Body Image Blues (ED TW- if youre trying to recover from an ED, please go carefully.)

Ok, I know I’m broaching a very controversial topic here, and I don’t do it to offend, but I am starting to wonder when the backlash against skinny people will tip over into mandatory weight checks. I feel like I don’t have the right to be the size I am a lot of the time. It’s getting to the point where I have panic attacks in bikinis and want to wear baggy clothes all the time. I guess this is the unintended consequence of the body positive movement- why can’t every body shape be ok? I guess it’s not cool to be skinny any more, and I feel guilty that I can’t put weight on. Jeans don’t fit and I feel like I walk into most shops and I’m immediately discriminated against for having a size 28 back. It’s upsetting and panic-inducing. It would be great to have a range of clothes to buy that genuinely cover all sizes, not just the sizes retailers think are ok. Body image issues come in all shapes and sizes, and I have them too.

Before some people out there tell me to stop whinging and get a grip, let me tell you that it has been difficult to buy clothes that fit well since being a teenager. Bras used to upset me because none of them fit round the back, and I thought that was because my boobs were too little, inducing a complex that’s lasted to this day and not helped by my ex. Shorts terrify my because my scars are on show- faded though they are, they can be seen on closer inspection. I hate dresses and skirts but like their colours and shapes- at one point, I bought loads I could never wear because of my terror of someone slipping a hand up them.

I have had problems being judged before because of how I look. In ballet school, I was called up twice before the head of contemporary dance and asked whether I had a problem. I eat well, and at that time I was permanently hungry as a side effect of my training. Of course, the weight loss that followed was seen as the start of anorexia or bulimia. I have never felt so ashamed of my size as I did then.

I used to like being slender and healthy, but after these experiences it feels like a crime to be the size I am. I feel like I’ve been shamed because of my weight and because I work out, dance, do Pilates and yoga and Zumba. I feel like people look at me when I go to the gym and think that I’m probably going to go home and throw all my food up, which I’m not.

I wonder if this is partly the paranoia that comes with PTSD or whether it’s society. On the one hand, I’m judged for my body and objectified. On the other, I’m praised and told I have no right to complain.

It’s an upsetting, crazy-making vicious circle.

Does anyone have any advice? I’m going to talk to Dr K about it, and hope that I can finally accept my body without upset or shame.

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Interlude- What she said.

I saw my friend Hermione yesterday. I call her this because she reminds me of the Harry Potter character- brave, smart, stands up for what’s right and is a loyal friend. It was a gamble, a massive one.

Why?

Well, she went to a different school after primary school, and she ended up meeting my ex there and becoming his friend.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve tried not to say anything really too revealing on Facebook for fear he might still be friends with her and see it. I have been frightened that he could spy on me through her.

When I posted on Facebook that I had been in an abusive relationship and that it had put me in hospital, so many people commented and told me I was brave. I felt it, and I suddenly noticed I had a message. It was my friend Hermione, asking me if I was ok, that she felt awful that I’d gone through what I had, and that was it the person she thought it was.

Yes. Yes it was.

I told her I was sorry for not being able to talk to her properly for so long, as he’d been there interfering and making life that much harder. She said it was fine, it didn’t matter, and could we meet up? I was so pleased. I said yes, and I met her yesterday outside a building I used to sing in with primary school.

One of the first things out of her mouth was, “I can’t believe he tricked us all like this. His best friend is going to go crazy.”

There it was. He hurt and manipulated me so badly I was convinced that no-one would believe me: yet, here she was, someone who had called herself his friend, on MY side and telling me that she believed me. I’d not given a scrap of evidence to her, hadn’t begun to tell her of the horrors I’d gone through, but she BELIEVED ME.

I can’t get over how I feel about that. I feel more powerful. I feel supported in a way I never thought I’d have again. She was so angry that he’d lied to her like that, and the other two he used to call his friends. I realised that I still have the power of the truth with me and that I am believable.

We discussed his lying, his smear campaign that I only just realised existed that he mounted against me without my knowledge. We talked about how long his front of an innocent victim had lasted, and how long I’d been split from all the things and people I love. She was one step ahead of my desperate words, understanding and believing and just being there. The forthright ten-year-old shone through and I realised she had seen through his lies.

However, she sparked a memory in me that I’m going to have to process slowly because it still disturbs me, and I don’t know what happened next. Hermione said that she saw me and my ex walking down the road near my mum’s dance school handcuffed together.

