An Act of Triage, Part II

So, this is Part I.  It’s not necessary to read, but it gives some good background.  Before I get on with the meat of this entry, I want to meander a bit first.

After the last fairly-positive blog entry, the demons were doubling down on their attacks.  Now, their attacks are fairly short in nature (meaning less than a week, usually), but they are more intense than ever.   I knew they would attack after the last entry, and they didn’t disappoint.  Even though I expected it, it was still exhausting.  In addition, the intertoobz-free day (well, except to check sports scores and stuff like that) was both good (giving me a much-needed break) and bad (leaving me very alone with my dark thoughts).  Still, in the end, it was a worthy endeavor and one I think I will be doing on a regular basis.

I had a Taiji session today.  It was good, even though I totally fucked up the Solo Form.   Some of the postures seemed totally foreign to me, and I was struggling not to fall asleep again.  Before the actual Taiji, though, Choolie and I chatted a bit.  We were talking about another entry of mine in which I was talking about how the demons were berating me for wasting fifteen years.  She said, “Let’s say you jumped out of an airplane at 1,000 feet above the ground and your parachute didn’t open on the way down.  Somehow, you managed not to die, but you broke every bone in your body and had internal bleeding to boot.  The doctor says you’ll live, but it’s gonna take awhile for you to mend.  You are not going to be moving for a very long time.”

I added, “And healing fucking hurts.”  She said, “And people are understanding.  If you broke a leg, people would say, ‘Oh, Minna can’t climb a mountain today because she has a broken leg.’ ”

Her point was that in our country, mental health gets short shrift.  She said what happened to me in my childhood is the emotional equivalent to falling out of the airplane and having my parachute fail.  I wasn’t wasting those years, according to her, but I was recuperating from the damage done to me.  She pointed out that I was essentially in a coma at that point.

On my good days, I can see that.  And, when I am rational, I can look back at that person with real sadness and pain because she was so broken, there was no other way for her to survive.

On my bad days, well, that’s neither here nor there.

This actually fits in with the triage point I am going to make.  Choolie is the one who gave me the triage line, and she is right.  I’m committing triage with my flaws, working on the ones that absolutely have to change in order for me to live a healthier life.  Therefore, the lesser flaws (the ones I consider flaws because as Kel rightfully pointed out in the comments of the last triage post, the things other people consider flaws but that don’t bother me are facets, not flaws) are to be tolerated because they don’t noticeably impinge on my daily life.  However, there are a few that are hindering my forward movement to the point where it’s painful.

First of all, the inertia thing.  Yes, I can see that at least part of the lost years were years I needed to mend from the trauma of my childhood/Thailand.  I can accept that at least some of those years were not completely wasted.  However, my tendency to inertia is now holding me back.  Let me rephrase, my tendency to draw inward plus my tendency to over-think things combined is hindering me.  I said I had to deal with the fact that my immediate response to anything new is, “I can’t do that!”  That part isn’t going to change, but the steps after that have to be more active.  I said to my therapist that I needed to formulate a plan (writing it down is usually the best way for me to actually stick to something) and execute it to the best of my ability.  She looked at me sternly and said, “Right now, you need to make a plan and just do it.”  I paused, wanting to protest, but she was right.  My perfectionist streak gives me a great excuse not to anything.   I have to do it perfectly on the first take, you see, or I can’t do it at all.

Bullshit.

Choolie called me a romantic cynic today (first time I’ve been called a romantic anything).  She said I look for an ideal outcome, and when it doesn’t happen, my cynicism is reinforced.  She is right in that I think it takes so little to do a right thing in a given situation, why not do that?  Being mean and hateful and evil is so much more work.  Anyway, this same principle applies to my plans in general.  I envision the ideal outcome.  Then, I think, that possibly can’t happen (my cynicism at play), then I freeze.  The times that I am able to overcome this flaw of mine are few and far between.  I either have to use a tremendous amount of will or I have to pretend that what I am doing is pretend and not for real.  I tell myself that I can stop any step of the way.  Actually, my therapist said this is a good way to make a decision because it means I am engaged at every step instead of using my usual all-or-nothing approach.

