Healing the Break

I’m not done with yesterday’s entry, surprise, surprise.  I do find it funny that I was going to be brief and ended up writing my longest post ever.  Still, when I posted it, I felt as if I still had more to say.  I knew in general what my readers would say in response because I have said variations of the same things to myself for all these years.  I have especially tried the, “What would you say to a friend who told you the same story?” but to no effect.

You see, I expect different things from myself than I do from others.  Hypocritical?  Yes.  Example:  I like women with lotsa curves.  I like women who are lush and Rubenesque, as I have blogged about before.  When it comes to me, though, I wanna be stick-skinny.  Why?  Because.

No, I have no other reason besides that.  For most of my life, I didn’t think I really needed one.  There was a teensy bit of me that held myself to higher standards than I did others, but there was more of me that simply felt like I was a big fat failure no matter what.  I was starting from the premise that I was unworthy, disgusting, ugly, etc., and working my way backwards from there.  In the case of losing weight, I started with the premise that I was grotesquely fat, and I lost weight with the goal of looking skinny.  Oh, I couched it in more reasonable terms.  I wanted to reach the specific weight of 140.  I look less than I weigh (because I have muscles), so that seemed reasonable.  Except, the closer I got to 140, the more jittery I got.  I didn’t look skinny.  I didn’t feel skinny.  I still felt ugly, fat, and grotesque (yes, it’s possible to feel all those things).  So I moved the goalpost to 135, then to 130.  Then, I just kept losing until I hit 123.  I had a 24-inch waist, and I loved it.  Kind of.

I loved my bones jutting out and how my thighs didn’t touch, but I still felt fat, gross, ugly, and disgusting.  Maybe, I thought, if I hit 120, I would magically feel thin.  Well, I passed out at a nightclub before I could hit the magic mark, and I decided that it wasn’t worth it to literally die to be thin.  It was tempting, but it wasn’t worth it in the end.  With great regret, I let that dream go.

However, it’s back again.  No, not the skinny to the point of dying part, but the “I need to lose weight” meme.  I am going to Taiwan in two and a half months, and they are even worse about weight than we are.  In addition, there is no taboo about calling someone fat.  In addition, I don’t act Taiwanese; I don’t speak Taiwanese or Mandarin; I have tats.  In other words, I am going to stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Plus, it’ll be the first time I’ll see my father since I started having my flashbacks.  Years ago, when I only suspected that there was something sexually traumatic in my childhood, I had made my peace with my father.  He’s an old man.  He’s powerful in his job, but physically, he’s frail.  I only see him once a year or so, and the last time I saw him, I realized that he could no longer physically hurt me.  We’ve never been close, and he has no clue as to the real me, but I had accepted that we would never have anything other than a cordial relationship.  He didn’t really have any interest in the real me, and I certainly didn’t have any interest in showing the real me to him.

Now, I have no idea what the fuck will happen when I see him.  I have these images running through my mind.  I will share the one that has really been haunting me.  First:  Back story.  My mom loves to tell how my father used to read to me at night before I went to sleep.  She would check in on us an hour or so later, and my dad would be asleep while I read to myself.  I remember that my father used to read me The Monkey King. He had it in Chinese, and he would translate it into English.  In the last flashbacks, however, I pictured me, same age (seven), same nightgown (white flannel), and as he is reading to me, he is penetrating me with his finger.

How do I face the man I suspect did this to me (no, I am not completely sure, even now.  I would almost prefer I had made up the memories than to believe they actually happened) and not go crazy?  To make it more complicated, my eleven-year-old niece is going, and she is gorgeous.  Now, the chances of her being alone with him is none because I won’t allow it, but still.  It’s just one more thing to worry me.

I learned things as a seven year old that I shouldn’t have learned for years.  How to give a blowjob, for instance. How to give one without crying or gagging, for another.  I learned that my discomfort, pain, and fear was not of consequence–only his pleasure.  I learned that if someone puts his hand over my mouth and tells me not to make any sound, I damn well better do it.  And, I learned how to associate these aberrant activities with the thing we call pleasure.

