The Life You Save May Be Your Own

DID, knitting, sci-fi, and strong opinions

Trying to Be Who I Already Am April 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 6:51 am
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Trying to Be Who I Already Am

 

People tell me I am arrogant and pigheaded,

narrow-minded and vain

because I won’t follow this week’s guru into his

seventeen steps for improving my life.

 

Well, I’m over here in a different place–

with T’ao Ch’ien who says,

My nature comes of itself. It isn’t something

      you can force into line.

 

So, please, leave me alone.

I don’t want your advice.

I’m just trying to be

who I already am.

 

–David Budbill, from Moment to Moment

 

I’m trying to learn to be who I already am.  It’s not an easy task.  There’s a lot of the time that I honestly have no idea who I am–I guess that comes with the territory when you have DID.

 

Even when I do know who I am, it’s not easy to figure out exactly what that means.  Am I-Sara just the vessel for the other people, a shell they can use to interact with the outside world?  That’s often how it works; I’m there and not-there, simultaneously.  Or am I just a shared delusion or creation of the people inside so that they can present to the world as a singleton?  Or is it possible that I can be both a vessel for the others and my own person/self?

 

I don’t know.  I can’t find a conceptual framework or a dialectic for figuring this out.  I can’t even find a language for it.

 

It gets confusing because even when I-Sara am present, I can often feel the influences of others, of selves that are part of me but not me.  I feel suddenly taller or shorter.  My hearing gets worse.  I want to chop off my breasts and scoop out my uterus.  My  body seems the wrong size and shape, so I want to starve and purge it back to its “proper” size.  I want to get a pair of scissors and cut all my hair off.  These are not impulses that come from me-Sara, but they still feel very real in the moment, probably based on who’s closest to the front.  When those feelings of my body being wrong subside, they feel totally alien to me.  They are not my experience of being in my body.

 

I like the idea of being able to be able to be in my body without self-judgment and without feeling the need to change my body, but in practical reality, I can’t pull it off.  I have too many people inside me with drastically different experiences of being present in this body.  For many of us, the experience of the body is inextricably linked with memories of abuse.  Some don’t want to have a body, or to have as little a body as possible, because that might minimize the pain.  Some of us want an androgynous body because the female body was subjected to so much abuse.  Some of us want to cause the body pain ourselves because it numbs us to the pain outside people can cause us.

 

But for better or for worse, this is the body we have.  I’m making an effort to do little things that move me/us in the direction of greater acceptance of this body.

 

Last week, I bought new kung fu pants.  For two and a half months, I’d been wearing karate pants from 5 years ago that don’t really fit me anymore.  It seems like such a trivial gesture, buying new pants, but it was a difficult step for me.  For two months, I kept insisting to myself that I could shrink myself down enough to fit comfortably into the old pants.  That involved restricting so heavily that I nearly passed out during a kung fu class and did pass out at home later, on my living room floor.  I’ve been down that eating-disordered path before, and waking up on my living room floor with one of the cats sniffing at my face was a much-needed kick in the pants.  I started eating, and I bought myself new pants.

 

I’ve been formally trained as a poet, so indulge me for a minute while I wander into the Mystical Kingdom of Metaphor.  It’s not a far trip, really–the metaphor (of buying clothes that fit who I am now rather than trying to be less than I am to fit into something that no longer fits who I am) kind of makes itself.  But I was remarkably oblivious to that symbolism while I was busy starving myself.  Seeing the symbolism and then translating into the real world (i.e., buying some pants that actually fit) seems like a small step, but it still counts.

 

I’m learning to be who I already am.

 

What constitutes a “weight problem”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 1:25 am
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Lately I’ve seen several posts in my little corner of the blogosphere that attempt to define “weight problems.”  Rather than leave insanely long comments on several people’s points, I thought I’d just write my own post.  I have two major bones to pick.

