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.