Of course I vaguely suspected that what happened to me in my childhood and later what happened in Thailand molded me for my future relationships, but I never saw the direct links before.  With my first boyfriend, I never felt I could say no when he wanted to do something sexual.  We lived in different towns about thirty minutes away.  Increasingly, all he wanted to do was park.  We had decided not to have sex, but we did most everything else.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the stuff he wanted to do, but I had no idea how to say no.  I liked some of it, but not all of it.  I ended up breaking up with him mostly because I had learned that I wasn’t allowed to say no, but, oh, how I wanted to say it.

After Thailand, I was broken.  Completely.  I took a year hiatus from sex–which lasted three years.  Then I entered my slut years.  I enjoyed much of them, but I also did some of it out of the desperate hatred I felt for myself.   I thought, I was broken, ruined, damaged beyond repair, so what did it matter if I fucked someone I didn’t like and wasn’t even remotely attracted to?  Let’s call him the Blip because that’s what he was.  I didn’t like him as a person, and I wasn’t attracted to him, but I thought I might as well fuck him because who else was going to want me?

Damaged.  Ruined.  Broken.  Ugly.  Disgusting.  Shameful.  Worthless.

These are the words that dominated my mind and my subconscious for so many fucking years.   I have been having discussions and argument with people in my life because I dismiss compliments with ease.   Some of the compliments I dismiss because I don’t like the common meanings of the words–such as adorable.  Kittens are adorable.  Puppies are adorable.  Babies are adorable.  I am not adorable.  I am fierce and tough, and I will fucking cut you.  OK, not really the last, and come to think of it, not so much the first or second.  However, I have carefully built up my defenses based on being a tough-ass who takes no shit from anyone because it’s the way to mask the fragility I really feel.

However, I never really fooled anyone who knew me more than just as an acquaintance.  My heart bleeds easily and frequently.  In fact, I feel other people’s mental anguish more easily than I do my own.  That’s another reason I crafted the tough-as-nails exterior; I felt it was the only way to protect my damaged insides.  Not that it did much good.  My insides were dying a little bit every day.

I have been very lucky in that I have always had really good friends who believe in me without question.  The problem has been, as always, me.  Me and my fucking demons.  They are so seductive as they whisper in my ear all their ugly little lies.  Gregory and Kel tell me to laugh at them.  They are not afraid of my demons, and they are helping me see the demons for the ridiculous fools that they are.

However, in the dead of the night when the demons are their strongest and I am my weakest, I cannot stop them from invading my mind.

“You’re fat and ugly!”

“You’re disgusting!”

“You’re broken, ruined, damaged!”

“You’re unlovable–and unloved!”

I can manage to discount the last one because I have too much evidence to the contrary to believe that one.   The other three, though, are much harder for me to combat.  I can believe others love me while wondering why they love me, exactly.  I mean, I know I’m funny and witty and a good storyteller and intelligent and kindhearted, but, but, but, under it all, I’m disgusting.  Yes, I can write well, and yes, I am a loyal if erratic friend, but, but but, I’m fat.  Yes, I’m really fucking good in bed, and yes, I am charming and caring, but, but, but, I’m damaged!

The problem is that no matter how many positives I can list about myself, those few well-worn negatives, which I believe with most of my heart (used to be all) continue to triumph in the end.  The demons wear me down through sheer repetition and because they know every weakness I have.  My well-crafted defenses mean nothing to them because they are the fucking reason I created many of the defenses in the first place.  Plus, they reside inside my head, so it’s not as if I can literally keep them away from me.

I want to fight them.  I have been fighting them for so fucking long.  I just can’t fight them all the time.  I am so tired of trying.  It seems that every time I make progress, they come back at me twice as hard.  These memories have knocked me on my (flat) ass, and the demons take advantage by swooping in and pick, pick, picking at every nerve.  They reinforce all the secret (and-not-so-secret) fears I have of myself.

