Sunday, January 13, 2008

Can O' Worms

WHOOO! Can o' worms time!! LOL. Beware, my buddy Dan says I write exactly like I talk with all these parenthetical phrases. :-D Forewarned is forearmed! ;o)

I am NEVER offended when people ask honestly about my eating disorder. I am willing to explain to anyone who really wants to know. That was part of my issue with a former friend. I received an email in which she decided to tell me that I use my eating disorder as "a crutch." She has never had an eating disorder, has no clue about what it does and how it wreaks havoc in your head, and I know that, but nevertheless it has preyed on my mind ever since she said it many months ago.

Part of that problem stems from the fact that I was trained by my parents that I was about the last person who knew what was right for me, so my knee-jerk reaction is to take whatever someone outside of me says about me as fact. Sort of "they said it, therefore it must be true." This makes me doubt myself SO much. I have worked VERY hard to overcome that part of things, but occasionally something either particularly vitriolic or something that comes from someone I've trusted still makes it through that wall.

I really kind of am two people inside - the confident woman who can speak out like I am doing here, and the timid, frightened girl who can't handle change or growth, make decisions for myself and take action on things I really want. That's the one who doubts everything about herself, including whether she has the right to exist and be loved in this world.

I'm fighting to reconcile these two sides of my character and my weight is a physical manifestation of an emotional wall. The person I am now is not the person I was a few years back. I have grown immensely through therapy with an amazing woman. A few years ago I was almost belligerent at times. I still have moments where that creeps back in, but usually when I feel like I'm being dissed for politics or something that doesn't strike at the core of ME.

The kind of abuse I suffered growing up wasn't the same kind of abuse as many others have suffered. I had parents who I know without a doubt loved me and wanted the best for me. The biggest problem was really more along the lines that I was denied many types of freedom as a child/teen/young adult. My father always tried to control my actions - often through shaming me. I wasn't allowed to be angry ("Listen, Kid. What've YOU got to be angry about?") or have emotions ("Stop that crying right now or I'll give you something to really cry about!") or express myself ("Don't you backtalk me, young lady!"). The worst thing about all of this was really that I wasn't allowed to be OK just being me. Whatever I did, my parents tried to change me, and somehow when faced with "teaching" me or "controlling" me, they always took the fucking easy way out. They simply felt they knew better.

  1. Why did you like that awful rock music? We raised you on GOOD music! (40s-era tunes)
  2. Don't think you're leaving the house with those long earrings on! (which, of course, was the rage)
  3. Why don't you wear your hair the way your dad likes it? It looks so nice that way. (FORTUNATELY that one was pretty much OK because it was 80s big-hair days, but WHY was the way I wanted to wear it "wrong?!" The well-intentioned comments are really the most insidious.)
  4. Hey - when I pay the mortgage, it's my house and you're just living in it. You keep your room NEAT! (I had the CLEANEST room of all my friends, not because I liked it that way, but because my mother forbade me from arranging it to my own satisfaction, even down to the placement of knickknacks on my dresser. Seriously!)
  5. When are you gonna learn to save your money? (Yet...why did I need to? When I finally did have a monthly allowance instead of weekly, I overspent it, and they covered whatever I wanted while they bitched and moaned about it. THEN my mother decided that, instead of teaching me by making me deal with the consequences of not getting what I want and learning HOW and WHY one saves, she was simply going to go back to the weekly allowance because clearly I couldn't handle it myself. THEN TEACH ME, MOTHER!!!!! GRRRRR. Don't just take the control away from me. Oh, that's right, then you'd have to WORK at raising me and it wouldn't be the easy out you wanted. To this day, money is incredibly difficult for me to control. Even at 37 years old, my mother still bails me out, to my shame - and then mentions it IN FRONT OF MY FAMILY!!! It's not any of their FGD business!)

Anyway - those are just a few things that they tried to control. THEN THERE WAS THE FOOD. I was so cowed by authority (my parents, teachers, etc.) and the consequences that I might face that the only outlet I had for control in my own life was what I chose to eat.

Both my parents did everything they could think of to keep me from eating. In high school I was not allowed to eat too much of anything. I would sneak snacks in the kitchen, only to hear my mother holler, "What are you doing in there? Don't you think I know?!" BITCH. I wasn't allowed to have regular soda, butter, salad dressing, etc. They were so friggin' paranoid about my eating that they tamped down ever harder, not realizing that they were making a bad situation unfuckingbearable.

And, perversely, they kept the deep freeze on the lower level, just feet from my bedroom and living room! (I had my own space down there, which was cool.) They could MUCH more easily have kept it in the garage just feet from the kitchen, instead of where my mother had to make trips up and down the stairs. So many people I know have said that this was a kind of subtle challenge/sabotage to me. And they were right. It was a blatant attempt to show me who was boss.

It got so bad at some point, that I was getting in and eating the frozen Christmas cookies and fudge by the pound. She had a TON of it stored there. When they finally found out, they locked the freezer (MOVE THE DAMNED THING TO THE GARAGE, YOU POWER-HUNGRY IDIOTS!!). Well, I broke the lock. I ate whatever was at hand. At its worst (and yes, you may laugh! :-) ) I actually was desperate enough to pull out frozen hot dog buns and thaw them by sitting on them. IANMTU. Yes, it's damned funny when I tell it now. It was the nadir of my ED, in some respects, and what finally motivated my folks to get me some help.