 

1. Just because someone isn’t greatly over- or underweight, that doesn’t mean they can’t be distressed about their weight.  It frustrates me to no end when I see very overweight people who say normal or slightly overweight people shouldn’t complain about not being able to fit in their favorite pants and so forth.  It also frustrates me to no end to hear very underweight people say that normal to slightly underweight people shouldn’t complain about the effects of being underweight.  A person’s distress cannot be measured in pounds.

 

2. Fat does not necessarily equal unhealthy.  Just because someone is overweight does not necessarily mean that they live off junk food and live a sedentary lifestyle, either.  I’ve ranted about this before, but it comes up so often that it bears repeating.  There are a number of studies that show that diabetes, high cholesterol, and other such risk factors can lead to premature death–but those health problems show up in people of all sizes and weights.  Being fat, in and of itself, has not been conclusively linked to premature death–but dieting has.  Oh, and there are dozens of studies showing that most dieters regain the weight they lost.

 

I’ve been normal weight, underweight, and overweight.  I almost died from anorexia and bulimia.  I’ve also had doctors tell me that losing weight would cure everything from my back pain (um, no, it’s caused by a bone spur) to my depression (um, no, caused by a genetic disorder).

 

When I was underweight, I harbored no illusions that what I was doing was healthy, but now that I’m overweight, I’ve been trying to convince myself that the same sort of calorie restriction is suddenly healthy because I’m overweight now.  On some level, I know that’s bullshit, but on another level, I want to buy into the lie that being thin will fix all my problems.

 

I eat a healthy diet.  I’ve been vegetarian for 10 years, and I recently became a vegan, due to some digestive issues and a possible link with my MTHFR polymorphism.  Most of my grocery cart is full of produce, and I cut out my Diet Coke addiction and other sources of caffeine because they worsen my anxiety.  Sure, sometimes I eat junk food and snack too much.  I love Trader Joe’s sesame honey almonds, and Soy Delicious makes some amazing soy ice cream.  But before I was either eating disordered or fat, I snacked sometimes too.

 

I’ve generally kept an active lifestyle.  From elementary school through the first half of high school, I was a competitive gymnast.  (And for the record, gymnastics didn’t cause my ED; my coach was the first to pick up on it and the first to urge me to get help.)  In college, I started learning US Yoshukai Karate and started competing at tournaments around the Southeast.  I did have to take a five-year break from most physical activity due to back pain so bad I could hardly stand for more than 30 minutes per day, but that has been successfully treated.  Now I walk almost everywhere I go–appointments, pharmacy, grocery shopping, knitting group–and take a kung fu class three times a week.

 

I’m still fat.

 

I don’t know if it’s that I ruined my metabolism with years of eating disorders, or if it’s that I’ve messed up my system by being on psych meds for most of my life, or something else altogether.  In the end, I don’t think it matters that much why I’m fat and not losing weight.

 

What matters is that I’m happy.  What matters is that I’m working toward making peace with my body.  What matters is that I feel healthy and alive.  Those are things I want to be more important to me than my size and my weight.

 

Me and My Body April 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 6:11 am
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Me and my body, we have a weird relationship right now.

 

We’ve never really been on good terms.  I think of myself as generally a healthy person, but every time I give someone my medical history, it makes me sound like a complete invalid.  Chronic otitis media, 5 ear surgeries before kindergarten, adenoids removed due to gangrene, permanent hole in left eardrum, significant hearing loss.  Arteriovenous malformation in the left frontal lobe of the brain, vertigo, loss of consciousness, seizures, gamma knife brain surgery.  Congenital hypermobility syndrome and all the messed-up joints that go with it.  Circadian rhythm disorder NOS, central sleep apnea, alpha-delta disorder and the alpha-REM variant.  Premature atrial and ventricular contractions, prolonged QT-c interval.  MTHFR polymorphism.

 

It’s quite a list to try to fit on a medical history form.

 

I’ve also spent more than half my life destroying my body with self-harm and eating disorders.  I didn’t want to have a body because bodies have needs, and I was not allowed to have needs.  I punished myself–my body–for existing.