I’d forgotten all about that and it frightened me to remember it. I wanted to erase it again, because I remember being frightened by his insistence that we do it and frightened in case the cuffs didn’t come off and humiliated. It was still when all my schoolfriends were in or around my home town, so any of them could have seen. As it happened, it was Hermione and her mum who saw. She said she knew that it wasn’t something I’d do, and she apologised for frightening me. She’s kind like that.

I told my therapist today about it. Dr K was concerned about that, and she was concerned about me telling her about the weird cult-like thing the ex made to trap me and my friend B. She said he sounded dangerous, that he was like Charles Manson in a way because of his controlling and his charisma. He’d bewitched the teachers at his school and he bewitched me, too. She said if I feel bad at any point, I should call her and we can fit in another session before I go and see J.

I also told Dr K of the fear that I have other things like that hidden in my head that I have blanked out. She said she was worried about that too, and that it was also a very brave thing of me to go and see Hermione like that. Dr K asked me whether I still felt frightened of him, and I said yes. I am still frightened, because I met a man who could lie his way out of any situation where he was guilty but still have everyone believe him. As J says, and wisely so, sociopaths use a tiny grain of truth to base their lies upon, so that they sound believable. Dr K agrees with this. She says it’s a common tactic amongst abusers.

She also thinks that I can bring a case against him. She’s not the first to do so- the other person was a man in the RAID team who took all of my ex’s details down and told me that because of the nature of what I had disclosed to him, he was going to have to pass it on to the appropriate channels. Good. That means that if he does anything else, it will appear on the system. Anyway…

Dr K said that I could ring the Domestic Violence hotline and talk to them to see if I could bring a case against him, and I went home and found the leaflets. I want to ring the DV hotline as soon as I can. I want to keep talking. My silence is broken.

“It’s not over til it’s over, and it’s never over…”

 

 

These hours are dragging.

So I got a call from my Psychologist, after having a breakdown today in front of my mum. She suggested I ring her, but when I did she was in a meeting. Dr K rang me back, but I was in the car with both my mum and my Gran. Gran doesn’t know much apart from that I am depressed, and she sure as hell doesn’t know about the voices of the dark passenger. So I was limited in what I could convey to Dr K, and I must have sounded cagy and desperate. She somehow thought I wasn’t coming to my appointment tomorrow, but I told her I certainly was coming. She said I should write down everything the voices are saying and bring it tomorrow to our appointment.

I wanted to cry after the short conversation. I felt like it had gone totally wrong. What about the fact that the voices are STILL telling me to go and find the steak knives/bleach/ibuprofen and kill myself? What about that I am self-harming again, that my mum saw all my cuts today, that I still hear the voices telling me to go get the steak knife and do much worse damage?

I’m so fucking tired of it all. I want to sleep and dream, not of some awful man forcing himself on me again, but of nothing. Maybe a couple of mad dreams about talking dogs or flying would be great, but I don’t want any more nightmares where I am pressed against a wall and choking on aftershave, a hard bulge pressing threateningly into my hip? I don’t want this any more!

At least there is tomorrow. Mum is staying with me tonight so that I have someone to wake if the voices get bad again.

I’m so tired, everyone. I’m just so tired.

found out.

It’s happened- mum saw my cuts. She was firm and asked me to give her all my blades. I had to stand there and show her the damage I did to my legs- I felt like a criminal, the worst sort of evil thing. Of course the voices loved that- but then she did something the voices did not expect.

She took me and the puppy on a long walk. She picked me flowers, let me get upset, laughed at the puppy’s silly antics as she galloped about and tried to eat butterflies. I held her hand or her arm, and she drew a heart on my wrist when we got home.

I am terrified now. I feel like I’m not numb any more, and with that fading away of numbness comes the awful terror and the pain and the anxiety. My cuts throb with the weight of my guilt, and I’m terrified of tomorrow when I go to the psychologist because I don’t want my mum to suffer any more pain: Dr K might put me in the hospital and I feel like I should go, but I don’t want to hurt my family or J.

I’m so jittery and confused right now. I hate the voices for screaming at me today. They STILL want me to take the steak knife to my legs. What happens if I can’t say no any more?

I’m worried for my friend Y and my friend Harley Quinn- neither are having an easy time and I’m worried something bad might happen to them too.

watch me bleed.

Oh god. It is coming.

May is coming, and I am so frightened that it will happen. On the other hand, it would be a way out of this. This struggle for life, the idea that some magical fabled fucking day I will be better and everything will work out just fine.