They took me to a hypnotherapist and a psychologist, who I couldn't stand, in my senior year. The hypnotherapist psychiatrist is the only one who saw what was going on for what it was, but I freaked out when he wanted to medicate me. The hypnosis part never worked.

They also tried to convince me to do a hospital program then, but I was TERRIFIED to do that kind of thing at that age. If you only knew how sorry I am that I didn't go............. *grief* WHY is that the one place where they DIDN'T control me?!? :'(

So - that's why I see "Eddie," the rebellious teen, as my ED alter-ego. She's still the teenage version of me who eats when things are uncontrollable, or when I don't know how to cope with any given situation. Eating, in my case (or, depending on the disorder, restricting, purging, overexercising, etc.), is how she controls her environment - how I controlled my environment back then.

The sad part is that it most often takes YEARS of various therapies to train oneself on how to recognize what you're doing, when it comes up, how to rethink the process of coping with difficult or stressful situations.

Additionally, I am the adult child of alcoholics. Both of my parents drank to excess. It wasn't too bad until I was in high school, but we moved to a clannish area and my parents had a very difficult time making friends - for the one and only time in their lives, by the way. I was reduced to being their best friend and they became very selfish in some ways.

I was extremely isolated even without all this control. I lived 6 miles from my high school in a rural area, had no car, wasn't allowed to ride to school with the one girl in my area who I liked (most of them were cliquish and snobby if you didn't have the right clothes, etc.), was actually less than a MILE from the long-distance line, making ALL of my high school friends long distance for me. And my father was very tight with money. I wasn't allowed to make those long distance calls. My church was 20 minutes away, but I wasn't allowed to drive to events, so I had to rely on rides from my church friends. Yet, at the same time, my mother didn't like me being "beholden" to them - as if one is "beholden" to friends!!! The message I've always had from her is that you have to pay everyone back immediately for anything they do for you - which said to me very clearly that I was not worth enough for people to do things just because they liked me.

Insecure? CHECK!
Low self-esteem? CHECK!
Low self-worth? CHECK!

OMG - it's the trifecta!

So. That's a pretty nutshelled version of my life and what led to my eating disorder. Yes, it's a large nutshell, but then - it's gotta be big enough to fit this nut! ;-)

Enough for now. We'll talk more about some of these things as we wish, and I'll talk about how we can make changes, because part of it is just that I need to be strong enough to put into practice the tools that I have. I just don't have confidence in that strength.

But, this is one of the tools - reaching out to people. And this counts as journaling, too. I have written letters to Eddie. You'd be amazed at how your emotions change if you write longhand with your non-dominant hand. It's kinda freaky. I need to go back through all my materials from my rehab and redo some of the exercises as a recharge. But I am determined that I will not have my eating disorder past the end of this year. That is my promise to myself. It's a TERRIFYING goal, but I believe that God will see me through this.

Well. I've said a HELL of a lot more than I intended when I started, but the ball just kept rolling.

So. Any questions? ;-)


Anonymous said...

My most hated line heard from my mother growing up: "That's not the real you. Seems the real me was a perfect lady with no negative emotions or needs. The real me sat quietly in the corner with a book and never caused any trouble. That's how she remembers me, "Oh, ______ (she never has stopped calling me that) never did anything wrong, I dont' remember her doing anything but reading. My mother counted out the grapes into three equal servings, which was really just one or two servings to last the whole week, same with cookies, nuts..everything, we had to cut the ice cream into specifically sized sections, NEVER a random scoop. There was never enough food in the house for my appetite and snacks were frequently raw potatos, carrots and lettuce. Soda was only for special occasions, orange juice was only for breakfast, milk for meals. We made our own lemonade with sugar and lemon juice when friends came over. These days I get panicky if I don't have a full pantry. I love to look at all the cans and boxes and know that there is enough food.

Thanks for sharing your story. It takes courage to put your life out there. I feel your childhood. I shared a great deal of it. We each reacted in different ways. Neither of them healthy.

Anonymous said...

I remembered what it was I was going to add reference your mom and mine. Beholden. Mine didn't worry about being beholden, she worried about "imposing." This must be said in a slightly hushed voice and drawn out immmmmmpoooooose. Don't want to impose on anyone. Don't want anyone imposing on us. I've spent my life wanting to be imposed upon. Isn't that what families do? Impose on each other and no one calls it imposing? Isn't that what friends do? If someone needs a ride to the airport and I don't think to offer, for god sakes, ASK, I'll be delighted to drive you, or lend you a car, or pack you a lunch or throw you a $20. Whatever. It's certainly not an imposition. She get's all bent out of shape on my behalf. The church imposes by asking me to teach Sunday School, school imposes, scouts impose, everyone imposes and she gets downright indignant on my behalf. She just doesn't get it that it's not an imposition. I'm flattered to be asked and if I can't or don't want to do something, I don't mind saying NO.

gjd said...

Wow. You really explained things well. I think you're doing a great job.

I have never heard anyone else say that their mom said stuff about not being beholden/imposing. I have awful trouble asking for help even when I really need it b/c I don't want to impose on anyone.

DeskDiva said...

gjd - agreed. I get heavy-duty guilt which I am slowly learning to eliminate. It's slow going, though, when that's the default setting on the brain!