 

We’re on better terms now, I think.  I’ve gotten my eating to a somewhat healthier intake level.  I’ve also been buying clothes that actually fit.  It started with black martial arts pants.  The ones from when I was doing Yoshukai were (a) the wrong color for kung fu, and (b) a lot too tight.  So I bought new pants.  The problem is they don’t make them in a size that quite fits me–the ones that fit in the waist are about 3 inches too long in the leg.  I rolled up the cuffs, but they kept unrolling when I was moving around.  Team Leader has a sewing machine, and I’m going to ask her to bring it over next week so I can hem them.

 

Then I just now spent $154 for 3 sports bras.  They’re good encapsulation/compression bras with moisture-wicking materials, but still.  $154!  But my old ones just don’t fit me anymore.  It’s been 5 years since I was last able to work out, and my body has changed a lot since then.  Bra shopping was another frustrating endeavor.  Apparently my boobs are weird–I wear a 40-B, and apparently those are next to impossible to find.  Go figure.  I just really don’t want my boobs to be flopping around like a Basset hound’s ear with his head out the car window.

 

It’s really frustrating to me the degree of body homogenization sports clothes companies stick to.  Not everyone who works out is thin; in fact, most of the people in my kung fu class (including the head instructor) don’t have bodies like that.  There are so many people whose bodies aren’t like the magazine models’, and it seems like companies would do better if they made clothes to fit other body types.  I don’t want to feel like a physical freak when I’m trying on clothes and ordering online.  Make clothes that fit a range of body shapes and sizes!  FAT GIRLS WORK OUT TOO.

 

New Therapist 2.0 April 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 10:17 pm
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I had the first meeting with New Therapist 2.0 this morning.  Her office is just one street over from my apartment, which is really convenient.  Walking over there, though, I was incredibly anxious, and my heart was racing so fast I thought I might have a heart attack.  Her office is in a building with a bunch of other offices; the door from the hallway was closed, and I couldn’t tell if it had a waiting room or not.  I didn’t want to walk into someone else’s therapy session or something!  But there was no one else standing in the hall waiting, so I went in, and luckily there was a waiting room.

 

She seems good.  She’s been in practice for thirty-something years, which is good–I know new therapists have to learn somewhere, but I don’t want them learning on me.  Her primary focus is trauma, and she has experience working with dissociation.  The basis of her work is psychodynamic/relational therapy, but she also incorporates somatic experiencing, EMDR, and elements of DBT.  (She didn’t mind when I rolled my eyes and went on a mini-rant about DBT, so that won her some points.)

 

We talked mostly about the broad brush strokes of my current situation.  She really seemed to understand what a perspective shift it’s been to suddenly not be depressed and that how I adjust to that will probably be a big part of my therapy.  She asked some smart, perceptive questions about how I feel about Windhorse and some of the other programs I’ve been to.  And she didn’t ask any questions about the trauma stuff, which I thought was cool for a first session.

 

She’s away next week, but I made another appointment for two weeks from now.  I’m very hopeful about working with her; she seems to know her stuff, and that’s what I need.

 

This afternoon, I had an appointment with my nurse, and we somehow got on the subject of my issues with Housemate.  Actually, Nurse was the one who brought it up–she said something about Housemate being too pushy yesterday about asking my grandfather to pay for classes.  I agreed, and from there we ended up having a whole conversation about Housemate’s whole attitude of “I know how you should run your entire life better than you do,” and we even discussed the possibility of not having a housemate.  I don’t really need one; I prefer to live alone, and I was living on my own for a year prior to coming to Windhorse.  I hadn’t really thought about not having a housemate, but the idea appeals to me.  I’d probably move to a smaller apartment, since this one has 3 bedrooms.  That part would kinda suck because moving is stressful, and this is just a GREAT location–5 minute walk to downtown, 15 minute walk to Windhorse, 10 minutes to kung fu, 20 minutes to the grocery store.  If I do end up firing Housemate, I hope I can find a place in an equally good location.  Anyway, Nurse said she’d bring up the subject with Team Leader so I wouldn’t feel like I was tattling to the teacher or something.