Speaking of which, that is also on my triage list.  I am an extreme kind of gal.  I like my drinks to be either boiling hot or ice cold.  Now, while this is not a problem with my choice of beverages, it is a problem when it comes to my decision making in life.  For many years, I felt if I couldn’t win a Pulitzer, an Oscar, or a Tony, there was no reason to pursue a life as a performer/writer.  I took dance lessons for twelve years (tap, jazz, and ballet).  When I couldn’t master toe shoes quickly, I quit.  I played the cello for ten years.  I was quite good at it.  I was in the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony, or GTCYS, or Git-sees for short.  I reached the second highest orchestra my junior year in high school and realized that if I wanted to make it to the best orchestra my senior year, I would have to ratchet up my cello-practicing dramatically.  I didn’t want to do that, so I completely quit playing.  Same with softball.  When I had to make the switch to fast-pitch, I was told I could play in the outfield instead of first base as I used to play, and I quit.

In addition, I don’t do things I have no immediate talent for, like badminton.  I played it a few times, and I sucked–in part because I played tennis and ping-pong.  It was humiliating to me that I couldn’t hit the damn birdie at all, so I put down the racket and refused to play again.

My therapist actually made a good point about this a few months back.  She said since I’ve been praised so much for my brains, I think I should be able to get anything immediately.  If I can’t, then I won’t try to learn it.  In contrast, someone who is praised for her efforts will continue doing something at which she doesn’t immediately excel.  I think this is true–at least, for me.

I once said to her that I wanted to have a fabulous life, not a mundane one.  She said that the two were not mutually-exclusive.  I think she also would agree that there is something between rote, numb, daily existence on the one hand, and living a life as, say, J.K. Rowling on the other.  It’s my brain that insists I have to have this grandiose life in order to justify my existence, otherwise I should have no life at all.

Obviously, this is a hindrance to me living a meaningful life that may not be glamorous, fabulous, or glorious.  I think this is also the remnants of my parents insisting I live a life that was both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time.  I had to excel, but I also had to have all the tenets of a real life (in their eyes)–marriage, kids, church, six-figure income.  Both my parents have very accomplished careers, and I know it eats away at them that neither of their children followed in their illustrious footsteps.  In fact, I can just imagine my mom’s face when I tell her I’m actually considering bartending as a vocation.

That is one of my…not sure I would say flaw for this one, but issues, one of my issues that I still have to work out.  Obviously, I am further along than I have been in the past, but I still automatically think, “What would my mother say if she knew?”  It’s so deeply ingrained in me that I didn’t even realize it was automatic until fairly recently.  I was a freak from day one, but by god, my mom keep trying to fit me into the mold.  I’m not even sure what mold because it was a weird mixture of Taiwanese and American.  Well, to be more accurate, it was mostly Taiwanese with a dash of American only because we lived in America.  One of the reasons I’m so contrary is because I am not exactly sure as to the core of me, so I shield myself against other people (read, my mom) imposing their wills onto my being.

That’s why it’s so strange for me to actually think about what I want rather than thinking, “Oh, my mom wants me to do that, so I won’t.”  My therapist said it’s part of growing up to do something in spite of your parents thinking it’s a good idea as well as in spite of your parents thinking it’s a bad idea.  She’s right.  At some point, pure rebellion has to stop.  When I made decisions in the past (unconscious or not) in order to hurt my parents, I didn’t see that the person I was hurting most of all was me.  Trite, but so fucking true.

Another issue/flaw I need to triage is my damn fear of everything.  I know it’s a PTSD or PSTD or whatever the damn initials are thing, but it’s not very useful any more.  It’s gotten better over the years, but it’s still quite limiting.  It overwhelms me at times, despite my best attempts at controlling it.  Then, after the fear comes the self-disgust for being so fucking fearful (really quite out of proportion with any real danger).

Aside:  My father is coming back for three or four days in early September.  I am not dealing well with this news.

OK.  Back to my fears.  I will not stop feeling so intensely (not just fear, but that’s of primary concern right now) any time soon.  It’s a part of me.   What I need to do is work on accepting that feelings are just feelings.  That’s very difficult for me because my feelings are so very strong.  However, in the end, they are just feelings.  I need to learn to feel them and then let them go.