Basically that day isn’t coming. May is, however, and I am fucking dreading it.

The voices of the dark passenger have scheduled my death in May. They wrote it in my journal. I’m supposed to die then. I feel like I will be able to do it, too. I am tired and worn out after another panic attack today, in public. My mum was angry with me for ‘letting this rule your life’. It is ruling my life, and it will never leave me. The male voice is angry with me because I am ‘blabbing our secrets’ all over the internet, and he thinks I need to just kill myself. My therapist asked them to consider the fact that if they kill me, they die too. They are still in denial over it, especially the female voice. She is very in denial.

I feel dissociative tonight, and I do not want to sleep. My panic attack was brought on by song lyrics, and I am still upset and flinching. Mum doesn’t seem angry with me right now but she was then, because she wants me to be better so badly and that my ex will stop having an effect on my life, but that is the problem- I have nearly six years of bullshit to go through before I can feel any better.

I am so tired, but I don’t want to sleep. I am frightened of what tomorrow brings- which is basically feeling triggered all the fucking time. The other huge problem is that they want me to cut and I am getting such strong cravings to go and do so.

What the fuck is wrong with me and why the fuck is this happening all over again?

Therapy, at last.

My birthday was yesterday. My therapy was also yesterday.

I managed to wake up feeling happier, and my Moodscope score was 71% (compared to the 19% of Wednesday). The day passed nicely with presents and a lunch out, and then it was nearly 2pm. Therapy time. D-Day all over again.

As it turns out, the voices were entirely wrong. They made me feel so awful on Wednesday that I felt like killing myself was the only way out. I felt almost sick as my therapist called me in, and I went into the little room with a heavy heart. I was already hearing my poisoned radio of three presenters: “She doesn’t want you here; stop whinging; you are getting put back into the system, you know; stop believing you will ever be fixed…”

Dr K, my therapist, was kindly directing me to my chair as I re-focussed my attention into the room. She then explained that she was familiar to a certain extent with my case, as she had read my notes, but she was going to use the first two sessions to get to know me a little better.

I realised that now was my chance to explain that I had been waiting for so long for help that I barely knew where to start. So I just opened my mouth and explained how I felt- and suddenly, the floodgates opened and I felt words coming out of my mouth that I had been waiting to say for months.

“I’m just traumatised- I think I have PTSD.

“I got told by three psychiatrists that the abuse was my fault because I have a personality disorder, then I found out they had written ‘diagnosis unknown’ on the assessment sheet.

“My ex controlled me to the point where I was not allowed out of the house unless he said so, I could only wear carefully approved outfits, I wasn’t allowed to see friends and I was raped.

“I just really need help to deal with my fear and my symptoms…”

She listened really well and she was shocked at how bad the abuse was. Dr K actually said that it was “like the stories you hear on the news,” which was a huge relief for me. To hear that from her was almost a validation that yes, my suffering was that bad, yes it was caused by him, yes it was all his fault…

And then the voices. She was concerned that I had had to wait for so long without support until I saw her, and she said that it must be horrible to try and function with three voices going on at me all the time. Dr K also said that she was concerned that I was suicidal yesterday and had no help.

She will be helping me manage my symptoms, and hopefully help me to get to the root of them. She said we could try EMDR, other voice-management techniques (like bringing them out in sessions and engaging with them), and we would focus on other things too, like trying to empower me.

I cried more out of gratitude than sadness. She told me I have PTSD, no question, and she told me I would be getting help for as long as it took. That’s all I’ve been waiting to hear for so long.

Thank all the gods that finally, finally, I have help, and thank you all for hauling my ass through some parts of the roughest year of my life. Thank you to my loving friends, my wonderful family, and to J, for being kind and honest and supportive.

I am desperate to heal. I want to live, not tread water. I want to be me again.

The contents of my mental chest of drawers.

So, I feel like I need to write about voices, psychologists, friends and relationships. Not necessarily in that order. Probably rather jumbled…

I saw the psychologist again today. I was nervous, because I felt like I had nothing to say. How wrong I was.

I suspect that the voices like me feeling unsure of myself and unsure that my current situation is real. They find it funny, and they delight in calling me a fake so much that sometimes I believe them. After I’ve started to doubt myself they then call me an idiot for believing them and they laugh at me.

I said this to the psychologist. I told her that I felt sometimes like I was going crazy because of this loop of thought. She told me that in no way should I feel like I’m making any of this up- she could tell by my very evident tears that my distress was real. I cried again today, describing the torment I have to go through every time I want a bath or shower.

