First of all, it’s been such a lovely sunny Saturday! You would hardly believe it’s Winter here, it was quite warm outside. Shalimar has been soaking up the sunshine.
As you can see, she’s going to have to be careful, because soon she will not be able to roll back over again! She will be stuck, like a big cat-pat with four waving legs. What a belly!
I also managed to catch her red-pawed in the middle of waking me up from my afternoon nap. This is why sleeping in my household is never an easy thing. Simon’s Cat could have been based on Shalimar.
Sleep for humans is a precious commodity around here. Sleep for cats, not so much. Food is too, now that I’ve gone back to feeding her just what she is supposed to eat and nothing more. I feel awful because she’s not happy about it – but I’d rather have her a bit bitchy and here for the long term than die early from not being healthy.
It was really interesting reading everyone’s comments about how their eating disorders affected their feeding of their pets. It sounds like food is a far more complicated thing for many pets than ‘just eating’. Like it is for us, I guess.
Food and eating isn’t actually my biggest struggle. Neither is my weight. They are huge problems for me, every single day, all day every day. But despite having an eating disorder they aren’t the biggest source of problems for me.
Even when my eating disorder kept my emotions totally hidden away – they were a problem. The problem then was that I was denying them. And a legacy of my life-long habit of NOT facing up to how I feel is that when I do face my emotions – they are just too much for me to cope with.
Which sends me right back into blocking them out again – by starving them silent. By bingeing to create a ‘greater’ pain or filling up the emptiness. By purging to try and get them out of me. Exercising to beat them out of me, or (more often) to beat myself up.
Since as young as I can remember, I haven’t been able to stay in the present. I haven’t been able to cope in the world around me, and then with my own feelings. I only recently recognised that I’ve spent pretty much most of my life not even here.
A dear friend of mine wrote about her own life in an email, and mentioned two words – derealisation and depersonalisation. I had an inkling of what they would mean – but looked them up anyway. It was another one of those ‘aha’ moments. I had words for something I have been doing all my life.
Derealization is a when the outside world is experienced as unreal to you personally, while depersonalization is unreality in one’s sense of self. Both of them are ways I have felt more often than I’ve felt ‘normal’ – whatever normal is – because I haven’t a clue.
Since I was very little, I’ve created a ‘bubble’ around me, to protect myself, but more to just shut everything and everyone else out. My earliest memories are bubbled away. All that existed for me at times was myself and what was around me that I wanted to include. The world ‘out there’ wasn’t very realistic. It seemed far away and sometimes I ended up stuck in my ‘bubble’ – unable to break out and join in. Derealisation as an adult still feels like I’m in my own bubble, but I don’t shut the entire world out. I’m able to interact with everyone else and go about my business, but it’s all a very long way away outside of me.
Depersonalisation feels like I am almost watching myself go through life, not quite there. Watching my life happen from outside of myself. Not standing a distance away – for me it’s as though two realities are superimposed one over the other, but not quite in sync so that the images don’t quite match up. So I’m watching myself from very nearly the same place as I’m actually occupying – if that makes any sense.
Both these states have led to my entire life feeling dream-like. Either it’s been a nightmare, or a really nice dream I’d like to relive – or now, just not… real.
Depression being such a battle lately has been a bit harder for me to endure because of this. It’s hard to go through your life feeling depressed, but the distance from reality makes me feel far more like I’m underwater or unable to actually ‘touch’ the world around me.
I also talked about primary and secondary emotions with my case manager yesterday and that’s something I want to do a post about when I’ve read the handouts she gave me. It’s a new concept to me, even though it makes a lot of sense.
I’ve spent my life not feeling safe to show my real feelings. If I was happy, it might get taken from me. And I certainly wasn’t going to show people how much they had hurt me. So for lot of my life I cultivated a blank, emotionless exterior.
As a result of feelings not being ‘okay’, I have a lot of secondary emotions. An example might be feeling happy (primary emotion) but that’s not okay. So I feel ashamed, and that shame (secondary emotion) lasts a lot longer than the original feeling of happiness did. Shame is actually something that I seem to feel a LOT of the time, more than anything else, these days. It makes sense to me that I’m not really feeling shame all-the-time so much as my real feelings becoming feelings of shame.
Part of my struggle with self image and self hatred is tied to this overwhelmingly constant feeling of shame. I feel like I’m a terrible, horrible, monster of a person, like I should not even be in the same room as other people, lest I infect their lives somehow. I’m ashamed of my appearance, because I always just look so, so wrong. Ashamed of what I’ve done – what the ED has made me do. Things like being selfish, shoplifting food, bingeing and purging. That’s actually a HUGE source of shame for me – the bingeing and purging. I walk around all the time feeling so, so small and horrible and hoping the world won’t guess my horrible, disgusting secret. (image source)
So to realise that I feel shame automatically as a result of pretty much any emotion is a revelation for me! I find myself wondering how much of the shame I feel is ‘learnt’ and how much is actually real, pure legit shame? Growing up I felt a lot of shame from being dirty and unkempt and not having the things kids were supposed to have, and I was shamed more often than not by my own family. So now as an adult, I realise that my constant feelings of shame are something I have learnt to feel and that I could be a much happier and less shameful person if I work on those feelings. Working on them sounds like another constant challenge to add to the acceptance self-talk I’ve been doing – to continually notice and accept my real feelings ( “I feel happy.” “I feel sad.” and so on) before it turns into shame or whatever other emotion I feel secondarily.
I don’t know how or even if working on my primary and secondary emotions will help me feel less distant and more ‘here’, but my case manager did say that it would help with the depression and that alone is more than enough to motivate me.
All this is very long winded and introspective – but that’s what I think is important when it comes to fighting our eating disorders – being able to look within and start to notice what’s really going on – so we no longer need to abuse our physical bodies because of it.
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!