I have left the hardest one for last.  Well, the hardest two.  They are the hardest because I am most ashamed of them.  They are my self-abuse and my ED issues (and they are connected, of course).  I am going to be brutally frank now, so if anyone has these issues, be forewarned that this might trigger something.  With that said, here goes.  And, even though I said the self-abuse and the ED issues are related, I am going to separate them for now.

There are two main ways in which I harm myself.  One is cutting and two is burning.  I haven’t done the former in many years, and it’s sort of the ‘hit rock bottom’ marker for me.  If I regress to that point, then I know I am in a really bad way.  I restarted doing the latter after the flashbacks hit me, and for awhile, I was doing it fairly regularly.  I haven’t done it in months, but I started thinking about it again in the last few weeks my mom was home and right after she left.  I told myself that I would not do it before the performance because I did not want to add any new scars–I was already self-conscious about the old ones.  I have made peace with the cut scars on my left arm, but I am more ashamed/less at ease with the burn marks on my stomach.  That was actually the main reason I kept my panties on until the actual show–I didn’t want to display the burn marks.

When I seriously started getting the urge to burn, I told myself that I couldn’t do it until the performance.  Yes, it was a completely false parameter, but I know that such limits actual work for me.  After the performance passed, I thought about it, but it didn’t seem so urgent to me.  I could tell myself daily that I didn’t really want to/need to do that, and the urge has receded greatly.

I have done various minor things like punching walls and such, but I really consider those minimal in comparison to the big two.   The problem is, the release I get from cutting/burning is at times worth the pain and the scars.  Obviously, or I wouldn’t do it or consider doing it.  My first reaction to any demon talk or self-loathing is to automatically think of a way to hurt myself.  I am not proud of it, but I can’t deny it, either.  Pain is my comfort zone.  It’s what I know, and it’s familiar to me.  That’s sad and sick and twisted, I know, but again, I have to acknowledge that I am much more at ease with pain than with pleasure or even peace.

This leads me to the big one–my ED issue.  It’s really more than one issue, but for the sake of simplicity (ha!), I’m just going to call it one issue.

As I said earlier, my mom has her own issues with eating and her body.  While she was home, she reinforced every negative feeling I had about myself, especially concerning my body.  She followed my edict about not mentioning my weight, but she would say things about my health that were pretty thinly-disguised remarks aimed at my weight.  Besides, hearing her go on and on and on about the two or three pounds she gained in the two months she was here and her focus on her weight and looks spoke volumes to me.  If she was so uncomfortable with the two or three extra pounds she had, what must she think of the hundred pounds I needed to lose?

I became more unhappy with my weight.  And, instead of doing something sensible about it like exercise moderately and making my diet healthier, I started sliding back into my disordered behavior.  I know I need to see a professional about this, but as I half-joked with Choolie, I wanted to lose the hundred pounds first.  Fucked up?  Why, yes it is.  Stupid and pathetic?  That, too.  But, this has been a problem for me since I was seven.  Weight, being fat, being anorexic, being bulimic, etc.  Right now, I feel like a huge, grotesque, obese pile of goo.  I am disgusted when I look in the mirror (which is even less than usual), and I hate my body with a passion.

I reached a low point last week, and I said to myself, “This has to stop.  I cannot continue this behavior.”  And, I stopped it.  This is a good thing, but I am aware of how fragile the thread of compliance is.  It is taking a lot of energy for me not to backslide again, and I am hating the fact that I am entrenched in this again.

This whole disordered thinking has to stop.  I cannot live with this for the rest of my life; it fills me with despair to think of myself ten years from now still struggling with food and body issues.  Yet, this is the most entrenched of my issues, so uprooting it is going to take a lot of effort and time.

Eh.  That’s all I feel like writing about this.  As you can tell, this is not the upper entry like the last one was.

2 Responses to An Act of Triage, Part II

  1. I gotta go lie down before I pass out, but before I do…

    The guest room sheets are clean and ready for you in September. Just let me know when to pick you up at the airport.

  2. Kel, thanks for the offer. It helps to know I have options–and I am sure a few local friends would take me in as well. You rock.