You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  You’re disgusting.  You’re broken.  You’re damaged.  You’re ruined.

It’s a constant refrain in my mind that rarely is quiet.  I can see a sliver of light because ten years ago, they were constantly present.  Now, I can go for a whole hour without thinking one or more of the above.  Sometimes, I can go for hours without the demons murmuring seductively in my ear.

Sadly, other times, they are burrowing into my ear like chiggers, acting like they will never leave.

I know I have to face the unhappy memories of my past; I just wish I were confident that I had the strength to deal with them.

11 Responses to Healing the Break

  1. For most of my life, I didn’t think I really needed one. There was a teensy bit of me that held myself to higher standards than I did others
    I think you held yourself to a more UNATTAINABLE set of standards and called it Higher Standards.

  2. Oh my girl. Here’s a thing you may or may not know about me, over at the Balloon Juice, but I used to be a rape crisis counselor, and I often talked with women in similar circumstances — both the childhood abuse, and the later, and ongoing, adult abuse. And I want to say some things to you that you might not be ready to hear yet, but that I hope will stay in your head and beat back at the chiggers, a little bit at a time.

    I wonder if you have focused so much over the years on your abusive relationship with Marty because — as painful and fucked up as it is — it was easier than thinking about the abuse from your father. I wonder if Marty would have, could have, happened, were it not for what happened to you when you were too little to do anything about it. I wonder if it is easier to hate yourself for “failing” yourself as an adult, than it is to hate your father and understand that you did the only thing that a child can do to survive, and that is abide.

    You were so, so little. You were so deserving of love and protection, and what you got instead was betrayal and abuse. You were taught — wrongly, wrongly — that you were not worthy of love and respect, because children learn what their parents tell them, whether or not it’s correct. And the fact that you have gone on in your life to find — in spite of the pain, in spite of the 15 years, in spite of all the walls you built around yourself — love and respect is a testament to that little girl’s survival skills. Underneath all that you feel lies underneath your good qualities, underneath all your secrets and your fears and your hatred, is the little girl who is still standing there, knowing that she deserves love and respect, in spite of everything her father taught her.

    And finally, I wonder if this peeling away at the layers that you’re going through right now — the flashbacks, the whispering of your demons — is really a sign of your growing strength. You hid yourself away for so long, that for some time, you couldn’t deal with the reasons why, you could only try to stop doing that. Now, you are stronger, and something within you knows that the fight still needs to be fought, so that you can heal, and so it’s bringing you back to that fight.

    I am so, so sorry that it is so fucking, fucking hard. I send you white light and good thoughts and all best wishes. I hope that you are talking with someone at an RCC or elsewhere about this, because you are right — saying it, telling the story is crucial, but it is a very lonely and heavy load to bear without an ally at your side.

  3. Tapes. Tapes was the word I used to use. There almost aren’t any tapes anymore. Cassette tapes, eight-track tapes, CD’s, mp3 data. Whatever image captures your imagination.

    They play over and over.

    We’ve had conversations before about the power of words. You call them “demons”. Calling them “demons” gives them their own internal power, perhaps even sentience.

    But “tapes” were recorded in your past, maybe by people that don’t even exist anymore. They automatically begin, but we have the power to turn them off. To pull the plug. To record new tapes to play instead. They still pop up every now and then, even years after we think we’ve pulled the tape from the case and dragged it down the road to wrap around a telephone pole.

    “You’re fat and ugly!”

    “You’re disgusting!”

    “You’re broken, ruined, damaged!”

    “You’re unlovable–and unloved!”