 

So things could get really interesting soon.

 

Hide

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 12:09 am
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I am really good at hiding.

 

When I was three or four, my parents were fighting, so I went and hid in a suitcase in the hall closet.  Then I fell asleep for several hours.  My parents panicked, and my father put out an APB on me.  When I woke up and came out, I couldn’t understand why they were so upset.  (Having a dozen cops in the house, however, did not seem strange to me.)

 

In high school, when I started having panic attacks for the first time, I spent a lot of time hiding in bathroom stalls and trying to cry silently so no one would hear me.

 

Even now, at 25, my tendency when I’m upset is to hide in some small, enclosed space with a minimum of sensory stimuli.  Bed is usually the safest for me now.  I can curl up into a little ball under the covers with Hildegaard, one of my stuffed hippos.  I can turn out the lights and close my eyes.  As long as my upstairs neighbor isn’t blasting his music, it’s generally quiet.

 

Today it was a discussion of my future that sent me into a panic.  My team was all gung-ho about getting me to go back to college.  They were talking about grants and loans and scholarships and trying to get Mass Rehab to fund what isn’t covered by grants, etc.  I kept saying, “I’m not sure you’re hearing the part where I’m not sure I can handle this.”  I mean, if I have another breakdown and fail out, then I’ll have a ton of loans I can’t pay back, and the banks don’t exactly care about my broken brain when it comes to getting their money back.  There’s also the small matter of not knowing where I’m going to live or how I’m going to buy food when my grandfather throws his next temper tantrum and cuts me off for good.  And Housemate kept pressuring me to ask my grandfather to help, and she just wouldn’t stop when I said there was no way he’d help me.  Add to that whole conversation the fact that this is also Hormonal Hell Week, and it’s just a recipe for trouble.

 

So I spent all afternoon/evening in bed–I even skipped my knitting group.  You know, the one I’m in charge of running.  God, how can I manage school or a job when I can’t manage a team meeting?  I have zero stress tolerance.  When things get bad, the only way I can stay present is to do something self-destructive.  I don’t want to self-destruct anymore, so I’m pretty much just left with hiding, and you can’t exactly skip classes or call in sick to work so you can curl up in bed to shrink the world down to a manageable size.

 

Just because I’m suddenly not depressed anymore, that doesn’t mean I’m totally ready to take on the whole world and function like a normal person.  I’m not a normal person.  I have C-PTSD and DID.  I’ve had brain surgery and 29 ECT’s.  I’m half deaf.  At least while I’m starting out, I’m going to need accommodations to function, as much as I hate to admit that.

 

I have an initial appointment with New Therapist 2 tomorrow morning.  I hope that she’s a good fit, as I really think I need support outside my Windhorse team during this transitional period.  That being said, I’m also trying to remind myself that I don’t have to stick with her if it doesn’t feel like a good fit.  No, it hasn’t been easy to find someone, but I’ve also learned the hard way that ignoring my instincts with therapists has made situations worse.  But I really hope this therapist works.

 

Therapy and knitting and kung fu, oh my! April 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 2:19 am
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I may have found a therapist, which is great.  I have an appointment with her on Wednesday morning, so I’ll see how that goes.  She’s got a PhD in psychology, has been in practice about 30 years, and has worked with dissociative disorders (not sure if that includes DID), so I wouldn’t be her test case or anything.  I don’t know if she has any experience with eating disorders; Pseudo-Therapist didn’t ask because I haven’t exactly told her I’m struggling with that again.

 

Kung fu continues to be fucking awesome, and tonight was the first time in several weeks that I haven’t had a panic attack afterward.  Some anxiety, especially walking home, but not panic and paranoia.  Apparently I’m no longer allowed to be the demonstration dummy for breaking holds, since there are a whole bunch that involve twisting people’s arms or pulling their fingers back.  Because of my hypermobility, it doesn’t hurt me when it would hurt other people.  Mas Amanda, one of the black belts, was demonstrating a hold in which you peel back the attacker’s index finger toward their wrist, which apparently hurts most people.  She kept asking me, “Doesn’t this hurt yet?”  I told her no.