It’s physically impossible to have a bath or shower without removing all your clothes, but the act of doing so makes me feel physically very unsafe and uncomfortable. I feel like I’m being watched. I feel so horrible without clothes. I get into the shower as fast as I can and then the voices start their stupid cacophony.

“You’re such a whore. Look at you, taking forever over washing a leg. Do you think you’re flaunting yourself or something? Do you think you’re sexy? Well you’re not, you’re a fucking slut who’s gagging for it.”

Et cetera. It makes me scrub as hard as I can to get out quick, and then I wrap myself in a massive towel and a dressing gown, and run for the safety of my room.

Where it starts all over again as I get dressed as fast as I can.

I told her this and she was concerned that this is what happens every time I have to take my clothes off. I feel anxious now writing about it. Plus, that speech from the voices of the dark passenger is highly edited. There is some truly vulgar stuff I have to listen to, and more than once I’ve hit myself in the head to shut them up.

She asked me about my childhood. I told her that when I was nine, I tried to hang myself to find out what it would be like to die, and was pissed off when my school tie snapped and the canopy over my bed came loose from the wall and I fell.

She asked me about a mention of bullying that had been on one of my notes. I told her that ever since I started school at 4/5 to leaving full time ballet training at 20, someone has set out to make me feel like shit.

I also told her that I have a daily fight with the dark passenger not to slit my arm open with a steak knife from elbow to wrist.

She thought I need a re-evaluation by the psychiatrist. My first reaction?

“Please can it not be her again?”

She said I could see someone else.

 

So I think it’s moving forward. She thinks the voices are either caused by psychosis, or maybe due to trauma. She also said she’s worried about the possible issue of Bipolar disorder, which I’m starting to think is more than likely. She has been so kind to me, and our next session is on the 11th October. I hope that I’m still as balanced then, but I fight every day to stay balanced.

My friend Y is having a tough fight. She has a lot of things that happened to her that make her doubt herself, and make her feel awful about herself. But I know she can do it. I know she can conquer her demons, because she is a good friend to me and that goodness will help her through.

My friend H, I think, is going through another tough time. I just want her to remember that whatever has happened, I will always be her friend.

I had a ring from my friend Z who’s been away with work recently- I’ve missed her so much and I really enjoyed catching up with her. Hopefully she’s coming to see me soon.

 

I really value my friends, and I feel like I have got back a lot of the relationships that I wasn’t allowed to have when I was with my ex. I am so happy that despite months of neglect, they have all come back to me and they have all been so kind, despite my faults.

 

Lastly but not leastly, I have begun to get enough self-confidence back to apply for something I’ve always wanted to do- and J helped me immensely in that regard. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at modelling but my ex thought I would be beneath his notice if I did, and i would be exploiting myself. Yeah, I could go ahead and do it, but I’d have no respect from him. This has changed so dramatically now, it’s a U-turn.

Because J hadn’t got enough pictures of me, I sent him some of the ones I had done professionally before I lost my mind. I was seized with guilt immediately after- the voices called me a whore again. It’s amazing how often that comes up in their vocabulary.

J was amazed and asked me why I hadn’t sent them to modelling agencies. He thought the ex’s opinion was bullshit and he was “blown away” by my photos.

So, I decided to give it a go- why the hell not? I need money to get to see him, and I enjoyed being in front of the camera back then…

I was shocked when I got asked to a shoot today. I turned up, full of nerves, flinching away from every man on the street, eyes locked onto the ground… and surprised myself by really enjoying the shoot. It was a really relaxed atmosphere, and it helped so much that the photographer was a woman. I managed to hide my scars really well (thank gods for foundation!) and I had J on IM as I made it back to the train station, so I wasn’t as frightened.

I surprised myself even more by getting accepted onto the agency’s books.

J is responsible for part of this, and my patient mum the other. She sat up late with me to choose the best photos, and he encouraged me and supported me from the word go. I feel like something has finally gone right, and I’ll be damned if the dark passenger gets hold of this and ruins it. Those bastard demons are getting nowhere near my J. Enough said.

I feel odd tonight, as if this has happened to a girl who isn’t me. I wonder if this displacement ever eases. I wonder when I will finally feel like my happiness happens to someone else, another me who deserves it.

It’s ok. Someday I might have a brain that functions better than it does. Someday, I might believe that I am the girl who I was before all this.

This is why J, my family and my friends are so precious. They believe I am that girl now, when I don’t even believe it myself.