    Tapes, a broken record, a data hiccup. Don’t fight it, just take its power away. I know, much easier said than done, but a thought…

  4. whabs, I want to argue with you, but I know you are right.

    ellaesther, good to see you. Welcome to my blog, and thank you for commenting. I have definitely focused on the Thailand relationship because it’s easier to deal with than are my childhood flashbacks. I had made my peace with never really knowing for sure what trauma had occurred in my childhood. Now, it looks as though I’m going to have to face the past full-on. I don’t feel strong at the moment. In fact, I feel weak. Thank you, though, for your thoughtful words. Stop by any time.

    Crystal, I call them my demons because they are sentient, unfortunately. They are not just recordings (i wish they were), but beings who can mutate and adapt the old sayings into newer, deadlier ones.

    I don’t quite what you mean by not fighting it but taking the power away. Elaborate?

  5. Oh, oh. I am so, so, so sorry for all that has happened to you. You did not and do not deserve ANY of it. I can’t say it any better than ellaesther; I second everything she wrote.

    I also want to say that what you are doing now, talking about it, where strangers can read it, is incredibly brave. I thank you for it.

    You deserve only good things.

    Forgive me if you already know about this, but Kate Harding at Shapely Prose has been really helpful for me in thinking about weight. This piece, in particular (though I can’t get it to load right now, for some reason):

  6. Betsy, hi. Welcome to my blog. Good to see you at my place, and thank you for commenting. I keep telling myself that if I talk about it, it may help other people. Intellectually, I know I didn’t deserve it. It’s the emotional part that is harder to grasp. Thank you for your words of support.

    I have Kate on my blogroll. I think that article is very true. I just wish I could wipe away the cognitive dissonance in my own head. Thank you for the song suggestion, and feel free to comment any time.

  7. Thanks for the kind welcome. And I totally get that really believing, deep down, is a lot harder than just understanding intellectually. Sending hope for healing and peace your way. I believe you will find it. (Easy for me to say, I know. But, based on what I’ve read of your writing, I believe it to be true.)

  8. Betsy, thank you for your support. It helps to know that there are people who read me on the intertoobz who believe in me.

  9. OK, the meeting of Minna’s Demons will come to order.

    “Lying Scumsucker?”
    “Deceptive Scumsucker? You guys twins?”
    “Here. And yeah. But I’m older. And wiser.”
    “You mean dumber!”
    “Shut up!”
    “No, YOU shut up!”
    “Ok, both of you shut up so I can finish calling roll. Carnival Mirror?”
    “Heh. I’m here. And you’re fat!”
    “Uh huh. That’s nice. Next…Judgmental Exaggeration?”
    “Here. And don’t think we don’t know where -you- were last night. And what that makes you.”

    “OK, so here’s the topic of today’s meeting…wait a second. Who are you? Are you on my list?”
    “Hi. My name is Blamesetter McNasty and I’m a demon of Minna’s.”
    “HI, Blamesetter!”

    “Welcome to the group. Now, like I started to say, the theme of today’s meeting is ‘reality distortion’.

    For example…Judgmental Exaggeration has so graciously offered the opinion that we’re fat. But what does that mean exactly? Are we talking about the BMI scale? Are we talking in comparison to my 16yr old who hasn’t filled out her body yet? Carnival Mirror, why don’t you offer perspective here?”

    “Well, it doesn’t really matter if you are 5’0″ or 5’10”, if you weight 100# or 500#. I’m going to make your eyes see your body as distorted and ugly. I’m not tryin’ to be mean or nuthin’…it’s just my job! Seriously! Stop ganging up on me!”

    “Right. Um. Well, thank you for that assessment. And it’s right on, by the way. Our Minna could weight whatever magical number sets itself off in her head, but our good friend Carnie here will eff that up completely. The paradigm shift that needs to come is not to strive for a number, but to be healthy. Can you make it through taiji class without passing out? Can you walk around the lake with your niece at her pace? Can you have sex for a few hours and not collapse?”

    “She’s broken”
    “She’s damaged.”

    “Thank you to the Scumsucker twins for that topic transition. Let’s move on to those assessments, since they kinda go hand in hand.”