 

So she calls the instructor over: “Pembontu, come look at Mas Sara’s finger!”  So of course the entire class comes over to gawk at my freakishly flexible fingers.  It was pretty funny, and Pembontu said, “Don’t demonstrate on Mas Sara anymore.  You might break her finger off by accident!”  Lulz, let’s hope not.  Just because my joints are hypermobile doesn’t mean my bones are bendy.

 

I also FINALLY finished the shawl of neverending garter stitch (a.k.a. Color Affection), and I’m really pleased with how it came out–I’m loving the asymmetricality.  I did mine in teal, burgundy, and white (pictures coming after I weave in the ends).  I’d love to do another one in more subtle colors, but I might die of boredom-induced calcification of the brain before I finished another one.

 

No Such Thing as the Real World April 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — weordmyndum @ 2:17 pm
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I have internet again!  The Comcast guy came yesterday and got it all hooked up for us.  I felt kinda bad for him because it was raining pretty hard, and he had to do some wiring stuff outside.  But we are now pinging an almost TWENTY TIMES the speed we were with Verizon.  Seriously.  With Verizon we were pinging between 0.3 and 0.4 Mbps, and with Comcast we’re pinging at 6.4 Mbps–for $6 more per month!   Now I feel silly for not switching sooner.

So I promptly spent all night watching Doctor Who on Netflix.  Because of the ECT, I’ve forgotten all but the biggest plot lines.  It’s almost like watching it for the first time.

I’m realizing more and more that I’m lonely.  I don’t actually know how real people make friends in the real world.  There are people in my kung fu class I’m on friendly terms with, but no one I’d actually call a friend.  My dojo in Tuscaloosa used to do all this stuff together outside of class, but this dojo doesn’t.  I guess the problem is that I know how to be on friendly terms with people, but I don’t know how to go beyond that to actually making friends.

I haven’t had many close friends, and the ones I did have were accidents.  Helen became my best friend in high school because we got grouped together for the annual creative writing get-to-know-everyone activity.  In college, Jamie Rose sort of adopted me as a best friend immediately upon meeting me, and I have no idea why.  Even at Riggs, Sarah and I became friends because a couple of us at the Loser Table were debating whether “The Waste Land” or “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” was Eliot’s best poem, and Sarah sat down and joined in with the opinion that Pound was better than Eliot any day, so it didn’t matter which of Eliot’s poems was better.

I’m not saying I don’t deeply appreciate these accidental friendships–I do.  But it’s left me completely at a loss about how to initiate friendships.  I end up always being the passive one, waiting for someone else to make the first move.  Some of it is, I’m sure, fear of rejection, but mostly it’s just not knowing what to say or do.  Which is even more embarrassing than fear of rejection.

I’ve been thinking a lot about doing volunteer work as a way to meet people (as well as to have more to do with my time), but I have no idea what I’d want to do.  It’s weird–every decision now that I’m un-depressed feels like it’s this huge thing that’s going to decide my future.  If I don’t pick the RIGHT volunteer job, I’ll never get a scholarship to UMass, and if I don’t get a scholarship, I’ll never be able to afford undergrad, and if I can’t afford undergrad I’ll never get to law school, and if I never get to law school I’ll end up homeless and freezing to death under a railroad bridge.  Before, that stuff didn’t matter because I figured I’d just kill myself when things got bad.  Now I WANT to live, but I’m terrified of messing something up because, in my mind, messing one thing up will ruin everything.

Wow, my head’s kind of a mess, isn’t it?  This is why I need a therapist really, really bad.  That and my eating’s still all screwy and I still haven’t told anyone and I’m about an inch from a full-scale relapse.  Wanting to live is incredibly stressful.

Also, Ex-Boyfriend and I are back together, and I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not.

 

 
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