    “She’s broken.”
    “She’s damaged.”

    “Yes, yes, we heard you the first time. But here’s the thing. Can you find someone who isn’t damaged in some way? Or broken? Does my disability make me unattractive or unlovable? Does the emotional baggage that any of us carry (not counting the batshitcrazy here, mind you…that’s a whooooole different group session!), make us unworthy of being respected and valued? Nope. Because the double standard you keep trying to hold yourself too with Carnie’s help, isn’t just disrespectful to you. It’s actually the same for us. It means we aren’t as good as you, and can’t be held to the same standards. Obviously you don’t think that way about us, so the next paradigm shift needs to be there. You need to set yourself on equal footing with the people you value.

    I want to thank everyone for coming today. There’s coffee in the back. I hope everyone is working hard on finding new places of residence, because Minna’s head will soon be inhospitable to you. I have a few batshitcrazy people you can try, though. They’re always on the lookout for more demons; they embrace your presence rather than try to get rid of you stupid fuckers…”
    “That’s ScumSUCKER…”
    “She knows, Dumbass. She was making a point.”
    “Shut up. Don’t call me a Dumbass. You’re the dumbass!”

    You will win this, Minna. You may need help, and we’ll be there to help you. I, for one, will keep making you laugh like I always do. It’s my job. =)


  10. Kel, that made me laugh too. I loved it.

    Minna, I’m feeling hesitant to elaborate, but I will make an attempt.

    I guess the first clarification that needs to be made is the question: do you believe in actual demons?

    If so that is one battle.

    If not, then did your six year old self have demons? From what I’ve read, that doesn’t seem to be it. So your demons sprang from the interactions between a seven year old and her father, an interaction that could in no way be of the light. The demons sprang from that darkness. And then that was kept in the dark, and the demons grew.

    The interaction is over. He is half a world away, but the results of that interaction live on in you. If your demons are sentient, then it is your sentience they use. If they are strong, it is your strength they use. No wonder it seems they win.

    Jung talks about the shadow self. It is played out in fairy tales from many cultures. The fighting of the shadow self is the basis for much fantasy sritings, Ursala LeGuin’s the Wizard of Earthsea comes to mind.

    I offered the image of tapes, as opposed to demons, because it is a cognitive image that offers a different out than the need to fight the demons. Demons need to be fought, tapes can be turned off. Demons suck our energy and use it to flail us with. Tapes can be ignored.

    Or, demons can be embraced. Say, claiming:

    “Courage to face reality is beautiful.”

    “Skinny as beauty is a 20th century concept.”

    “Who are you to say I’m disgusting, demon-mine, who evolved from the physical abuse of a seven year old girl.”

    “Yes, someone abused a beautiful child and left her a litany of feelings like: You’re broken. You’re damaged. You’re ruined. But she is turning that around and seeking wholeness, and healing, and proving that the experience was destructive but life still can grow strong and beautiful.”

    And then acting like you feel these statements, even if at the time you don’t.

    And I’m sure that cognitively you know all these things and maybe you’ve tried them, too. I only offer it because I know it worked for others I’ve journeyed with who have dealt with molestation.

    Like Ellaester, I send you white light and positive energy and wholesome thoughts so that maybe all together we can melt those demons, or turn them to stone, or melt them back into the part of you that helped you survive to this time so you could re-sprout.

  11. Kel, that was funny as hell. I so needed that. You are doing your job well.

    Crystal, you are right that the demons are of my own creation. I breathed life into them, and yet, they are not under my control. It is the same when I write a story. I create the characters and bring them to life, but then they become their own beings. I have no control over them. I feel it’s the same with my demons. They are outside of my control.

    Tapes (I remember them!) can, indeed, be turned off. I would love to be able to change the demons into tapes. Which will be a battle in and of its own.

    I appreciate all white light you can send my way, though. I have a hunch I will need it.